Key concerns discussed in Singh-Wen meet
No breakthrough on stapled visa, terror, UNSC seat

NEW DELHI, Dec 16: Talks between Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh failed to yield any breakthrough today on India's key concerns---stapled visa to people of Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism emanating from Pakistan-- and in getting support for its bid for a UNSC permanent seat.

Wen, who is on a fence-mending mission after one year of unease in bilateral ties, held talks with Dr Singh for over one hour during which bilateral, regional and global issues were discussed.

Though the issue of stapled visa did not figure in the joint communique, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters after the talks that the Chinese Premier himself raised the issue and suggested that officials from both the countries should have in-depth consultations to resolve the issue.

"Wen said China takes this issue very seriously and takes our concern on this issue very seriously," Rao said but noted that "the ball is in their court. There is no doubt about that." China had also denied visa to Lt Gen B S Jaswal, who is in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir prompting India to suspend all defence exchanges with that country.

The Joint statement also did not make a reference to 26/11 and India's demand for expediting punishment to all those responsible for the Mumbai terror attacks.

However, it talked about the need to implement all relevant UN resolutions, in particular UNSC resolution 1267, 1373, 1540 and 1624 dealing with among others curbing financing of terrorism and banning of terror groups.

Rao said India conveyed its concern over terrorism emanating from Pakistan. The need is very much there for China to also look at the real concerns India has with regard to terrorism emanating from Pakistan, she said, adding that the terrorism in the region also affects China.

China also conveyed its understanding of the situation in Pakistan, Rao said, but refused to elaborate.

The joint statement said the two sides also welcomed the opening of the telephone hotline between Singh and Wen and agreed on regular consultations between the two leaders on issues of importance to both the countries.

The two leaders also agreed to establish the mechanism of annual exchange of visits between the two Foreign Ministers, it said.

On economic front, Rao said while both countries have set a target of USD 100 billion by 2015, India has raised its concern over the growing trade imbalance and has sought greater access for its goods, including pharmaceuticals in Chinese market.

"The two sides agreed to take measures to promote greater Indian exports to China with a view to reduce India's trade deficit," the statement said.

Beijing gave no concrete endorsement on India's bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and merely confined itself to vague formulation that it supports India's aspirations to play a greater role in the global body.

On outstanding bilateral issues, the two sides reiterated their firm commitment to resolve differences including the boundary question at an early date through peaceful negotiations.

"They reiterated that resolution of the boundary question is one of the ten-pronged strategies agreed by leaders of the two countries. Pending the resolution of the boundary question, the two sides shall work together to maintain peace and tranquility in the border areas in line with the previous agreements," the joint statement said.

After the Singh-Wen talks, the two sides also inked six pacts, including cooperation in the field of green technology, one on exchange of hydrological data of common rivers and media and cultural exchanges. Two pacts were signed in the banking sector.

The joint statement while referring to India's bid for a permanent seat in UNSC said, "China attaches great importance to India's status in international affairs as a large developing country, understands and supports India's aspiration to play a greater role in the United Nations, including in the Security Council."

China welcomed India's election as non-permanent member of UNSC during 2011-2012 and both countries agreed to deepen consultation within the Council.

Asked whether India raised sternly with China its stance that New Delhi was as sensitive to J-K as Beijing was to Tibet, Rao said the Chinese are well aware of our concerns and our positions. In fact, they appreciated the fact that India doesn't allow any anti-China activities, she said.

To another question on India-China relations, Rao said "it is not made of porcelain China".

She said every visit adds "substance" to the multi- dimensional relationship between India and China.

On Wen's visit to Pakistan and China-Pak nuclear deal, she downplayed them and said there was a mechanism to address the nuclear weapons issue.

The Foreign Secretary said Indo-Pak ties can move in a substantive manner, once New Delhi's legitimate concerns over the terror activities and anti-India agenda of leaders of these terror groups in Pakistan were addressed.

Underlining their unequivocal opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, the two countries stressed that there is no justification for any act of terrorism anywhere.

