After a morning of uproar in the Lok Sabha on Monday over the issue of 39 Indians missing in Mosul, Iraq, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said that there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that they have died. “And declaring anyone dead without proof is a sin that I won’t commit,” she said.
“There has been no contact with those missing so far. We have one person saying that the missing Indians have been killed, while 6 other sources say that they are not dead,” Swaraj said. She also went on to point out that Iraq has not officially announced the death of the missing Indians either.
File image of Sushma Swaraj. PTI
The Punjab Congress on Sunday accused the external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj of “misleading” the country on the fate of 39 Indians abducted in Iraq and asked her to provide “credible information” on the issue.
“It is very easy for me to say that the 39 Indians are dead. No one including their families will ask me anything after that,” Swaraj said on Wednesday. “If people are convinced that the missing Indians are dead and think that I am lying, let them go and tell those family members what they believe.”
She also denied saying that the missing Indians are currently in a jail in Mosul. “As per the last intel report, they were housed in jail in beginning of 2016,” she said.
Wednesday’s speech in Lok Sabha comes ahead of Iraq foreign minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s five-day visit to India, starting Monday. While geo-political and economic affairs will be a part of the bilateral talks with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, the Iraqi foreign minister’s visit is also expected to help efforts to locate the 39 missing Indian.
With India and China involved in a prolonged standoff in the Sikkim region, resulting in deterioration of ties between the two nations, the upcoming visit of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to Beijing was initially thought to bring some respite. However, with Chinese officials and their state media ratchetting up rhetoric against India, there are several reports which have said that a meaningful dialogue between Doval and Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi is highly unlikely.
Doval is set to travel to Beijing to attend the BRICS NSAs meeting scheduled to be held from 27 July to 28 July. Despite hinting that a bilateral meet could take place between Doval and Yang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said, “We once again urge India to pull back its troops to the Indian side of the boundary. I want to stress again that this is the precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides.”
As this Firstpostarticle noted, New Delhi has been expecting that Doval’s visit would mark a turning point and result in neutralisation of tensions at the border because the NSA has a certain kind of political consensus, cutting across party lines, to resolve the dispute. Even as the government and the Opposition practically empowered Doval to find a diplomatic way out of the standoff, the Chinese have kept issuing warnings through its media.
The Economic Timesreported that a day before Doval’s visit, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi accused India of intrusion in the Doka La region, thereby dimming prospects of an early resolution to the border stand-off. “The rights and wrongs are very clear,” Wang said, claiming that senior Indian officials have “openly stated that Chinese troops did not enter Indian territory.” “In other words, the Indian side admitted to entering Chinese territory,” Wang further said on Monday.
In a scathing editorial, it called Doval as “one of the main schemers” behind the border row, and said his trip to Beijing on Friday won’t help settle the row. “Doval will inevitably be disappointed if he attempts to bargain with Beijing over the border disputes,” the editorial added.
Another Firstpostarticle noted that it would be unwise to expect a breakthrough from Doval’s visit.
“In fact, by needlessly hyping up Doval’s routine visit, Indian media is serving to narrow his strategic maneuverability. It is inconceivable that in one meeting (if at all), Doval will be able to influence China into aborting the grand Bhutan strategy that has caused China so much time, scheming and effort. Those hoping for a resolution are innocent of the nature of Chinese power politics,” the article noted.
According to News18, a possible scenario is also that the Chinese refuse to meet Doval and the standoff is stretched even further because ahead of the 19th party congress of the Communist Party of China, President Xi Jinping can’t be seen losing face.
The Hindustan Timessaid that even though Kang left the door open for talks between Doval and Yang by saying that he cannot confirm it but in the past meetings of BRICS NSAs, the officials have held bilateral meetings, a meaningful dialogue on the Doka La issue is unlikely.
Depsite Doval and Yang being the special representatives of their countries for talks on border disputes, Chinese media has warned that the upcoming visit will not sway China. Livemintreported that Doval will be the fourth Indian emissary to be engaging with the Chinese since the tri-junction dispute broke out at the India-China-Bhutan border.
