Indian media poses hard-hitting questions to Erdogan who tries to corner India by raking up the Kashmir issue

Questions are being asked about visiting Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan by the Indian media over his human rights record within Turkey, who in turn has tried to pressurize India by raking up the Kashmir issue. The splinter groups affiliated to the Gulen movement of Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen who has been branded as a terrorist organization by Erdogan and who are fairly active in India, even managing several schools across the country, too have begun criticizing the Erdogan visit.

Erdogan’s Government responds to various criticisms by saying it is because of its courageous stand on issues like Palestinian rights, Syrian refugee crisis, etc. that the world is up in arms against it. It is to be noted that ahead of meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turkish President Erdogan had controversially suggested a “multi-lateral dialogue” to resolve the Kashmir issue to ensure peace in the region. “We should not allow more casualties to occur (in Kashmir). By having a multi-lateral dialogue, (in which) we can be involved, we can seek ways to settle the issue once and for all,” President Erdogan had told a local Turkish channel ahead of his visit to New Delhi.

“All around the world, there is no better option than keeping the channel of dialogue open. If we contribute towards global peace, we can get a very positive result,” he said.

Responding to this, Ruchi Ghanshyam, Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry  had said that India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir is very well known  that it is an integral part of the country. “We have always emphasised that India-Turkey relations stand on their own footing and, we believe, the Turkish side reciprocates our sentiment,” Ruchi Ghanashyam had said.

War of words between Gulen supporters based in Delhi and the Erdogan government too has escalated on the side-lines of the visit. While President Erdogan is known to carry his personalised, domestic, anti-Gulen agenda during his foreign trip. It is likely that he would push for his anti-Gulen agenda on his visit to New Delhi, including the Gulen-inspired schools and coaching institutions that are running in various parts of the country, whereas Indian Government need to be cautious in responding to Erdogan’s anti-Gulen request from legal and political point of view but also must take into consideration the relevance of the Gulen movement for integration of Indian Muslims in the country.

Erdogan’s raising of the Kashmir issue and his praise of Nawaz Sharif prior to his visit to India is being seen in the light of the hidden agenda that Erdogan carries and is likely to push forth during his India visit.

Turkish President’s visit to the Jamia Millia campus too has come in the storm. Some students and alumni have opposed Jamia’s decision to present Erdogan with an honorary doctorate degree claiming his involvement in “blatant human rights violation” and acting like “a dictator in Turkey”. Jamia, on the other hand, maintain that Erdogan is visiting Jamia because it is the only institution in the country which provides academic courses in Turkish language and literature and is citing the age-old Indo-Turkish relationship and the likely boost to educational relationship between the two countries that Erdogan’s Jamia visit is likely to give.

Destruction: Bush started it, Trump will complete

The fact that perhaps nowhere in the world, a leader elected through the process of elections has taken charge in the midst of such opposition within his country as he has not bothered him. The masses on the streets within his own country do not perturb him. The opposition from the larger world does not disturb him. He is shouting not only at his own people but also at the Prime Ministers of ally countries (Australia). If he succeeds in fulfilling his term of four years, in all probability he will end up leaving America a divided nation. Even the countries that willingly or unwillingly sided with it in its wars since 9/11 will be standing opposite to it?.. But almost always positives follow negatives. Trump’s mission of hatred has already started generating sympathies for Muslims within America as well as outside. It may herald a new revolution in America, which will hopefully make it a much more civilized nation caring for peace than it has been in the past century. It might well bring out a new phase of close relationship with not only certain Muslim rulers but the larger Muslim world.  The danger however is that  hopes are belied and hatred wins. If this happens, the Doomsday Clock will move rapidly towards Midnight. One can only wish Trump the megalomaniac finds someone who can soon treat him and make a normal person.

With 9/11 began the destruction of America. Not that the attack on Twin Towers was responsible for it. It began because America reacted wrongly, abruptly and unjustly. It did not take George W Bush more than a few minutes before he declared the attack a work of al-Qaeda. Instead of allowing the inquiries to establish the cause, it embarked on a mission of destruction. This was the “defining moment” for the US. It could have acted in many different ways. The delicateness of the position of the only Super Power of the world at that critical juncture was understandable. A tiger had been challenged in its own den. It was natural for the tiger to be furious, ready to pounce, whoever it thought could have been behind the attacks. Yet, instead of fighting ‘terrorism’ with human wisdom, it chose to fight it with the instincts of the wild animal. The US could have given a serious thought as to why there was a growing hatred in the Muslim world for its policies. It could have invited an international debate to discuss what was required to minimize the hatred. It could have taken Islamic clerics and intellectuals into confidence. Instead it chose to threaten the whole world; the jaw was demonstrated and the teeth ground implying that anyone not ready to abide the orders of the king would be crushed and engulfed. With all of its might, the US attacked Afghanistan, reduced its already dilapidated cities to ruins, killed thousands of innocents along with Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters and replaced the Government of Mullah Omar with its puppet government of Karzai.  The Muslim world was furious; their fury however had an empty jaw with no teeth.

Many Muslims had reconciled to the attacks by the US on Afghanistan. They felt it would perhaps silence the fury of the wounded tiger. The end of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime provided a golden opportunity again for the US to bury the hatchet and concentrate on improving the relationship with Muslim masses. It had already dismantled the infrastructure of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. It could have continued to hunt its elements while trying to befriend Muslims in general. But the tiger’s anger had not subsided. It was ready to engulf another prey, which in its mind, and only in its mind, was a threat to it; none in the world could see what the tiger was trying to show them. Without waiting for the UN inspectors to find Weapons of Mass Destruction, the US embarked upon a mission, which would prove to be nothing more than a mission of hatred: which would flare the flames of terrorism rather than extinguishing them; which would make ordinary Muslims believe the US and its allies were bent upon destroying, with their innumerable weapons of mass destruction, the very existence of their religion, their culture and their sovereignty.  What followed was nothing but shear madness. Iraq was invaded with the overwhelming might of the US and allied forces. Saddam Hussein was overthrown soon. But the real carnage followed after his exit. Even those who hated Saddam Hussein soon turned enemies of the allied forces. Insurgency emerged strongly and has continued even after several years of invasion. About three hundred thousands of Iraqis have lost lives. American and British forces started facing an uphill task in controlling the insurgency. Ultimately, they worked on an exit strategy.

But nothing has worked so far. The Iraq invasion has totally annihilated the sympathy that had been generated allover the world for the US in the wake of 9/11. The hatred for the US policies has now become ubiquitous. Subsequently, the US changed its strategy from imposing wars to encouraging civil wars and exporting armed rebellions.

In recent years, Western role has been prominently there in all the conflicts in the Middle East. But again, it can be seen that their weapons go to the side,which toes their lines, and against those which have refused to surrender to their diktats. And always, the media would blame the loss of lives on the forces that are not pro-West.

