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Pakistan PM Imran Khan hits out at India, calls its response “arrogant” for cancelling talks

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Islamabad | India’s decision to cancel the foreign minister-level meeting in New York was “arrogant”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said Saturday, asserting that he was “disappointed” by the New Delhi’s “negative” response.

India on Friday cited the “brutal” killing of three policemen in Jammu and Kashmir as well as the release of the postal stamps “glorifying” Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani for calling off the meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York this month.

Announcing the cancellation of the meeting, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in New Delhi that the incidents “exposed” the “true face” of Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan to the world as well as Islamabad’s evil agenda behind the proposal for talks.

“The latest brutal killings of our security personnel by Pakistan-based entities and the recent release of a series of 20 postage stamps by Pakistan glorifying a terrorist and terrorism confirm that Pakistan will not mend its ways,” Kumar said. “Disappointed at the arrogant and negative response by India to my call for resumption of the peace dialogue,” Prime Minister Khan said in a tweet.

“However, all my life I have come across small men occupying big offices who do not have the vision to see the larger picture,” he said in a sharp reaction to India’s cancellation of the meeting. Kumar said talks with Pakistan after the “two deeply disturbing” developments would be “meaningless”. “In view of the changed situation, there will be no meeting between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan in New York,” he said.

Reacting to India’s remarks, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said Friday that the “so-called ‘disturbing developments'” alluded to in the Indian statement predated the Indian agreement to hold the bilateral meeting in New York. He said the alleged killing of a BSF soldier took place two days prior to the Indian announcement of its agreement to hold the bilateral meeting.

When the allegations of Pakistan’s involvement first appeared, Pakistani rangers clearly conveyed to BSF through official channels that the country had nothing to do with it, he said. “Pakistan…categorically reject these allegations…Our authorities would be prepared to conduct a joint investigation to establish the truth,” Faisal said.

On the issue of the postage stamps, he said they were issued before the July 25 elections and before Prime Minister Khan assumed office on August 18.

“We choose not to further comment beyond saying that these comments are against all norms of civilised discourse and diplomatic communication,” Faisal said.

“We believe by its ill-considered cancellation of the meeting, India has once again wasted a serious opportunity to change the dynamics of the bilateral relationship and put the region on the path of peace and development,” he added.

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Pompeo holds crisis talks in Riyadh on missing journalist

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Riyadh | US top diplomat Mike Pompeo held talks with Saudi King Salman on Tuesday seeking answers about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, amid US media reports the kingdom may be mulling an admission he died during a botched interrogation.

“Rogue killers” could be blamed for the disappearance of Khashoggi, who has not been seen since he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to sort out marriage paperwork, US President Donald Trump said after telephone talks with the king.

Trump dispatched Pompeo to Riyadh for what the State Department described as “face to face meetings with the Saudi leadership”.

After his talks with the king, Pompeo was to have dinner with his powerful son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a US official told the accompanying press.

Turkish police on Monday searched the consulate for the first time since the disappearance of Khashoggi, a Saudi national and US resident who had become increasingly critical of Prince Mohammed.

Turkish officials have said they believe he was killed – a claim Saudi Arabia has denied – with the controversy dealing a huge blow to the prince’s efforts to showcase a reform drive and burnish the kingdom’s image.

US media reported on Monday that the kingdom is considering an admission that Khashoggi died after an interrogation that went wrong during an intended abduction.

The UN human rights chief called Tuesday for the lifting of the immunity of officials who might be involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“In view of the seriousness of the situation surrounding the disappearance of Mr. Khashoggi, I believe the inviolability or immunity of the relevant premises and officials… should be waived immediately,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

Until Monday, Riyadh had not allowed Turkish investigators to search the consulate – officially Saudi territory – with reports both sides were at odds over the conditions.

The investigators, who searched the premises for eight hours into Tuesday morning, took samples with them, including soil from the consulate garden, one official at the scene said.

Istanbul police are now also planning to search the nearby consul’s residence, a diplomatic source said.

Trump’s comments came after a telephone conversation with King Salman, father of the crown prince, the first such talks since the crisis erupted.

“Just spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia who denies any knowledge of whatever may have happened ‘to our Saudi Arabian citizen’,” Trump tweeted.

Riyadh’s most recent comments have focused on having no knowledge of any killing or denying that any order to kill Khashoggi had been given.

“The denial was very, very strong,” Trump later told reporters at the White House. “It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows?”

But CNN cited two sources as saying the Saudis are preparing a report that his death resulted from a botched interrogation, while the Wall Street Journal said the kingdom was weighing whether to say that rogue operatives killed Khashoggi by mistake.

After his crunch talks in Riyadh Tuesday, Pompeo was expected in Turkey on Wednesday to meet Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The search came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Salman also had their first telephone talks since the controversy erupted.

The controversy has troubled Saudi’s traditional Western allies, who are key arms suppliers to the kingdom, and also undermined efforts by Mohammed bin Salman to present himself as a modernising ruler.

An investment conference seen as a platform for the crown prince and dubbed the “Davos in the Desert”, scheduled to take place in Riyadh next week, has been hit by a string of prominent cancellations.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Ford chairman Bill Ford and Larry Fink, the head of investment giant BlackRock, were among the latest business barons to cancel plans to attend.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he still plans to attend but would “take (it)… into account” if more information came out.

The controversy meanwhile threw into doubt a USD 400 million deal the Saudi Public Investment Fund negotiated with Hollywood’s most powerful talent agency as part of the crown prince’s drive for a foothold in the entertainment industry.

Endeavour CEO Ari Emanuel said the Khashoggi case was “very, very concerning”, although he stopped short of pronouncing the deal was dead.

Trump has threatened the kingdom with “severe punishment” if it is shown that

Khashoggi was killed inside its Istanbul mission.

