LIVE! Pakistan-backed terrorists to continue attacks inside India: US

09:18  Pakistan-backed terrorists to continue attacks inside India: US:  

America’s intelligence chief today warned that Pakistan-supported terrorist groups would continue to carry out attacks inside India, thus risking escalation of tension between the two neighbours.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’ remarks came days after a group of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorists struck the Sunjuwan Military Camp in Jammu on Saturday, killing seven people including six soldiers.

Pakistan, in fact, will continue to threaten US interests by deploying new nuclear weapons capabilities, maintaining its ties to terrorists, restricting counter-terrorism cooperation, and drawing closer to China, Coats said in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Militant groups supported by Islamabad will continue to take advantage of their safe haven in Pakistan to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests,” Coats said during the hearing on ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment’ of the US intelligence community.

He said Pakistan’s perception of its eroding position relative to India, reinforced by endemic economic weakness and domestic security issues, almost certainly will exacerbate long-held fears of isolation and drive Islamabad’s pursuit of actions that run counter to US goals for the region.

09:06  Trump slams India for high import tariffs on Harley-Davidson:  

US President Donald Trump today slammed India for a high import tariff on Harley-Davidson motorcycle, calling it “unfair”, even as New Delhi slashed customs duty on imported motorcycles from high-end brands to 50 per cent.

Trump, during a discussion with members of the Congress over steel industry, also threatened to increase the tariff on import of Indian motorcycles to the US.

He said the recent decision of the Indian government to reduce the tariff from 75 per cent to 50 per cent was not enough and asked that it should be reciprocal, as the US imposes “zero tax” on the import of motorcycles.

“We have so many countries where we made a product, they make a product, ..We pay a tremendous tax to get into their countries — motorcycles, Harley Davidson — it goes into a certain country. I won’t mention the fact that it happens to be India, in this case,” Trump said amidst laughter from the audience.

In fact, he also indirectly referred to the recent conversation he had with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard.

“And a great gentleman called me from India and he said, we have just reduced the tariff on motorcycles, reduced it down to 50 per cent from 75, and even 100 per cent,” Trump said in an apparent reference to his last week’s conversation with Prime Minister Modi.

“We have — if you are Harley Davidson, you have 50 to 75 per cent tax, tariff to get your motorcycle, your product in.  And yet they sell thousands and thousands of motorcycles, which a lot of people don’t know, from India into the United States. You know what our tax is?  Nothing,” he told the lawmakers and his other Cabinet colleague.

Trump once again pitched for a “reciprocal tax” on countries that he says abuse their trade relationships with the US.

— PTI

08:51  Government approves Rs 15,935 crore plan to buy guns for military:  

In a major decision, the defence ministry today approved capital acquisition proposals worth Rs 15,935 crore which included purchase of 7.40 lakh assault rifles, 5,719 sniper rifles and light machine guns to bolster the strength of the armed forces.

The approval to the proposals come amid increasing hostilities by Pakistan along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as well as China’s aggressive posturing in several sectors along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.

The defence ministry said the DAC chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman cleared capital acquisition proposals which were valued at Rs 15,935 crore.

It said the DAC accorded approval for procurement of 7.4 lakh assault rifles for the three services at an estimated cost of Rs 12,280 crore.

The rifles will be produced in in India under the ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ category  through both state-run Ordnance Factory Board and private sector.

In a statement, the ministry said “essential quantity” of Light Machine Guns will be through the “fast track” route at an estimated cost of over Rs 1,819 crore, primarily to meet the operational requirement of the troops deployed on the borders.

— PTI

08:29  Delhi sends showcause to Pierce Brosnan over pan masala ad:  

If Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan does not respond to the showcause notice filed against him by the Delhi governments health department for appearing in a surrogate advertisement for an Indian pan masala brand, the actor could face a fine of Rs 5,000 or two years in prison, or both, said officials.