In his last two years, Obama seemed to have had some change of heart. He had perhaps started realizing the madness and showed signs of reversing the trend. In last few months of office, he tried to present himself as the epitome of peace. He had perhaps realized that the destruction is never one-sided. It soon starts hitting back the destroyer. America’s position has considerably declined as the sole world power. Obama to a certain extent succeeded in restoring the economy. But Trump is determined to undo whatever good Obama tried. Initially it looked possible that his loud talks were only a ploy to win the elections. But after taking over the White House, he looks determined to tread the road of destruction. Instead of acting as a leader, he is behaving like amegalomaniac who wants to impose his will on the whole world without caring even the least about the repercussions. The fact that perhaps nowhere in the world, a leader elected through the process of elections has taken charge in the midst of such opposition within his country as he has not bothered him. The masses on the streets within his own country do not perturb him. The opposition from the larger world does not disturb him. He is shouting not only at his own people but also at the Prime Ministers of ally countries (Australia). If he succeeds in fulfilling his term of four years, in all probability he will end up leaving America a divided nation. Even the countries that willingly or unwillingly sided with it in its wars since 9/11 will be standing opposite to it.

But almost always positives follow negatives. Trump’s mission of hatred has already started generating sympathies for Muslims within America as well as outside. It may herald a new revolution in America, which will hopefully make it a much more civilized nation caring for peace than it has been in the past century. It might well bring out a new phase of close relationship with not only certain Muslim rulers but the larger Muslim world.  The danger however is that hopes are belied and hatred wins. If this happens, the Doomsday Clock will move rapidly towards Midnight. One can only wish Trump the megalomaniac finds someone who can soon treat him and make a normal person.

Dr. Javed Jamil

Indian embassies abroad opening new frontiers in promoting bovine meat export

AbattoirHelp of the Indian embassies located in various meat consuming countries is being sought to promote bovine meat export from India. Owing to their tireless efforts, some embassies have been instrumental in giving a big leap forward in promoting Indian bovine meat export.

As per available reports, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) and All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association (AIMLEA) are working with various Indian embassies abroad to promote meat export in a big way. Efforts include organizing Roadshows on Indian Bovine Meat and inviting deputations from foreign countries to inspect slaughter houses and abattoirs and their meat processing and quarantine control mechanisms.

In one such development, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Government of Indonesia sent an audit team to India “to inspect abattoirs and research institutions, which confirmed that India has excellent mechanism of meat processing and quarantine control. The team was informed that India has more than 50 slaughter houses which are above international standards.

As per information available, based on the report submitted by the inspection team, H.E. Mr. Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia has signed a decree allowing ‘zone-based’ meat imports in which would allow the Indonesian government to open its market for Indian bovine meat from the month of Ramadan, which has already begun.

The Ambassador of India to Indonesia H.E. Ms. Nengcha Lhouvum

The Ambassador of India to Indonesia H.E. Ms. Nengcha Lhouvum

The Indian Embassy in Jakarta is seeing this as ‘a big leap forward in promoting bovine meat’. In April this year, Indian Embassy had organized a ‘Roadshow on Indian Bovine Meat’ in Jakarta, in collaboration with APEDA and AIMLEA, which was attended by senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Indonesian meat producers/importer associations (NAMPA, APMISO, ASPIDI, APFINDO, PPSKI, GKSI, GPMT), Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN), State Procurement/Logistics Agencies, private import houses and retailers, apart from the local media.

During the event, the Ambassador of India H.E. Ms. Nengcha Lhouvum, in her opening address had said that bovine meat is one of the prominent sectors which could help diversifying the exports from India that would ultimately benefit the Government and the people of Indonesia.

RoadshowOnIndianBovineMeatIt was also informed that India had been trying for market access for Indian bovine meat in Indonesia since 1999 and the recent decree signed by President of Indonesia in allowing ‘zone-based’ meat imports will go a long way in giving India a significant share in Indonesian meat market.

The Roadshow included a presentation projecting the strength of India as a consistent and quality supplier of bovine meat to Indonesia. India has a track record of 46 years in the export of de-boned and de-glanded frozen Buffalo meat to 64 countries worldwide. 100% of the meat exported from India is prepared strictly in compliance with Islamic requirements and is genuinely Halal.

APEDA and AIMLEA are committed to promote Indian meat export and assistance of other embassies of India too has been sought.


Taking cue from Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission, Indialogue Foundation organizes discussion on ‘Cleanliness in religions’

DSC08131 (1024x768)Indialogue Foundation organizes an annual iftar-dinner cum Interfaith Dialogue to enable followers of different faiths to talk, collaborate and live amicably, understand the views of different groups on various subjects, and share the common values and teachings, carried out in an atomospher of peace and openness, with love, respect and good intentions without any force or duress. Bilal Acikgoz, the suave dynamic president of Indialogue Foundation has, through his efforts, made this annual fixture an event to look out for. Foundation’s theme this year was ‘Cleanliness in Religions’, under inspiration form recently the most heavily highlighted campaign of ‘Swachh Bharat’. Needless to say, the luminaries and thinkers of religion and interfaith were present to express their views. Read on…

 By Aziz Haider

Distinguished gathering

Distinguished gathering

Cleanliness has become a buzz word today, courtesy Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Government through its various ministries is spending crores of rupees to achieve this task. Majority of people are hopeful we will be able to achieve our objective by the stipulated date of October 2nd, 2019. But the question that still lurks behind some of our minds is whether this task will indeed be achieved, considering the various impediments that rig the path.

Distinguished gathering

Distinguished gathering

Question is why we, a country with five centuries plus a great civilization and boasting of having followers of all the major religions of the world, have not moved ahead in this direction till now. Do our religions really focus on the subject of the cleanliness? If yes, where lies the focus? Discussion on this important subject was initiated at the behest of Indialogue Foundation in its Annual Interfaith Dialogue followed by Iftar Dinner, where scholars and experts of various religions spoke on the subject of ‘Cleanliness in Religions’, under inspiration from recently the most heavily highlighted campaign of ‘Swachh Bharat’. Indialogue Foundation seeks inspiration from US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is now having estranged relationships with present Turkish Government, which is seeking his extradition. The Foundation which works to facilitate interfaith understanding and communication has been organizing similar events since its inception in 2009.

Bilal Acikgoz

Bilal Acikgoz

Bilal Acikgoz, the President of Indialogue Foundation is of view that cleanliness is the major focus of most world religions and traditions. Quran highlights on purity of soul, heart and body. Islam has uniquely stressed on the subject of cleanliness when Prophet Mohammad said that purity and cleanliness is half of the faith. Islam gives great stress on both physical and spiritual cleanliness. From washing face, hands and feet five times a day as preparation for mandatory prayers, in the name of wudu, to various prescribed baths on various occasions, and keeping the surroundings clean, Islam also stresses on inner purification through seeking roohani or spiritual elevation and attaining purity through eradicating all evil thoughts and nature from mind in the name of Allah. It is the constant remembrance of the God in various acts that lead to spiritual elevation and thus spiritual purity. Roza or fasting is an example where the believer attempts to rid himself of all evils of body, mind and senses. Thus cleanliness has to take place in totality and not merely physically.

