TRUMP AIDE KENNETH JUSTER, NEXT US AMBASSADOR TO NEW DELHI, IS AN EXPERIENCED INDIA HAND

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Kenneth Juster, who’s set to be the next US Ambassador to New Delhi, is an experienced India hand.

Juster has been a pro-India voice ever since he was an Under-secretary in the US Department of Commerce in the George W Bush administration. The US-India Business Council awarded him with the Blackwill Award in 2004 for his contributions to India-US relations.

The Washington Post, which first broke the news, described Kenneth as a “consensus pick” and a “top-notch India expert”.

“Senior Trump Administration officials say his impending appointment to represent Washington in New Delhi is a consensus pick that places a top notch India expert in a crucial diplomatic post and he is currently going through a new round of clearances before his appointment can be officially announced,” the Post report said.

Juster has admired India’s technical competence, especially in life sciences and engineering, and founded and chaired the High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) in 2002 to broad-base trade of dual-use goods and bilateral high-technology commerce.

In his various responsibilities, he has overseen trade dealing with export of sensitive goods and technologies to other countries. He has also been actively involved in policymaking on China, Japan, Israel, the Persian Gulf and Latin America.

A trustee of The Asia Foundation, a non-profit development organization, and member of the Council for Foreign Relations, a strategic think-tank of global influence, Juster is currently Donald Trump’s Deputy Assistant for International Economic Affairs. He’s also Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, and has been the first contact point for senior Indian officials for access to the Donald Trump administration.

According to Bloomberg, Juster has over 30 years of experience as a lawyer and senior business executive. He completed his law education at Harvard Law School. He went on to earn a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Kenneth Juster will replace Richard Verma, the first Indian-American to become the US Ambassador to India. Verma was appointed by Donald Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, and resigned as Donald Trump took over the US presidency.

©SantoshChaubey

INDIA LIKELY TO SURPASS CHINA’S POPULATION IN 2024

The article originally appeared on India Today.

The 25th round of population projections by the United Nations has delayed its earlier estimates by two years when India’s population is likely to surpass China’s. According to the “World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision” released by the Population Division of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, India is likely to surpass China’s population in 2024 while in its 24th round projections, released in 2015, the UN had estimated 2022 to be the year when India’s population could surpass China’s. In its 2013 estimates, the UN had projected India’s population to overtake China’s in 2028.

According to the report, China with 1.41 billion and India with 1.34 billion people, accounting for 19 per cent and 18 per cent of the global population, remain two most populous countries and adds that in “in roughly seven years, or around 2024, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China.” Nigeria, that is growing most rapidly among the ten largest countries and is currently the world’s seventh largest, will surpass the US to become the world’s third most populous country in the world shortly before 2050.

Also, while China, that is geographically three times larger than us with an economy of $11 trillion that is five times of India’s $2.1 trillion, is slowing down, India’s population is expected to be the fastest growing among the countries which will account for half of the world’s population growth between 2017 to 2015. The countries in decreasing order of their expected contribution to the global population growth are India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia.

The world’s total population is projected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100 from its current 7.6 billion. The report says “83 million people are added to the world’s population every year and the upward trend in population size is expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline.”

The report says in 2014 both countries will have roughly 1.44 billion people. While India’s population will continue to grow for decades after it, touching 1.5 billion in 2030 and 1.66 billion in 2050, China’s population is expected to register a slow decline after remaining stable till 2030s.

In May this year, a Chinese experts claimed that India’s population had already surpassed China’s. Yi Fuxiang, a US based Chinese scientist, came out with his numbers arguing that China’s real population was 1.29 billion in 2016 and not 1.38 billion as estimated by China and India had surpassed China with 1.33 billion people quoting the UN figures. He had arrived at his findings after factoring in information and data on family planning policies, birth rate and hospital and school statistics. Though widely reported, his claims were met with scepticism and the UN report now makes it clear that China’s still more populous than us, even if only for seven more years.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN STARTS FENCING BORDER THAT AFGHANISTAN DOESN’T RECOGNIZE

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

Despite Afghanistan’s strong reservations, Pakistan has started the fencing work along the whole Pakistan-Afghanistan border or Durand Line. According to Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, DG, Inter-Service Public Relations and Pak army spokesperson, the work is part of Operation Radd ul Fasaad, Pak army’s countrywide anti-terror operation and has been ordered by Pak army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bahwa.

