Monday, March 5, 2012

Hello all,

I am back to post and update from Washington DC where I am now White House Correspondent for TV Today Network. Also covering the Pentagon, the State Department and other departments including Congress.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

EU launches Erasmus Mundus Program for 2009-13

Brussels, 18 February (9am to 5.30pm): Info day (open to all)
Registration online / Live webstreaming at:
http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/static/en/mundus/infoday_2009_en.htm

EU Commissioner for education, and culture, Jan Figel, launched here
Monday evening the new EU scholarship programme for non-EU countries,
Erasmus Mundus II, for the period 2009-2013.

The Earsmus Mundus programme offers the opportunity to third-country
students to obtain a degree in Europe, and to academics to share
know-how and to contribute to study programmes through teaching or
research activities whilst avoiding the brain drain and favouring
vulnerable groups

In 2009-13, the EU will increase its support to the most
highly-talented students and professors from countries outside the EU
with grants to take part in joint programmes in Europe.

It will also extend the scope of the programme to the doctoral level
and give more financial support to European students.

The expected budget for Erasmus Mundus II will be an indicative amount
of 950 million Euro.

The Erasmus Mundus I from 2004 - 2008 offered more than 10,000
scholarships to students and academics from all over the world, with a
combined budget of 609 million Euro.

It contributed 33 million Euro (2005-2009) for scholarships to Indian
post-graduate students .

Erasmus Mundus 2009-2013 is a cooperation and mobility programme in
the field of higher education that aims to enhance the quality of
European higher education and to promote dialogue and understanding
between people and cultures through cooperation with third countries.

The Erasmus Mundus programmes provides support to:

higher education institutions that wish to implement joint programmes
at postgraduate level (Action 1) or to set-up inter-institutional
cooperation partnerships between universities from Europe and targeted
Third-Countries;

individual students, researchers and university staff who wish to
spend a study / research / teaching period in the context of one of
the above mentioned joint programmes or cooperation partnerships;

any organisation active in the field of higher education that wishes
to develop projects aiming at enhancing the attractiveness, profile,
visibility and image of European higher education worldwide.

The Education, Audiovisual and Culture Agency Executive Agency (EACEA)
is responsible for the management of all actions of Erasmus Mundus
2009 - 2013, under the supervision of the Directorate-General for
Education and Culture (DG EAC of the European Commission) and
EuropeAid - Co-operation Office (DG AIDCO of the European Commission).
Information and guidance at national level can be obtained from the
Erasmus Mundus National Structures.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shocking Taliban style 'moral police" attack in Indian city of Mangalore

"Taliban" in Afghanistan and in some parts of Pakistan are infamous for the kind of behavior which occurred in Mangalore, the educational hub in South Karnataka, a couple of days before the observation of Republic Day of “Mera Bharat Mahan” India.

In the name of upholding the “culture” of India, more than 40 people belonging to a particular nationalist party attacked, dragged, molested and beat up girls and women who were having lunch at the ‘Amnesia” pub in the centre of Mangalore, the city in the South Indian state of Karnataka, whose colleges attract international students.

Walking into the “Amnesia” pub today 24 hours after the attack, I found that there was no physical evidence of violence except that the usually bustling place was empty and the staff was in a sombre mood.

Asked to confirm if an incident of attack on women customers took place there yesterday, Krishna, the waiter attending nodded in affirmative but had a blank look when asked to elaborate.

According to another staff member who did not want to be identified, confided that it all started around 4 p.m. when dozens of men entered the premises and demanded to know what was going on. Soon they started manhandling and assaulting women customers, physically beating them. The men who were with their partners or friends were not spared when they tried to protest and were beaten up.

Today the TV footage repeatedly showed girls falling and being shoved around and beaten openly. Even with all that evidence available against more than 40 men there were no reports of wide-spread arrests or official confirmation of the incident by the police.

