Sonia dubs PM Modi ‘Shahenshah’; BJP says her remarks ‘deplorable’

Brand-new DELHI: Congress president

Sonia Gandhi
can’t digest the fact that

Narendra Modi
, a humble tea-seller, rose to become Prime Minister, which is why she described him as a “Shahenshah” (emperor), the BJP said on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Sonia attacked the government over the celebrations being held for the NDA government completing two years and that’s when she described the Prime Minister as a “Shahenshah”.

“I have actually never seen anything like this. A Prime Minister is there, not a ‘Shahenshah’. He is the country’s Prime Minister. There is so much poverty in the country. There is drought. Farmers are in trouble. I do not find it appropriate (that government) shows off like this,” she told reporters in Rae Bareli.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra lashed out at the Congress president, saying her remarks were ‘absolutely deplorable’.

He added that the Congress needs to learn what ‘Shahenshah’ means, as it is that party that has actually run the country “like its fiefdom” during its decades long rule.

“A ‘Shahenshah’ is the person who considers this country and the party as their fiefdom. And who other than the Gandhis can be called Shahenshahs. They have actually been ruling this country as if this country was their fiefdom. Indira Gandhi was responsible for the emergency in this country. That is shehenshah-ism. That is dynasty rule,” Patra told ANI.

He said the Prime Minister has actually risen from a humble background to the top post because of his hard work and blessings of the people.

“As far as the Prime Minister is concerned, he is a poor man. He is a chaiwala (tea seller) who has actually risen gradually because of his hard work. Because of the blessings of the people of India he has actually become the PM of India,” Patra said.

“When a poor man becomes the PM of the country, it is quite difficult for the dynasts to digest it and that is the reason as to why out of frustration Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party are making such kinds of allegations,” he added.

Echoing similar views, BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said that the ‘Shahenshah’ and ‘Shehzada’ culture exists in the Congress party, adding that the Prime Minister is the ‘pradhan sevak’ of the country. He said that instead of congratulating the BJP for itsachievements in the last two-years, the Congress is criticising it.

Responding to allegations levelled versus her son-in-law Robert Vadra, that a controversial arms dealer bought a ‘benami’ or proxy-owned mansion in London for him in 2009, Sonia Gandhi earlier said the
NDA government is resorting to Brand-new accusations everyday to achieve its target of a ‘Congress-free India’. She dared the Centre to begin investigating the matter.

Can Trump become US President? Here are 4 deciding battlegrounds

Brand-new YORK: With

Donald Trump
pulling even or ahead of Hillary Clinton in a series of recent national polls, the once unthinkable has actually become at least plausible. But if he is to be elected the 45th president, he must compete on a political map that, for now, looks forbidding.

In the Republican primaries, he proved a master of nationalizing the political debate, appealing to voters across regional lines with jeremiads about immigration and crime that captivated a mostly white primary electorate. At the outset of the general election, Trump has actually dominated the day-to-day political combat on national television and social media.

In the general election, however, his fate will be determined not by his Twitter followers or a relatively homogeneous Republican electorate, but by a set of interlocking and increasingly diverse regions, home to some 90 million Americans, that hold lots of of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win.

Republicans enter the general election at a hefty disadvantage: Since the 1992 campaign, 18 states have voted consistently for Democrats in presidential elections, giving their party a firm foundation of 242 electoral votes to build upon.

And in the four regions likely to decide the presidency — Florida, the upper Southeast, the Rust Belt and the interior West — Trump faces daunting obstacles, according to interviews last week with elected officials, political strategists and voters.

Of course, months remain before voting begins, and this political year has actually defied lots of predictions. But if Clinton clinches the Democratic nomination as expected, she may find an electoral bulwark in these coveted swing-state voters.

On the fence in the Upper South

Jonathan Martin

RALEIGH— North Carolina has actually a split political personality. Consider Debbie Holt.

A staunch supporter of abortion rights, Holt, 56, who owns a barbecue restaurant in downtown Raleigh, makes clear where she stands on other fronts in the culture wars with signs in her storefront window: “Stop profiling Muslims,” says one. Another: “Go To The Bathroom Where You Feel Best.”

Yet Holt is also an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.

“He don’t take any stuff, just like me,” she drawled in between ringing up lunch-rush customers, using a more piquant word for stuff.

Shannon White is as confused about her presidential preference as Holt is confident. A Mormon and Arizona transplant who usually votes for Republicans, White said she had no regard for the probable Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, but doubted Trump’s adherence to any principles and was uneasy about his “abusive” language.

“I’m actually thinking more that I am going to go Libertarian,” White, 42, said after wrestling with a mannequin at the apparel store she and her husband recently opened.

For decades, this state has actually embodied contradictory impulses, simultaneously electing a racial hard-liner like Jesse Helms and Brand-new South Democrats like Terry Sanford and Jim Hunt. But, as its demographics shift, discerning which way the state will tilt in November seems harder than ever.

North Carolina may be the most evenly divided presidential battleground in the country.

Its two biggest population centers, Charlotte and the Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, have been transformed by an influx of political centrists from other states. The fastest-growing party registration preference is not Republican nor Democrat, but unaffiliated.

