Mallya’s defence questions impartiality of Indian judicial

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
11.12.2017

London, Dec 11 (PTI) Vijay Mallya’s extradition trial to face fraud and money laundering charges of Rs 9,000 crore in India resumed today, with his defence fielding a legal expert to question the impartiality of India’s judicial system.

The 61-year-old was back in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London for day four of the hearing when his barrister, Clare Montgomery, deposed Dr Martin Lau to give his views on the evidence presented by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Indian Supreme Court rulings.

“I hold the Supreme Court in the highest respect but it is equally not disrespectful to indicate that some doubts are voiced about particular patterns [in judgments],” Dr Lau, an expert on South Asian law, told court.

Quoting an unnamed study by three academics from Singapore and Hong Kong, Lau raised questions on the neutrality of Supreme Court judges close to retirement.

Lau was also made to comment upon some of the evidence produced by the CBI to back up its case against the liquor baron in an attempt to discredit its admissibility in court.

Reading from Lau’s written testimony, Mallya’s counsel quoted from an unnamed media report to claim that there had been “coercion” by Special Director Rakesh Asthana and his team over the banks in India to pursue criminal proceedings against her client.

The legal expert, who will continue to give his statement throughout today’s hearing, is also being made to elaborate on the application of Indian laws relevant to the case.

Lau claims some of the money laundering allegations against Mallya may fall under a “retrospective application” of the Money Laundering Act because the alleged offences occurred before 2013, when the act was amended in India.

Earlier today, the defence had deposed Margaret Sweeney the Chief Financial Officer of Force India, Mallya s Formula 1 racing team.

She was run through a series of spread-sheets and figures from her written testimony to establish if money had been taken from Kingfisher Airlines for “no good reason” by Force India and used for some other purposes.

“Absolutely not,” was her response, explaining that all payments she was aware of were in relation to a marketing contract between Kingfisher Airlines and the F1 team.

The defence also quoted from an independent media valuation to claim there had been no overpayment by Kingfisher Airlines, as alleged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

“Far from it,” said Sweeney, on being asked if Force India was being paid too much.

The CPS cross-examination of Sweeney by barrister Mark Summers focused on payments being routed via an HSBC account in London, which was intended only for operational use of Kingfisher Airlines.

The defence’s case rests on trying to prove that the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines’ alleged default of around Rs 9,000 crore worth of bank loans was the result of business failure rather than “dishonest” and “fraudulent” activity by its owner.

Trump to release medical records: WH

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
08.12.2017

Washington, Dec 8 (PTI) The President has his physical scheduled next year after which doctors would release his medical records, the White House said today, while terming as “ridiculous” the questions about Donald Trump’s slurred speech.

“I know that there were a lot of questions on that — frankly, pretty ridiculous questions. The President’s throat was dry. Nothing more than that,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.

She was responding to questions about Trump’s health after his Jerusalem speech on Wednesday.

Towards the end of his speech, Trump was seen slurring and mispronouncing his words, fuelling speculation about his health.

“He does have a physical scheduled for the first part of next year, the full physical that most Presidents go through.

“That will take place at Walter Reed, and those records will be released by the doctor following that taking place,” Sanders said.

‘Trump closely monitoring progress of South Asia strategy’

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
04.12.2017

Washington, Dec 4 (PTI) US President Donald Trump is closely monitoring the progress in his new South Asia Strategy, which gives a major role to India, and is very much engaged in its implementation, a senior administration official has said.

Trump had sought a major role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan and ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops from the war-torn nation while announcing his new Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August.

“The president has been very closely monitoring the progress of the South Asia strategy. He’s very interested in any progress that has been made,” a senior administration official told PTI.

Trump had a meeting with his Defense Secretary Jim Mattis before he left on his visit to Pakistan. The defense Secretary is again likely to brief the president on his return.

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session in New York in September, Trump met the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“That was a good opportunity to hear from President Ghani on how the strategy was being received in Afghanistan,” the official said.

Observing that Trump has been getting updates from his national security team on what’s happening in Afghanistan, the official said the president is very much engaged and interested in how this strategy is progressing.

Asserting that the things are signs of encouragement in the implementation of the South Asia strategy, the official said it is moving in the right direction.