"They committed themselves to countering terrorism through joint efforts that include disrupting the financing of terrorism," the statement said.

India and China also agreed to expand cooperation in infrastructure, environmental protection, information technology, telecommunications, investment and finance on a priority basis to draw on each other's strengths and pursue mutual benefit and win-win results.

The two sides also noted the good cooperation between China and India in the field of trans-border rivers with the Indian side appreciating the assistance provided by the Chinese side on the flood-season hydrological data and emergency management.

Recognizing common interests and similar concerns on major regional and international issues, the two sides decided to enhance their coordination and cooperation in multilateral forums.

India welcomed Chinese enterprises to invest and participate in India’s infrastructure development such as in roads, railways and in the manufacturing sector.

The two sides agreed to encourage greater mutual investment and project contracting cooperation between businesses of the two countries, appropriately handle economic and trade frictions and differences and jointly oppose protectionism in all forms. They constituted an India-China CEO’s Forum to deliberate on business issues and make recommendations on expansion of trade and investment cooperation.

The two countries reiterated their firm commitment to resolving outstanding differences including the boundary question at an early date through peaceful negotiations.

The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the Agreement on Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for Settlement of the Boundary Question agreed in 2005 and the process of negotiations being undertaken by the Special Representatives and resolved to actively seek a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution from the political and strategic perspective.

Pending the resolution of the boundary question, they said, they would work together to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas in line with the previous agreements.

Both countries called for continued international adherence to the principles of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol including that of "common but differentiated responsibilities".

They also appreciated the joint efforts of India and China in the international negotiations towards arriving at fair and balanced climate agreements with the aim of further enabling the full, effective and sustained implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol according to the mandate of Bali Roadmap. (Agencies)

Humane approach with people: Lt Gen Hasnain

Excelsior Correspondent

SRINAGAR, Dec 16: General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Army's strategic 15 Corps Lt General S A Hasnain today said he would be adopting a humane approach with the people of Kashmir in his efforts to usher in stability to the Valley.

"My approach is entirely human and nothing more than that. I think my force should not be seen as a force with arms everywhere," Lt Gen Hasnain, who became only second Muslim officer to command 15 Corps in the past 20 years, told reporters on the occasion of Vijay Diwas, marking the victory over Pakistan Army in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.

Lt General Zaki was the last Muslim officer to command the 15 Corps, one of the three Corps in Jammu and Kashmir, since 1990.

Lt Gen Hasnain said he was looking at a long term perspective where Army can assist the State administration and the Government in reaching out to the people by putting a balm on the wounds which may have occurred in Kashmir over a period of time.

"Our main weapon is our heart and that is the main weapon we carry around in all our efforts to ensure that we bring stability to the State all over again," he said.

The Corps Commander said his main emphasis at the moment was to study the situation here.

"My emphasis at the moment is to study the situation here ... I think the internal situation here is seeking my attention," he said.

Lt Gen Hasnain said the recent summer unrest, in which more than 100 civilains were killed, was "extremely well-handled".

"I may say that the situation was extremely well -handled. The Army was in the background advising and assisting wherever it could," he added.

He said Army was well integrated with the State Government and was advising Chief Minister Omar Abdullah wherever it could.

"We are very much integrated with every effort of the State Government and I am also a Security Advisor to the Chief Minister. I always look forward to putting forward our advice. This is a kind of system that has existed in a very successful way in the State and I hope it will carry on," the Corps Commander said.

Meanwhile, a Defence spokesman said the Army observed Vijay Diwas by laying wreaths in honour of the country's Martyrs.

Lt Gen Hasnain paid tribute to India's war-heroes saying, "Vijay Diwas is dedicated to the memory of soldiers who laid down their lives for the country in the 1971 war".

He also commended the 1971 operation as one of the Indian military's most magnificent achievements and congratulated the soldiers.

In a simple ceremony, the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) Regimental Centre celebrated Vijay Diwas by showing it cared for its war wounded and veterans.

On the occasion brave men, who had 'given their today for our tomorrow', limped up to the stage to receive their three-wheeler special scooters.