The whole work will be completed in two phases with high infiltration areas like Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber Agencies are being taken in the first phase. According to his Facebook post, besides building up the fence, the Pak army is also new posts and forts to further beef up the security measures.

Nothing looks wrong with it. It is, in fact, within a sovereign country’s rights to do all to secure its borders. But it is not so. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, known as Durand Line, is disputed and Afghanistan has vowed to never recognize it. Durand Line, drawn by Britain in 1893, is 2460 Kms long and arbitrarily divides the geographical areas inhabited by Pashtun and Baloch communities. Afghanistan contends that the validity of the British era document that imposed the Durand Line on Afghanistan expired with the collapse of the British empire from the sub-continent in 1947.

Earlier this year, when Pakistan had closed its border with Afghanistan citing terrorists’ infiltration, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai had hit back using strong words, “the Government of Pakistan had no legal authority to dictate terms on the Durand line.” He added that “while we wish freedom for the people of FATA from FCR and other repressive measures, we remind the Government of Pakistan that Afghanistan hasn’t and will not recognize the Durand Line.” Federally Administered Tribal Areas or FATA is Pakistan’s north-western province that borders with Afghanistan. FATA was seen as a region beyond Pakistan’s control which regulates it now through repressive special laws known as the Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) and has announced to merge it with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN PLAYED WELL YESTERDAY BUT THE WAY ITS ARMY IS REACTING ON INDIA’S CT LOSS IS LAUGHABLE

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Here it is bit modified.

Pakistan was certainly a better team yesterday when it defeated India in the Champions Trophy finals lifting the cup but the way Pakistan army is trying to cash this victory to further its anti-India propaganda is only laughable.

It seems the whole military establishment of Pakistan got a desperate lease of life to look down upon India after continuous humiliation from India, be it the Surgical Strikes last year or India demolishing Pak army bunkers this year or India’s continued domination on the border with Pakistan.

Tweets by Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, DG, Inter-Service Public Relations and Pak army spokesperson, after Pakistan’s win sounded like Pakistan had won some war against India with its Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Qamar Javed Bajwa, it naval chief and its soldiers cheering up Pakistan’s win.

To beef up his propaganda rhetoric, Maj Ghafoor added a video of celebrations in Srinagar on Pakistan’s win and didn’t forget to add happy images from Baluchistan saying “to whom it may concern”. Lay off!”

He used Pakistan’s cricketing win over India to repeat the worn out line “united we shall defend Pak against all threats our enemies hatch” with images of “valiant soldiers of Pakistan congratulating Team Pak and Nation”.

We can understand the low confidence level of the Pak army. To save its face, it had to issue official denial of the very existence of the Surgical Strikes and it would certainly have hurt the ego of its military commanders. When India released a video of its operations destroying Pak bunkers in retaliation to the cowardly act of beheading of Indian soldiers and pushing infiltrators in India, Pak army could find nothing to counter India but a fake video. Likewise, we cannot say anything about these images of Baluchistan and Srinagar shared here. They may well be products of Pak army’s propaganda factory. And to cap Pak army’s misery, the reports of its atrocity in Baluchistan are now being heard the world over after India has started highlighting the issue.

©SantoshChaubey

CHINESE MEDIA: B&R IS NOT A CHARITY PROGRAMME, CHINA SHOULD GIVE LOANS AT HIGHER INTEREST RATES

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Though China terms baseless India’s worries that it is trying to establish foothold in India’s neighbourhood by trapping countries in a debt trap, its steps say otherwise.

India’s neighbourhood countries that China is eyeing are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar. Having a strong Chinese presence in these countries would give China strategic advantage over India. So, China, in the name of building economic corridors linking Asia, Africa and Europe, offers these countries huge loans for infrastructural projects at higher interest rates and when these economically poor countries are not able to repay the loans, China acquires controlling stakes in them, as high as 85 per cent.

China rubbishes all such claims and says in its One Belt One Road or Belt & Road (OBOR or B&R) is a venture aimed at mutual benefit for all in the region. But an editorial in Global Times, one of the official publications of China, has clearly stated that “it should be made clear that the B&R is not a charity program, and most projects under the initiative are reciprocal, rather than aid.”