“We need to give more time for the strategy to take root,” the official said.

“It’s a multifaceted strategy. We’re using all the tools that the US has its disposal military, economic, diplomatic.

All these parts of the strategy are important. They all need to work in tandem together. The president is very interested in keeping track of how the strategy is going. And he is receiving regular updates,” the senior administration official said.

In his August 21 speech, Trump had said that terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.

“They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily,” he had said.

China ship collision: 5 rescued, 7 still trapped

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
28.11.2017

Beijing, Nov 28 (PTI) Five of the 12 missing crew members of a Chinese cargo ship were rescued today, a day after the vessel sank following a collision off the coast of south China’s Guangdong Province, media report said.

Twelve crew members went missing after the ship carrying 5,000 tonnes of sand sank in the sea waters near the Pearl River estuary following a collision with another vessel, laden with 5,038 tonnes of steel, early yesterday.

Two crew members were rescued while 12 others were missing. Eleven sailors from the steel-laden ship were also rescued.

Thirty rescue ships, one helicopter and other ships were pressed in search and rescue operation.

“Five crew members have been rescued from the ship’s cabin today,” the Guangdong Maritime Safety Administration said.

The five told the rescue staff that there were seven others who were also trapped inside the ship’s cabin and still alive, it said.

About 300 people, including more than 20 divers, were involved in the rescue operation, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The two ships were registered in the eastern provinces of Jiangsu and Fujian.

Trump calls Sen Warren ‘Pocahontas’ at native American event

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
28.11.2017

Washington, Nov 28 (PTI) US President Donald Trump today cracked a “Pocahontas” joke against Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren during an event honouring native Americans for their role in the second World War.

Warren, said to be the potential Democratic presidential aspirant, accused Trump of using a “racial slur”.

“You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her “Pocahontas”,” Trump said during an Oval Office event to honour the native American code talkers.

The three code talkers did not respond to Trump’s remarks, but drew sharp reaction from Warren.

“It is deeply unfortunate that the president of the United States cannot even make it through a ceremony honouring these heroes without having to throw out a racial slur,” he told MSNBC in an interview.

“This was supposed to be an event to honour heroes, people who put it all on the line for our country,” Warren said.

The White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Warren’s comment was a “ridiculous” response.

“I think what most people find offensive is Senator Warren lying about her heritage to advance her career,” Sanders said in response to a question at her daily news conference.

“I think that Senator Warren was very offensive when she lied about something specifically to advance her career. I don’t understand why no one is asking about that question and why that isn’t constantly covered,” she said.

Trump, Erdogan discuss Syria crisis, ISIS

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
25.11.2017

Washington, Nov 25 (PTI) US President Donald Trump today called his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and discussed implementing a UN Security Council resolution for the peaceful settlement to the Syrian crisis and defeat of the ISIS terror group, the White House said.

Trump reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Turkey, particularly in combating terrorism in all its forms and fostering regional stability, it said in a readout of the phone call between the two leaders.

On Syria, the two leaders discussed the importance of implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and supporting the United Nations-led Geneva Process to peacefully resolve the civil war in that country, the White House said.

It said Trump and Erdogan underscored the need to end the humanitarian crisis, allow displaced Syrians to return home, and ensure the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens.

“Consistent with our previous policy, President Trump also informed President Erdogan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilisation phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return,” the White House said.

It said the two leaders also discussed the purchase of military equipment from the United States.

India, US will continue to work for inclusive growth: Ivanka

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
23.11.2017

Washington, Nov 23 (PTI) India and the US will continue to work together to increase economic opportunities and inclusive growth, US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump today said, days ahead of her visit to Hyderabad for a global business summit.

Ivanka, 36, will lead a high-powered American delegation of officials, women entrepreneurs and businessmen for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) 2017 in Hyderabad, a three-day summit beginning November 28.

The summit will be attended by 1,500 entrepreneurs from 170 countries and would have around 350 participants from the US, a large number of whom are Indian-Americans.

Ivanka would deliver the keynote address at the summit, which would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

She said that her aim for this summit is to serve as an open and collaborative environment for the exchange of ideas, to broaden networks, and to empower entrepreneurs to take their ideas and passion to the next level.