Cleanliness is very important facet that is highlighted in all religions. Being unclean is seen with contempt. Hinduism too has several prescribed ritual baths for various occasions. Hindus wash their feet before entering the temples. There are other rituals too that highlight cleanliness. Swachh Bharat campaign will really reach out to the masses when the campaign focusses through temples, mosques, madrasas, churches, synagogues and draws religious inspiration.

Swami Shantatmanand

Swami Shantatmanand

Swami Shantatmanand too is of view that the idea of cleanliness is centric to all religions. Swachhata or Cleanliness is one of the prerequisites of abhyasa yoga and a lot of stress has been put on it. Similarly the practice of taking bath before going to temple of before any important occasion or puja seeks to clean the physical body. Most religions talk of this journey from gross to subtle, so by way of observances, washing oneself, putting on clean clothes, similar rituals are followed by more and more inward journey towards attaining purity. Only the pure can really search God. Great emphasis is laid on internal purity. Similar to the practice of Karsewa, there is a similar practice among Hindus as well where devotees render service in temples. Physical purity like baths, putting on clean clothes, keeping the temples clean, etc. lead the adherent to inward journey towards purity.

Distinguished gathering

Distinguished gathering

In religious utterances, for example puja, stress is on cleaning external and internal parts. There are elaborate practices in various pujas, where different limbs of body are associated with different gods and goddesses and appropriate mantras are chanted thereby the worshipper becomes completely pure. Just as in Islamic concept of fasting, various fasts have been prescribed among the Hindus too. Fasting is not only to abstain from but it is to restrain the sense organs from their outward journey by making them inward-seeking. On Shivratri, the entire night of fasting is prescribed. Fasting is accompanied by lot many practices like meditating, prayers, japa, etc. Idea is that our body, which is the greatest impediment in self-realization, need to be conditioned through voluntary abstaining from food and we try to gain greater control over senses. Islam too prescribes lot of prayers, reading of Holy Quran and other such practices during fasting. All these practices are actually meant to help us evolve spiritually and move ahead in our inward journey.

Cleanliness of body is essential for cleanliness of mind, thus making us evolve as a spiritual person. It gives us insight to understand other religions which are actually trying to reach the same goal through various different paths. Ultimate goal is to reach supreme peace, supreme tranquility and supreme contentment.

Dr. M.D. Thomas

Dr. M.D. Thomas

Dr. MD Thomas, Chairman and Director of Institute of Harmony and Peace Studies, is of view that fasting makes us evolve as a better human being. It is an occasion to clean ourselves in mind, body, heart and spirit and also in our thoughts, words, sentiments and attitudes.

When we talk of cleanliness, normally our mind goes to ritual cleanliness. Though ritual cleanliness is important, Jesus has stressed more on internal cleanliness. He said, blessed are those who are pure in heart for they shall see God. Thus, to see God, purity of heart is essential. Cleanliness of body and mind is surely needed but also the cleanliness of concepts and understanding; that is why Jesus said what you do to other human beings, you actually do that to God.

Distinguished gathering

Distinguished gathering

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not just for government to achieve. Every human being has to contribute. Cleanliness will have to come out of the churches or places of worship like temples, gurudwarss, etc. and come to streets, parks, roads and our neighbourhood. Roughly half of our country is garbage. I wonder why religions, with their focus on cleanliness, have not inspired us to keep our surroundings clean. Religion will have to inspire and motivate us and come down to our ordinary lives otherwise it will only continue to talk of ritual purity whereas we will continue to live in filth and garbage.

Dr. MM Verma

Dr. MM Verma

Dr. MM Verma of Interfaith Foundation too opines cleanliness can be cleaning the physical body as well as the internal body. Roza or fasting is one means to achieve that. Clean mind and clean heart is absolute condition to achieve the desired goals. Kingdom of God is within us but God resides only in pure and clean hearts. So if we wish to see God, we will have to clean our heart.

Swami Nikhilanand

Swami Nikhilanand

Swami Nikhilanand of Chinmaya Mission is of view that one who has clean mind attain God. Cleanliness is next to godliness. It just does not mean outer environment but also cleanliness of our mind. If our mind is clean, it is easier for us to clean the outer world also. Cleanliness when it happens in the mind will lead to outer cleaning as well. We might talk of external dirt but real dirt is within our mind. If there is too much craving in the mind, it disturbs the outer environment also, resulting in pollution, and exploitation of nature. We want more and more, which is leading to severe societal problems. These impurities need to be cleaned. Fasting, not only prescribed among Muslims but in all other religions, is a beautiful means to clean body and mind. It helps us detach from various worldly lingering, and if truly practiced, may lead to cleanliness of heart as well as the surroundings.

Distinguished gathering

Distinguished gathering

Patanjali Yogshastra has talked of five niyams, one of which is ahimsa. Ahimsa could be being non-violent towards our environment and surroundings as well. The principle is that if we give something, it will return to us. Similarly, if we give uncleanliness, it will also return to us. Another basic principle is the thought that everything belongs to God. The air and water we take are not our creation. We should be grateful to God for these and one of the signs of being grateful is that we return it in the manner in which it was delivered to us. Hinduism talks of worshiping nature in the same sense. Worshiping means caring and being understanding. We remove the dirt from our homes and through it out because we feel it does not belong to us. But if we are grateful, we won’t do that. Another concept is aparigraha, not to won more than what is required. The fact that we are doing this is leading to imbalance of nature. One should try to possess as less as possible. If we develop this attitude, it will help environment as well. Worst thing that the humans have discovered is garbage. There is no garbage in nature. This creation of garbage too is consequence of our consumerist nature. Concept of Brahmcharya too means we must carry minimum in us, not only in outer possession but in the heart as well. If we do this, we will be able to see God and there will be happiness in our lives.

Mary Pat Fisher

Mary Pat Fisher

Mary Pat Fisher of Gobind Sadan, where people from different religions work, live and worship together, is of opinion that the aim of all activities prescribed by various religions is to clean our mind. The real temple of God is within us. The Noor or Light of God will shine and reflect in us only when we clean ourselves from within. As per the Sikh traditions, if the body is unclean it can be cleaned with soap but if the mind is dirty, it can only be cleaned with the colour of God i.e. the name of God. Cleaning with the colour of God is to be saturated with the love of God so much so that all external influences do not matter and the person’s starts showing the traits of godliness.

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey

Prof. Akhtarul Wasey is of view that all religions in the world have come with only one express purpose, i.e. to clean. Cleanliness not only from outside, of roads and houses, but to clean the man of inferiority complex, satanic thoughts and bad behaviour. All religions are united on this. Islam stresses a lot on cleanliness. Prophet Mohammad even described it as half of the faith. Ramazan is an attempt to cleanse ourselves, to train ourselves not under the duress of Governmental pressure but to cleanse ourselves internally and externally for the sake of remembrance of God. Fasting in the month of the Ramazan is a training for acquiring righteous traits and good habits that help a man cleanse oneself of all things that create problems in the society.

Rabbi Malekar

Rabbi Malekar

Rabbi Malekar, the rabbi of Delhi synagogue talk of cleanliness by saying that when we get up early in the morning, before doing the prayers, we are commanded to wash our hands. Only then we seek blessings of God who has enjoined us with cleaning of heart. When Moss went on Mount Sina and God asked Moses to remove his sandals, it meant he had to go with clear heart removing all preconceived notions of mind and go to the heart with clean heart.