The rural white “Jessecrats,” conservative Democrats who reliably cast ballots for Helms, are dying off. Elections are now won in the fast-growing edge towns like Cary, outside Raleigh, which natives joke stands for Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.

Neither Trump, with his hard-edge nationalism, nor Clinton, with a swirl of scandal surrounding her candidacy, are natural fits for a state that hungers for political moderation but is increasingly disenchanted with the political class.

“They don’t like either party, and they don’t like either candidate,” said Carter Wrenn, a veteran Republican strategist here. “It will just depend on which one they dislike less on Election Day.”

Polls show Trump and Clinton begin the general election close to evenly matched. The surest sign of a jump ball: Democrats believe Trump starts with a narrow advantage, while Republicans believe Clinton does.

What they agree on is that, as at the national level, Republicans are largely coalescing around Trump and ruling out the possibility that Clinton could run away with North Carolina.

Then again, Trump needs the state much more than Clinton does.

With his difficulties among Hispanic voters pushing typical swing states such as Colorado, Nevada and Florida toward the Democrats, Trump will probably need to carry the combined 28 electoral votes from North Carolina and Virginia to capture the White House.

But Virginia, demographically and politically, is a step to North Carolina’s left, increasing the pressure on Trump to win here. While Barack Obama twice carried Virginia, by 6 percentage points in 2008 and by less than four in 2012, he won North Carolina by less than one percentage point in 2008 and then, in a more closely contested election, lost North Carolina in 2012 by about two points.

Some Republicans worry that the backlash to the bathroom bill, aimed at transgender people, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law in March, could lead moderates to cast their ballots for Democrats in November.

But Democrats fret that the deep unpopularity of both Trump and Clinton, and the scorched-earth campaign to come, could depress turnout among the state’s centrists and progressives.

Finishing breakfast with her 4-year-old daughter at a Raleigh diner, Adrian Blackwell, 37, who works in medical sales and voted for Obama twice, said she would sit out the election.

“I really can’t in good conscience give my vote to Hillary or Trump,” she said, citing Clinton’s establishment ties and Trump’s policies. “I feel worried for our country.”

Brad Crone, a Democratic strategist, acknowledged that “Trump is doing better than folks think,” saying that anti-incumbency and “Hillary’s high negatives” had created a difficult environment for her.

What could tip the scales for Trump here is if he can improve his negative image, as voters’ opinions of him appear less fixed than they are of Clinton.

“I’m not a fan of his antics,” said Rick Peele, 57, who works for an architecture firm, leans Republican and was meeting a friend for lunch in downtown Raleigh last week. “But I haven’t been impressed with Hillary, either,” he added quickly.

Asked when he had faced such a choice for president, he shot back: “Never.”

Minority clout in South Florida


Alexander Burns

MIAMI — Had Republicans nominated Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush for president, Tomas Regalado would have hurled himself into the task of electing their candidate.

“I would have been all in,” Regalado, the Republican mayor of Miami, said in his office overlooking Biscayne Bay.

Instead, Regalado, a former broadcast journalist, intends to sit out the presidential race.

He considers Hillary Clinton untrustworthy, but views Donald Trump as a poisonous candidate who has actually aggravated racial divisions. In Miami, Regalado said, Trump is seen as “a bully, as a person who despises people that don’t look like him.”

Regalado, 69, said he had been inundated with angry email, some of it mentioning Trump by name. “Sometimes they say, ‘Yeah, Trump is right, you guys have to all go back to your country,'” said Regalado, who was born in Havana and emigrated when he was a teenager.

“This is my country,” he added. “I can’t go back to Cuba.”

Since Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, he has actually consolidated support from national party leaders and from lots of in the rank and file. He has actually pulled nearly even with Clinton in lots of polls, including in Florida.

But the southern tip of the nation’s most populous swing state has actually been a blazing exception to the trend — most of all in Miami-Dade County, a densely populated bastion of diversity that cast about a tenth of the statewide vote in 2012.

If Trump has actually effectively staked his campaign nationwide on strong support from whites, Florida may present the most punishing test of his strategy, as Hispanics here, including conservative-leaning Cuban-Americans who twice helped George W. Bush carry the state, turn away from his candidacy en masse.

Trump has actually trampled local sensibilities in myriad ways, from his belittling treatment of Rubio and Bush to his personal coarseness, slashing comments on immigration and endorsement of open relations with the Castro government.

In addition to Regalado, two Republican members of Congress from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, have said they will not back Trump in November, as has actually Carlos A. Gimenez, the Republican mayor of Miami-Dade County. All four are Cuban-American.

Early polls show voters in the area resoundingly rejecting Trump: A Quinnipiac University poll this month found Trump about even with Clinton statewide, but losing a band of southeastern counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward, by 38 percentage points.

Roxana M. Leon, 63, an independent voter raised in Chile, said she wanted major change in Washington but found Trump too objectionable to support.

“He’s not the right person,” said Leon, who works as a secretary. “I am sick and tired of the old establishment, but I will vote for Clinton.”

Some voters who were once intrigued by Trump now regard him with distaste. Carlos Guerrero, 55, said he had been willing to “look the other way” on lots of of Trump’s speeches — including “the way he speaks of Latin people” — because he liked Trump’s overall message.

