Archive | April, 2016

UPA must answer who received kickbacks in Agusta deal:Parrikar

Posted on 30 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Sunday 01st May 2016

Dehradun, Apr 30 (PTI) Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today said the previous UPA dispensation will have to answer who received the alleged kickbacks in the AgustaWestland chopper deal.

“The moot question is who took the money in Agusta deal.

Those who were at the helm at the time when the deal was struck owe an explanation. The Italian court has clearly said that an amount of Rs 125 crore was paid. It has even disclosed some names. The government of that day needs to answer,” he told reporters on the sidelines of foundation laying ceremony here.

“Investigations will make it clear how much in kickbacks was paid and to whom but the manner in which the deal was inked and efforts were made to favour a particular company will have to be explained by those in power at the time,” the Union Minister said.

However, he said he would not speak much on the issue as the matter is to be sorted out out in Parliament

Parrikar was talking to reporters after laying the foundation stone of a memorial of martyrs (Shaheed Smarak) at Cheedbagh in the city

The deal for the choppers went off track in 2013 when Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, which owns AgustaWestland, for paying bribes to secure the deal.

An Italian court, which convicted AgustaWestland chief Giuseppe Orsi, had reportedly described how the firm paid bribes to top Congress leaders to bag the Rs.3,600 crore deal.

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India pitches for closer ties with New Zealand

Posted on 30 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Sunday 01st May 2016

Auckland, Apr 30 (PTI) With India’s ‘Look East’ policy evolving into ‘Act East’, President Pranab Mukherjee has pitched for closer ties with New Zealand and said the region has gained even “greater salience” in New Delhi’s strategic thinking and economic engagement.

The President, who arrived here on a maiden three-day state visit, spoke about the importance being attached by India to the Pacific region which he termed as a “natural extension of our immediate neighbourhood of South East Asia”.

“With our ‘Look East’ policy evolving into an ‘Act East’ policy, the region has gained even greater salience in our strategic thinking and economic engagement. Most of India’s foreign trade flows through the sea lanes of the Indian and the Pacific Oceans. These lanes also bring us the bulk of our energy be it oil, gas or coal,” he said in an interview to a local daily ‘The New Zealand Herald’.

Mukherjee, who becomes the first President to travel to New Zealand, arrived here this morning and was received by officials. He was later accorded a ceremonial reception at the Governor General’s House which included a traditional rubbing of nose gently with New Zealand Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

“I believe, this region holds tremendous potential for enhanced trade and investment as well as people to people contacts,” he said in the interview with the newspaper, which, however, focused on Free Trade Agreement and quoted New Zealand Prime Minister John Key as saying that their country wants advancement on FTA.

Other media reports quoted the Kiwi Prime Minister as saying that the visit of the Indian President will be a good opportunity to continue to talk trade and “discuss where we’re going”.

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Swamy for debate on ‘paid news’ in AgustaWestland deal

Posted on 29 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Saturday 30th April 2016

New Delhi, Apr 29 (PTI) BJP leader Subramanium Swamy today sought a discussion in Rajya Sabha over reports that money was allegedly paid to middlemen for managing the Indian media to produce favourable news on the AgustaWestland deal.

During the Zero Hour, the nominated member said the Parliamentary Standing Committee in its 47th report laid on May 7, 2013 had dealt with the issue of ‘paid news’.

“Now the paid news has acquired the character of a cancer in our democracy. Recently in the AgustaWestland deal also.

Perhaps one of the news channels had published a contract, which was signed between the middlemen and the company for managing the Indian media to produce favourable reports on the deal,” he alleged.

“I am rising here to request the House, through you (Deputy Chairman P J Kurien), that this is an important matter that should be discussed in short duration in the House,” he said.

Yesterday, the BJP had raised the AgustaWestland chopper deal issue in Lok Sabha, expressing concern over the reported misuse of media by the Italian company which had earmarked Rs 50 crore for the purpose to clinch the VVIP chopper deal.

Meenakshi Lekhi had suggested that middleman Christian Michel had been given the amount to ‘manage’ the media.

Reports had it that Christian Michel, a British businessman and an alleged middleman in the deal, was paid millions of dollars by AgustaWestland.

Interpol had issued a red corner notice against Michel on India’s request in December 2015.

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Mukherjee pays respect to ‘unknown’ Indian soldiers of WW II

Posted on 29 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Saturday 30th April 2016

Port Moresby, Apr 29 (PTI) President Pranab Mukherjee today paid homage to the soldiers, including many Indians, killed during World War-II while fighting along with the British forces and laid to rest at Bomana cemetery in Papua New Guinea.

Mukherjee, the supreme commander of Indian armed forces, walked up to a pillar erected in memory of the troops and placed a wreath there.

This was the second engagement of the Mukherjee, who arrived here yesterday on the first ever state visit from India to this largest island in the Pacific.

Immediately after meeting the Governor General of Papua New Guinea (PNG) Sir Michael Ogio, President drove to the war cemetery, located 20-km from here.

As he placed the wreath, a Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) band sounded the “Last Post,” signifying the end of the troops’ journey in life. A minutes’ silence was observed in their memory after which Mukherjee went around the cemetery.