Though the editorial is written in context of an Indian publication’s report that claims that China is trying to convert its soft loans to Bangladesh to commercial credit, it gives a hint of what the Chinese designs are going to be, especially in countries where China is investing heavily in projects under its One OBOR or B&R initiative.

Pakistan is the classic case here where China is establishing China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with an estimated investment of $50 billion that could go up to $75 billion. Though Pakistan’s power elite sound bullish with CPEC as if it will miraculously transform Pakistan, protesters and activists in Pakistan rue that the mammoth infrastructural exercise, that passes through the disputed territory that India considers its own, will convert Pakistan into a Chinese colony.

China is already acquiring controlling stakes in projects in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. According to a Reuters report, China has demanded 70-85 per cent stakes in the projects funded by China in Myanmar including Kyauk Pyu, a strategic deep sea strategic on the Bay of Bengal. In Sri Lanka, China funded projects Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport, both strategically important, especially for India, have gone into China’s control. With Bangladesh, China signed projects worth $25 billion during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Bangladesh visit in October 2016. Earlier this month, Nepal signed a $ 2.5 billion deal with China to build the country’s largest hydroelectric dam. In May, Nepal and China signed a MoU on OBOR.

China, known for territorial expansionism and autocratic rule, is also an economic powerhouse now. It is now financially big enough to first pump its money in small, poor nations and then acquire controlling stakes in organizations as the nations fail to repay, be it the poor or financially weaker nations of Asia or Africa and the editorial narrative that “China needs to take a more sophisticated approach in clarifying its loan arrangements in overseas cooperation and should maintain its bottom line by avoiding interest rate competition in loan offerings” fits in the expansionist mindset of its one-party regime.

Soft loans come with symbolic interest rates of around 1 per cent or even less or in some cases with no interest rates and are given to the borrowers for development projects while commercial credit is given at much higher interest rates. The editorial argues that “there is no need for China to compete with other countries in offering competitive interest rates just to please partners or win contracts, to the detriment of its own interests” referring to India’s $7.5 billion line of credit to Bangladesh at a nominal interest rate.

Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, all these countries are in India’s neighbourhood. China is either funding huge projects there or has signed deals worth multiple billions of dollars. And as it intends to charge a much higher interest rate for its loans, something that may result in countries defaulting on Chinese loans and thus ceding the projects’ control to China, India has a valid reason to get worried, especially after the historically hostile attitude that China has harboured against India. China has always tried to encircle India by increasing its presence in the South Asian countries.

©SantoshChaubey

TRUMP SAYS HE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION, HIS LAWYER CLARIFIES HE ISN’T

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

While appearing on several talks shows on Sunday, Jay Sekulow, a lawyer from US President Donald Trump’s legal team, denied that Trump was under investigation for firing former FBI director James Comey.

In a tweet yesterday, Trump appeared to confirm that that he was being investigated for firing former FBI director James Comey.

The Post reported that Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the FBI’s probe into Russia’s meddling in last year’s US presidential election and possible links with the Trump campaign, has expanded his inquiry to probe whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI chief.

Trump said he was being investigated by the man who, in the first place, told him to fire James Comey. Trump’s tweet could be targeting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the probe into Russia’s intervention into the last year’s presidential polls.

Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice’s chief counsel, tried to downplay the content of the tweet and defended Trump’s firing of Comey as a constitutional act.

On CNN’s “State of the Union”, he said that the tweet in question was Trump’s response to the Washington Post story that claimed that Trump was under a possible obstruction of justice probe after firing James Comey. Sekulow added that the confirmatory tone of Trump’s tweet was due to Twitter’s word limit, “There’s a limitation on Twitter, as we all know. The President’s response was as it related to the Washington Post report. He cannot in a Twitter statement include all of that in there. That’s it. Simple explanation.”

He reiterated his claims on NBC’s “Meet the Press” saying that Donald Trump “was not and had not been under investigation for obstruction.” He said that “Donald Trump was not afraid of the investigation — there was no investigation” and defended Trump’s tweet in question saying that “Donald Trump is responding to what he’s seeing in the media in a way in which he thinks is appropriate to talk to those people that put him in office.”

“There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation,” he told on CBS’ “Face the Nation” programme. Questioning veracity of the Washington Post story, Sekulow asserted that the President could not be under investigation for doing something that the Department of Justice asked him to do. In this case, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had written to Trump to fire James Comey. Sekulow asserted that “the president could not be investigated, or certainly could not be found liable for engaging in an activity he clearly had power to do under the constitution.”