But Guerrero, a Republican who described himself as a religious Catholic, said he recoiled when Trump began attacking Heidi Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife.

“He is not qualified to run this country,” Guerrero, who is an actor, said of Trump. “This country was made by people who believed in God.”

Should Trump get trounced in South Florida, he might be hard-pressed to make up the difference elsewhere.

Trump supporters believe he can improve upon Mitt Romney’s performance in North Florida, in the conservative panhandle region and in the Jacksonville area. But Romney found it difficult in 2012 to overcome a catastrophic defeat in Miami.

He cut into President Barack Obama’s support across most of Florida, but the president held steady in Tampa and Orlando, two other diverse cities, and expanded his margin of success in Miami-Dade by about 69,000 votes over his 2008 lead.

Obama ultimately captured Florida by about 74,000 votes.

Trump has actually his supporters here. Norma Samour, the owner of a shopping center, said she was a habitual Republican voter and would probably back Trump despite some mixed feelings.

“He will make the United States more like it was 15 years ago,” said Samour, 56, who was raised in El Salvador and is of Palestinian descent.

“People all over the world used to respect the United States.”

Yet the falloff Trump faces has, at a minimum, severely hindered Republican efforts to win statewide. Gimenez, the Miami-Dade mayor, said nominating Bush or Rubio would have allowed Republicans to challenge the Democrats’ dominance in South Florida.

“I don’t think the margin of defeat in Miami itself would have been as large,” Gimenez said. “Because of that, they may have been able to carry the state.”

A balancing act in the Rust Belt


Trip Gabriel


WILKES-BARRE — Donald Trump’s best play for the White House is to cut a swath through the Rust Belt, flipping states traditionally won by Democrats that harbor large numbers of the white working-class voters who have welcomed his hard line on immigration and trade.

A handful of victories in the Rust Belt states stretching from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin could allow Trump to lose Florida and still become president. But all Rust Belt states are not equal: Ohio, which President Barack Obama won by just 2 percentage points four years ago, is the most likely Republican pickup. Michigan, which Obama won by about 10 points, is the biggest stretch.

Pennsylvania — the second-closest battleground in 2012 after Ohio — perennially tempts Republicans to pour in resources in hopes of expanding the electoral map. To win the Rust Belt, a region that has actually generally gone Democratic in six straight presidential elections, Trump will have to win here.

The challenge for him in Pennsylvania is to expand his appeal to blue-collar voters without alienating white-collar Republicans, including women repelled by his free-floating insults and businesspeople who doubt his conservatism.

“I support the Republican Party, but I’m not personally on the Trump train,” said Melissa Wilson, a preschool teacher in Chester County. “I might not vote for president. I don’t think that he’s going to be able to speak to other nations and not cause us problems.”

If enough college-educated Republicans like Wilson reject Trump, his Rust Belt dreams will probably be thwarted.

“He has actually to pull away the marginal Obama voters, which tends to be lower socioeconomic whites,” said Henry Olsen, an electoral analyst at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. “The question for Trump is whether his persona and issue stance will alienate classic Romney voters in the managerial class. The margin for error is very small.”

Two counties in eastern Pennsylvania may best illustrate the give and take: Luzerne, where working-class white Democrats are flocking to Trump, and Chester, the state’s wealthiest.

In Luzerne County, registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans, but Trump won more votes in his April primary than Hillary Clinton did in hers. Before the vote, 4,647 Democrats and independents in Luzerne switched their registration to Republican — nearly four times the number of Republicans and independents who re-registered as Democrats.

Clinton’s allies say she would need to hold on only to Obama’s coalition of young people, women and minorities to carry Pennsylvania. But Republicans say Trump is making his own Brand-new math, and some Democrats acknowledge worries.

“I know families who’ve been lifelong Democrats who switched to Republican to vote for Trump,” said Mike DeCosmo, chairman of the Luzerne County Democratic Party. “Pretty much the same thing happened when Reagan ran.”

DeCosmo mentioned a family who owns a gutter-installation business in Hazle Township, a father and four adult sons, active Democrats who left the party. “All blue-collar workers,” he said. “It’s really tough.”

In Wilkes-Barre, the county seat, two members of the plumbers and pipe fitters union, Matt Hilstolsky and Jason King, pledged on their lunch break to vote for Trump, despite expecting their union to endorse Clinton. “Bringing back jobs is the No. 1 thing,” Hilstolsky said.

Elaine Bernardo, who works in customer service for Nabisco — the Oreos maker Trump assails for moving production to Mexico — said she was a Democrat, “but a Republican at heart,” and would vote for Trump.

“The middle class is being eradicated,” she said. “People who have homes that were in a certain price range can expect now 50 percent of the value they could have gotten 30 years ago. They are having their houses sold at tax sales.”

In relying on white working-class voters, Trump is bucking a demographic tide: The share of those voters in the Rust Belt is on the decline, while the share of college graduates is rising, said Ruy Teixeira, an elections analyst at the liberal Center for American Progress.

“Trump is trying to run up historically large margins” among the white working class, he said, “but there’s less of them to run up.”

In Chester County, by contrast, it seems as though minds are still being made up. Val DiGiorgio, county Republican chairman, said he hears from both Republicans who say they will not vote for Trump and others, including “a lot of Democrats and independents,” who are energized by his candidacy.