The cemetery contains 3,824 Commonwealth burials of the second World War out of which 699 of them unidentified.

Around 250 of the unidentified soldiers are from undivided India who were fighting along with the British and allied forces.

Indian High Commissioner to PNG Nagendra Kumar Saxena has been extensively working on the role of Indians during the World War.

During the banquet hosted by the Ogio in honour of the President last night, the Governor General also said the linkages between the two countries go back to the second World War in which Indian servicemen, some 615 brave sons who were part of the British Army and Allied Forces, fought and died in PNG.

“Their mortal remains lie buried in war cemeteries throughout the country,” he said.

The troops were fighting the Japanese forces who had landed at Lae and Salamaua in March 1942 with Port Moresby as their chief objective. .

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Pak JIT visit was based on principle of reciprocity: Govt

Posted on 28 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Friday 29th April 2016

New Delhi, Apr 28 (PTI) Pakistan has been clearly told that it should allow an Indian probe team to visit that country in connection with Pathankot terror attack as reciprocity was the principle on which Pakistan’s JIT was allowed to visit here, government told the Rajya Sabha today.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh also insisted that the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries here recently was “no formal talks”.

Singh’s response came after opposition members attacked the government over its handling of Pathankot issue and questioned whether NIA will be allowed to visit Pakistan since its JIT (Joint Investigation Team) already came here in connection with Pathankot terror attack probe.

The members also questioned whether India will be allowed access to interrogate Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar in connection with the terror attack.

“So far as we are concerned, our High Commissioner had conveyed formally to Pakistan Foreign Ministry that the terms of reference of the (JIT) visit are broadly agreed to with the proviso that they would be on the basis of reciprocity and followed in accordance with the extant legal provisions,” the Minister said in his reply.

He insisted that this has been “very clearly conveyed” to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who met his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar here on Tuesday for a “courtesy” meeting, was also conveyed this, Singh said.

“It was conveyed to the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, when he unofficially on a courtesy visit, met our our Foreign Secretary here that they have to look into our NIA visiting Pakistan. He has to go back and take a formal view and convey to us,” he said.

“…What appears in the newspapers, we are not concerned about it. So far as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan is concerned, it has not denied the reciprocity issue,” he said.

Jaishankar and Chaudhry met

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India has approached UK for extradition of middleman: govt

Posted on 28 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Friday 29th April 2016

New Delhi, Apr 28 (PTI) India has approached the British government for extradition of Christian Michel, the middleman named by Italian investigators as a key intermediary in swinging the controversial deal for AgustaWestland choppers.

Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh told the Rajya Sabha that the matter is under consideration of the concerned British authorities.

“Yes, government of India has approached the government of the United Kingdom for extradition of Christian Michel to India in connection with the AgustaWestland helicopter scam,” he said, replying to a question.

The controversial deal and the alleged bribes to the tune of Rs 120 crore paid in clinching it for AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, has triggered a political slugfest between BJP and Congress after an Italian court cited handwritten references to Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, her political secretary Ahmed Patel and former Air Chief S P Tyagi by the middleman in a judgement that convicted the helicopter company’s chief executive.

CBI had in 2013 registered a case in connection with alleged bribes paid by the firm to Indians to clinch the deal for 12 helicopters to ferry VVIPs including the President and Prime Minister.

Congress has said that the charges against its leaders are false and baseless. It yesterday claimed AgustaWestland was blacklisted under UPA rule but “removed” from the blacklist by the Modi government.

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Parrikar questions Cong’s claim on blacklisting AgustaWestland

Posted on 27 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Thursday 28th April 2016

New Delhi, Apr 27 (PTI) Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar today challenged the Congress to show the UPA government order blacklisting the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland in connection with the VVIP chopper scam.

Parrikar, who said that he will speak in detail in Parliament on the issue in the near future, informed that the Ministry has received a copy of the Italian court order and is in the process of translating it into English.

He said that the process might take 8-10 days.

Parrikar also took a dig at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying translation from Italian was not easy, “at least for the ruling side. May not be a difficult task for the opposition”.

A combative Parrikar hit back when asked about Congress’ allegation that while UPA had blacklisted the company, the NDA government removed it from the blacklist.

“When did they blacklist? Ask them first. Ask them what date the order was issued? Show me the copy of the order,” the Minister said.

Asked if he meant that the firm was never blacklisted, he said, “I am not saying that”.

Interestingly, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on February 5, 2014, the then Defence Minister A K Antony, while giving details on AgustaWestland, had said, “No decision has been taken till date to debar the said company”.

This runs contrary to what the Congress has been claiming because the reply came just months ahead of the regime change.

However, records of state-run HAL show that Agusta Westland International Ltd, UK, Finmeccanica, Italy and its group of companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, IDS Tunisia and Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, were blacklisted on July 3, 2014, when NDA was in power, because of the CBI case against them to inquire into alleged criminal wrongdoing in the procurement of VVIP Helicopters.