There is great stress on purity in Judaism. The bath during menstrual period and other ritual baths like when we visit the cremation or burial ground are examples. Judaism stresses on cleaning all food, even vegetarian food. Fasting too has been prescribed as a means to attain purity.

Government is talking of cleaning the Ganges. It is unfortunate that despite such a great stress on cleanliness, all the discharge from toilets and bathrooms of thousands of ashrams in Rishikesh and Haridwar end up going into the Ganges. As Gandhi ji said, if you want to see change in the world, you must bring the change.

Prof. J.S. Rajput

Prof. J.S. Rajput

Prof. J.S. Rajput avers of the need for attitudinal transformation, if success is to be attained in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. It is not possible to attain attitudinal transformation by putting up hoardings or advertisements or giving speeches. Long term attitudinal generational transformation can be achieved only through education. And religion is one of the tools to bring about attitudinal transformation. That is why I am of opinion that basics of all religions must be taught to a child in school. He will not only know about need to achieve internal and external purity and will result in his transformation into a wholesome individual.

To sum up, RNI talked to renowned scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan to know his views on the subject. Says the Maulana: Cleanliness is a law of nature. Every part of nature is perfectly clean, for example the flowing water, flowers and trees. Islam is din al-fitrah, that is, a religion of nature. Therefore, Islam attaches great importance to cleanliness. Islam requires every man and woman to become Mr Clean and Ms Clean. They should strive to maintain cleanliness in their homes and society.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

According to a verse in the Quran, “God loves those who keep themselves clean.” (2:222) Similarly, the Prophet of Islam has said: At-tuhur shatr al-iman (Sahih Muslim) That is, ‘Cleanliness is a part of faith.’ Another saying of the Prophet in this regard is: ‘Indeed God is pure and loves the pure. He is clean and loves cleanliness.’ (Tirmidhi)

In Islam cleanliness is a comprehensive concept—it involves purity of the heart, mind and speech and purity in dealing, in individual and social conduct. In other words, cleanliness includes everything from the body to the soul.

The culture of cleanliness first leads to a clean individual, then a clean family and society and finally, a clean nation. Thus, the entire human life becomes clean.

Cleanliness gives rise to clean ethics. Where there is cleanliness higher ethics automatically come into play—thus values such as good behaviour, honesty, and dutifulness find encouragement. The truth is that cleanliness is a comprehensive idea, one which covers all the activities of human life.

RNI (Real News Intl.) News Agency

Delhiites unite in solidarity with Nepalese brethren

Muslim organizations too join the fray though sending humanitarian aid to Quake-torn Nepal

Nepal1As if taking cue from the great relief efforts being carried out by the Indian Army in Nepal, at the behest of PM Narendra Modi’s commendable decision to provide all type of aid to Nepal almost immediately after the intensity of damage caused by the earthquake began trickling in, sections of Delhi’s civilian society has intensified its efforts to collect humanitarian aid on war-footing and send it to their brethren in quake-ravaged Nepal. Not to be left behind, certain Muslim organizations too are collecting all type of aid through community efforts and are even hiring a private plane to carry the goods and deliver them to the Nepalese authorities in Kathmandu.

Students of one of the leading private schools in Delhi – Ahlcon International School – have initiated efforts on their own to collect relief material and send it to Kathmandu through the Nepalese embassy in India.

When Ragini and Mahika – students of Class XII in Ahlcon International School in Delhi, expressed desire to their teachers that showing empathy to their brethren in Nepal meant they should stand in their hour of grief, their teachers not only welcomed their initiative but brought the subject to the knowledge of Ashok Kumar Pandey – the Principal. Pandey almost immediately called the two students to the Principal’s room and gave them the go-ahead saying that if the two students really feel something should be done for the Nepalese brothers and sisters, then the school is with them and it will do everything possible to help Ragini and Mahika in their desire to be of help to the survivors of quake in Nepal.

Says Pandey: “It is always our attempt to make our students at Ahlcon International aware of the issues and problems of the world outside and not just see them as a spectator but empathize with them. So when we got to know that certain students wish to do something for quake survivors, we gave them the go-ahead.”

Ragini and Mahika went from class to class, reminding students of the great human tragedy that has befallen Nepal and need to do something. “Most of the children we spoke to,” says Ragini, “said that they would bring whatever they could, tents, medicines, clothes, dry food items, packaged drinking water, etc. the next day.” However, as a note of precaution, the school authorities instructed that whatever the parents willingly feel like sending would be welcome.

Ragini and Mahika are now spearheading the collection efforts on behalf of students while the school authorities are helping them in the logistics like talking to the Nepalese Embassy in Delhi and making arrangements to ensure that the collected items do reach the intended beneficiaries. Enthusiasm is immense among the students and all type of items that may be of use are being collected. To give an example, Wajeeh and Shabih, siblings studying in the same school, have decided to send powder-milk for children besides cough, cold and fever medicines for children.

Not merely the schools, various social and community organizations too have begun the collection drive on war-footing. Social Workers Association, an organization of social workers from North India, is collecting relief material to be sent to Nepal.

Not to be left behind, Muslims of Noida claiming to be ‘Ali walas’ have decided to send relief material for Nepal earthquake victims. Group Captain Siraj Mehdi has offered to arrange an aircraft which will be sending 2 tonnes of relief material to Nepal on Friday.

Informs Col. Badar Zaidi and Ashjay Raza Zaidi of Noida: “We want to send ready to eat food material and some hygienic items. Blankets, clothes, tents, and household items, etc. are also being collected. The community members are even donating cash, which all will be handed directly to the authorities in Nepal.”

Says Col. Badar Zaidi: “This is the lunar month of Rajab in which Imam Ali was born. Imam Ali used to move around in the wee hours of night distributing food to the poor and destitute. While he was the Caliph of Muslims, he made a public announcement that if there was one person in the entire region who slept without food or had no clothes to wear, he should come forward. None came forward.” Col. Zaidi talks of the lofty teachings of Imam Ali which have unfortunately been forgotten. “Through helping our Nepalese brothers in distress, we wish to follow the footsteps of Imam Ali, who will always be a beacon of guidance for all Shia Muslims,” says Zaidi.

RNI News Agency


Focus on need to develop bilateral trade and enhance tourism potential between Turkey and India during TICCI’s Delhi Chapter launch

DSC07633 (1024x648)Business elite, social dignitaries and heads of several prominent business chambers in India were present when Turkish Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry launched its Delhi Chapter at a program in The Lalit, Delhi. The event saw thrust on need to develop bilateral trade and promote commercial links between the two countries. The great tourism potential of the two countries also remained subject of discussion during the event.