But he has also made clear he is reluctant to curb all-important arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Britain, France and Germany also released a rare joint statement saying they were treating Khashoggi’s disappearance “with the utmost seriousness” and calling for a “credible investigation”.

Riyadh, however, has vowed to hit back against any punitive measures imposed over the affair.

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Three Indian students among 15 finalists in global science challenge

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The Indian teenagers among 15 finalists are Samay Godika, 16, and Nikhiya Shamsher, 16, from Bengaluru and Kavya Negi, 18, from Delhi. 

 

Washington | Three Indian students have made it to the finals of the prestigious annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science competition for teenagers to share their passion for mathematics and science.

The three Indian students are among 15 finalists of more than 12,000 original registrants from around the world who submitted engaging and imaginative videos to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts and theories in the physical or life sciences.

The Indian teenagers are Samay Godika, 16, and Nikhiya Shamsher, 16, from Bengaluru and Kavya Negi, 18, from Delhi.

The winner will be announced on November 4 in Silicon Valley and get a USD 250,000 college scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will get USD 50,000. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab worth USD 100,000.

Nikhiya was the top scorer in the popular vote contest with more than 25,000 likes, shares and positive reactions for her video on spacetime and gravity posted on the Breakthrough Facebook page. Nikhiya will receive automatic entry into the final round of judging.

Nikhiya describes herself as an inventor and an innovator. She has a patent pending on a point of care, home-based salivary diagnostic test for chronic smokers to detect the risk of oral cancer.

“I conducted my study at IISC, Bengaluru and my diagnostic test has an accuracy of 96 per cent. It’s a simple product that a person can use at home and one test costs less than 50 cents, said Nikhiya, who is also the founderpreneur of an e-commerce website, 100 per cent of the profits of which are used to set up and fund Math and Science Laboratories in schools and colleges that don’t have any.

Her project is about 4-Dimensional Space-Time and Gravity. I would love to pursue theoretical physics, simply because it reveals many secrets of the universe. And of course, an important component of theoretical physics is math. I believe math is the language by which the universe speaks to itself, she said.

Kavya from Delhi believes that her video about Hawking Radiation might stand a chance to win because it showcases in-depth dive to the concept.

Hawking Radiation is a very feeble emission of particles near the event horizon of a black hole caused when virtual particles (created near the event horizon) escape, she said.

“I have been able to explain not just Hawking Radiation but also black hole explosion in three minutes,” Kavya said. Aspiring to be physics researcher as well as a science communicator, Kavya believes that scientists should be celebrated just as much as musicians, actors or sportsmen.  My vision is to see a scientific utopia which starts with scientific communication, she said. Samay, an 11th grader, in his project has explored various aspects of Circadian Rhythm.

“I first heard about Circadian Rhythm when it was in the news as the 2017 Nobel Prize-winning topic in Medicine. I zeroed in on this topic as it seemed to impact many facets of daily lives, including things like my asthma, the difficulty I face getting up early in the morning, etc,” he said.  Samay wants to pursue a formal programme in neuroscience.

“Our brain seems to be the most complex system in this world and the least understood. I am interested in building a solid foundation in this area. In parallel, I would also like to pursue a programme that allows me to formally learn Data Sciences,” he said. “This skill will equip me to model complex problems. A combination of neuroscience and data science skills could enable me to devise solutions for some of the most debilitating diseases faced by mankind,” Samay said.

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 190 countries, and the 2018 instalment of the global competition attracted more than 12,000 registrants, a media release said.

The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics.

The field was reduced to 29 semifinalists, which represented the top submissions after two rounds of judging: first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel of judges, Breakthrough said.

The 15 finalist videos were chosen by the Selection Committee, comprising among others: Salman Khan, CEO, Founder, Khan Academy; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship; retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly; Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Laureate; and Rachel Crane, Space and Science Correspondent, CNN.

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India remains committed to objective of decolonisation: Misra at United Nations

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Misra noted that when the United Nations was established in 1945, almost a third of the world’s population lived in territories that were non-self-governing.

 

United Nations| India has called for expediting the efforts to conclude the decolonisation of 17 non-self-governing territories, saying a pragmatic approach towards the “long-drawn process” will lead to the fulfilment of legitimate wishes of the people.

Speaking at the ‘General Debate on Decolonisation’ in the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, Minister in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Deepak Misra stressed that there were still 17 non-self-governing territories, which are in various stages of the decolonisation process on the ‘Agenda of the Committee on Decolonisation’.

“We must step up our efforts to reach the conclusion of this long-drawn process,” he said on Monday.

He voiced India’s commitment to the objective of decolonisation, saying the country offers firm support to further accelerate the process.

Misra noted that when the United Nations was established in 1945, almost a third of the world’s population lived in territories that were non-self-governing and were dependent on colonial powers.

“As a country that itself was colonised, India has always been in the forefront of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid since its own independence seven decades ago,” he said.

Since the creation of the United Nations, more than 80 former colonies have gained their independence and joined the world body.

Sustained collective efforts by the UN membership has today led to fewer than two million people living in non-self-governing territories, according to UN documentation.

However, even after seven decades, the process of decolonisation that began with India’s own independence still remains unfinished.

In 2011 the General Assembly had to proclaim the current decade 2011-2020 as the ‘Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism’, which is now coming close to conclusion.

Misra said that in this inter-connected world, India believes that pursuing a pragmatic approach towards decolonisation would surely lead to the fulfilment of legitimate wishes of the people of non-self governing territories.

“The complex challenges facing the present world can only be met by coordinating our responses in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

“We must prioritise increased cooperation with international agencies and actors and channelise resources for the 17 Non-Self Governing Territories,” he said.

Misra said that this would help enable these territories to build capacities in their quest towards their long cherished goals.

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