Human resources development minister Prakash Javadekar, minister of state for tourism Mahesh Sharma and health minister JP Nadda have visited China for BRICS-related meetings earlier this month and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi came face to face with Jinping at the BRICS leaders meeting but no resolution has been found yet.
The report also quoted Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College as saying, “I don’t see any dramatic development out of the visit [Doval’s visit to China]. Both sides have ratcheted up the tension to a level from where a dramatic climb down would be difficult.” He argues that the best outcome that can be expected from it is to lay the groundwork for a cooling of temperatures.
Therefore, while Doval’s visit, with the blessing of the government and the Opposition alike, was highly anticipated to bring about a diplomatic solution to the crisis, the statements from Chinese leaders and state run media has diminished hopes. The Indian media, which was eyeing the visit expectantly, seems to have dulled their hopes. The reports now suggest that though a bilateral meet might take place between Doval and Yang, they are not likely to talk about the China-India standoff.
Mumbai: The building collapse in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar area echoed in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly on Wednesday with the opposition forcing three adjournments while demanding an immediate discussion over the incident.
The residential building collapsed in Ghatkopar on Tuesday, killing 17 people.
The opposition demanded an immediate discussion and a statement from the government over the accident on the floor of the House. The government, however, proposed to hold the discussion later in the afternoon.
Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, said, “During the earlier Congress-NCP government, there were two instances when the demand of the then opposition parties — BJP and Shiv Sena — to hold discussions on some calamity was accepted. We held detailed discussions.”
A four-storey residential building collapsed in suburban Ghatkopar in Mumbai on Tuesday. PTI
“Now, the BJP-Shiv Sena are in power but they are not willing to hold a discussion immediately. What is the reason behind the delay in making a statement on the floor of the House over the Ghatkopar incident?” Vikhe Patil asked.
Responding to his question, Maharashtra’s finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said, “The state government understands the gravity of the accident. Hence, Chief Minister (Devendra) Fadnavis himself went to the spot last night.”
“We have asked the officials concerned to provide all details about the deaths and the injured persons in the building collapse case,” he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Girish Bapat said, “The state government is willing to make a statement followed by discussion on the issue at 4 pm. If the opposition accepts the proposal, we can do so.”
However, opposition parties refused to accept the suggestion and stuck to the demand for an immediate discussion over the incident. Amid the din, the chair adjourned the House twice for 10 minutes each and then for another 15 minutes.
The death toll in the accident rose to 17 on Wednesday after five more bodies were pulled out from the rubble of the four-storey building during overnight search and rescue operations.
Washington: Barcelona defender Pique remains convinced that Neymar will stay at Camp Nou, but said Tuesday his opinion was based on “intuition” rather than inside knowledge.
“It’s a personal opinion from the conversation that I had with him and my intuition,” Pique said at a press conference on the eve of Barcelona’s International Champions Cup friendly against Manchester United in the US capital.
“But it’s not official,” he added. “And it’s not for me to say if he’s going to stay or not.”
FC Barcelona players (L-R) Lionel Messi , Neymar, Gerard Pique and Arda Turan REUTERS
On Sunday, Pique had tweeted a picture of Barcelona teammate Neymar with the caption “He’s staying” adding another twist to the ongoing saga of the Brazilian striker’s possible world record €222 million ($256.8 million) transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
Pique said his post hadn’t ruffled Neymar.
“I was with Neymar and his friends in his room last night and he’s not angry at all,” Pique said. “On the contrary, he’s happy.
“We’ve been speaking to him. We have a close relationship, not only as teammates but also as friends,” added Pique, who said he didn’t believe Neymar’s contemplation of a move was a matter of money.
But he believes if it’s a matter of sporting goals, Neymar remains better off in Barcelona.
“In Paris, if he doesn’t win the Champions League then he’s not going to get the recognition that he deserves,” Pique said.
Argentinian defender Javier Mascherano said he had advised “Ney” to weigh all the pros and cons.