Turkish Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TICCI) is a business chamber under the umbrella of Tuscon which is a confederation of businessmen and industrialists of Turkey. With its 55,000 members of business people representing about 1,40,000 companies, Tuscon is the largest non-government organization in the Turkish business community. Under Tuscon umbrella there are 7 regional business federations and 212 business affiliations. In India, the first Indo-Turkish Business Association (ITBA) was established in 2005. During the last 10 years, trade between the two countries has increased from 400 US dollars to 7 million US dollars by the efforts of ITBA. TICCI, established last year, already has six branches in India at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Chennai and during the launch of the sixth branch, the business and industrial pundits hoped to work for enhancing the present levels of trade and commerce between the two countries.

Speaking on the occasion, TICCI president Ersin Karaoglan said the main objective of TICCI is to develop bilateral trade and facilitate contacts for exports, joint ventures and alliances. He said his organization will work to promote the “Make in India” campaign to attract Turkish companies to invest in Indian manufacturing. He also said construction, medical tourism, infrastructure and automotive parts business are some of the areas that hold potential for joint ventures between Turkish and Indian companies.

DSC07624 (1024x726)Ersin Karaoglan informed that the value of commerce between the two countries was about $6billion in 2014, with the balance of trade in India’s favour. Dr. Jyotsna Suri said TICCI and FICCI shall jointly explore opportunities to develop commerce and industry in India between the two countries. She laid great emphasis on need to enhance tourism between the two countries, which will further facilitate trade growth. Elaborating on the potential and need to develop relations across all fields, DS Rawat announced Assocham will soon dedicate a desk to focus on business with Turkey.

As per information available with RNI, more than 150 Indian companies have registered businesses in Turkey in the form of joint ventures, trade and representative offices. These include Polyplex, GMR Infrastructure, Tata Motors, Mahindra & Mahindra, Reliance, Ispat, Aditya Birla Group, Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd, Jain Irrigation, Wipro and Dabur. The event saw several Indian companies expressing interest in joint ventures with Turkish companies.

Turkish companies having presence in India include Limak Construction, Fernas, Sarar, Soktas and Izopoli-Kingspan, and Hidromas. Kamal Faruqi, a prominent social worker from Delhi, informed RNI, that certain Turkish organizations were already doing commendable work in India in the realm of education.

DervishDanceTICCI’s launch event at the Lalit Hotel in New Delhi was attended by a number of prominent people. They included President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) – Dr. Jyotsna Suri; President of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry – Alok B. Shriram; Secretary-General of Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) – D.S. Rawat; former Indian ambassador to Kazakhstan and Secretary, National Foundation for Communal Harmony – Ashok Sajjanhar; President of Arya Samaj – Swami Agnivesh; Director of UN Information Center in India Kiran Mehra; Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vijay Jolly; and, TICCI Vice President Mehmet Ali Seker.

The launch of TICCI-Delhi Chapter, felicitation and speeches by guests of honours was followed by a scintillating performance by whirling dervish dancers from Turkey, which enthralled the audience.


DSC07619 (1024x768)TICCI President Ersin Karaoglan welcomed the distinguished guests and pledged greater two-way business possibilities between Turkey and India. He said the six offices of TICCI are already interacting with various Chambers and Industrial Houses in India and said there are many opportunities for investment in a country as big as India. He said Turkey has developed its infrastructure tremendously and expressed hope this expertise can be used to develop infrastructure in India. He said several Turkish companies are gearing up to invest about one trillion US dollars in India in different infrastructure projects, besides investing in education and tourism sector.

Karaoglan informed that Turkey is strategically situated as an entry point to Europe and Indian companies and industries are likely to benefit tremendously through initiating business with Turkey. He cited the similarities between India and Turkey and said both the countries are fast growing, both are secular countries, both are democratic and both have stood for peace in the world. He said TICCI will direct its efforts to pursue Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ plan.

He also talked about travel and tourism opportunities in Turkey and informed that the number of Indians going to Turkey has increased from 60,000 to 1,20,000 in previous years.

DSC07634 (912x1024)Dr. Jyotsna Suri, President FICCI who is also chairperson and managing director of Bharat Hotels which runs the luxury hotel chain The Lalit, has been vigorously promoting travel and tourism to India. She congratulated formation of TICCI and said the name TICCI was very close to FICCI. Commending the great efforts of TICCI during recent past, she said: “We, in FICCI, must learn from TICCI.”

Dr. Suri informed FICCI has been working with Istanbul for promotion of trade and economic relations between two countries. She said FICCI has organized 14 business delegations to Turkey and she herself has led one of these delegations. She expressed hope India and Turkey, in future, will continue to explore the opportunities which can help the two countries. “We have common interests and I believe there are numerous opportunities for Indians traveling to Turkey and Turkish people traveling to India,” she said. She wished the new venture huge success and hoped they will continue to work together for a long time to come.

DSC07636 (1024x1007)Mr. Alok B. Shriram, President, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was established in 1905 as a proactive and dynamic apex organization working at grass-root level and with international linkages, said PHD works for economic growth and development of nation through skilling India and contributes significantly through socio-economic development in several fields. Mr. Shriram passed his wishes to TICCI for opening the Delhi chapter and resolved PHD’s commitment towards promoting trade and economic relations between both countries in the years to come. He said PHD Chamber is committed to promote Prime Minister’s idea of ‘Make in India’ and inclusive growth for all.

Mr. Shriram said “PHD is representative of the industry through over 48,000 direct and indirect members. It has been a leading Indian chamber ever since it was established in 1905 and has mobilized interactions with over 60 worldwide chambers. Last year in 2014, PHD Chamber and Turkish Chamber signed an MoU. We will be exchanging visits of business delegations between two countries.” He talked of cultural similarities between two countries besides in art, costume and cuisine and said both countries are strategically located and can be of immense benefit to each other. “Past few years has seen great positive movement in enhancement of economic relationships between two countries,” he said but felt there is still huge scope as current trade does not even amount to 1% of the trade of two countries put together.

DSC07637 (1024x985)DS Rawat, Secretary-General Assocham said opening of TICCI office in Delhi was another feather in the cap of TICCI and Assocham and TICCI are looking forward to work together to enhance trade and commerce opportunities between two countries. Working since 1920, Assocham has in its fold more than 300 chambers and trade and trade associations and more than 4 lakh members from all over India. It has contributed significantly by playing a leading role in shaping up the trade, commerce and industrial environment of the country. Mr. Rawat said business with Turkey will serve as gateway for trade into Middle-East and also in the European mainland. He talked of engagement with Turkey in infrastructure, construction projects, defence, automobile industry, ship building, aviation and tourism. “Both countries have great history behind them and with their great diversity both countries should become favourite tourist destinations of people from the other country,” Rawat said. He also said India and Turkey are truly emerging markets and the MoU which Assocham has signed with TICCI shall be implemented in true spirit.

DSC07639 (803x1024)Kiran Mehra, Director, UN Information Centre in India wants UNIC to be interpreted as UN India Connect. Otherwise standing for United Nations Information Centre, UNIC was the first UN office to be opened in India in 1947. The Centre represents the UN Secretariat and its director is the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General.