James Comey, who was fired by Trump last month, publicly testified this month that Trump had told him to ease off on his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was under the FBI investigation for his Russian links. Comey said he believed Trump’s advice to be a direction and thus felt uncomfortable by it. Terming Comey’s allegations untrue, Trump later said he was willing to testify under oath.

©SantoshChaubey

SELF-AGGRANDIZING CHINESE STATE MEDIA TERMS WESTERN DEMOCRACY A GRAND ILLUSION

The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.

In an act of self-aggrandizement, an editorial in China’s official publication People’s Daily has termed western democracy a grand illusion. Comparing situation in China with political chaos prevailing in the US with election of Donald Trump as the president and declaring China’s political system unique for lifting millions of Chinese out of poverty, the editorial has slammed western democracy saying it is always just one step away from tragedy.

The editorial questions the US model of democracy and writes that ‘China’s official argument is that the US elevates itself as a model of democracy in order to spread its interpretation of democracy to other countries in an attempt to make the world in its own image.’

It says the 2016 US presidential election has shown the perils of western democracy ‘revealing the dark side of so-called democracy in the US.’ Taking its agenda to show western democracies in poor light further, citing some studies in the way it suits its agenda, the editorial says that “the modern history of western democracy is one of decline and fall and most democracies failed and there is a growing dissatisfaction with western democracy itself, not just in America but around the world.”

Whereas the world knows how ruthless is the one-party autocratic rule of China. China is known as a country that massacred its own students in the Tiananmen Square incident for demanding political reforms. China is a county that crushes every voice of dissent including even artists and Nobel laureates. China’s human rights record is awfully horrible. Free and fair elections are undisputed hallmark of democracies, something that China has never seen under its communist rule.

Though the editorial rightly points to the ensuing political chaos in the US with Donald Trump’s controversial policy movements like replacing national health insurance policy unveiled by Barack Obama with his controversial health insurance plan that will leave millions of Americans out of its ambit or his controversial travel ban plan targeting Muslims or his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Deal, it forgets China’s own poor track record while painting an established model of democracy in a negative hue.

The editorial doesn’t mention Chinese crackdown on Uyghur Muslims of its Xinjiang province for demanding freedom to practice their religion. Ramadan is prohibited for them and so calling their children with religious Muslim names. The editorial doesn’t mention how China throws its millions of poor out of its megacities to build a world class Beijing or Shanghai. The editorial doesn’t mention that How Hong Kongers are vehemently opposing Chinese efforts to introduce mainland education system in the island city that was a British colony with British law and western education system. Though Hong Kong was transferred to Chinese control in 1997, the British-Chinese agreement says that China cannot interfere to impose its socialist system in Hong Kong for 50 years.

While talking of growing dissatisfaction with western democracies, the editorial very conveniently forgets to mention that how Donald Trump is seeing lowest approval ratings within few months of his inaugural because of controversies surrounding him, that how France elected an unknown Emmanuel Macron over far-right Marine Le Pen to preserve its democratic spirit, that how Britain rejected PM Theresa May’s inward looking policies by taking away her government’s majority in the recently held elections. A democratic spirit grows stronger with equal participation of people in its trial and error process that challenges throw, something that was never given to Chinese people.

Democracies are built on these founding principles, political and religious freedom, rule of law and legal equality, building blocks of a democratic society totally unheard of in one-party rule autocratic China. Chinese people have no political and religious freedom. Legal equality and rule of law is on mercy of Chinese power elite. It serves as long as they keep on squeezing their life within the strict norms laid out by the Chinese Communist Party. The editorial’s argument, “whether the shoes fit or not, only the wearer knows”, quoting Chinese president Xi Jinping, reflects the unilateral world view of Chinese power elite.

©SantoshChaubey

DONALD TRUMP CONFIRMS HE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR FIRING JAMES COMEY

The article originally appeared on India Today.

United States President Donald Trump today appeared to confirm a Washington Post report that he is being investigated for firing former FBI director James Comey.

The Post, this week, reported that Robert Mueller, who is overseeing the FBI’s probe into Russia’s meddling in last year’s US presidential election and possible links with the Trump campaign, has expanded his inquiry to probe whether Trump obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI chief.

