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Balakot strike done for sole purpose of winning LS polls: Farooq

Press Trust of India

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New Delhi, Mar 11: National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah Monday made serious allegations against the BJP-led Centre, saying it ordered the air strike in Pakistan’s Balakot with the “sole purpose” of winning Lok Sabha elections.
The Srinagar MP alleged the BJP has “failed” on all fronts and it was apprehended that there would be a fight or skirmish with Pakistan before the polls so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi becomes some kind of an “avatar” without whom India cannot survive.
“This surgical strike (air strike) was done only for the purpose of election…Totally for the election. We lost an aircraft worth crores of rupees. Be thankful that the IAF pilot (Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman) survived and returned from Pakistan with respect,” Abdullah told reporters here.
In a predawn exercise on February 26, the Indian Air Force targeted Jaish-e-Mohammed’s ‘biggest training camp’ in Balakot. The air strike came in response to a attack in Pulwama on February 14, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
Abdullah said Monday, “In the Parliament, we knew they have failed on all other things and that there would be a fight or a skirmish with Pakistan in Kashmir so that he (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) becomes some kind of an ‘avatar’ without whom India cannot survive. But I want to tell him that whether he or I live or not, India will live and move forward,” .
The NC president said an atmosphere of fear was being created to help the BJP in the polls.
“They want to create an atmosphere of fear. There would be no war. The whole world is watching. This government is only using the senior officer for winning the election, the officer whom they got by superseding many others and who is now dancing to their tunes. Otherwise, there is no danger,” he said, without naming the “officer”.
“This atmosphere of fear that they have created in the country that without him anything will happen, I want to tell him that you were neither a God and never will be,” he said.
Abdullah said there is no other way than to talk to Pakistan over the Kashmir issue.
“They (New Delhi) have brought this (Kashmir) into international limelight. Several countries are now involved in making India and Pakistan to talk over Kashmir and they will have to engage themselves as it is the only way forward,” he said.
Asked about the Election Commission of India’s decision to delay the assembly polls in the state, Abdullah said he feared some “mischief” by the Centre in J-K.
“I think they must have thought of doing some mischief, that’s why they delayed the polls. I do not understand that when thousands of people took part in the Panchayat and municipal polls, what danger they think there is now when forces are present in larger number than they were. And they are present in every nook and corner of the state,” he said.
The NC president said all parties are in favour of holding simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls and now the public should understand what their motive is.
“If we unite, their designs will fail. We should prepare for that..For not giving a chance to the Centre for destruction. So, we all should stand to confront them…Where is the mighty government of India which cannot conduct an election here? If this is not surrender, what is,” he said.
He said if the EC is saying that the environment is conducive for Lok Sabha polls, then why is it not conducive for the state polls.
“Then they should not conduct the Parliament polls. I am surprised over what they are saying. They are contradicting themselves. It is unfortunate that our EC has become the election commission of the government. A political EC. There is no independence. I hope there is a new government which gives full independence to the EC,” he said.
Asked if his party was thinking of a pre-poll alliance with the Congress, Abdullah said, “We have not yet decided on that. We will see that”.
He welcomed the ECI’s direction on keeping forces away from electioneering.
“It is good. I have seen in my state that soldiers press the button of machines in far-flung areas and I hope the forces are kept at bay this time and they will only be used for security purposes. This should be a free and fair election,” he said.


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Defunct street lights? Don’t expect SMC to fix them

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Srinagar, Jun 17: Srinagar plunges into darkness soon after sunset as most of the street lights in the capital city are defunct.

This being so since Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claims it is incapable to deal with the issue.

In absence of this basic facility, the city residents face a lot of inconvenience moving out of their homes to the markets or masjids during the evening and early morning hours.

 

Cases of burglary and dog-bites have been reported from many secluded areas where residents complain of either having defunct or no street lights.

People living in many of these poorly-lit areas feel scared to venture out of their homes in late hours.

“I prefer not to leave my home after Isha namaz. Dogs chase passersby since there is no street light in this colony,” said Bashir Ahmed, 60, a resident of Illahibagh.

SMC claims it has installed more than 40,000 street lights across the city. However, majority of them remain dysfunctional due to lack of an established electric division and less technical manpower in the corporation.

Executive Engineer SMC, Qazi Imtiyaz who looks after the Mechanical division, said: “We have nothing. Zero manpower to look after the technical faults of street lights. There is no electric division in our corporation.”