“The question is whether Trump makes up enough ground with those type of voters to offset what he’s going to lose,” DiGiorgio said.

He gave him a 50-50 chance.

At a fundraiser for a state lawmaker in West Chester this month, guests in business attire expressed strong misgivings about voting for Trump. But some were already reconciling themselves to the idea.

“I’m not enthusiastic; I’m afraid he isn’t trustworthy,” said Peg Layden, a grandmother who said she voted for Ted Cruz in the primary. “But I will definitely vote for the nominee.”

In Arizona, a backlash is brewing


Fernanda Santos

PHOENIX — Hector Salinas, 21, was born in this city but grew up in Mexico. Nancy Herrera, 31, was born in Mexico but entered the United States illegally when she was 3 and gained legal status only when she married an American citizen 10 years ago.

They are co-workers at Mi Familia Vota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that helps Latinos become citizens and register to vote. They are barred from discussing specific candidates, but this year they have not had to.

“The moment we talk about immigrant rights, immigration reform, people stop us and say, ‘Where do I sign? I’m going to vote this year because I don’t want Donald Trump to be my president,'” Salinas said.

Arizona is both a flashpoint in the nation’s immigration battles and a microcosm of a changing United States. One in three residents is Latino, and one in four Latinos is old enough to vote. And while the white population is aging — its median age is 43 — the median age of Latinos is 26.

Hispanics are a majority of public school students. “The voters of tomorrow,” said Joseph Garcia, director of the Morrison Institute Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University.

But will Hispanics vote this year?

The November election presents a unique enticement. Not only is Trump on the ballot, but so is one of his most outspoken supporters: Joe Arpaio, the swaggering Maricopa County sheriff who is seeking re-election and was found in contempt of court this month for defying a federal judge’s order to stop profiling Latinos.

“The Democrats have the best chance of winning Arizona since Bill Clinton won Arizona in 1996,” said Jaime Molera, a Republican strategist and former state schools superintendent who worked for former Sen. Jon Kyl, one of the most conservative voices in Congress.

The 2012 election offered a good window into how ethnicity and age play out here in politics. Mitt Romney carried the state by about 9 points, winning two-thirds of the white vote and 71 percent of voters 65 and older. President Barack Obama was favored by 63 percent of voters younger than 30 and gathered almost three-quarters of the Latino vote.

Latinos might well help turn Arizona blue. But if the left and right here agree on anything, it is that Latinos alone may not be able to do so just yet. They will need help from moderate Republicans and independents, who together form the state’s most potent voting bloc.

With Hillary Clinton showing weakness on the Democratic side, peeling off those middle-of-the-road and right-of-center voters will not be an easy job — but it is being done by going door to door, by grass-roots groups and lower-level Democratic candidates.

All are seeking to capitalize on animus toward Trump and Arpaio, particularly among younger voters, who have grown up hearing stories about the sheriff’s harsh treatment of Latinos. (Maricopa County, whose seat is Phoenix, is home to about 60 percent of Arizona’s population.)

Canvassers and candidates alike are highlighting the financial costs and reputational harm to Arizona brought on by Arpaio’s crusades versus undocumented immigrants. And they are portraying Trump’s and Arpaio’s stances as indistinguishable.

“Arpaio is the original Trump,” said Stacy Pearson, campaign manager for Paul Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant making his second run for sheriff as a Democrat, after nearly defeating Arpaio in 2012.

“Trump’s my-way-or-the-highway approach could have been a slogan for Arpaio’s entire career,” Pearson added.

In an interview, Arpaio welcomed the association, saying the November elections would not be decided by party affiliation or ethnicity. “Personalities count more than ever this time around,” he said.

Republicans, he added, “have nothing to worry about.”

But Molera, the Republican strategist, said that “if Republicans say they’re not concerned, they don’t want to admit it or they just don’t get it.”

An immigration law enacted in Arizona in 2010, which gave the police broad powers to stop people they suspected of being in the country illegally, spawned several civil rights groups that have recruited lots of young Latinos.

Drawing on their own experiences — seeing parents deported, neighbors caught in workplace raids, siblings who dropped out of college after the state required undocumented immigrants to pay out-of-state tuition — these activists are advising immigrants of their rights and pressing those who are eligible to register to vote.

Sometimes it means pressing people who are not eligible to vote.

“I spent 30 minutes talking to a man — he was very angry, very disillusioned,” said Salinas as he prepared to knock on doors on Phoenix’s overwhelmingly Hispanic west side. “He was undocumented, but he took home three voter registration forms for his kids.”

In 2010, there were 91,000 Latinos registered to cast their ballots by mail in Arizona. This month, the number has actually climbed above 300,000 — and state officials say that people who vote by mail are twice as likely to cast their ballots.

“A lot of people are tired of all the stuff that keeps pushing them down,” Salinas said. “We want to turn the light on so they can believe again. If they believe again, they’ll participate. And if they participate, change comes faster.”

Beijing at it again, now says India-Iran Chabahar deal will help China

BEIJING: China just won’t let up with the disdainful comments about India.