“He has to put things in the balance,” Mascherano said. “What Pique says is the feeling of all of us, we want him to stay. We all want him to stay.”
Meanwhile in Miami, Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery sidestepped questions about the possible acquisition of Neymar.
“We have an obligation to talk about the present, about the players who currently make up the team, our next match,” Emery said at a press conference to promote PSG’s International Champions Cup friendly against Juventus on Wednesday.
“If a new player arrives, we will talk about it then.”
Littlefinger, used to the lavish comforts of King’s Landing and the (mostly) hospitable environs of the Eyrie seems out of place in the gloomy and forbidding environs of Winterfell. Not that he hasn’t adapted to his new setting and his relatively recent station (as Lord of the Eyrie) admirably.
Gone are the dandy-ish costumes he preferred when he ran the brothels in King’s Landing that nobles liked to frequent. Littlefinger goes for the stately, if dull, look now — grey cloak, his trademark silver pin at his throat. From his cosmopolitan avatar, he seems to have adopted a sedate provinciality, perhaps to be viewed as less of an interloper in the North.
(L) Littlefinger’s costume, circa season 1; and (R) in seasons 6-7
Littlefinger was always what one calls a ‘doer’, an opportunist unparalleled in Westeros. He’s never been content to stay on to sidelines — after all, he didn’t go from being the son of a minor house on the Fingers to Lord of the Eyrie on the strength of just good luck. This is the man who espoused to Lord Varys his theory of chaos ‘as a ladder’. And himself as the ultimate (social) climber.
He may not be a ‘major’ player, as we understand Cersei, Dany and Jon to be, but lest we forget, this is the man who triggered the ‘game of thrones’ as we have seen it unfold. It was him, plotting with Lysa Arryn, that led to Jon Arryn’s death — in turn prompting Robert Baratheon to travel all the way to Winterfell to ask Ned Stark to be the new Hand of the King. We know how well that turned out for the Stark family — not to mention for the rest of the realm.
Littlefinger has unerringly had his eye on the main chance, and he’s shown a propensity for picking the winning side. He seems, for now, to have sided with Sansa Stark — not that it’s done him a fat lot of good so far. Beyond the kiss they exchanged at the Eyrie, Sansa hasn’t given him any indication that she’s likely to return his assiduous attentions. Moreover, at Winterfell, Littlefinger has had no say in the matters going on. We’ve been two episodes into season seven — that’s two whole hours of onscreen proceedings, spanning weeks as per the characters’ timelines — and all Littlefinger has had to do, is lean against a wall and cast sidelong glances at Sansa while Jon makes his speeches in the great hall while his northern bannermen alternately squabble and fall into line with what their chosen King wants. Heck, until episode 2 — ‘Stormborn’ — little Lyanna Mormont has had a more impressive showing than Littlefinger.
So what is Petyr Baelish doing? Are we to assume that he is so transformed by lust love for Sansa that he has turned over a new leaf? That he will now subsume his life to the furthering of her cause? That moment in the crypt, when he confessed his feelings for Sansa (and Catelyn, yech) to Jon, what was Littlefinger attempting to do? Seek Jon’s blessings for the union?
Littlefinger’s ‘love’ — as was proved in the case of Catelyn Stark — is just as self-serving as anything else the man does.
Has Petyr Baelish’s ‘love’ for Sansa transformed him? Image via HBO
This is the man who promised to support Ned Stark — because of his love for Catelyn — and then promptly held a knife to his throat when the time came to confront Cersei. This is the man who delivered up poor Ros to Joffrey for archery practise, tasked one of his employees to get proof of Loras Tyrell’s homosexuality — and handed over Sansa to Ramsay Bolton for a bride (this was after he’d already botched her possible alliance with Loras Tyrell in an earlier time).
If we go by the theory that Littlefinger didn’t know of Ramsay’s sadism, then he’s a far less clever man than we were led to believe. Littlefinger’s plans would not have such a loophole. The Littlefinger we’ve seen over the past six seasons would not engage with the unknown; he wouldn’t rely merely on chance.
