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PM Modi’s Nepal visit today will focus on rebuilding trust and goodwill

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A key element of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s focus during his Nepal visit will be engaging with all political streams in Nepal, including, the elected government of the day, and sending signals of support and reassurance to all.“This is a working visit. The PM will focus on bilateral projects and steps needed on both sides to expedite it. But another element will be political engagement with all sides,” said a person on the visit.

The PM will extensively interact with his host, Prime Minister KP Oli, with whom India shared difficult ties in the past. It was during the congratulatory call after he got elected that Oli invited Modi to come to Nepal soon, and Modi had promised he would do so.

Oli stuck to tradition and made India his first foreign port of call in April after becoming PM. Such a quick reciprocal visit, in just over a month, is unusual for Modi. “It signals the PM’s personal commitment to working with the elected government of the day in Kathmandu,” said the person quoted above.

Oli had long requested a one-on-one meeting with Modi, without the presence of any official, and got it in Delhi.

“Trust-building with Oli began with Sushma Swaraj’s visit before he had taken over, his own visit, and the one-on-one meeting. The PM’s visit will deepen it,” said the person cited above.

But the Prime Minister will also meet other key stakeholders in Nepal’s polity.

The Nepali Congress (NC), the key opposition force, has sent messages to Delhi that it believes that in its outreach to Oli, India has neglected it’s older allies, two NC leaders confirmed. Modi will meet NC president and former PM, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and his party representatives.

“We will assure NC that India plans to maintain all its old contacts and relationships. We believe they are vital participants in Nepali democracy,” the person said But if the opposition has expectations that India will undermine the elected government, or ‘play politics’, this will not happen, he said.

Modi will also have a ‘goodwill meeting’ with Oli’s key ally Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). Maoists and Oli’s party, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) are discussing a possible merger, but this has got delayed.

Large sections of the hill population were upset with Indian backing for Madhesi protests at the border which crippled essential supplies. But as Delhi mended ties with Kathmandu, Madhesis began harbouring a sense of resentment that India had dropped their cause.

“We are conscious that this is a federal system. And any assistance we announce has to be routed through the centre in Kathmandu,” the person involved in planning the visit added.

Modi will also meet the leaders of the two prominent Madhesi parties and convey a message that Madhesi forces should remain united.

India International

Kamala Harris jumps into presidential race

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Kamala Harris

Washington | Kamala Harris, a first-term senator and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump’s nominees, entered the Democratic presidential race on Monday.

Vowing to “bring our voices together,” Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American if she succeeds.

Harris, a daughter of immigrant parents who grew up in Oakland, California, is one of the earliest high-profile Democrats to join what is expected to be a crowded field.

She made her long anticipated announcement on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I am running for president of the United States,” she said. “And I’m very excited about it.” The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign as she announced her bid.

“They’re the values we as Americans cherish, and they’re all on the line now,” Harris says in the video. “The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values.”

Harris launched her presidential as the nation observes what would have been the 90th birthday of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr The timing was a clear signal that the California senator who has joked that she had a “stroller’s-eye view” of the civil rights movement because her parents wheeled her and her sister Maya to protests sees herself as another leader in that fight.

She abandoned the formality of launching an exploratory committee, instead going all in on a presidential bid.

She plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland on January 27. The campaign will be based in Baltimore, with a second office in Oakland.

Harris joins what is expected to be a wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination. There’s no apparent front-runner at this early stage and Harris will face off against several Senate colleagues.

Sens Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both launched exploratory committees. Sens Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are also looking at the race.

If Booker enters the race, he and Harris could face a fierce competition for support from black voters.

Vermont Sen Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic nomination, is also considering a campaign. Several other Democrats have already declared their intentions, including former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro.

Harris launches her campaign fresh off of a tour to promote her latest memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” which was widely seen as a stage-setter for a presidential bid.

She is already planning her first trip to an early primary state as a declared candidate.

On Friday, Harris will travel to South Carolina to attend the Pink Ice Gala in Columbia, which is hosted by a South Carolina chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which Harris pledged as an undergraduate student at Howard University. The sorority, founded more than 100 years ago, is a stronghold in the African-American community.

South Carolina, where black voters make up a large share of the Democratic electorate, is likely to figure heavily into Harris’s prospects. And early voting in Harris’s home state of California will overlap with the traditional early nominating contests, which could give Harris a boost.

Harris’s campaign team is already taking shape and includes several veterans of Democratic politics.

Juan Rodriguez, who ran Harris’s 2016 Senate campaign, will manage her presidential bid. Her sister, Maya Harris, a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton, will be the campaign chair.

The veteran campaign finance lawyer Marc Elias will serve as the Harris campaign’s general counsel, and Angelique Cannon, who worked for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, will serve as national finance director. David Huynh, who was Clinton’s director of delegate operations in 2016, will serve as a senior adviser. Lily Adams, a Clinton campaign alum who has worked as Harris’s spokeswoman, will be communications director.

