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Manmohan To Meet Obama Amid N-liability Row

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Manmohan To Meet Obama Amid N-liability Row Bali: A day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets US President Barack Obama here, India Thursday indicated it will work within its civil nuclear liability law, a key issue in its talks with Washington, and hoped for positive talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
Manmohan Singh began a three-day visit to Indonesia where to take part in the India-ASEAN summit and the 18-nation East Asia summit that are expected to boost to India’s Look East policy. However, the spotlight will be on two key bilateral meetings he will have with Obama and the Chinese premier in Bali on the margins of the the two summits Friday.
The meeting with Obama takes place a day after New Delhi quietly notified the implementation rules for the civil nuclear liability law that has come under fire for alleged dilution in suppliers’ liability.
Indian officials made it clear that India has to work within framework of its own law on issues relating to civil nuclear liability, specially in a post-Fukushima world that has brought to the fore the dangers of nuclear radiation and the need to protect citizens. “This is a reality we have to recognize… We can’t say Indian laws won’t apply,” a source said when asked whether the issue would be an irritant in the Manmohan-Obama talks in Bali.
The rules relating to Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act provides the nuclear plant operator the right to recourse for the period for which the supplier of equipment has taken liability for patent or latent defects or sub-standard services under a contract.
The rules effectively caps the amount and limits the duration (five years from the date of the accident) for which claims can be made against a supplier of nuclear power plant equipment. It could allay the concerns of companies such as GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Westinghouse Electric Co wishing to enter the lucrative Indian market.
The US has said many a time that Indian civil nuclear liability law would have to be brought in conformity with international conventions and the current regime imposes a heavy burden on nuclear plant operators in India.
But the sources were keen to stress that the liability issue, an important step for fast-tracking the landmark India-US civil nuclear deal, will not overshadow the talks.
On the talks agenda will be terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan, trade and maritime security. Another important interaction to watch out for will be the one between Manmohan and Wen, their first meeting since they last met in New Delhi in December 2010.
Despite differences over a host of issues, official sources in New Delhi struck an upbeat note saying the two countries enjoyed a “full spectrum” relationship. But they admitted that the relationship was “one of the most complex relationships in the world and the hardest to predict”.
Bilateral trade has shown a steady upswing and is touching $60 billion. Ahead of the 15th round of boundary talks November-end, Indian sources said the second stage of firming up a framework for delineating the border was proving to be the hardest part of the three-stage process.
In a statement before his departure for Bali and Singapore, Manmohan Singh hoped that the 9th India-ASEAN summit and the 6th East Asia summit would boost India’s Look East policy and hoped for stronger ties amid concerns relating to disaster management, maritime security and terrorism.
The prime minister will be in Bali for two days before leaving Nov 19 for Singapore, where he will hold bilateral talks with the leadership there.
-IANS

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SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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