For an entire month, it has actually been stridently talking about how it will keep India away from the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

And now, it’s trying to diminish India’s recent deal with Iran to develop the Chabahar port, by saying it will be of great benefit to Beijing’s multinationals as well, so it isn’t “jealous”.

“It is clear that the improvement of infrastructure in Central Asia will also provide opportunities for Chinese multinational corporations, which hope to find potential overseas markets in the region”, China’s state-run newspaper, Global Times wrote.

China, too, wanted Chabahar deal

That’s all very well, but China, too, was looking to invest in the development of Chabahar port. In April, a Chinese consortium visited the Chabahar free trade zone and expressed interest in developing the port and building an industrial town there. The head of the consortium even said that Chinese companies were eager to invest in the strategically located port.

Before that, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran in January and in a joint statement, mentioned the development of ports as an area of cooperation.

The Chabahar port, located in the Sistan-Balochistan Province on the energy-rich Persian Gulf nation’s southern coast, lies outside the Persian Gulf and is easily accessed from India’s western coast, bypassing Pakistan.

So, the India-Iran Chabahar port deal must have hurt.

China sugar-coats feelings about Chabahar deal

This time, China attempted to sugar coat its words. “There is no reason for jealousy in China about a milestone deal signed between India and Iran,” the article said.

The suger-coating, though, didn’t last long. China just can’t seem to help being condescending to India.

For example, the piece constantly talks about India “striving to” get a foothold in Central Asia. It also says that China is “likely to be happy if India can join the ranks” of improving infrastructure networks in the region.

The article then goes on to rub it in even more, by tom-tomming its much earlier deal with Pakistan – a 2012 agreement formalized in 2013 – to develop the Gwadar port. There’s no mention in this case about how India might benefit from Gwadar in a manner similar to China benefitting from Chabahar.

“Pakistan is working with China to develop the deep-water Gwadar Port in its southwestern region. The port is expected to shorten the distance of China’s oil import route and open up brand-new trade routes for China in Central and South Asia,” the article said.

Chabahar is a big deal for India

And that’s precisely why Chabahar is so important geo-strategically for India and must have upset China, despite what it says.

Iran’s trade volume with India is a meagre $9 billion, compared with its trade with China, which is a whopping $52 billion. According to several in the Indian government, Chabahar is exceedingly important for India to break free from its strategic encirclement by China.

Ergo, it was exceedingly important for China, too, as it already controls the Gwadar port and has actually also restored its presence in Colombo and Hambantota in Sri Lanka; Chabahar would certainly have completed the circle nicely, but it wasn’t to be.

Iran plays peacemaker

The deal has actually clearly rattled China and Pakistan – it has actually to the extent that Iran said two days ago that both those countries are welcome to join the deal.

“The deal is not finished. We are waiting for brand-new members. Pakistan, our brotherly neighbours and China, a great partner of the Iranians and a good friend of Pakistan, are both welcome,” Mehdi Honardost, the Iranian ambassador to Pakistan, said on Friday, according to an article in the Pak Tribune.

Honardost added that neither Pakistan nor China showed any interest in developing the Chabahar port when they were offered a possibility to do so.

He said that Iran invited India because it has actually stood by the Islamic country during difficult circumstances. “India was a good friend during the sanctions, the only country to import oil from us during sanctions,” Honardost said.

With inputs from PTI

Pakistan fails to seal F-16 deal after financing row with US: Report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan seems to have failed to seal the $700 million deal for the purchase of eight F-16 fighter jets from the US following a row between the two countries over their financing, a media report said on Saturday.

The Pakistani government was required to provide the Letter of Acceptance for purchase of the jets by May 24, but Dawn News reported that the document was not issued leading to expiry of the offer.

“Pakistan decided not to fully fund the case with national funds, so the terms of sale have now expired,” a diplomatic source was quoted as saying by the daily.

However, Pakistan’s ambassador to US Jalil Abbas Jilani, told the daily that “a dead-end has actually not been reached as yet”.

Initially, the $700 million deal for eight F-16C/D Block-52 multi-role fighters, was to be partially financed through the US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme but the
Congress disallowed subsidising the sale .

The subsidising was disallowed over concern that Pakistan had not done enough to end the dreaded Haqqani network’s terror sanctuaries on its soil as well as fears over Islamabad’s nuclear programme.

Pakistan, which expected to get the fighters at the subsidised rate of $270 million, was subsequently asked by the US administration to make the full payment for the eight aircraft from its national resources.

This was not acceptable to Pakistani authorities, who remained adamant that the offer must come without any preconditions.

The aircraft were required by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations, the report said.

The jets would certainly have come with “all-weather, non-daylight environments and self-defence/area suppression capability”.

It was unclear why Pakistan missed the opportunity despite pressing requirement for the jets, even though it had originally desired to acquire 18 F-16s, the daily said.

Some quarters believe that providing the Letter of Acceptance would certainly have kept the window open for re-negotiating the financing arrangement at a later stage, it said.

Pakistan Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz said last month that
Pakistan could look to buy the aircraft from some other country if the deal did not go ahead.

He also said earlier this month that Pakistan’s ties with the US had witnessed a “downward slide” amid the row over the Congress’ decision to block the sale of the jets.