SMC Commissioner, Khursheed Ahmad Sanai said: “SMC lacks an established electric division as well as skilled staff to mend defunct street lights in Srinagar. But we are constantly making up to illuminate more areas through whatever little staff is available to us.”

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RKFC signs top English striker

More signings to follow; Club on track to become India’s football powerhouse

Nisar Dharma

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Srinagar, Jun 17: J&K’s premier football club, Real Kashmir FC, has signed an experienced striker from England to play for the team in the upcoming season.

Announcing on RKFC’s official Twitter handle, the club management wrote: “RKFC is delighted to announce the signing of Kallum Higginbotham from Dunfermline Athletic, Scotland. Kallum is an experienced striker who has played at the highest level in the UK. Kallum has played for top teams such as Huddersfield Town, Kilmarnock, and Motherwell.”

Former Kilmarnock frontman, Kallum, who’s originally from Salford, England, will join the club in the third week of July, club sources told The Kashmir Monitor.

 

With Rangers legend David Robertson training the team, Kallum will be the second European player to play for RKFC after the coach’s son Mason.

The club finished third in the I-League last season in their first campaign in the top flight.

Terming it as an important signing, club’s co-owner, Sandeep Chattoo said: “Today’s signing of Kallum shows our intent that we mean business. We will leave no stone unturned to make RKFC a powerhouse of football not just in India but Asia. In coming days we will unveil more top signings. As a co-owner, I want to tell the fans that we will do whatever we can to play top class breathtaking football next season. RKFC is not just a football team. It’s the heartbeat of the state. For me personally it’s a project. We have just completed phase one. Lot more to follow.”

Head Coach David Robertson had a similar viewpoint on Kallum’s inclusion in the club: “Signing player of Kallum’s experience and quality is a huge statement and shows continued ambition of Real Kashmir. He will give us an extra edge upfront and can also play in various roles within the team. Our team is shaping up nicely and we are all eager and excited for the start of the new campaign.”

President J&K Football Association, Zameer Thakur congratulated the team on the signing.

“We welcome this signing and hope that RKFC will not just maintain but improve its last season’s performance in the upcoming one,” he told The Kashmir Monitor. 

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Overall nuclear arms decline but India, Pak, China expanding arsenal

Press Trust of India

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Stockholm, Jun 17: The overall number of nuclear warheads in the world has declined in the past year but nations are modernising their arsenals, a report published Monday said.

At the start of 2019, the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea had a total of some 13,865 nuclear weapons, according to estimates in a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

That represents a decrease of 600 nuclear weapons compared to the start of 2018.

 

But at the same time all nuclear weapon-possessing countries are modernising these arms ¬– and China, India and Pakistan are also increasing the size of their arsenals.

“The world is seeing fewer but newer weapons,” Shannon Kile, director of the SIPRI Nuclear Arms Control Programme and one of the report’s authors, told AFP.

The drop in recent years can mainly be attributed to the US and Russia, whose combined arsenals still make up more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.

This is in part due to the countries fulfilling their obligations under the New START treaty — which puts a cap on the number of deployed warheads and was signed by the US and Russia in 2010 — as well as getting rid of obsolete warheads from the Cold War era.

The START treaty is however due to expire in 2021, which Kile said was worrying since there are currently “no serious discussions underway about extending it”.

Next year the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) — considered the cornerstone of the world’s nuclear order — turns 50.

The number of nuclear arms has been drastically reduced since a peak in the mid-1980s when there were some 70,000 nuclear warheads in the world.

While Kile said progress should not be underestimated, he also noted a number of worrying trends, such as the build-up of nuclear arms on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan, and the danger of a conventional conflict escalating to a nuclear one.

There is also a more general trend towards an “increased salience” of nuclear weapons, where changing strategic doctrines, particularly in the US, are giving nuclear weapons an expanded role in both military operations and national security dialogue, Kile said.

“I think the trend is moving away from where we were five years ago, where the world’s nuclear weapons were being marginalised,” Kile said.

Former UN chief Ban Ki-moon recently urged nuclear powers to “get serious” about disarmament and warned there was a “very real risk” that decades of work on international arms control could collapse following the US pullout of the Iran nuclear deal, which he said sent the wrong signal to North Korea.

Global disarmament efforts also suffered a blow when the United States announced in February it would withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, prompting Russia to say it would also suspend its participation.

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