On Monday, the department issued a notice under the Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2003, that bans all kind of direct and indirect advertisements of tobacco products. Additional Director (Health) S K Arora said that the department had received information on the company promoting the surrogate product through different media platforms.

We have issued the notice to Pierce Brosnan through the company, and also reached out to him via social media platforms. If he fails to respond to the notice, he would face punishment of a fine up to Rs 5,000 or two years in prison, said Arora.

The Delhi government argued that areca nut or supari is a cancer-causing agent. The Irish actor has been asked to clarify his position within the next 10 days.

Brosnan, 63, had earlier said his contract stated that he was to advertise a breath freshener/ tooth whitener andthat he was shocked by the deceptive use of his image in the pan masala brands advertisement.

08:01  Pakistan okays law to ban Hafiz Saeed and other UN-listed terrorists:  

Keen to avert international sanctions, Pakistan has quietly amended its anti-terror laws to include Hafiz Saeed-linked Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation and other terrorist outfits on the list of UN proscribed groups, a media report said.

A major impact of a new ordinance promulgated by Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain would be the proscription of Saeed-linked JuD and FIF along with the UN listed outfits of Al Akhtar Trust and Al Rashid Trust, Dawn newspaper reported.

Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, heads the charity JuD, believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Tayiba terror group.

The move to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 ends an old discrepancy between the UN sanctions list and the national listing of terrorist groups and individuals, the report said.

It has come ahead of the crucial Financial Action Task Force meeting in Paris, scheduled to be held from February 18 to 23.

The US and India are spearheading an effort to get Pakistan included in the watchdog’s international money-laundering and terror-financing ‘grey list’, the paper said.

Pakistan was last placed on FATF’s grey list in February 2012 and stayed on it for three years, the report said.

Last week, Pakistan’s National Security Committee had directed the “ministries concerned to complete the few outstanding actions at the earliest”.

— PTI

00:39  Rohingya issue may escalate terrorists’ recruitment: US:   The Rohingya issue in Myanmar and Bangladesh may expand opportunities for recruitment of terrorists, America’s intelligence chief warned on Tuesday.

Some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine and taken refuge in Bangladesh after the country’s military launched a brutal crackdown in August last year after attacks.

“The turmoil resulting from more than 600,000 Rohingyas fleeing Burma (Myanmar) to Bangladesh increases regional tension and may expand opportunities for terrorists’ recruitment in South and Southeast Asia,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in his testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Further operations by Burmese security forces against Rohingya insurgents or sustained violence by ethnic Rakhine militias probably would make it difficult to repatriate Burmese from Bangladesh,” Coats said during the hearing on ‘Worldwide Threat Assessment’ of the US intelligence community.

Coats said democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian countries will remain fragile in 2018 as autocratic tendencies deepen in some regimes and rampant corruption and cronyism undermine democratic values.

Countries in the region will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy in the face of Chinese economic and diplomatic coercion, he said.

“The crisis resulting from the exodus of more than 600,000 Rohingyas from Burma to Bangladesh will threaten Burma’s fledgling democracy, increase the risk of violent extremism and provide openings for Beijing to expand its influence,” Coats said.

Cambodian leader Hun Sen will repress democratic institutions and civil society, manipulate government and judicial institutions and use patronage and political violence to guarantee his rule beyond the 2018 national election.

Having alienated Western partners, Hun Sen will rely on Beijing’s political and financial support, drawing Cambodia closer to China as a result, he said.

“In the Philippines, President (Rodrigo) Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs, corruption and crime. Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a ‘revolutionary government’ and impose nationwide martial law,” Coats said.

His declaration of martial law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi city, has been extended through the end of 2018, he said.

“Thailand’s leaders have pledged to hold elections in late 2018, but the new Constitution will institutionalise the military’s influence,’ Coats told lawmakers.

On Afghanistan, he said that the overall situation in the war-torn country will deteriorate modestly this year. — PTI

Photograph: Hannah McKay/Reuters

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