Hitting back at BJP on the VVIP chopper deal, Congress had yesterday alleged that AgustaWestland was “removed” from the blacklisted category by the Modi dispensation.

Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma had said, “The chopper deal was scrapped. Action was taken by the UPA government. A K Antony, the then Defence Minister, had made a statement in Parliament and Agusta Westland was blacklisted.” .

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In Vienna, Ban to discuss how UN can deliver on world’s expectations

Posted on 27 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Thursday 28th April 2016

26 April 2016 – While on a visit to the capital of Austria, United Nations Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon will be leading discussions on how the UN system can work together in unity so that it can deliver on the expectations of the international community.

“I am here to chair what we call the Chief Executives Board for Coordination meeting,” Mr. Ban told the press at a stakeout with Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Minister for Europe, Integration, and Foreign Affairs.

“This is a meeting which I convene twice a year, once in New York, once abroad. During the last year of my term as the Secretary-General I am very happy that all the leaders of the UN system, including the Bretton Woods institutions – the World Bank and IMF [International Monetary Fund] – and the specialized agencies, funds and programmes, they are all in Vienna,” he noted.

The UN chief highlighted the issues which he and Minister Kurz discussed in private.

“On Syria, let me just say that I am deeply concerned about developments on the ground, especially the attacks in Damascus yesterday and Aleppo overnight,” he said. “The UN Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, and others are working very hard to keep the cessation of hostilities on track.”

Mr. de Mistura will brief the Security Council tomorrow, with a focus on protecting civilians, improving humanitarian access and reducing the amount of violence. “That is the essence and purpose of the cessation of hostilities which must be supported by all,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Congratulating the Austrian Government for attending the historic signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on climate change last Friday in New York, he said he counts on the Parliament of the country to ratify the “milestone” treaty without delay.

“This will bolster our global efforts to create a healthier, safer and more sustainable future for the planet and all people,” he stated, adding that the world today faces global threats – from pandemics to hate speech – and that no country can meet the challenges on its own.

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SC refuses to hear plea against SEBI chief reappointment

Posted on 26 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Wednesday 27th April 2016

New Delhi, Apr 26 (PTI) The Supreme Court today refused to entertain a plea challenging the reappointment of U K Sinha as Chairman of market regulator Security and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) till 2017, saying there is no bar on it.

“We are not inclined to hear this,” a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said, when senior advocate Indira Jaising, appearing for the petitioner, sought issuance of a notice on the plea seeking quashing of appointment of Sinha as SEBI head.

Jaising referred to the alleged flouting of rules or norms by the Centre in appointing Sinha and said that he has been reappointed despite the fact that the selection committee did not include his name in the list of the shortlisted candidates for the post.

Moreover, no vigilance clearance was there, she said, alleging that there has been some connection of this appointment with the Saradha Chit Fund scam case.

“We have already directed the CBI to look into all the aspects, including the role of regulators (SEBI, RBI) in the scam,” the bench also comprising Justices R Banumathi and U U Lalit said.

The bench was hearing a plea filed by a former Indian Revenue Service officer Udai Babu Khalwadekar.

The tenure of Sinha, who had taken over as SEBI chief in 2011, was extended by the government with his reappointment in 2014 for a period of three years — till March 1, 2017.

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Don’t be in denial on terror; take visible action:India to Pak

Posted on 26 April 2016 by admin

AIHRA News Wednesday 27th April 2016

New Delhi, Apr 26 (PTI) India and Pakistan today indulged in some plain speaking on bilateral issues with the neighbouring country being firmly asked not to be in denial over the impact of terrorism on bilateral ties while Pakistan harped on Kashmir terming it as the core issue.

Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and his Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry met for nearly 90 minutes during which sticky issues including probe into Pathankot terror attack, 26/11 trial and Samjhauta Express blast investigations figured.

Today’s meeting between Jaishankar and Chaudhry, who is primarily here to attend the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference, was the first formal interaction since their scheduled talks were deferred in the wake of the Pathankot attack in January.

During the meeting, India raised the issue of “abduction” of former Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, saying he has been taken to Pakistan, and sought immediate consular access. This is for the first time India has categorically said Jadhav was abducted.

However, in its statement, Pakistan said it has raised “capturing” of Jadhav and expressed serious concern over RAW’s alleged involvement in subversive activities in Balochistan and Karachi, a charge which was srongly rebutted by India.

“India’s Foreign Secretary emphasised the need for early and visible progress on the Pathankot terrorist attack investigation as well as the Mumbai case trial in Pakistan. He also brought up the listing of JeM leader Masood Azhar in the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee.

“Foreign Secretary Jaishankar clearly conveyed that Pakistan cannot be in denial on the impact of terrorism on the bilateral relationship. Terrorist groups based in Pakistan targeting India must not be allowed to operate with impunity,” a statement by the External Affairs Ministry said after the talks.

On its part, the Pakistani statement said Chaudhry brought up the issue of Kashmir emphasising that it remained the “core issue that requires a just solution in accordance with UNSC resolutions and wishes of Kashmiri people.”

Interestingly, the Pakistani side released the talking points while the meeting between the two foreign secretaries was still on. .

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