News Flash – 30 June 2017

National News



Border face-off: China and India each deploy 3,000 troops


NEW DELHI: The ongoing troop face-off between India and China on the Sikkim-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction has emerged as the biggest such confrontation in the region in decades, with both sides continuing to pump in reinforcements to the remote border region. Even as Army chief General Bipin Rawat reviewed the ground situation by visiting the headquarters of the 17 Mountain Division in Gangtok and 27 Mountain Division in Kalimpong on Thursday, sources said the two rival armies had strengthened their positions at the tri-junction by deploying around 3,000 troops each in a virtually eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation. The Indian Army, on its part, refused to say anything. But sources said though there had been other troop standoffs at the tri-junction over the years, the latest one at the Doka La general area was clearly the most serious. “Both sides are as yet not willing to budge from their positions. Flag meetings and other talks between the rival commanders have not worked till now,” a source said. During his visit, General Rawat especially concentrated on the deployments of the 17 Division, which is responsible for the defence of eastern Sikkim with four brigades (each with over 3,000 soldiers) under its command. “All top officers, including the 33 Corps and 17 Division commanders, were present during the extensive discussions. The chief will return to New Delhi on Friday morning,” the source said. Undeterred by Beijing’s aggressive posturing, India has made it clear that it will not allow China to construct a motorable road till the tri-junction through the Bhutanese territory of Doklam plateau, as earlier reported by TOI.


Bhutan, too, has issued a demarche to China over the construction of the road towards its army camp at Zomplri in the Doklam plateau, asking Beijing to restore status quo by stopping work immediately. “China is trying to build a ‘Class-40 road’ in the Doklam plateau that can take the weight of military vehicles weighing up to 40 tonnes, which include light battle tanks, artillery guns and the like,” the source said. Interestingly, the People’s Liberation Army declared in Beijing on Thursday that it had conducted trials of a new 35-tonne tank in the plains of Tibet, though it added that “it was not targeted against any country”. The Indian defence establishment is concerned at the “creeping territorial aggression” by China, which aims to progressively swallow the 269 sq. km Doklam plateau to add “strategic width” to its adjoining but narrow Chumbi Valley, which juts in between Sikkim and Bhutan. China has also been pushing Bhutan hard for the last two decades to go in for a “package deal”. Under it, Beijing wants Thimphu to cede control over Doklam plateau, while it surrenders claims to the 495 sq. km of territory in Jakurlung and Pasamlung valleys in northern Bhutan. But India is militarily “very sensitive” about the Doklam plateau, especially the Zomplri Ridge area because it overlooks the strategically-vulnerable Siliguri corridor or the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ area. India has progressively strengthened its defences in the Siliguri corridor, the narrow strip of land that connects the rest of India with its north-eastern states, to stem any Chinese ingress. “But it remains a geographical vulnerability. China has constructed several feeder roads from Tibet to the border with Bhutan, and is also trying to extend its railway line in the region,” the source said.



1.3 Lakh in 2015: India tops list of foreign citizenship



MUMBAI: India tops the list of origin countries of naturalized citizens across the world, indicating that the diaspora is not apprehensive of acquiring foreign citizenship. In 2015, 1.30 lakh people of Indian origin, comprising largely of expatriates on work visas, acquired citizenship of OECD member countries. This was followed by Mexico (1.12 lakh) and the Philippines (94,000). China came fifth with 78,000 opting to relinquish their citizenship. These were the findings of the report International Migration Outlook (2017) released by Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (Oecd) in Paris on Thursday. The report mentioned that in 2015, just over 20 lakh people acquired the nationality of an OECD country. This was slightly above (3%) the 2014 figure, even as it remains within the OECD average of the past 10 years. OECD is a global think tank of 35 member countries, which include European countries, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. An earlier OECD report had pointed out that India had the world’s largest diaspora with 156 lakh migrants. “Improving the integration of immigrants and their children, including refugees, is vital to delivering a more prosperous, inclusive future for all,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria in the report. China retained its top position when it came to new immigrants to OECD countries. However, on this front, the refugee crisis led to a large influx of immigrants from Syria, pushing India down one spot to the fifth position.