“The US and India will continue to work together to increase economic opportunities and inclusive growth. I very much look forward to my visit and to seeing Prime Minister Modi and Foreign Minister (Sushma) Swaraj once again,” Ivanka told reporters on Tuesday.

Incredibly excited to be visiting India next week for the eighth annual Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), she said.

The summit, co-hosted by the US and India, “is a testament to the strong friendship between our two people and the growing economic and security partnership between the two nations,” she said.

“Entrepreneurship, domestically and abroad, is a key priority for this administration. The US recognises innovation and entrepreneurship as essential tools for job creation, economic growth and stability across communities, countries, and regions,” she said.

The summit will be attended by over 1,200 entrepreneurs, of which 350 are from the US, representing 38 US States.

“I am particularly proud of the fact that this is the first time that women will be the majority of participants at the GES. Currently 52.5 per cent of entrepreneurs will be women, attending from 127 different countries,” Ivanka added.

More than 10 countries including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be represented by an all-women delegation, the State Department had said.

According to the officials, Ivanka is likely to spend some time on sightseeing, including a possible stop at the Charminar during her visit.

Prime Minister Modi during his visit to the White House in June had invited Ivanka to visit India.

Ivanka is an American television personality, fashion designer, author and businesswoman, besides being an advocate for the education and empowerment of women and girls.

The daughter and adviser of the US President has been an executive vice president of the family owned ‘The Trump Organisation’ as well as serving as a boardroom judge on her father’s TV show ‘The Apprentice’.

India, China hold 1st border consultation mechanism meet after Dokalam standoff

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
18.11.2017

Beijing, Nov 17 (PTI) India and China today held their first meeting on the border consultation and coordination mechanism here after the Dokalam standoff and reviewed the situation in all the sectors of their border and exchanged views on enhancing CBMs and military contacts.

The 10th round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held in Beijing, a press release from the Indian Embassy here said.

The WMCC was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas.

It was established to deal with the tensions over recurring border incursions as well as to exchange views on strengthening communication and cooperation, including between the border security personnel.

The India-China border dispute covers the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China claims Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covered Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during the 1962 war.

Today’s talks were held in a constructive and forward- looking manner, the release said.

Both sides reviewed the situation in all sectors of India-China border and agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is an important prerequisite for sustained growth of bilateral relations, it said.

The two sides also exchanged views on further confidence building measures (CBMs) and strengthening of military-to- military contacts, it said.

The talks between the delegations headed by Pranay Verma, Joint Secretary (East Asia), Ministry of External Affairs and Xiao Qian, Director General, Department of Asian Affairs, were the first such dialogue between the two countries after the 72-day-long standoff at Dokalam in the Sikkim section.

The standoff which began in mid-June ended on August 28 after Chinese troops stopped building a key road close to India’s Chicken Neck corridor. India objected to the construction highlighting its security concerns. The road was being built by the Chinese troops in the area also claimed by Bhutan.

This is the first round of talks between the two countries after Chinese President Xi Jinping began his second five-year term as the chief of the ruling Communist Party of China last month.

Today’s talks took place ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s planned to visit to India to take part in the Russia, India and China (RIC) Foreign Ministers meeting expected to be held in New Delhi next month.

Chinese officials earlier said Wang is expected to meet his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj as well as top Indian leaders.

The contentious issues bedevilling both the countries, including the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as Bejing’s veto blocking UN listing of JeM leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist are expected to be discussed during Wang’s talks with Indian leaders.

Ahead of the talks, Chinese officials have expressed optimism that differences over the listing of Azhar by China in the 1267 Committee of the UN Security Council may be resolved soon. China has blocked India’s application last year and vetoed a similar resolution sponsored by the US, the UK and France twice this year.

Modi only world statesman to stand up to China on BRI: Pillsbury

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
17.11.2017

Washington, Nov 17 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only world statesman to have stood up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative even though the US has been silent on the ambitious project till recently, a top American expert on China said today.

During a Congressional hearing, Michael Pillsbury, Director of Center on Chinese Strategy at the prestigious think-tank Hudson Institute, told lawmakers that Modi and his team have been quite outspoken against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious project.