Mrs. Mehra said the launch of Turkish India Chamber of Commerce and Industry is likely to bring together a powerful partnership between two great countries. She talked of the amazing experience she had at the Mediterranean Resorts of Turkey. She also talked of mystical motion of whirling dervishes, a dance form which was popularized by Sufi Saint Rumi. She said Sufi tradition has always been of tolerance and peace and for this UNESCO in 2007, celebrated the 800th birth anniversary of Rumi in collaboration of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkey. “India and Turkey have similar traditions and the launch of TICCI not only brings together the trade ties between two countries in commerce and industry but is sure to strengthen the ties of humanity,” she said.

DSC07642 (1024x900)Arya Samaj’s Swami Agnivesh talked of the great Sufi traditions of Turkey. He said Indians have a tradition of seeing divine in every human being. All humanity is one. He compared these lofty Indian traditions with the Sufi traditions of love and peace. He said Turkey represents a great civilization known for its educational and cultural endeavours. Rumi was a great asset to whole of humanity. He said at a time when there is so much of religious fundamentalism, the coming together of Turkey and India will be of great importance. He also said the most important thing that is common between the two countries is culture. He laid emphasis on need for more cultural exchanges but expressed satisfaction that the two countries are coming together in the field of trade and commerce. He also praised the tourism potential of Turkey and remembered his own experiences during his visit to Turkey.

DSC07644 (1018x1024)Vijay Jolly, all-India Incharge and prabhari of Tripura state and all-India Incharge and secretary of BJP’s overseas affairs committee marvelled at the representation of FICCI, PHD and Assocham at the launch of TICCI and said it was no small occasion that these apex business chambers were present together. He said launch of TICCI was a great occasion for the two great countries. He said people to people diplomacy starts by trade and industry; by joining hands and through tourism. He talked of beautiful dances of Turkey, the great cultural ethos of Turkey and said that the need of the hour was to bring the two civilizations together and work on people to people level. He said he hope the two countries will use all their energies to channelize efforts in this direction.

DSC07646 (1024x972)Mr. Ashok Sajjanhar, Secretary of National Foundation for Communal Harmony and former Ambassador of India to several countries talked of his association with Turkey and the beauty and serenity of the country. He emphasised upon the high quality infrastructure that Turkey has built, be it road and rail connectivity, stadia, buildings, etc. He said this was one area in which there are great opportunities for two countries to share their experiences. He also talked of great tourism potential between the two countries. He said though there has been an increase of tourist flow between the two countries but the present number of tourist exchange is nothing in comparison to the immense potential. He also talked of the Sufi traditions of Turkey and said since it is supposed to be the century of Asia, Turkey and India shall stand together for enhancingDSC07647 (981x1024) cooperation in all fields.

Vice President of TICCI and Founder of TICCI Mehmet Ali Seker who organized the event thanked all the speakers and valuable guests for their presence. He hoped that this would serve as a base for great business and cultural relations between the two countries. He also thanked the apex chambers viz. FICCI, PHD and Assocham and their representatives, who all have signed MoUs with TICCI, and hoped of greater and stronger ties in future.


RNI News Agency

H.E. Ms. Megawati Soekarnoputri, former President of Indonesia, inaugurates Sabahat India – The Festival of India

Indian embassy in Jakarta

Indian embassy in Jakarta

Sahabat India 2015 – The Festival of India in Indonesia got off to a glittering start on the occasion of the 66th Republic Day of India with a mesmerizing performance by world renowned Grammy Award winning musician Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt at the Jakarta Theatre on 26th January. The festival was inaugurated by H. E. Ms. Megawati Soekarnoputri, former President of Indonesia and Chairperson of PDI-P, in the presence of Minister of Trade H. E. Mr. Rachmat Gobel and H. E. Mr. Gurjit Singh, Ambassador of India to Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

The packed auditorium was enthralled by the Mohan Veena maestro Pandit Bhatt and accompanying tabla maestro Pandit Ram Kumar Mishra. Audience comprised of political and business leaders, Ambassadors and diplomats, senior Indonesian officials, Indian nationals and Persons of Indian Origin. Among notable Indonesian personalities present in the audience were Minister for Manpower and Transmigration H. E. Mr. M. Hanif Dhakiri, Golkar Leader Mr. Aburizal Bakri, fashion designer Didiet Maulana, celebrity chef Farah Quinn, famous singer Titiek Puspa and travel blogger Trinity.

Chief Guest for the evening Ms. Soekarnoputri in her remarks recalled the glorious trade and cultural ties between the two countries as also the deep, abiding friendship between India and Indonesia in different dimensions. She touched an emotional chord with the audience as she fondly recalled how India was the first country to acknowledge Indonesia’s independence. She expressed the hope that the Festival of India will rekindle the spirit of camaraderie between the peoples of the two countries, especially among the youth.

Ambassador Gurjit Singh, India's Ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor Leste

Ambassador Gurjit Singh, India’s Ambassador to Indonesia, ASEAN and Timor Leste

Minister of Trade Rahmat Gobel conveyed the greetings of the Government and the people of Indonesia, and hailed the steady growth in bilateral trade and investment as reflection of the dynamism in the relationship. He hoped that the decision to launch negotiations on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement would further contribute to growth in mutual trade and investment, and mentioned the firm resolve of Indonesian President H. E. Mr. Joko Widodo and Prime Minister of India H.E. Mr. Narendra Modi to work towards fructifying the strategic partnership.

Ambassador Gurjit Singh in his welcome remarks hailed the Sahabat India Festival as the most ambitious cultural outreach initiative by the Embassy ever undertaken in Indonesia. The festival that celebrates the myriad colours of India through a mélange of folk music and dance, classical performances, cinema, food and fashion, education and literary fairs, business and trade delegations, art and artisans, paintings and sculptures, will travel to 16 cities in Indonesia over the next four months.

The event started with the rendering of the National Anthems of India and Indonesia by school children of Gandhi Memorial Indonesian School, Jakarta. A photographic exhibitions depicting friendship between India and Indonesia since the days of President Soekarno till now, and another one by Benoy K. Behl on ‘Islamic Monuments in India.

Forthcoming visit to India of the President of the Russian Federation will provide fresh impetus to our already vibrant bilateral relations: P.S. Raghavan – India’s ambassador to Russia

A few days prior to day-long visit of Russian President Vladmir Putin to New Delhi, RNI presents here an interview of Indian Ambassador to Russia HE PS Raghavan, on Indo-Russian contacts, the future world scenario and strategic role of the two countries in world events.

rusindQ: Your Excellency, Ambassador, could you tell what are the main bilateral cooperation matters will be discussed in India during the upcoming visit of the Russian President Vladimir Putin? What results does India expect from the Russian official visit?

HE PS Raghavan: This is the first India-Russia Summit with the new government in office in India. The two leaders have already met twice this year but the Annual Summit gives them the opportunity to comprehensively review the current status of our relations, which cover virtually every area of human endeavor, and to articulate their vision for the course of our strategic and privileged partnership in the coming years. Besides, we expect that at the Summit a number of decisions would be made to further strengthen our cooperation in the field of defence, nuclear energy, space, trade & investment, hydrocarbons & other natural resources, science & technology, health, education, media and culture. There are particularly exciting opportunities to enhance our economic cooperation to the level commensurate with the complementarities between the economies of our two countries.