Humanitarian migration, rather than migration for better jobs or lifestyle, dominated the scene during 2015 and would continue to do so in the immediate future, the report stated. The total inflow of new immigrants to OECD countries in 2015 was 70.39 lakh and new immigrants from China accounted for nearly 7.8% of the inflow. In 2013, nearly one in ten immigrants were from China. Migration flows from India to OECD also dipped slightly, from 4.4% of the total inflows countries in 2013 to just 3.9% in 2015. However, in terms of standalone numbers, there was an inflow of 2.68 lakh immigrations from India during 2015 to OECD countries, as opposed to just 2.40 lakh in 2013. Data showed that USA, Canada, UK, Australia and Germany continue to be the favored destinations of Indian migrants. Both China and India continued to be the major source countries for international students. Over half of the international students in the OECD countries originate from Asia. Chinese students, despite a 7% drop in their numbers between 2013 and 2014, were the most dominant with six lakh enrolments during 2014. They were followed by Indian students whose number at 1.86 lakh during 2014 was up by 13% compared with the previous year. USA received more than 40% international student enrolment.



Food safety officials find beer at Aavin milk outlet in Vellore

Inquiries revealed that a friend of an employee had brought a case of beer. After consuming a bottle, he had kept the remaining 11 bottles at the outlet.



VELLORE: Food safety officials on Thursday found 11 bottles of beer at an Aavin milk outlet at the old bus stand here. But by the time Tasmac officials and police reached there, the bottles had gone missing. Officer of the food safety and drug administration Dr. J Venkatesan along with his subordinates conducted a check at the outlet and found 11 bottles of beer. They alerted the Tasmac district officials and left the place. Assistant manager of Tasmac Vincent and personnel attached to Vellore North police station rushed to the spot. However, the officials found no beer bottle at the outlet. Inquiries revealed that a friend of the employee at outlet bought a case of beer. After consuming a bottle of liquor, he kept the remaining 11 bottles at the outlet for a while. In the meantime, the food safety officials conducted the check. Tasmac officials said they had not seized anything from the Aavin outlet. Police were conducting an inquiry. Aavin officials conducted a departmental inquiry into the incident.



Metro services disrupted for hour and half, chaos on tracks and roads


MUMBAI: Metro services were disrupted for one-and-a-half hours during the morning peak hours on Thursday after a technical fault in the overhead equipment (OHE) wire between Versova and D N Nagar stations of the Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor. The partial suspension of services and longer intervals between trains on the curtailed route because fewer rakes were available led to overcrowding and chaos on the Metro platforms, railway stations and roads as people were forced to look for alternative modes of transport. Normalcy returned around 11am. “A technical issue was detected in the OHE between D N Nagar and Versova stations at 8.05 am today . The trains continued to run in normal loop between Ghatkopar and Andheri, covering nine of the 12 stations. Services resumed on the entire Versova-Andheri-Ghatkopar corridor at 9.35 am after the OHE was repaired,” said a Mumbai Metro One spokesperson. Chaos erupted as services ran at a frequency of about 15 minutes against the usual four minutes. “We had to prevent entry of people to station premises because of overcrowding for a few minutes at Andheri and Ghatkopar stations,” said a Metro official. “Tempers were running high among commuters and we had a difficult time in handling the crowd,” said a security guard.


While Andheri Metro station has a footfall of 72,125 every day, Ghatkopar has close to 95,000. The Metro records a ridership of 3.55 lakh per day in 327 trips. Commuters took to social media to update others about the problem and vent their ire. “Since there was no place to walk in the Metro station, I decided to take the suburban train to Dadar to travel to Andheri,” said Ghatkopar resident Raja Shah. “There were more people boarding from Ghatkopar during the peak hour. Most were coming disappointed from the Metro station after hearing that trains are running late,” said a Central Railway official. Many opted for share autos taxis or BEST buses to travel to Sakinaka or Marol from Ghatkopar or Andheri, but were fleeced or faced snarls on the overcrowded roads. “There was heavy traffic on Andheri-Ghatkopar road because auto rickshaws were swarming the Ghatkopar station to make a killing,” said Kurla resident Madhuri Kane. Versova resident Saadiya Shaikh said the buses were overcrowded and she had to let a couple of them pass before getting the chance to board one.