Defence minister Khawaja Asif had said last week that Pakistan will explore other options to meet its defence needs if the deal for F-16s did not materialise with the US.

Analysts believe Islamabad could consider Russian or Chinese fighters to meet its defence requirements.

Pak should know ‘path to peace is a two-way street’, PM Modi says

WASHINGTON: India-Pakistan ties can “truly scale great heights” if Pakistan removes the “self-imposed” obstacle of terrorism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as he asked Islamabad to play its part by putting a complete stop to any kind of support to terrorism – “whether state or non-state”.

“In my view, our ties can truly scale great heights once Pakistan removes the self-imposed obstacle of terrorism in the path of our relationship.

“We are ready to take the first step, but the path to peace is a two-way street,” Modi told the Wall Street Journal, in comments posted on its website on Friday.

He said he has actually always maintained that instead of fighting with each other,

India and Pakistan
should together fight versus poverty.

“Naturally we expect Pakistan to play its part,” he said.

“But, there can be no compromise on terrorism. It can only be stopped if all support to terrorism, whether state or non-state, is completely stopped.

“Pakistan’s failure to take effective action in punishing the perpetrators of terror attacks limits the forward progress in our ties,” said the Prime Minister.

Modi said his government’s proactive agenda for a peaceful and prosperous neighbourhood began from the very first day of his government.

“I have said that the future that I wish for India is the future that I dream for my neighbours. My visit to Lahore was a clear projection of this belief,” he said.

Ruling out a change in India’s decades-old policy of non-alignment, Modi said that despite the border dispute, there have been no clashes with China, pointing out the “brand-new way” in today’s “interdependent world” unlike the last century.

“There is no reason to change India’s non-alignment policy that is a legacy and has actually been in place. But this is true that today, unlike before, India is not standing in a corner. It is the world’s largest democracy and fastest growing economy.

“We are acutely conscious of our responsibilities both in the region and internationally,” he said.

Modi’s considerable comment on India’s Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which several now also prefer to call as strategic autonomy, came in response to a question on China’s assertiveness.

“The US is very keen on India, the rising power that India is, to be part of, if not an alliance, then at least a grouping that can stand up to some extent to China. Where do you see India taking a position on the global stage?” he was asked.

“We don’t have any fighting with China today. We have a boundary dispute, but there is no tension or clashes. People-to-people contacts have increased. Trade has actually increased. Chinese investment in India has actually gone up. India’s investment in China has actually grown,” Modi said.

“Despite the border dispute, there haven’t been any clashes. Not one bullet has actually been fired in 30 years,” he said.

“So the general impression that exists, that’s not the reality,” Modi said on India’s ties with China.

Modi appeared to be appreciative of China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative.

“We feel that the world needs to hear more from China on this initiative, especially its intent and objective,” he said.

With a 7,500 kilometre-long coastline, India has actually a natural and immediate interest in the developments in the Indo-Pacific region, he said, adding that India has actually excellent relationships with the littoral states of the Indian Ocean.

“India is a net security provider in the Indian Ocean region. We, therefore, watch very carefully any developments that have implications for peace and stability in this region,” he noted.

Talking about India’s ties with the US, Modi said several of the values between the two countries match.

“Our friendship has actually endured, be it a Republican government or a Democratic. It is true that Obama and I have a special friendship, a special wavelength,” he said ahead of his travel to the US next month – his fourth visit to the country after becoming the Prime Minister.

“Beyond our bilateral relationship, whether it is global warming or terrorism, we have similar thoughts, so we work together.

“But India doesn’t make its policies in reference to a third country. Nor should it,” Modi said.

He said India and the US have enjoyed a warm relationship, regardless of whether America has actually a Republican or Democratic administration.

“During the last two years, President Obama and I have led the momentum; we are capturing the true strength and scale of our strategic, political and economic opportunities, and people to people ties. Our ties have gone beyond the Beltway and beyond South Block,” he said.

“Our concerns and threats overlap. We have a growing partnership to address common global challenges viz. terrorism, cyber security and global warming. We also have a robust and growing defence cooperation. Our aim to go beyond a buyer-seller relationship towards a strong investment and manufacturing partnership,” he added.

Modi said unlike the last century, when the world was divided into two camps, this is not true anymore.

“Today, the whole world is interdependent.

“Even if you look at the relationship between China and the US, there are areas where they have substantial differences but there are also areas where they have worked closely.

“That’s the brand-new way,” he said.

“If we want to ensure the triumph of this interdependent world, I think countries need to cooperate but at the same time we also need to ensure that there is a respect for international norms and international rules,” he said.

‘Sack him’: Swamy writes to PM again, lists 6 ‘charges’ against Rajan

Brand-new DELHI: BJP MP

Subramanian Swamy
on Thursday fired another salvo at

RBI governor

Raghuram Rajan
levelling six allegations versus him and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately terminate his services.

This is the second time in two weeks that Subramanian Swami has actually written to Prime Minister Modi seeking immediate removal of Raghuram Rajan.
In the first letter, written on May 17 , Swami had called Rajan ‘mentally not fully Indian’ In his second letter, Swami once again accused Rajan of raising interest rate to the detriment of small and medium industries.Swamy said the governor should have actually known the “inevitable consequence of rising and high interest rate and his policy was wilful and thus anti-national in intent”.

