Modi conveys India’s concerns over Iran issue to Trump

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday conveyed to US President Donald Trump concerns over tensions in the Persian Gulf related to Iran, saying “instability” in the region affects India in “many ways” besides the energy aspect.

The two leaders agreed that they and their officials will continuously remain in touch to ensure that the region remains stable, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said at a media briefing.

The Iran issue, along with 5G, trade and defence relations, was raised by Modi with Trump during their bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit here.

“So far as Iran was concerned, the Prime Minister outlined our energy concerns as well as our concerns regarding peace and stability in the region,” the Foreign Secretary said.

“On Iran, the primary focus was how we ensure stability in that region. It is that instability affects us in many ways, not just in terms our energy needs but in terms of the very large diaspora that we have in the Gulf — eight million Indians in the Gulf region and economic interests,” he added.

He said it is in the interest of India and the US that the region remains stable.

Giving details of Modi’s meeting with Trump, Gokhale said the Prime Minister told the US President that India had reduced oil imports from Iran, which supplied 11 per cent of India’s energy.

He said India had done this despite the effect it had on its economy.

The US, in May, ended its waiver to Indian companies from sanctions for importing oil from Iran.

Tensions between the US and Iran have escalated in the recent weeks after two ships were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, for which Washington blamed Tehran.

Talking about India’s concerns over instability in the region, Gokhale said India also has its diaspora present there, has energy requirements there and has economic interests there.

“Therefore, it is in India’s fundamental interest to ensure peace and stability of the region,” the Foreign secretary said.

He said the Prime Minister also pointed out that India has deployed some of its Navy ships in the region to protect the Indian flagged vessels passing through the Gulf and the straits of Hormuz.

This was appreciated very much by Trump and they had a brief discussion, Gokhale added.

The US President expressed his hope that oil prices will remain stable, he said.

Trump talked about “what United States was doing to ensure that stability was maintained in the Gulf and that oil prices were stable and both sides agreed that we would remain in touch on the issue of Iran and we will continue to have mutual discussion on how we ensure regional peace and stability,” the Foreign Secretary said.

On 5G, there was a brief discussion, essentially on the technical and business opportunities that this new area provides for cooperation between India and the United States, he said.

“The Prime Minister outlined that we are going to be a billion users of this technology and in that sense India is the second largest market in the world. The way India moves or the way whatever choices India makes will essentially determine the way the global trend will go,” Gokhale said.

To a question, the Foreign Secretary said there was no discussion on India’s deal with Russia for procurement of five S-400 missile defence systems, which the US wants to be scrapped.

Asked whether the S-400 issue could hurt relations with the US since India is determined to go ahead with the deal, he replied, “Let me be very clear about this. No one issue is going to impact on the larger strategic relationship between India and United States. This is a relationship which is deep, which is broad.”

He went on to add, “We have some issues, we will work through them but no one issue is going to, in any way, have any impact.”

According to the White House, the two leaders declared that their countries were “central to global peace and stability” and pledged to “provide strong leadership to address global challenges and build prosperity for their citizens in the decades to come”.



India asks Pak to address global concerns on terror

India on Saturday asked Pakistan to address global concerns on terrorism by taking “credible” and “irreversible” steps, after an international body, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), slammed the country for failing to do enough to check terror financing and warned of action if it does not comply with the requirements in four months.

The FATF said Pakistan, since June last year, made “a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG (Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering) to strengthen its AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies.

It said: “Pakistan has taken steps towards improving its AML/CFT regime, including the recent development of its TF (Terrorist Financing) risk assessment addendum; however, it does not demonstrate a proper understanding of Pakistan’s transnational TF risk.”

A statement issued after three-day deliberations of the international watchdog, founded by G-7 (Group of seven industrialized nations) in 1989, Asaid, read: “The FATF expresses concern that not only did Pakistan fail to complete its action plan items with January deadlines, it also failed to complete its action plan items due May 2019.”

“The FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan by October 2019 when the last set of action plan items are set to expire. Otherwise, the FATF will decide the next step at that time for insufficient progress.”

The FATF has already placed Pakistan in the ‘Grey’ list (watch list) and runs the risk of being blacklisted, after which the country can be denied aid by international bodies.

In the wake of the FATF warning, India on Saturday said Pakistan should take “credible” and “irreversible” steps to address global concerns related to terrorism.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Pakistan should take all necessary steps to effectively implement the FATF action plan to counter terror financing operations.

“We expect Pakistan to take all necessary steps to effectively implement the FATF Action Plan fully within the remaining time frame i.e. by September 2019 in accordance with its political commitment to the FATF,” Kumar said.