The scooters were given away by Lieutenant General SA Hasnain, GOC Chinar Corps, who preferred to come down from the stage for these gallant soldiers. Earlier, he also presented financial assistance cheques to old J&K Militia soldiers who do not receive any pension from the Government.

Paying his compliments to the J&K Militia and JAKLI veterans, Lt Gen Hasnain reiterated, "The sacrifices made by you for your country will not go in vain. The nation is grateful and you should know it."

Earlier the Centre Commandant, Brigadier Somnath Jha, outlined the various measures of welfare initiatives taken by them for the veterans, war widows or 'Veer Naaris' and serving soldiers of the JAKLI.

"My blood boils when I see what terrorism has done to our State. I am still ready to fight for my country", said 71-year-old veteran soldier Abdul Ghani from Anantnag district.

"My grandson, who is in JAKLI, is doing it on my behalf," he added.

Budget session of Legislature
Long duration to take care of Oppn

By Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Dec 16: Budget session of the State Legislature will have a long duration this time. It was likely to begin from middle of the February next year and could extend up to first week of April.

Legislative Assembly Speaker Mohammad Akbar Lone told the Excelsior that the opposition parties especially the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) appeared to be in good mood as they were attending meetings of the House Committees formed by the Legislature and the District Development Boards (DDBs).

"This was a healthy sign and we expect their presence in the Assembly during the budget session. We hope they (the opposition) will forget the past and look towards future. It is for them that we want to hold a long budget session so that they could speak as much as they can in the House’’, Mr Lone said.

The PDP has boycotted entire session of the Legislature after attending it only on first day of obituary reference in Srinagar in September-October to protest killings of civilians in the Kashmir valley. Rest of the opposition including BJP, NPP and JSM had also boycotted the session after attending three-four sittings to protest Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s remarks on accession.

"Though our duty is to hold the session as its timing and duration is finalized by the Cabinet, we are proposing a long session of the Legislature this time compared to previous budget sessions to keep enough time for the opposition to speak to compensate them for the time lost in the previous session’’, the Speaker said.

Official sources said only after the budget and plan meetings in the State are completed and a plan for next financial year proposed to the Planning Commission that exact dates for the budget session would be decided. Most likely, the session would start in the middle of February.

Mr Lone said every MLA will be given an opportunity to ask 20 questions in the budget session, 10 each in starred and unstarred categories, besides tabling five private member’s bills and five resolutions each.

"We will give maximum time to the MLAs especially the opposition members in the budget session to ensure that they didn’t have any complaint of not speaking on any issue’’, he said but added that the opposition should also be reasonable and maintain decorum of the House.

The opposition will get full opportunity provided that they are reasonable and don’t create unnecessary trouble in the House, Mr Lone asserted.

On construction of new Assembly complex in Jammu, the Speaker said the area has almost been identified covering part of Old Secretariat, City police station, taxi stand and parking lot near the Civil Secretariat.

A Committee has been set up to finalise the construction area before start of the work, he said, adding Rs 52 crore have been sanctioned for the project in the 13th Finance Commission award.

"We hope to complete the project in the next two to three years’’, he added.

On not holding third session of the Legislature this year, Mr Lone said it was prerogative of the Government. However, he said, such a possibility could be explored next year.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during the budget session of the Assembly this year stated that the Government was considering holding three sessions of the Legislature in a year as against the present practice of two.

According to sources, the Government decided against holding a small third session of the Legislature in the winter capital this year as it was not so sure of co-operation by the opposition.

SC directs probe into 2G from 2001 to 2008

NEW DELHI, Dec 16: Set to monitor the 2G spectrum scam probe, the Supreme Court today widened the investigation in the case by bringing in its ambit the telecom policy from 2001 to 2008 covering both the NDA and the UPA regimes.

A bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly made it clear that the emphasis of the investigation would be to determine the loss of money to the public exchequer and said a progress report on the probe has to be filed by the CBI and Enforcement Directorate in a sealed cover on the next date of hearing on February 10, 2011.

