WASHINGTON, March 5 -- At President Donald Trump's direction, the United States intends to scrap the preferential trade status granted to India and Turkey, the US trade chief's office has said.
Washington "intends to terminate India's and Turkey's designations as beneficiary developing countries under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme because they no longer comply with the statutory eligibility criteria," the Office of the US Trade Representative said in a statement on Monday. India has failed to provide assurances that it would allow required market access, while Turkey is "sufficiently economically developed" that it no longer qualifies, the statement said. Under the GSP programme, "certain products" can enter the US duty-free if countries meet eligibility criteria including "providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access".
India, however, "has implemented a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on United States commerce," the statement said. It said Turkey, after being designated a GSP beneficiary in 1975, has meanwhile demonstrated a "higher level of economic development," meaning that it can be "graduated" from the programme.
The changes cannot take effect for at least 60 days following the notification of the US Congress as well as the countries affected - a process Trump began on Monday with letters to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate. The change for India came after "intensive engagement" between New Delhi and Washington, Trump wrote in one letter, the text of which was released by the White House.
"I will continue to assess whether the government of India is providing equitable and reasonable access to its markets, in accordance with the GSP eligibility criteria," the US president wrote. In his letter on Turkey, Trump said the country's economy "has grown and diversified," and noted that Istanbul has already "graduated from other developed countries' GSP programmes".
SILICON VALLEY, March 4 -- The world is literally a greener place than it was 20 years ago, and data from NASA satellites has revealed a counterintuitive source for much of this new foliage: China and India.
A new study shows that the two emerging countries with the world’s biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect stems mainly from ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries. The greening phenomenon was first detected using satellite data in the mid-1990s by Ranga Myneni of Boston University and colleagues, but they did not know whether human activity was one of its chief, direct causes. This new insight was made possible by a nearly 20-year-long data record from a NASA instrument orbiting the Earth on two satellites. It’s called the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, and its high-resolution data provides very accurate information, helping researchers work out details of what’s happening with Earth’s vegetation, down to the level of 500 meters, or about 1,600 feet, on the ground. Taken all together, the greening of the planet over the last two decades represents an increase in leaf area on plants and trees equivalent to the area covered by all the Amazon rainforests. There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s – a 5% increase.
“China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet’s land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation,” said Chi Chen of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University, in Massachusetts, and lead author of the study. An advantage of the MODIS satellite sensor is the intensive coverage it provides, both in space and time: MODIS has captured as many as four shots of every place on Earth, every day for the last 20 years. “This long-term data lets us dig deeper,” said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley, and a co-author of the new work. “When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance. Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing.”
China’s outsized contribution to the global greening trend comes in large part (42%) from programs to conserve and expand forests. These were developed in an effort to reduce the effects of soil erosion, air pollution and climate change. Another 32% there – and 82% of the greening seen in India – comes from intensive cultivation of food crops. Land area used to grow crops is comparable in China and India – more than 770,000 square miles – and has not changed much since the early 2000s. Yet these regions have greatly increased both their annual total green leaf area and their food production. This was achieved through multiple cropping practices, where a field is replanted to produce another harvest several times a year. Production of grains, vegetables, fruits and more have increased by about 35-40% since 2000 to feed their large populations. How the greening trend may change in the future depends on numerous factors, both on a global scale and the local human level. For example, increased food production in India is facilitated by groundwater irrigation. If the groundwater is depleted, this trend may change.
“But, now that we know direct human influence is a key driver of the greening Earth, we need to factor this into our climate models,” Nemani said. “This will help scientists make better predictions about the behavior of different Earth systems, which will help countries make better decisions about how and when to take action.” The researchers point out that the gain in greenness seen around the world and dominated by India and China does not offset the damage from loss of natural vegetation in tropical regions, such as Brazil and Indonesia. The consequences for sustainability and biodiversity in those ecosystems remain. Overall, Nemani sees a positive message in the new findings. “Once people realize there’s a problem, they tend to fix it,” he said. “In the 70s and 80s in India and China, the situation around vegetation loss wasn’t good; in the 90s, people realized it; and today things have improved. Humans are incredibly resilient. That’s what we see in the satellite data.”
NEW DELHI, March 2 -- India’s MiG-21 fighter upgraded by Russia possesses combat capabilities identical to those of the F-16 of Pakistan’s Air Force.
An air fight between the planes of the two types occurred on the Indian-Pakistani border on February 28. At least one MiG-21 was shot down. The pilot ejected himself and was taken prisoner by Pakistan. According to the Indian Air Force, in the same clash another MiG-21 shot down Pakistan’s F-16 of US manufacture. Pakistan has not confirmed the loss of the plane so far.