Rajan, the BJP leader also claimed, has actually been sending confidential and sensitive financial information using unsecured Chicago University email id and publicly disparaging the BJP government.

Swamy said that six allegations levelled by him versus RBI governor were “prima facie true” and require termination of Rajan’s services “immediately” in the “national interest”.

In his second letter to Modi within a fortnight, Swamy alleged that despite holding a sensitive and very high government post, Rajan has actually been making mandatory trips to the US to renew his Green Card.

RBI Governor’s post, Swamy added, “is very high in the Warrant of Precedence and requires a patriotic and unconditional commitment to our nation”.

Rajan, he further alleged, is a member of US dominated Group of 30 which is engaged in defending America’s dominant position in the global economy.

Sensex zooms over 500 points riding on positive global cues

MUMBAI: The

BSE Sensex
soared over 500 points on Wednesday riding on positive global cues and value buying.

The key indices made healthy gains during the mid-afternoon trade session as buying was witnessed in banks, automobile, capital goods, oil and gas and short article technology (IT) stocks.

The wider 51-scrip

Nifty
of the National Stock Exchange (NSE) edged up by 158.10 points or 2.04 percent, at 7,906.95 points.

The barometer 30-scrip sensitive index (Sensex) of the BSE, which opened 25,432.10 points at 25,861.40 points, traded at 25,861.40 points (1.55 p.m.) – up 555 points from the previous close at 25,305.47 points.

All sectoral indices, led by realty, IT and banking, were in the green, gaining up to 1.62 per cent.

Brokers said pick-up in buying activity in recently beaten down stocks coupled along with covering-up of pending short position by speculators ahead of Thursday’s May month’s expiry in the derivatives segment had a positive impact too.

Besides, better-than-expected Q4 earnings by some corporates too influenced trading sentiments, they said.

Meanwhile, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 815.53 crore on Tuesday, as per provisional data released by the stock exchanges.

In overseas stock markets, Asian equities edged higher after encouraging reports on the US housing

market
saw sharp

gains in US stocks overnight.

PM Modi in Iran: India signs pact to develop Chabahar port for $500mn

TEHRAN: India on Monday signed 12 agreements with Iran, including a pact to operate a strategic port in Chabahar on the Persian Gulf nation’s southern coast.

“Chabahar can become a very big symbol of co-operation between Iran and India,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a joint press conference with PM
Narendra Modi
after the signing of agreements in Tehran.

“The Chabahar port can serve as a point of connectivity between different countries, specially India and Afghanistan,” he added.

“The agreement to develop Chabahar port for which India will provide $500 million is a key milestone,” the PM said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India and Iran are not new friends. “Our dosti is as old as history,” PM Modi said.

“The outcomes and agreements signed today open a new chapter in our strategic partnership,” he added.

The PM also said that India and Iran exchanged views on the emerging regional situation and global issues of common concern.

PM Modi said India and Iran will consult each other closely and regularly on combating threats of terrorism, radicalism, drug trafficking and cyber crime.

India will invest billions of dollars in setting up industries – ranging from aluminum smelter to urea plants – in Iran’s Chabahar free trade zone.

READ ALSO: Why Chabahar port is important for India

The inking of a commercial contract to build and run the strategic port of Chabahar will help India gain a foothold in Iran and win access to Afghanistan, Russia and Europe, thus circumventing Pakistan, road transport, highways and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari, who’also in Tehran, said.

“The distance between Kandla and the Chabahar port is less than the distance between New Delhi and Mumbai, and so what this agreement does is to enable us quick movement of goods first to Iran and then onwards to Afghanistan and Russia through a new rail and road link,” he explained.

“Over Rs 1 lakh crore investment can happen in Chabahar free trade zone,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here on Sunday on a two-day visit seeking to further cement Indo-Iranian ties and explore avenues to bolster trade in a big way in the wake of lifting of sanctions against Iran.

Iran, Gadkari said, has cheap natural gas and power that Indian firms are keen to tap to build a 0.5-million tonne aluminium smelter plant as well as urea manufacturing units.

“We spend Rs 45,000 crore annually on urea subsidy, and if we can manufacture it in the Chabahar free trade zone and move it through the port to Kandla and onward to hinterland, we can save that amount,” he said.

Gadkari said Nalco will set up the aluminium smelter while private and co-operative fertiliser firms are keen to build urea plants provided they get gas at less than $2 per mmBtu.

Railway PSU IRCON will build a rail line at Chabahar to move goods right up to Afghanistan, he said.

Gadkari said India Ports Global Pvt, a joint venture of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust and the Kandla Port Trust, will invest $85 million in developing two container berths with a length of 640 metres and three multi cargo berths.

The Indian consortium has signed the port pact with Aria Banader Iranian.

“The contract is for 10 years and can be extended. We will take 18 months to complete phase one of the construction,” he said, adding that first two years of the contract are grace period where India doesn’t have to guarantee any cargo.

From the third year, India will guarantee 30,000 TEUs of cargo at the Chabahar port which will go up to 2,50,000 TEUs by the 10th year.