[In the book of course, this wasn’t an issue because Sansa was never married off to Ramsay Bolton; it was her friend Jeyne Poole, the daughter of Winterfell’s steward, who was passed off as Arya Stark. Sansa was still living as Littlefinger’s niece at the Eyrie when we last encountered her in ‘A Dance With Dragons’.]
What then answers his seemingly glaring oversight?
What answers his present inactivity?
One — unpopular — approach to view Littlefinger’s current malaise could be that David Benioff and DB Weiss have lost interest in his character, or the thread of his story. That isn’t an unlikely view. As fans have pointed out, since the HBO showrunners began to veer away from George RR Martin’s books, there have been some loopholes that have crept into the plot.
Forbes, for instance, highlighted in this review, that geography would have made it far more convenient for Dany to stop off at Dorne/Sunspear on her way to Dragonstone, leave Yara Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet there to ferry Ellaria plus the Dornish army up to King’s Landing for their planned siege, meanwhile having Grey Worm with the Unsullied move towards Casterly Rock, even as she and Tyrion — with an appropriate guard — sailed on to the Dragonstone holdfast. Euron Greyjoy wouldn’t have had quite such easy pickings then.
Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger has unerringly had his eye on the main chance
GRR Martin’s books may have grown excessively bloated over time, in part due to his insistence on fleshing out every single plot line and character in his series — but it also makes for intricate storytelling. Martin of course doesn’t have the constraints of budgets, time — or practicality — to take into account. Sustaining the storytelling of Game of Thrones as a televised spectacle, at the pace and with the intricacy of Martin’s books would be well nigh impossible. Weiss, Benioff and HBO now have a tough balancing act in store, as they try to bring together a score of loose threads — well, all that they didn’t blow up in the big, bad explosion at the Sept of Baelor — within the space of just 11 additional hours. Have they, in Littlefinger’s case, lost the plot?
The second approach — and one that does make more sense — is that for Littlefinger, this is the lull before the storm. With Jon leaving for Dragonstone, presumably caught up in persuading Daenerys to join him in his fight against the White Walkers, and Sansa all alone at Winterfell — in charge of the North — this could be the moment Littlefinger’s been waiting for. Maybe even plotting for.
What if, when he handed Sansa over to Ramsay, he intended all along to come to her ‘rescue’ with the Knights of the Vale at a later stage? In this scenario, Sansa would be grateful to her rescuer — perhaps she might even marry him. As the husband of the oldest surviving Stark, and the only one still at Winterfell, Littlefinger would become lord of Winterfell — and all of the North would come under his control.
The East is already under Littlefinger’s reign, as the current Lord of the Eyrie. Adjoining the Vale’s western boundary are the Riverlands, where the Tully name — Sansa’s maternal family — and Littlefinger’s own knowledge of the region, having grown up there, would still hold some sway (Brynden the Blackfish’s defeat to Jaime Lannister notwithstanding). That would have put nearly two-thirds of Westeros under Littlefinger’s charge.
Littlefinger’s run-ins with Ned Stark (L); Jon (R)
With Dorne and Highgarden (Littlefinger and Lady Olenna Tyrell are old co-conspirators, having plotted Joffrey’s death together — but also antagonists) extremely unlikely to support the Lannisters, all that would have stood between him and complete domination over the Seven Kingdoms would have been King’s Landing and Casterly Rock.
The way Petyr Baelish looked at the Iron Throne when he though he was unwatched — just before he made that speech to Varys — is confirmation enough (if any was needed) of what his one, true love really is: Power. Unbridled, unfettered power.
And what Littlefinger wants, Littlefinger gets.
So maybe Sansa escaped Ramsay’s clutches with a little help from Theon, and it was Jon at Castle Black, whom she rushed to in her moment of distress. Littlefinger still found a way to position himself as a valuable ally, if not her ‘saviour’.