“The only statesman in the world who stood up to it yet, is Prime Minister Modi. He and his team have been quite outspoken, partly because the Belt and Road Initiative includes violation of Indian sovereign claims, Pillsbury said.

“But the US government, until now and this is a five- year-old initiative if you count the early part of it, has been silent, he said.

Praising the Trump administration for its new Indo- Pacific strategy, the former Pentagon official said in recent days people have heard more than 50 times by members of the Trump administration including the president himself mentioning “free and open” Indo-Pacific region.

“The Chinese have already attacked this. They don’t like it, said Pillsbury, who is considered an authority on China- related issues.

“The Indians, fairly recently, were joking about we want to make the Indian Ocean the Indian Ocean, by which they meant the purchase of several billion dollars worth of American PA aircraft, which have weapon systems in the back that can sink ships, frankly, and other improvements including maritime situational awareness and a big new center in Delhi where the Indians can keep track of both blue holes and grey holes going through the Indian Ocean, he said.

“Chinese are very angry about this. They have criticised the Obama administration for its effort to, as they say, boost India, to a higher rank order in comprehensive power than the Chinese believe India deserves, the top American expert on China said in response to a question.

Senator Ed Markey said China’s signature Belt and Road Initiative that aims to position China as the uncontested leading power in Asia “may further coerce” its neighbours through loans they cannot repay.

The BRI aimed at building a vast network of infrastructure projects expanding China’s expertise and capital to different parts of the world includes USD 50 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) over which India has protested as it traversed through Pakistan- occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

India boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) organised by China in May this year to highlight its concerns over Beijing pushing projects through the the PoK.

He said the US companies face the threat of intellectual property theft with reports that China has been stealing cutting-edge research as well as sensitive trade secrets from the US.

And that includes companies working in the clean energy sector who cannot compete with state-backed firms, he alleged.

Trump promises to ‘figure it out’ with S Korea’s Moon

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A News by PTI
Published by ptinews.com
07.11.2017

Seoul, Nov 7 (AFP) US President Donald Trump arrived in Seoul today vowing to “figure it all out” with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In, despite the two allies’ differences on how to deal with the nuclear-armed North.

As tensions over Pyongyang’s weapons programme have soared, the US president has traded personal insults and threats of war with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, but the South’s capital and its 10 million inhabitants would be on the front line of any conflict.

“Getting ready to leave for South Korea and meetings with President Moon, a fine gentleman,” Trump tweeted early today from Japan, the first stop on his Asian tour, adding: “We will figure it all out!”

The tone was in marked contrast to a previous Trump tweet in which he accused Moon – who has backed engagement with the North to bring it to the negotiating table – of “appeasement”.

Trump walked down the steps of Air Force One at Osan air base outside Seoul accompanied by the First Lady, and was welcomed by South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyung-Wha.

The US president flew in from Japan after securing Tokyo’s full support for Washington’s stance that “all options are on the table” regarding Pyongyang, and declaring its nuclear ambitions “a threat to the civilised world and international peace and stability”.

He enjoyed three days of near-bromance with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling him “wonderful” after a round of golf and describing US-Japan ties as “really extraordinary”.

Trump’s relationship with Moon, a former human rights lawyer, is noticeably cooler, stoking concerns about the decades-old alliance and fears in Seoul that it could be sidelined by the US in favour of Tokyo.

South Korea is rolling out the red carpet for Trump as it seeks messages of assurance about the alliance and US resolve.

At the same time, while Trump has threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury”, Moon is mindful that much of Seoul is within range of the North’s artillery and in an address to parliament last week demanded: “There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent.”

In an editorial today ahead of Trump’s arrival, the Korea Times said of the US president: “His ‘rhetorical bombs’ say it all.”

“However calm Koreans are reported to be about the Trump-Kim war of words, we cherish our lives as much as Americans do theirs and feel scared by the outlook of war,” it added.

Kim Hyun-Wook, a professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, told AFP that the two allies have “subtle differences in their positions” and underlying suspicions about each other.

Citizens views are mixed, with both “No Trump” and “Welcome President Trump” demonstrations taking place in downtown Seoul since the weekend, sometimes only a few blocks apart.