In his tweet today, Trump seemingly confirmed the report and reiterated his charge linking his presidential campaign with Russia is nothing but a political witch-hunt.

Trump said he was being investigated by the man who, in the first place, told him to fire James Comey. Trump’s tweet could be targeting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to oversee the probe into Russia’s intervention into the last year’s presidential polls.

Rosenstein had written to Trump recommending Comey’s firing.

In an attempt to sound upbeat and to downplay the new developments in a controversy that has now reached the Oval Office, Trump also said that “despite the phony witch Hunt going on in America, the economic & jobs numbers are great.”

Even yesterday, Trump had termed the alleged links between Russia and his campaign as a phony story.

Notably, James Comey, who was fired by Trump last month, publicly testified this month that Trump had told him to ease off on his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was under the FBI investigation for his Russian links.

Comey said he believed Trump’s advice to be a direction and thus felt uncomfortable by it. Terming Comey’s allegations untrue, Trump later said he was willing to testify under oath but Mueller’s reported investigation into the president’s actions means that Trump will have to live with the ghost of another probe reaching to the White House.

Trump had expressed the same outrage when Mueller, a former FBI director from 2001 to 2013, was appointed last month by the US Department of Justice to probe Russian meddling.

While accusing the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration of indulging in illegal acts, Trump had said that “there was never a special counsel appointed to oversee the acts of his Democrat predecessors”.

He had likened the appointment of the special counsel with the “single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history”. “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed”, Trump had tweeted.

©SantoshChaubey

US DECLARES AN ISIS OPERATIVE FROM INDIA A GLOBAL TERRORIST

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Mohammad Shafi Armar, an ISIS operative and recruiter of Indian origin, has been declared global terrorist by the US State Department.

“Mohammad Shafi Armar is a leader and head recruiter in India for the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) group, ISIS. He has cultivated a group of dozens of ISIS sympathizers who are involved in terrorist activities across India, such as plotting attacks, procuring weapons, and identifying locations for terrorist training camps,” the US State Department release said.

Shafi Armar is from Bhatkal, Karnataka. He is considered close to ISIS chief Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi and has recruited at least 30 Indians to join the ISIS and is said to be in touch with over 700.

He became ISIS’ main recruiter for India after his elder brother Sultan Abdul Kadir Armar, who was heading ISIS in India, was killed in March 2015. Their names cropped up during interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal who was arrested from Nepal border in 2013.

Intelligence sources say he was planning to establish ISIS units in each Indian state and had started Junud AlKhalifa-e-Hind as ISIS’ India wing for this purpose.

According to intelligence sources, before joining ISIS, Shafi Armar was member of banned outfit Indian Mujahideen and had fled to Pakistan in 2009 along with top leadership of the group.

There were reports last year that Shafi Armar was killed in US air strike but he was later confirmed alive. Shafi Armar has made Syria his base and uses social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to contract and recruit potential ISIS terrorists.

©SantoshChaubey

SARCASTIC PUTIN OFFERS FIRED FBI CHIEF JAMES COMEY POLITICAL ASYLUM

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has compared fired FBI chief James Comey’s act of leaking information to media to that of a human rights activist. “Comey’s leak of information to the media was more in line with an activist than an intelligence chief,” USA Today* quoted him saying. Putin said this while holding his annual ‘Direct Line’ Q&A call-in session yesterday.

Comparing James Comey to Edward Snowden, a sarcastic Putin said Russia was ready to grant asylum to Comey in case he is prosecuted for those leaks, “It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend. How, in that case, does he differ from Edward Snowden?,” The Guardian** wrote quoting him. Edward Snowden, who is facing espionage charges in the US, is a whistleblower and former CIA contractor who leaked US intelligence documents of mass surveillance and was given political asylum by Russia.

Putin added that since Comey’s acts are more like an activist than an intelligence chief, if the latter feels pressured in the US or if he is prosecuted, Russia would be happy to grant him political asylum.

In his testimony, former FBI chief James Comey had said that he intentionally leaked memo on his conversation with Trump to build pressure to appoint special counsel in the case. Comey’s strategy worked after the US Department of Justice appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller special counsel to probe Russian meddling into the last year’s US presidential election.

©SantoshChaubey