However, the bench said there was no need for a special team to investigate the scam as the Government has agreed for court-monitored investigation which is moving in the right direction and Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium and senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for CBI, have assured that there will be comprehensive investigation by the two agencies (CBI and ED).

"We are giving directions that the CBI shall carry investigation based on the CVC report and consider the findings of CAG which has prima facie found that ineligible entities were granted licences," it said.

The bench allowed the appeal filed by NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), against the Delhi High Court which had rejected the plea for CBI investigation into the irregularities in the grant of licence for 2G spectrum.

"The High Court has committed serious error in dismissing the writ petition. Prima facie, there was sufficient material supported by documents to proceed on the allegation," the bench observed.

The bench said that the report of the Central Vigilance Commission and the findings of the CAG needed impartial investigation.

It said that how licences were granted to the ineligible operators has to be investigated and as to why TRAI did not take action has to be looked into.

The bench said that the CBI should consider the investigations done by the CVC and the findings of the CAG on the irregularities, which according to it, were blatant violation of norms.

The bench further said that the investigation will also cover why roll out obligations were not fulfilled.

The bench asked the investigating agencies to probe the transfer of dual technology—CDMA and GSM, saying while the notification for the dual technology was issued on October 19, 2007, one of the service provider was given the permission a day earlier.

The investigation shall also cover huge loans by public sector banks and if DoT officials were signatory to the licence agreements, the bench said.

The bench directed the CBI and ED to carry out investigations without being influenced by any individual, their ranks, functionaries and agencies.

The bench asked the Directorate of Income Tax to hand over the transcripts of the tapped conversations carried out under the order of the Home Secretary to the CBI.

The court had reserved its judgement on December 8 after hearing arguments forwarded by CPIL, CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Department of Telecommunication and former Telecom Minister A Raja who resigned from the Cabinet in the wake of the scam.

In earlier hearings in the apex court, CVC P J Thomas, whose appointment had come under a cloud, had offered to recuse himself from overseeing the CBI probe into 2G spectrum scam.

The recusal was prompted by SC’s posers about his ability to oversee the CBI probe into the 2G scam as he happened to be Telecom Secretary under A Raja, as well as in view of a pending chargesheet against him in Kerala’s palmolein import scam.

The apex court, while hearing arguments earlier, had favoured widening the ambit of the probe to include spectrum allocation since 2001 under the NDA regime.

"The issue raised in the case is not limited to only Rs 1.76 lakh crore but has a much wider compass. We would not like to prejudice the probe. But what happened in 2001 needs to be looked into. It is for the CBI to investigate and find out," the bench had observed.

Raja’s counsel T R Andhyarujina, in his arguments, had maintained that his client had only been following up the 2001 policy initiated by his predecessors.

The court had also expressed surprise over public sector banks providing loans to the tune of Rs 10,000 crores to the 2G spectrum licensees on the basis of hypothecation of their respective licenses.

"If it is true it is astonishing. It goes much far beyond what you are advancing," the bench had quipped as Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL and quoting various reports, told it about the disbursement of huge loans by various banks, including the State Bank of India to licensees.

Bhushan had told the bench that the SBI granted Rs 2,500 crore loan to Uninor, which is a joint venture between real estate major Unitech Ltd and Norway’s telecom giant Telenor.

"A bank, which is the most premier bank of the country, the State Bank of India, functioning under the Act of Parliament, is lending Rs 10,000 crore. It is a matter of such great public importance. It needs to be covered under the CBI investigation," the bench had observed while favouring "holistic investigation."

Senior counsel K K Venugopal, who appeared for the CBI, had supported the bench’s view saying that the CBI will register a separate case to probe the bank’s role in the fraud.

"The investigation on this issue cannot be carried out in the pending case and a fresh FIR has to be registered," he had submitted.

The FIR in the telecom scam was registered by the CBI on October 21, 2009, against unnamed persons under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The ED had also lodged the complaint under the Prevention of the Money Laundering Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act. (PTI)

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