"The MiG-21, upgraded by Russia has an onboard radar and a wider range of guided air-to-air missiles. By its combat capabilities and flight parameters it is an equal of the F-16 version at the disposal of Pakistan’s Air Force," the editor-in-chief of National Defense magazine, Igor Korotchenko said about recent clashes involving these planes. India’s MiG-21-93 fighters, eventually named MiG-21UGP Bison, were upgraded to be equipped with a new radar, wider range of weapons, modern indicators on the windshield, helmet-mounted sights and multifunctional display screens in the cockpit. The coating reduces radar visibility. The plane’s life cycle and endurance have been prolonged. On February 28, India’s NDTV broadcaster said that 24 planes of Pakistan’s Air Force and eight Indian planes, including four Sukhoi-30MKI and two MiG-21 participated in a clash over Kashmir. Korotchenko said if that was really so, the incident was evidence of the high professionalism of Indian pilots, good control of the equipment and competent air fight tactics.
India-Pakistan air clash
Tensions in relations between India and Pakistan soared when a convoy of Indian military came under attack on February 14 in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, which claimed 45 lives. The group calling itself Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility.
On February 26, India carried out an attack against a camp of this group in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. On February 27, Pakistan’s planes attacked military targets in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad claimed that each other’s planes had been shot down.
NEW DELHI, February 28 -- India heavily responded to Pakistan’s ceasefire violation and attack on communities in the Jammu and Kashmir state on Thursday.
The Indian artillery responded with fire to the attack that the Pakistani military launched at about 6:00 in the morning local time (3:30 Moscow time). The artillery shootout lasted about an hour. No injuries were reported. Tensions are running high along the contact line separating Kashmir’s Indian and Pakistani zones following a terrorist attack on an Indian military convoy in the Jammu and Kashmir state on February 14. Forty-five people were killed in the attack. Jaish-e-Mohammed (The Army of Muhammad) claimed responsibility for the attack.
On Tuesday, India’s aviation bombed this group’s camp in the part of Kashmir controlled by Pakistan. On Wednesday, the Pakistan Air Force responded with air strikes on military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad also stated that they downed each other’s plans in the air fight.
ISLAMABAD, February 27 -- Pakistan and India said on Wednesday they had shot down each other’s warplanes, in a dramatically escalating confrontation that has fueled concerns of an all-out conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistan said it struck two Indian jets in its airspace, while India confirmed the loss of one of its planes and said it had shot down a Pakistani fighter jet. Four bodies were recovered from the wreckage of an Indian Air Force chopper, said officials. Pakistan initially said it captured two Indian pilots, but later its military spokesman announced there was “only one pilot” in Pakistani custody. The clash prompted Pakistan to close its airspace “until further notice”, while at least six airports were closed in India, and a vast area of airspace north of New Delhi was closed to civilian flights.
India’s foreign ministry demanded the “immediate and safe return” of the pilot, calling on Pakistan to ensure no harm comes to him. The intensifying tension between the neighbours threatens to undo recent diplomatic progress between India and China, which is a long-standing close ally and arms supplier to Pakistan.
On the sidelines of trilateral talks with Russia on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj and expressed concern over the escalating conflict. Other global powers, including the United States and European Union, have also called for calm, while Malaysia issued a travel advisory for its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the affected areas.
Calling for talks with India to defuse the situation, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday warned of the potentially catastrophic consequences should “better sense” not prevail. “History tells us that wars are full of miscalculation,” Khan said during a televised broadcast to the nation. “My question is that given the weapons we have can we afford miscalculation?” He said Pakistan was “ready to cooperate”, adding: “Let’s sit together to talk to find a solution.”
ISLAMABAD, February 27 -- Pakistan’s authorities on Wednesday closed its airspace against the backdrop of an aggravation of relations with India, as follows from a statement by the international system of notifications for air personnel.
According to the NOTAM notification, the air space will stay closed till 02:59 of February 28. A similar notification has been issued by Karachi international airport. On Tuesday, India declared it had delivered an airstrike against a camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammed group in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. Pakistan’s Air Force on Wednesday said in response that it had rocketed military facilities in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi and Islamabad added that each other’s fighter planes had been shot down. The airspace over northern India has been temporarily closed for security reasons. Many civil flights are canceled.
NEW DELHI, February 27 -- Pakistan shot down two Indian Air Force planes in its airspace in Kashmir.
A military spokesman said that one Indian pilot had been captured. “PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace,” tweeted military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, adding that one aircraft had fallen in Pakistani-held Kashmir, while the other crashed on the Indian side.
“One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area,” he said without elaborating further. News agency ANI reported that India also shot down a Pakistan air force F-16 fighter jet. The fighter jet was shot down in Indian retaliatory fire 3km within Pakistan territory in Lam valley, Nowshera sector.