Kidnapped boy put up for sale on WhatsApp

Police rescued the boy after an alert from a WhatsApp user



NEW DELHI: A two-and-a-half-year-old boy was kidnapped and allegedly put up for sale by three women, one of whom uploaded his picture on WhatsApp with a price tag of Rs 1.8 lakh. Police suspect the women were part of an illegal adoption and surrogacy racket. The boy, abducted from outside Jama Masjid, was taken to six different places in the capital and bought in succession by the three women, all of whom wanted to sell him for a higher price, police said. Cops got wind of the crime when one of the potential “buyers” saw the child’s photo on WhatsApp and alerted them about it. Fearing she may get caught, one of the women left the child at a temple in Raghubir Nagar and called police posing as a Good Samaritan. However, the women were traced when police contacted one of them for a reward. The kidnapper, identified as Radha, 40, Sonia, 24, Saroj, 34, and Jaan Mohammad, 40, were arrested on Thursday. “We had received a complaint about the missing child and had registered a case of kidnapping. A team led by SHO Jama Masjid Anil Kumar was formed to track him down. When we received a tip-off from the informer, raids were conducted and the gang nabbed,” said Mandeep Singh Randhawa, DCP, central. During interrogation, Jaan Mohammad told cops that he had picked up the child from outside gate number 1 near Jama Masjid while his parents were preparing for a prayer, on June 5. He gagged the child and took him to Radha’s house in Shakurpur. Radha assured him a handsome share in the `sale’.


Radha kept the boy in her house for a few days and sold him to Sonia for Rs 1 lakh. The child was taken to Sonia’s hideout in Mangolpuri, where he was further sold to Saroj, a resident of Raghubir Nagar, for Rs 1.10 lakh. Saroj also put up details of the child along with a photograph on a WhatsApp group, with a price tag of Rs 1.8 lakh. Meanwhile, police contacted local cable operators in the Walled City , who flashed the child’s photograph. “Fortunately, a WhatsApp user had seen the boy’s picture on television. On seeing his picture in a WhatsApp group, this person contacted the Jama Masjid police station,” said a police officer. A team was formed to track down Saroj, but somehow she got wind of cops on her trail and left the child in Raghubir Nagar. In order to avoid suspicion, she also called the police and informed them about an “abandoned” child at a temple. The toddler was rescued but when cops called the number from which the PCR call was made, they found it was switched off. “We found it suspicious and tracked down the number, which led us to Saroj,” said a police officer. Police say Saroj, Radha and Sonia had met each other at an IVF clinic, where they went to donate their eggs, and had probably sold another boy in Gurgaon after “convincing” the parents. They usually looked for childless couples willing to adopt grown-up children.



International News



China ‘highly alarmed’ after reports of Australian spying



BEIJING: China said Thursday it was “highly alarmed” over threats to its national security, after a state-run newspaper accused Australia of spying on the country and stealing its technology. An employee of China’s national security department told the Global Times that Australian intelligence agents “in disguise” collect information from Chinese people overseas or “even encourage them to subvert China”. The report, published on the nationalistic newspaper’s front page, comes weeks after Beijing rejected allegations of interference in Australian politics. “We are highly alarmed and remain alert on other countries’ actions to endanger China’s national security and state interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular briefing. “(The report) reminds me that recently the Australian media also played up reports on so-called Chinese spying”. According to the Global Times, Australian agents closely monitor Chinese people and the embassy in Australia to foil “Chinese spy threats”. “In global covert struggles, Australia had never played the role of victim,” the unidentified staffer was quoted as saying. “However, they are wantonly working on intelligence about China and groundlessly accusing China of spying on them. The logic is ridiculous”. The Australian government did not immediately respond to the allegations. The article followed an Australian media report this month that the country’s intelligence agencies had major concerns China was interfering with Australian institutions and using political donations to gain access.



An investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Fairfax Media found the country’s political elite had been warned two years ago about taking donations from two billionaires with links to the Chinese Communist Party. But despite being cautioned by the nation’s spy agency both the Liberal and Labor parties continued accepting substantial sums of cash. The probe showed that property developers Huang Xiangmo and Chau Chak Wing, or their associates, had donated around AUS$6.7 million ($5 million) to political parties over a decade. Following the report Canberra announced it had launched an inquiry into espionage laws and foreign government interference. China’s foreign ministry has called the reports “totally groundless” and said Australian media should not “waste their time on such meaningless and malicious” stories. The Global Times article said many Chinese people have been interviewed or harassed by Australian intelligence and are required to provide information on Chinese communities and the embassy. Some have been sent back to China to “gather information”, the report said. It also accused Australia of “stealing Chinese technology” and installing listening devices in China’s embassy. China’s national security department could not be reached for comment as its phone number is not available to the public.



Death toll in Pakistan oil tanker inferno rises to 174



MULTAN: The death toll from an oil tanker explosion in central Pakistan has risen to 174, officials said on Thursday, including the driver who warned people scooping up spilled fuel to stay away but was ignored. The tanker overturned early Sunday on a main highway from Karachi to Lahore while carrying some 40,000 litres of fuel. It exploded minutes later as crowds from a nearby village gathered to scavenge for fuel, despite admonitions by the driver as well as motorway police to stay away. “According to our information, 174 people have died of their wounds to date,” Bahawalpur police chief Akhar Abbas told AFP. A medical official confirmed the toll. Abbas said tanker driver Khiyam Muhammad, who sustained burns, also died of his wounds in nearby Multan city on Wednesday. Motorway police spokesman Imran Shah said a government inquiry into the incident had found at least five police officials guilty of hiding information — though he did not give further details. “These officials have been suspended with immediate effect as the inquiry continues,” he added. The tragedy marked a grim start to Eid, the celebrations closing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Pakistan has a poor record of fatal traffic accidents due to poor roads, badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.



Paris mosque: Man held after driving into barriers

A man tried to drive a car into a mosque in the Paris suburb of Creteil.



CRETEIL: A man was arrested after he drove his vehicle into barriers protecting a mosque in the Paris suburbs on Thursday, police said, with Muslim officials describing the incident as an “attempted attack”. The 4X4 vehicle “struck pillars and barriers in place to protect the mosque of Creteil“, in the southeast of the capital, before speeding off and crashing into a traffic island, police said. No-one was injured. The driver, who was also the owner of the vehicle, fled but was arrested “without incident” at his home shortly afterwards, police added. A search was conducted on Thursday night at the driver’s home, a source close to the investigation said, adding that the suspect had made “confused remarks in relation” to a string of jihadist attacks that have struck France, killing 239 people since 2015. The man is a 43-year-old Armenian who will be subject to psychiatric tests, another source close to the investigation said. According to judicial authorities, he was not under the influence of alcohol. French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in a statement that his “exact motives” will be determined by an investigation.


Paris police prefect Michel Delpuech said he was “doing everything possible… to clarify the motives of the driver and determine if he is criminally responsible”. In a statement, the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, described the incident as a “criminal attack” and an “Islamophobic act”. “What has just happened in Creteil seems to justify the fears I expressed after the attack close to Finsbury Park Mosque in London,” the head of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, Abdallah Zekri, told AFP. He called for “more vigilance on the part of mosque officials”, and called on the authorities to “strengthen protection of places of worship”. On June 19, a man driving a van mowed down worshippers leaving the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London. The family of Darren Osborne, the man suspected of deliberately driving into the Muslim group, said he was “troubled”, while regulars at his local pub said he was thrown out for threatening to kill Muslims.

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