“Pakistan should take credible, verifiable, irreversible and sustainable measures to address global concerns related to terrorism and terrorist financing emanating from any territory under its control,” he added.

Outlining a series of steps that Pakistan needs to take, the FATF said it should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its “strategic deficiencies”, including by “adequately demonstrating its proper understanding of the TF risks posed by the terrorist groups , and conducting supervision on a risk-sensitive basis”.

It also asked Pakistan to demonstrate that “remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions have an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions.a

Pakistan also needs to demonstrate that competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services (MVTS).

The FATF also asked Pakistan to demonstrate that “law enforcement agencies (LEAs) are identifying and investigating the widest range of TF activity and that TF investigations and prosecutions target designated persons and entities, and persons and entities acting on behalf or at the direction of the designated persons or entities.”

Pakistan must demonstrate that TF prosecutions result in “effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions and enhancing the capacity and support for prosecutors and the judiciary,” the FATF said.

It said Pakistan should also show aceeffective implementation of targeted financial sanctions (supported by a comprehensive legal obligation) against all 1267 and 1373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf, including preventing the raising and moving of funds, identifying and freezing assets (movable and immovable), and prohibiting access to funds and financial services.”

The 1267 refers to the UN Sanctions Committee, which has listed Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and ALashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Saeed as global terrorists.

The FATF said Pakistan also must demonstrate that “facilities and services owned or controlled by designated person are deprived of their resources and the usage of the resources.”



KCR government performed poorly on voter concerns; ADR

The K. Chandrashekar Rao government in Telangana performed ‘below average’ on the most important concerns of voters including employment opportunities, healthcare facilities and public transport, says a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Released on Friday, the ‘Telangana Survey 2018’ said the government also performed “poorly” in providing water for agriculture and tackling problems arising due to mining and quarrying.

Across the state, the major concerns of voters were better employment opportunities (65.99 per cent), better hospitals and primary healthcare centres (33.23 per cent) and improved public transport (25.89 per cent), according to the survey report by the election watchdog.

In rural Telangana, the top priorities were employment opportunities (63 per cent), higher price realization for farm products (45 per cent) and subsidy for seeds and fertilizers (44 per cent). The government performed ‘below average’ on all three, it said.

Employment (71 per cent), noise pollution (50 per cent) as well as air and water pollution (40 per cent) continued to be huge concerns for the urban voters.



‘Saudi Arabia recognises India’s position on J&K, concerns on terror’

The joint statement issued during the visit of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was a very clear recognition of India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir and shows a great deal of sensitivity to India’s concerns on terrorism, officials said here on Thursday.

They said the two-day visit of the Crown Prince that concluded on Wednesday has given tremendous structure to the strategic partnership, built on the solid foundation of the relationship and considerably broadened the relations.

The visit also saw a strong thrust to the Saudi investment and $100 billion has been earmarked for investment opportunities reflecting a strong confidence in India’s growth story, according to the officials.

On the joint statement issued late Wednesday referring to the need for creating necessary conditions for resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan, they said Saudi Arabia acknowledged that conditions have to be created for resumption of dialogue with Pakistan and displayed understanding of India’s stand that terror and talks cannot go together.

They said there was recognition that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. There was also an acknowledgement of threats India is facing in terms of terror.

The joint statement issued also said that the Crown Prince appreciated consistent efforts made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi since May 2014, including his personal initiatives, to have friendly relations with Pakistan.

There was recognition that the Prime Minister had reached out to the western neighbour but acts of friendship were thwarted by acts of terror.

The officials said that Strategic Partnership Council, to be chaired by Prime Minister and the Crown Prince, would have two to three ministerial groups looking at specific areas such as defence and security, and economy, trade and investment.

The proposed joint naval exercise could take place in 2019 and could be later extended to Army and Air Force.

On Saudi investments in India, they said it would cover a wide area including infrastructure, refining, petrochemicals, engineering, minerals, tourism and manufacturing.

In all, 11 MoUs were signed in the meeting of business council which was attended by nearly 50 Saudi entities.

They said that security was identified as a major area of cooperation keeping in mind common threats faced by the two countries.

The statement said that the two sides agreed to constitute a “Comprehensive Security Dialogue” at the level of National Security Advisors and set up a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism to enhance further cooperation in the counter-terrorism efforts and benefit mutually from real-time intelligence sharing.

It said that the two sides agreed to work together with other Indian Ocean Rim countries for enhancing maritime security.

The officials said that Saudi Arabia has also been sensitive to India’s request on prices of crude and has also agreed to requests for release of prisoners and increasing the quota of Haj pilgrims. It has been sensitive to the predicament of Indians stranded due to closure of a foreign company, they added.