Fans are already calling the moment when Jon roughs up Littlefinger in the Winterfell crypt a throwback to Ned’s altercation with him back in season one.
Ned Stark lost his head because he underestimated Littlefinger. What will Jon lose?
More importantly for viewers, if the showrunners underestimate Littlefinger — what will Game of Thrones lose?
Hong Kong’s government has unveiled a controversial plan which would allow Chinese mainland law to apply in the territory for the first time.
It’s part of attempts to streamline operations at the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which will open next year, costing just under $11bn (£8.45bn).
Under the new plan, passengers will be able to undertake border clearance procedures for both Hong Kong and China successively in one building in West Kowloon, Hong Kong.
And it will be mainland law which will be in force in parts of the terminal, even though it’s on Hong Kong soil.
The government says that will be more convenient for passengers, but opponents say it could violate Hong Kong law.
How do people normally move from Hong Kong to the mainland?
For those travelling overland, the process is similar to most border crossings between countries.
At the busiest land crossings, passengers must first clear immigration and customs in one physical jurisdiction, then walk or be driven a fair distance to clear immigration in the other jurisdiction.
Hong Kong immigration procedures are handled on undisputed Hong Kong territory, and Chinese immigration procedures are handled in Shenzhen, which is the mainland.
So what will be different about this one?
Hong Kong officials are touting this as a “one-stop” clearance.
Passengers will be able to complete both Hong Kong and Chinese clearance procedures under one roof inside the West Kowloon terminus building, before boarding trains to all cities on the national high-speed railway network.
Hong Kong officials say this will be like similar arrangements between for example the US and Canada, and the UK and France on the Eurostar.
How will the process work?
China will lease the so-called “Mainland Port Area” from Hong Kong. The area will comprise the Chinese section of immigration and customs and the waiting hall for departure passengers, as well as all platforms and trains.
Full Chinese law, both criminal and civil, will prevail in this entire area, even though it is physically located on Hong Kong soil.
Hong Kong officials say the area will be considered to be outside the territorial boundary of Hong Kong.
There will be immigration, customs, quarantine, administration and police officers stationed in the area.
So why are people worried?
Hong Kong has a separate legal system from mainland China, under the One Country Two Systems framework.
Under this Basic Law, Hong Kongers have a far greater degree of freedom to protest than mainland citizens have, among other differences.
Mainland officials also have no jurisdiction in the territory.
Critics say the proposal could lead to Hong Kongers being arrested on Hong Kong soil for actions which are legal here, but not in mainland China.
It also feeds in to growing concern in recent years about Chinese encroachment into Hong Kong affairs, after the disappearance from Hong Kong of several people who sold books critical of the Chinese government, and the removal of several MPs who had protested against Beijing while being sworn in.
It is currently unclear whether Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, which are blocked in mainland China, will be accessible within the port area.
The Hong Kong government proposal must be approved by Chinese authorities, before it can be implemented in Hong Kong through a change or addition in local legislation.
Pro-democracy legislators say they will try to veto the plan.
After an initial boost to the second week of Monsoon Session, Tuesday’s proceedings in both Houses remained largely uneventful with the Parliament failing to transact much legislative business, amid repeated adjournments.
As day eight of the Monsoon Session begins at 11 am on Wednesday, Rajya Sabha will focus on the businesses which were listed for Tuesday and which remained incomplete, while the Lok Sabha will take up four bills for further consideration, which were introduced earlier during the Monsoon Session.
Following bills will be taken up for further consideration in the Lok Sabha: The Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017, The Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2016, The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Amendment) Bill, 2017, The Indian Institutes of Management Bill, 2017.
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley will once again move to pass the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. Saugata Roy of the All India Trinamool Congress will move a statutory resolution to disapprove the ordinance that the bill seeks to replace.
H1-B visa issue, delay in residential projects and women security are some of the issues that will be raised in the Question Hour.
Meanwhile, the issue of suspension of six Congress MPs is likely to be raised in the Lok Sabha.
