India, Belarus agree on road map for stronger ties
- India and Belarus on June 3 decided to work together on defence and security issues as President Pranab Mukherjee met his Belarusian counterpart and agreed on a 17-point road map aimed at strengthening mutual trust and confidence.
- During the talks, the President discussed a host of issues, including increasing trade ties, besides boosting co-operation in mining, education and heavy machinery.
- Later, the two Presidents witnessed signing of several agreements and Memorandums of Understandings, including agreements between the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and the Ministry of Finance, the Bureau of Indian Standards as well as between the Prasar Bharati and the National State Television.
- The agreements included the road map for strengthening mutual trust and having a strong commitment to develop multifaceted and long term co-operation.
- The two countries will work for full implementation of the MoU on defence-related technical cooperation and to develop a legal framework for security cooperation.
- The road map will enhance high-level and Ministerial contact, optimise the structure of trade, increase trade turnover, create favourable conditions for enhanced direct investment and promote practical cooperation between financial institutions.
- Under the agreement, the two countries will enhance coordination in science and technology, energy sector, metals and mining, potash fertilizers, give boost to raw material in textile sector, extend cooperation by Belarus in modernisation of public electric transport system in India, agriculture and agro procession.
- Exchange of students and promotion of tourism also figured in the agreements.
- This is the first presidential visit from India to Belarus, a landlocked East European country.
- The Belarus President had visited India twice in 1997 and 2007.
- During his visit, Mr. Mukherjee will unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Belarusian State University where he will be awarded an honorary degree.
Ex-IB chief is PM’s special envoy on counter-terror
- Signalling its growing concern over IS terror and radicalisation, the government has appointed the former Intelligence Bureau Chief Asif Ibrahim to a key post in the Prime Minister’s office.
- Mr. Ibrahim, who retired in December 2014, will be the PM’s ‘Special Envoy on Countering Terrorism and Extremism,’ with a charter to liaise with governments in West Asia, Af-Pak and South East Asia, senior officials told The Hindu . “Mr. Ibrahim is one of the most well-informed officials when it comes to the Islamic world and its political structures,” an official, who confirmed the appointment, said. “His role will include both the international and domestic dimensions of countering international terrorism, which is of great concern to the government.”
- As Director IB, Mr. Ibrahim started work on the government’s new counter radicalisation strategy in 2014, which was triggered by the Islamic State takeover of parts of Iraq and Syria, after it emerged that at least a dozen men of Indian origin had joined the terror group.
- Commenting on his appointment, former diplomat and PM’s special envoy Rakesh Sood said, “Given his experience, Mr. Ibrahim will be well versed with setting up channels for the exchange of intelligence and information on terror groups, but will face challenges when it comes to the engagement with governments in situations as diverse as the Gulf, Af-Pak region and south-east Asian Islamic countries.” In his new role, Mr. Ibrahim will report to NSA Ajit Doval and work out of the National Security Council Secretariat.
- The appointment also marks the growing clout of the IB over the MEA in the Prime Minister’s secretariat. The previous UPA government largely appointed diplomats with a few exceptions, like Dy NSA Nechal Sandhu who was IB chief, and IFS officers in the National security set-up included NSA Shiv Shankar Menon, Cyber envoy and Deputy NSA Latha Reddy, Special Envoys on Climate Change Shyam Saran and Disarmament Rakesh Sood.
- In contrast, the current dispensation has NSA Ajit Doval from the IB, Cyber Security coordinator Gulshan Rai from the Department of Electronics and IT, and now Special Envoy Asif Ibrahim. Even Deputy NSA Arvind Gupta, who is a retired Foreign Service officer, worked prior to this as Director of the government think tank Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis and was the Joint Secretary of the National Security Council Secretariat. Another key appointment being watched closely is for the next Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board, which was disbanded in January and is yet to be reconstituted.
Uttarakhand BJP to step up protests over relief scam
- State BJP leaders have decided to lay siege to Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s residence on June 10 demanding action for alleged financial irregularities in distribution of relief following the 2013 Uttarakhand flood disaster.
- Addressing the media here on Wednesday, State BJP president Tirath Singh Rawat said: “The State government must get the matter probed by the CBI. We cannot expect a fair inquiry when one State government official [Chief Secretary] probes the matter.”
- On May 30, the Chief Minister had instructed Chief Secretary N. Ravi Shanker to conduct an inquiry into the scam. According to information that emerged in response to RTI queries, State government officials associated with rescue and relief operations had claimed over Rs. 7,500 per day for hotel accommodation, Rs. 194 for half a litre milk, paid Rs. 98 lakh to a helicopter company for fuel, paid relief to the same persons more than once, and purchased 1,800 raincoats from the same store for three days among other irregularities.
Official seeks security
- Uttarakhand Information Commissioner Anil Sharma, who took note of the irregularities in bills and dates of relief works and suggested a CBI probe into the matter, said he faces threat to his life and has asked the Centre for security.
Djokovic dethrones Nadal in a one-sided ‘El Claysico
- Novak Djokovic crushed nine-time champion Rafael Nadal 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 to move into the French Open semifinals on Wednesday, condemning the great Spaniard to just his second defeat in 72 matches at Roland Garros.
- It was world No. 1 and top seed Djokovic’s first win over defending champion Nadal in seven meetings in Paris, avenging his defeats in the 2012 and 2014 finals.
- It also eased Djokovic, who fired 45 winners to Nadal’s 16, closer to a first French Open title and the completion of a career Grand Slam.
- “I have great respect for Rafa; he is a true champion and it is always a pleasure to play him,” said 28-year-old Djokovic.
- “I knew I had to be aggressive and stay concentrated on every point. That is not easy to do against a man who had only lost once here in his career.
- “It’s an incredible day; I am very happy and I want to continue like this.”
- For Nadal, it was a sobering way to mark his 29th birthday with the comprehensive loss placing a serious question mark over whether he will be able to achieve his dream of a 10th French Open crown.
Rafael Nadal found Novak Djokovic too
hot to handle and was beaten, for only the
second time in 72 matches at Roland Garros.