Q: Russia for the past few years has intensified its strategic cooperation with the East. Does India, as a growing nation and an economic power, want to be a part of this growing activity?

HE PS Raghavan: History, geography, politics, economy and culture link India intimately with the Southeast Asian and East Asian regions. We are already engaged with our eastern partners – both bilaterally and multilaterally. The recent visits of our Prime Minister to Japan and Myanmar (for the India-ASEAN & East Asia Summit, where he met the leaders of countries of the region) are indicative of the depth and priorities of our relationship with the region. We have also had important visits to India from the region, including that of the President of the People’s Republic of China. At the ASEAN Summit in Myanmar, our Prime Minister unveiled the ‘Act East’ policy to begin a new era of economic development, industrialization and trade ties with our eastern partners.

Q: What are the perspectives of India joining the Eurasian Economic and Customs Union in the nearest future?

Indian ambassador to Russia, P.S. Raghavan

Indian ambassador to Russia, P.S. Raghavan

HE PS Raghavan: We have been in regular discussion with the Eurasian Economic Commission about measures to strengthen the economic engagement between India and the Customs Union, which will soon become an Economic Union. We expect to create concrete institutional mechanisms soon for structured discussions on this between India and the Union.

Q: Your Excellency, what impact may western sanctions against Russia and Russian sanctions against the EU (that were imposed in response to the American and the EU sanction regime) have on the Russian-Indian bilateral interaction? What are the industries that have the greatest potential in current conditions?

HE PS Raghavan: The relations between India and Russia have always been characterized by long-standing friendship and mutual trust. Our relations are not determined by external factors. We continue to make strong efforts to strengthen our bilateral interactions, particularly by increasing trade exchanges and exploring avenues for stepping up mutual investments.

Q: As for the Russian-Indian economic cooperation, experts from both sides agreed on the fact that it does not fit with the current level of political partnership. What are the reasons for the slow grow of our economic cooperation?

HE PS Raghavan: I believe that the main reason is lack of full awareness about opportunities available in the Russian market for the Indian business community and vice-versa. Other than this, all conditions are in fact very favorable to a quantum jump in trade and investment flows. Our bilateral relationship is strong; we have regular people-to-people exchanges and many cultural affinities; and there are complementarities in our economies that encourage mutually beneficial economic exchanges. I think more regular exchanges of business delegations and participation in business-to-business meetings should promote this objective. We are working on a number of initiatives to promote more efficient information flows between the two countries, including stronger cooperation between regions.

Q: Your Excellency, can you share your opinion on current level of the Russian-Indian political partnership?

HE PS Raghavan: India and Russia have enjoyed a long-standing relationship of friendship and mutual trust, spanning over many decades. It is a partnership built on shared convictions, strategic convergences and identity or similarity of use on major issues of international concern. Our political relations are reflected in an extensive network of bilateral consultations mechanisms, as well as cooperation within the United Nations, G-20, BRICS and a number of other formal and informal multilateral groupings. Our political relations are enriched by regular exchanges of high level bilateral visits, including at the highest levels and between our Parliaments. Besides the practice of Annual Summit meetings, which has continued since 2000, our leaders also meet in various other settings. Our PM and President Putin have already met twice in the last six months – on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in July and at the G-20 Summit in November. Our PM also met the PM of the Russian Federation on the margins of the East Asia Summit in November. We are confident that the forthcoming visit to India of the President of the Russian Federation will provide fresh impetus to our already vibrant bilateral relations.

Q: As far as the Russian-Indian Corridor is concerned, many experts believe that it can do wonders and boost the mutual trade volumes between two countries. What needs to be done in order for this transit route to become an active instrument of our economic cooperation?

HE PS Raghavan: Recently, the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of Government of India had conducted a trial run on the proposed International North-South Transport Corridor. The results of the study indicate that there will be considerable saving in the transportation time as well as the freight cost if the cargo is exported from India to Russia through this corridor which will start from Mumbai to Bandar Abbas port in Iran, pass through Iran and then to Astrakhan in Russia over the Caspian Sea. We need to encourage exporters, freight forwarders and shipping companies to use this route in order to make it financially viable. The route has the potential to transform trading relations between our two countries.

Q: Your Excellency, these days Russia and China have been very successful in using their national currencies in mutual trade. Is there an intention to shift to national currencies of India and Russia from dollar in bilateral trade?

HE PS Raghavan: India and Russia are working towards use of national currencies in bilateral trade. The Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of Russia are in the process of evolving modalities for settlement of transactions in national currencies. We feel that trading in local currencies will help enhance our bilateral economic and trade relations.

Q: During the last visit of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to India in June countries discussed the possibility of Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ-100) planes to be assembled in India. Do we witness a shift in bilateral ties with the emphasis on military cooperation between two counties?

HE PS Raghavan: Since the coming to office of a new government in India, India and Russia have been in discussions on a number of new economic cooperation initiatives. The ‘Make in India’ initiative launched by our PM in September this year has received an enthusiastic response in Russia. We are discussing a number of proposals for joint manufacturing in India for systems and equipment, both for defence and for civilian applications. This has included aircraft and helicopters. We are confident that in the near future, we will take up a number of such projects for joint manufacturing.

Q: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among 50 contenders for the Time magazine’s ‘Person of the Year 2014’ title to be announced next month. How does the Indian society react to theis news? Isn’t it another occasion to celebrate the Indian national pride?

HE PS Raghavan: You are aware that in the recent parliamentary elections, India gave a decisive mandate to PM Modi. His new government has launched a number of initiatives to spur growth and development in India and to strengthen India’s network of external relationships. We take pride in this new dynamism and we are always happy when the achievements of our country and of our PM get due recognition within and outside the country.

Q: Your Excellency, can you share your opinion on the outcome of the situation with five Indian fisherman that were sentenced to death in Sri Lanka and just recently were released after President Mahinda Rajapaksa commuted their death penalty. The issue of fishermen is a very emotive matter for both Sri Lanka and India. Do you consider a fact of their release as a victory of the Indian diplomacy?

HE PS Raghavan: Sri Lanka is a close neighbor and valued partner of India. We have a tradition of resolving any bilateral issues that may arise in the framework of our strong and multifaceted bilateral relations, which includes a close rapport between the leaders of our two countries.

Q: On the 6th BRICS summit in Brazil the group of countries signed the document to create the US$100 billion BRICS Development Bank and a reserve currency pool worth over another US$100 billion. In the light of the event, what are the perspectives and a role of BRICS at the world arena?

HE PS Raghavan: There is immense potential for intra-BRICS cooperation, as they constitute over 30% of the world land area, 42% of population and 21% of the global GDP. Besides, as our Prime Minister noted at the BRICS Summit, the member countries can intensify cooperation on counter terrorism, cyber-security, climate change, reform of the UNSC and in shaping the post-2015 development agenda, as well as the international trade regime under the WTO, so as to restore a climate of peace and stability in the world.

Q: BRICS partners plan to establish a system of multilateral swaps that will allow to transfer resources to one or another country. Experts believe that if the current trend continues, soon the dollar will be abandoned by most of the economies-members of BRICS. Can you share your opinion regarding this trend?