Opposition parties in the Lok Sabha urged “kind-hearted” Mahajan to revoke the suspension of six MPs. Mahajan, however, said she didn’t want to comment on the issue immediately.
The six Congress MPs — Gaurav Gogoi, K Suresh, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Ranjeet Ranjan, Sushmita Dev and MK Raghavan — were suspended on Monday for causing “grave disorder” by storming the Well, tearing papers and throwing them towards the Chair during their protest over growing incidents of lynching by cow vigilantes.
Meanwhile, the Rajya Sabha debated the agrarian crisis on Tuesday with the Opposition blaming the Centre’s “faulty import policy” on food grains.
Congress leader Digvijay Singh alleged that there was corruption in Food Corporation of India (FCI) and National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED). He alleged that after demonetisation, restrictions on cattle sale hit farmers. He also said that he has very little hope from the agriculture minister because the seat of power in the BJP-led Central government rests in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Madrid: Spanish football federation president Angel Maria Villar, in custody following his arrest on corruption charges, was suspended for a year on Tuesday by the country’s sports ministry (CSD), a spokesperson told AFP.
The suspension was decided during a meeting of the CSD executive committee in Madrid, after the Spanish administrative sports tribunal opened disciplinary proceedings against Villar.
File image of Former President of the Spanish Football Federation Angel Maria Villar. AP
The 67-year-old, a former acting president and current vice president of UEFA, which runs European football, has headed the Spanish federation since 1988.
The decision can be reviewed, according to the CSD spokesperson.
Villar’s replacement is expected to be announced on Wednesday when the Spanish federation (RFEF) holds its general assembly.
Villar, who is also a senior vice president of FIFA, and his son Gorka were detained by police on 18 July in a series of early morning raids on federation headquarters and other sites as part of a fraud probe launched last year.
Also arrested were the federation’s financial vice-president Juan Padron and Ramon Hernandez Baussou, general secretary of the Tenerife federation.
They face charges including falsifying documents, misappropriation of funds, collusion and administrative breaches linked to skimming profits from international friendly games and channelling the funds to Gorka Villar.
A Madrid court ordered Villar and his son Gorka to be held in custody on Thursday without bail following their arrest.
High Court judge Santiago Pedraz said there was a significant risk that the two men could make an attempt to flee the country given the seriousness of the crimes they are accused of and the “huge financial means” which they have.
Under Villar’s watch Spain became one of the dominant forces in world football, winning two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup.
But his critics say his period in charge was marked by ethical issues and an autocratic management style.
Following his re-election in May for an eighth term, El Pais newspaper denounced his “despotic” management and bemoaned his close ties to FIFA and UEFA leaders embroiled in corruption probes.
The former Athletic Bilbao midfielder, capped 22 times for Spain, has been dogged by ethical issues over the years.
He was most notably fined 25,000 Swiss francs ($25,700) by FIFA’s ethics committee in 2015 for failing to cooperate during an investigation into the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively.
It was earlier reported that Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber cancelled the remainder of his Purpose World Tour. While the abrupt cancellation has shocked his fans, there is no solid reason on why he chose to do away with rest of his concerts.
Justin Bieber. AP
TMZ has put out a bizarre speculation piece that the reason could be because Bieber wants to focus on his next project – opening a church.
The report states that both sources close to Bieber and the singer’s social media accounts have dropped hints of his wish to reconnect with his lost religious side and that he wants to build on that by opening a church.
While there is no official confirmation on the same, the statement from Bieber read that the cancellation is due to “unforeseen circumstances”. Another report by the same publication quotes Bieber as saying, “Just resting, getting some relaxation. We’re gonna ride some bikes,” when he was asked the reason for cancelling the tour.
Given that it is quite a random reason for taking such a drastic decision, Daily Mail speculates that the real reason was actually severe exhaustion from traveling. But TMZ argues that even that reason does not seem to hold ground as his travel itinerary was not a hectic one.
But John Mayer has defended Bieber via a couple of tweets.
When someone pulls remaining dates of a tour, it means they would have done real damage to themselves if they kept going. 1/2