Islamabad said it had struck across the Line of Control, the de facto border between India and Pakistan, from “within Pakistani airspace”. “This was not a retaliation to continued Indian belligerence. Pakistan has therefore, taken strikes at non-military target, avoiding human loss and collateral damage. Sole purpose being to demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defence,” Islamabad said in a statement. CNN-IBN reported that commercial air traffic had been shut down in Chandigarh, Leh and the whole of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, with some flights to Jammu and Srinagar returning to their cities of origin.
India and Pakistan exchanged fire along their contested border in Kashmir on Wednesday (Feb 27), a day after Indian warplanes struck inside Pakistan for the first time since a war in 1971, while leading powers urged the nuclear armed rivals to show restraint. Tensions have been elevated since a suicide car bombing by Pakistan-based militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police on Feb 14, but the risk of conflict rose dramatically on Tuesday when India launched an air strike on what it said was a militant training base. The attack targeted the Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group that claimed credit for the suicide attack. But while India said a large number of JeM fighters had been killed, Pakistani officials said the Indian air strike was a failure and inflicted no casualties.
On Tuesday evening, Pakistan began shelling using heavy calibre weapons in 12 to 15 places along the de facto border in Kashmir, known as the Line of Control (LoC), a spokesman for the Indian defence forces said on Wednesday.
ISLAMABAD, February 26 -- Indian fighter jets on Tuesday crossed into Pakistani territory, conducting what the foreign ministry termed a "non-military pre-emptive action" against armed group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
This after dramatically escalating tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors weeks after a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region. Pakistan first reported the Indian airspace incursion, with Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor saying Pakistani air force jets were scrambling to respond, forcing the Indian aircraft to "release [their] payload in haste while escaping".
Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, however, asserted that the jets had hit their target, and that "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated." "The government of India is firmly and resolutely committed to taking all necessary measures to fight the menace of terrorism," he told reporters in New Delhi. "Hence this non-military pre-emptive action was specifically targeted at the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp."
C Uday Bhaskar, the director of the Society for Policy Studies based in New Delhi said: "India has sent a very firm signal." "The fact that air power has been used for the first time against a terrorist target to my mind signaled to Pakistan that India is demonstrating resolve in terms of using military power particularly air power," he said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting with his top government officials in New Delhi where he was briefed about the predawn air attacks. Reports from New Delhi, said that the Indian government has been under a lot of pressure to act in the wake of the Kashmir attack. "This attack was expected and one of the reasons it was delayed was the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the region," Jamil said. "But everyone did expect that this would somehow happen sometime soon especially with [general] elections coming up in April."
NEW DELHI, January 2 -- Two women in India's southern Kerala state have breached a centuries-old ban on entering an ancient Hindu temple, despite strong protests by right-wing conservative groups.
Bindu and Kanakadurga, who were in their forties, walked into the Sabarimala Temple at 3:45am on Wednesday, according to the ANI news agency. The temple had been closed off to women of menstruating age until India's Supreme Court overturned the ban in September. However, opponents of the ruling continued to block women between the ages fof 10 and 50 from entering the shrine. "Today, two women entered Sabarimala Temple. We had issued standing orders to police to provide all possible protection to any woman who wants to enter the temple," Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Kerala's capital city, Trivandrum.
A video posted online by ANI showed the two women, clothed in black, hurriedly walking into the temple. They offered prayers there. The temple was briefly shut down following the move for a "purification ritual" by priests. According to the Sabarimala temple's website, women of menstruating age were not allowed to enter the shrine because its deity, Lord Ayyappa, was celibate. Since the top court's verdict, Hindu hardliners, opposed to the decision, have attacked female pilgrims, threatened journalists and pelted police with stones. On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women in Kerala formed a 620-km human chain "in support of gender equality" from Kasargod in the north to the capital, Trivandrum.
MUMBAI, December 26 -- India’s anti-terrorist agency Wednesday said it had busted a local militant cell inspired by ISIS that was planning to carry out bombings and target prominent politicians.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said 10 members of an obscure militant group called Harkat ul Harb-e-Islam were arrested in multi-city raids and a further six suspects were being questioned over their alleged links with the group. NIA spokesman Alok Mittal said arms and ammunition were recovered from the raids over 17 locations, including in the capital New Delhi, as the group prepared to strike several targets ahead of the high-profile Republic Day national event on January 26. “They were at an advanced stage of carrying a series of blasts,” Mittal told reporters at a press conference in New Delhi.
“They wanted to explode remote-controlled bombs and even conduct fidayeen [suicide] attacks.” Mittal said the group had attempted to make suicide vests and developed a homemade rocket launcher, adding that the unidentified mastermind of the weapon was based overseas. One of the accused is an engineer, he said. Authorities have previously claimed to have foiled similar ISIS-inspired cells but there is no evidence of the militant group’s presence in the country.