HE PS Raghavan: That is a very large question. I would like to focus on our bilateral situation. As I mentioned, India and Russia have been discussing trade in national currencies as an initiative to significantly increase the volume of bilateral exchanges of goods. Our Central Banks have recently set up a Joint Working Group to work out modalities. There have also been talks between the Export-Import Bank of India (EXIM Bank) and the Vnesheconombank for a guarantees cooperation arrangement, by which they would facilitate loans in local currencies for Indian and Russian companies seeking to invest in each others’ countries. This arrangement could boost mutual investment.

Interview by Svetlana Alexandrovna
Courtesy: Sputnic News Agency

Secularists world over unite to create a new front

secularismSecularists and civil society workers from the across the world have united under a banner to form a new front by the name International Front against Religious-Rights and for Secularism.  Some of the most prominent names the world over have joined in the mission with an aim to unite people and make them stand up to establish an international front against the religious rights and for secularism.

The core objectives of the front include:

1. Complete separation of religion from the state. Secularism is a fundamental right.

2. Separation of religion from public policy, including the educational system, health care and scientific research.

3. Abolition of religious laws in the family, civil and criminal codes. An end to discrimination against and persecution of LGBT, religious minorities, women, freethinkers, ex-Muslims, and others.

4. Freedom of religion and atheism and freedom to criticise religions. Belief as a private affair.

5. Equality between women and men and citizenship rights for all.

The front was given a final shape during the International Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London recently.  A signature campaign has been initiated which has already drawn close to 1000 signatories so far.

A press release by the Front says: ‘Our era is marked by the rise of the religious-Right – not because of a “religious revival” but rather due to the rise of far-Right political movements and states using religion for political supremacy. This rise is a direct consequence of neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism and the social policies of communalism and cultural relativism. Universalism, secularism and citizenship rights have been abandoned and segregation of societies and “communities” based on ethnicity, religion and culture have become the norm.” The Front cites various rightist organizations the world over and is asking people to fight against them. This includes the RSS in India.  Says the release: “The Islamic State (formerly ISIS), the Saudi regime, Hindutva (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) in India, the Christian-Right in the US and Europe, Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka, Haredim in Israel, AQMI and MUJAO in Mali, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria are examples of this.”

“For many decades now, people in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and the Diaspora have been the first victims but also on the frontlines of resistance against the religious-Right (whether religious states, organisations and movements) and in defence of secularism and universal rights, often at great risk to their lives. We call on people everywhere to stand with us to establish an international front against the religious-Right and for secularism.”

Few initial signatories to the campaign include AC Grayling (Philosopher), Aliyah Saleem (Secular Education Campaigner), Amel Grami (Professor at the Tunisian University of Manouba), Bahram Soroush (Social and Political Analyst), Ben Baz Aziz (Presenter at Arab Atheist broadcasting), Caroline Fourest (French Writer and Editor), Chris Moos (LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society), Chulani Kodikara (International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Sri Lanka), Daphna Baram (Israeli-born human rights lawyer, journalist and comedian), Elham Manea (Yemeni Writer and Human Rights Activist), Faizun Zackariya (Citizens for Justice, Sri Lanka), Fariborz Pooya (Host of Bread and Roses TV), Fatou Sow (International Director of Women Living Under Muslim Laws), Gita Sahgal (Director of Centre for Secular Space), Hamid Taqvaee (Secretary of the Central Committee of the Worker-Communist Party of Iran), Horia Mosadiq (Human Rights and Women’s Rights Activist from Afghanistan), Imad Iddine Habib (Founder of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco), Inna Shevchenko (Leader of FEMEN), Julie Bindel (Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize and Justice for Women), Kacem El Ghazzali (Moroccan secularist writer and blogger), Kate Smurthwaite (Comedian and Activist), Kiran Opal (Writer, LGBTQ/Human Rights Campaigner, Co-founder Ex-Muslims of North America), Lila Ghobady (Iranian writer-journalist and documentary filmmaker), Magdulien Abaida (Libyan Activist and President of Hakki (My Right) Organization for Women Rights), Marieme Helie Lucas (Algerian Founder of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue), Maryam Namazie (Iranian Spokesperson for One Law for All, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Fitnah), Nadia El Fani (Tunisian Filmmaker), Nahla Mahmoud (Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain), Nina Sankari (Vice-President of the Atheist Coalition, Poland), Nira Yuval-Davis ( a founder member of Women Against Fundamentalism and the International Research Network on Women in Militarized Conflict Zone), Pervez Hoodbhoy (Pakistani Nuclear Physicist and Social Activist), Peter Tatchell (Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation), Pragna Patel (Director of Southall Black Sisters), Ramin Forghani (Founder of Ex-Muslims of Scotland), Rumy Hassan (Senior Lecturer at University of Sussex and author), Sameena Zehra (comedian and blues singer), Sanal Edamaruku (President of Rationalist International), Soad Baba Aissa (Founder of the Association for Mixing, Equality and Secularism), Sue Cox (Founder of Survivors Voice Europe), Sultana Kamal (a lawyer, human rights activist and Executive Director of Ain o Salish Kendra in Bangladesh), Terry Sanderson (President of the National Secular Society) and Yasmin Rehman (Women’s Rights Activist).

Vietnam Club of Ambassadors formed

Hon'ble Ambassador of Vietnam to Thailand, HE Nguyen Tat Thanh

Hon’ble Ambassador of Vietnam to Thailand, HE Nguyen Tat Thanh

Hon'ble Ambassador of India to Thailand HE Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Hon’ble Ambassador of India to Thailand HE Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Vietnam Club of Ambassadors with spouses

Vietnam Club of Ambassadors with spouses

In a unique gathering of sort, on the occasion of the formation of the Vietnam Club of Ambassadors, the guests were treated to a superb dinner hosted by the Ambassador of Vietnam to Thailand HE Mr. Nguyen Tat Thanh and his wife. Vietnam Club of Ambassadors includes all the ambassadors presently resident in Bangkok but who have served previously in Vietnam.

Guests were the Ambassadors of Denmark, Germany, UK and India with their spouses. The Indian Ambassador to Thailand, Mr. Harsh Vardhan Shringla was invited owing to the fact that he has previously served in Vietnam. Mr. Shringla too has previously served as Consul General in Vietnam, besides Ho Chi Minh City and Durban. Mr. Shringla has also held a variety of positions in New Delhi and in Indian Missions in Paris, Hanoi and Tel Aviv. He has also served as Minister/Counsellor in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, New York. Prior to taking up his post in Thailand, Mr. Shringla served in the Ministry of External Affairs as Joint Secretary (Director General) responsible for Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives. Mr. Shringla has also headed the United Nations Political and SAARC Divisions in the Ministry. Earlier, he served as Director of the Northern (Nepal and Bhutan) Division and Deputy Secretary of the Europe West Division. Mr. Shringla assumed his present position as Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Thailand and Permanent Representative to UNESCAP on 19 January 2014.

The new initiative by the Ambassador of Vietnam is being seen as a PR exercise to keep the contacts alive.