An initial pact to build the Chabahar port was first inked during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government in 2003, but the deal slipped through during subsequent years. It has been aggressively pushed in the past one year, leading to signing of the agreement for phase-1 today, Gadkari said.

“This is a historic event which will herald in a new era of development. We can now go to Afghanistan and further to Russia and Europe without going through Pakistan,” he said.

The Zaranj-Delaram road constructed by India in 2009 can give access to Afghanistan’s Garland Highway, setting up road access to four major cities in Afghanistan – Herat, Kandahar, Kabul and Mazar-e-Sharif.

India is also reported to finance another road network inside Afghanistan to enable Iran to access as far as Tajikistan through a shorter route.

Chabahar is about 100km from the Chinese-run Gwadar port in Pakistan, which is part of China’s $46 billion plan to develop China-Pakistan Economic Corridor aimed at opening new trade and transport routes across Asia.

The Indian joint venture company will invest more than USD 85.2 million in development of the port. India’s Exim Bank will provide a credit line of another $150 million.

India is blocked from land access to Afghanistan and through it to the central Asia countries because of opposition from Pakistan, which sees India’s expansive diplomacy in the region as a threat.

India, Afghanistan and Iran separately signed an agreement to set up a trade and transport corridor, with Chabahar as the hub.

Road and rail links are being built so that the land-locked Afghanistan can get access to the Iranian port as an alternative to the Pakistani port of Karachi.

As no deal with Iran yet, ONGC may lose gas field to Saudi Arabia

TEHRAN: India’s flagship explorer ONGC is facing a repeat of KG fiasco in Iran as lengthy negotiations on terms may drive it to a point where its discovered gas reserves in Farzad-B field in the Persian Gulf might be drawn out by neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) alleges that 11.12 billion cubic meters of natural gas worth Rs 11,055 crore has actually flowed from its idling Krishna Godavari basin blocks in Bay of Bengal blocks to neighbouring KG-D6 fields of Reliance Industries.

And the same is now on the verge of repeating in the Farzad-B field, which it had discovered in 2008 however no contract to exploit the 12.5 trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves has actually so far been concluded along with Iran.

Sources said a portion of Farzad-B field extends into territorial waters controlled by Iran’s regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has actually already drilled wells on the area falling in its territory, which it has actually named Hasbah field, and has actually begun production.

The two fields are connected, along with the area falling in Iranian territory holding larger share of 12.5 Tcf of recoverable reserves while the Saudi territory has actually only 3 Tcf or so. however the two fields are connected and whosoever is able to move initial would certainly extract more benefits.
Sources said in the dispute along with RIL, ONGC is claiming compensation for its gas flowing through under-sea connected reservoir to KG-D6 and the government has actually constituted a one-man committee to look into the issue and suggest compensation.
But such a thing may not be possible for Farzad-B as rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran may prevent from arriving at any internationally recognised practice of splitting the spoils in conjoined fields.
It was expected that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran today and tomorrow may see finalising of a contract, giving developmental rights of Farzad-B field to ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of the state explorer.
But Iran is yet to agree to USD 4.3 billion master development plan submitted by OVL. Also, it is yet to agree on the price at which OVL can take all of the gas produced from the field, they said adding that no definitive contract for the development of the field would certainly be signed during Modi’s visit.

Tim Cook, PM Modi discuss ‘Make in India’ plans for Apple products

NEW DELHI: Showing interest in making Apple products in India, the global technology giant’s chief
Tim Cook
today discussed with Prime Minister
Narendra Modi
the “possibilities of manufacturing” and tapping the young talent pool in the country.

On his maiden visit to India, the
Apple CEO
also discussed with Modi issues regarding cyber-security and data encryption.

“Cook shared Apple Inc’s future plans for India. He spoke of the possibilities of manufacturing and retailing in India. He appreciated the breadth of young talent in India and said the youth have significant skills which Apple would like to tap,” an official statement said.

The head of the US-based
Apple
, which makes iconic iPhones and Mac computers, has already announced during this trip setting of an app development centre in Bengaluru and one for maps in Hyderabad.

During his meeting with Modi, Cook highlighted the immense potential for app development in the country. He also launched an updated version of the PM’s mobile app at the meeting.

He narrated to Prime Minister the experiences including a visit to Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai and watching a cricket match in Kanpur.

Tim Cook in India: Meets Bollywood stars, top industrialists

Apple CEO Tim Cook, who is on his maiden five-day visit to the country, today met the honchos of India Inc, leading bankers and the Bollywood royalty, and will inaugurate tomorrow a development centre in Hyderabad as the tech giant seeks to bolster India presence.

Modi, appreciating Cook, said in India “seeing is believing” and added these experiences would definitely steer his business decisions.

After the meeting, Modi tweeted: “Thank you @tim_cook! Friends, welcome & happy volunteering. Your views and efforts are always enriching.” He also shared photos with the Apple CEO on his Twitter handle.

Cook
, in a response, tweeted: “Thanks PM @narendramodi for a great meeting. Already looking forward to next visit to India. Best wishes on the app!”

He also appreciated Prime Minister’s initiatives on ease of doing business and renewable energy, the statement read.

Cupertino-based Apple
runs on 93 per cent renewable energy and Cook spoke of plans to move Apple’s entire supply chain to renewable energy.