Her staff says she plans to reject the assistance of a super PAC, as well as corporate PAC money. She’s invested heavily in cultivating a digital, small-dollar donor network before her presidential bid.

Before her 2016 victory in the Senate race, Harris made her career in law enforcement. She served as the district attorney in San Francisco before she was elected to serve as attorney general.

Harris is likely to face questions about her law enforcement record, particularly after the Black Lives Matter movement and activists across the country pushed for a criminal justice overhaul.

Harris’s prosecutorial record has recently come under new scrutiny after a blistering opinion piece in The New York Times criticized her repeated claim that she was a “progressive prosecutor,” focused on changing a broken criminal justice system from within.

Harris addressed her law enforcement background in her book. She argued it was a “false choice” to decide between supporting the police and advocating for greater scrutiny of law enforcement.

She “knew that there was an important role on the inside, sitting at the table where the decisions were being made,” she wrote. “When activists came marching and banging on the doors, I wanted to be on the other side to let them in.” Harris supported legislation that passed the Senate last year that overhauled the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to sentencing rules.

Harris is framing her campaign through her courtroom experience. The theme of her nascent campaign is “Kamala Harris, for the people,” the same words she spoke as a prosecutor, trying a case in the courtroom. (AP) MRJ

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India International

Indians biggest supporters of international aid: WEF global survey

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Davos | Indians have emerged as the biggest supporters of international aid, with a global public opinion survey putting India on the top when it comes to people expecting their nation to help other countries.

The survey released by the World Economic Forum ahead of its high profile annual meeting in this ski resort town on the Swiss Alps showed that South Asian countries, including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as also Nigeria and Saudi Arabia exhibit widespread support for international aid.

The respondents in the survey of over 10,000 people were asked that do they think their country has a responsibility to help other countries in the world.

As many as 95 per cent Indians replied in affirmative, which was the highest for any country, followed by 94 per cent in Indonesia and Pakistan each.

Bangladesh followed with 87 per cent, while Nigeria scored 84 per cent, Saudi Arabia 83 per cent and China 80 pet cent.

The global average was 72 per cent, with countries like Argentina, France, Germany, the UK and the US scoring 60 per cent or below.

The WEF said it worked with Qualtrics to poll over 10,000 people from around the world on a number of issues that are important to our agenda at the Davos meeting.

As per the survey, 80 per cent of respondents worldwide believe that all countries can benefit at the same time, rejecting the notion that national improvement is a zero-sum game.

North Americans view immigrants more positively than any other region except South Asia. Europeans view immigration the least positively.

The survey also showed that a majority of all respondents trust climate science, but 17 per cent in North America express little to no trust.

On migration, 63 per cent of US respondents believed new immigrants are mostly good for their country compared to a global average of 56 per cent, 48 per cent in Germany and 30 per cent in Italy.

On Multilateralism, 83 per cent of US respondents said that all countries can improve at the same time — compared to 35 per cent in Japan, 74 per cent in the UK and 65 per cent in France.

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India International

Sikh man attacked in hate crime in USA

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New York | A Sikh man has been brutally assaulted in an alleged hate crime by a white man who pulled his beard, kicked and punched him in the face at a store in the US, the latest such incident in the country.

Harwinder Singh Dodd, who was working at a convenience store in the US State of Oregon, was racially targeted on Monday by a 24-year-old Andrew Ramsey.

Ramsey targeted Dodd because of his perception of the employee’s religion, FOX 12 TV news reported, citing a court document.

Ramsey wanted rolling papers for cigarettes, but did not have an ID and the clerk would not sell them to him, Justin Brecht, a legislative policy adviser in the Oregon State Capitol and a former combat Marine, was quoted as saying by the report.

When Dodd asked Ramsey to leave, he attacked him by pulling his beard, punching him in the face, pulling him to the ground and kicking him, Brecht said, adding that they held Ramsey down until officers got there, the report said.

“He was bleeding, he had gotten punched quite a bit in the face, and kicked on the ground and thrown to the ground very brutally. It was very serious.”

Ramsey has been charged with a hate crime, assault, police said, adding that he threw his shoe at Dodd and tried to steal his head covering.

He was also charged with assault in the fourth degree, disorderly conduct and criminal trespass.

Hate crimes increased by 40 per cent in Oregon from 2016 to 2017, according to the FBI.

In August 2018, in about a week, two Sikh men were brutally assaulted in the US State of California that raised concerns over increasing incidents of hate crimes in the country.

Last year, the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) published a report documenting a 45 per cent increase in hate violence and rhetoric against Indians, Sikhs, and South Asian Americans from the year prior.

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