In another shameful act that followed, there was the TV footage showing today one of the leaders of “Sriram Sena” claiming responsibility saying it was a “spontaneous reaction against women who flouted traditional Indian norms of decency.”

As if not to be outdone, another right-wing nationalist Hindu outfit, the Bajarang Dal also claimed responsibility and insisted that the attack was carried out by his outfit.

There was talk of the political games in the name of saving culture (define it) and brutal Taliban style attacks on young persons as attack happened during lunch period with two women in hospital and Sriram Sena goes on air to defend the Taliban style attack

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Every nation has an army, Pakistani army has a nation

Author: Tejinder Singh
16 December 2008 - Issue : 813

Pakistani establishments have acquired great tenacity to strongly believe their own bluffs even in the face of unquestionable proof. President Asif Ali Zardari's first statement that the sole surviving Mumbai terrorist is not a Pakistani to another statement of Foreign Minister that there is no proof against Jamaat ud Dawa proves the point.

The unmasking came in the form of an interview to the Pakistani Dawn newspaper by Amir Kasab, the father of Ajmal Amir Iman alias Ajmal Qasab, the lone Pakistani gunman arrested for the Mumbai terror attacks. The old man, a father of three sons and two daughters, from Faridkot in Okara district of Punjab in Pakistan, has unequivocally admitted that the captured terrorist, whose pictures were beamed across the world, was indeed his son.

Earlier, Britain's Observer correspondent had located Iman's home in Faridkot, Pakistan and got hold of the voters' roll which had the names of his parents Amir Kasab and Noor as well as the numbers on the national identity cards. BBC had also reported that Iman is indeed belonged to Faridkot and had joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba sometime ago.

Iman also revealed to Indian security personnel the identity of his nine other slain gunmen and their addresses in Pakistan. Despite all the accumulated evidence, Pakistani leaders, its expert commentators on electronic media and its diplomatic staff around the globe went to the town to prove that the terrorists are not Pakistanis but Indians. They shamelessly called the heinous terrorist attack as the handiwork of Hindu extremists or Indian Muslims or could be RAW or CIA.

Now, the UN Security Council has succeeded in placing not only Jamaat ud Dawa, the front organization of the Lashkar-e-Taiba on the list of terrorist groups but also four of its top leadership, including its chief Hafiz ul Mohammed Saeed. The earlier attempts by the UNSC to do so for the past three years failed as China conveniently came to the rescue of this terrorist organization by putting a "hold" on the resolution.

Hafiz ul Saeed demanded proof for he ever heading the Lashkar-e-Taiba or he ever promoting terrorism and jehadism. Had he cared to re-read the publications of the organization he is heading he would have got all the proof he needed.

Addressing a press conference in Lahore on December 24, 2001, Hafiz Saeed announced his resignation and the appointment of Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri as the new LeT chief, stated the magazine, Jamaat ud Dawa. He made this announcement soon after the US State Departent had designated the Lashkar-e-Taiba a foreign terrorist organization, and a few weeks before the then President Musharraf was forced to ban the group on January 13, 2002.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa published in its April 10 edition an address by Hafiz ul Sayeed to convocation of students, where he proudly announced that his organization has sacrificed 4500 youth for the Jihadi cause and that preparation for Jihad was a must. He urged students to pray to God so that they could have a chance to sacrifice their lives for Jihad.

According the US Treasury Department, Hafiz Saeed "in 2005, personally determined where graduates of an LeT camp in Pakistan should be sent to fight and personally organised the infiltration of LET militants into Iraq during a trip to Saudi Arabia."

Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, who was one of the four Lashkar leaders placed on UN Security Council list of terrorists, was the supreme commander who had coordinated the Mumbai terrorist attacks and guided the gunmen on the action to be taken while they were holding the hostages. As Lashkar's chief of operations. Lakhvi has directed LeT military operations including in Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq and southeast Asia. Lakhvi was born to Hafiz Aziz-ur-Rahman, a cleric linked to the neoconservative Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadis, on December 30, 1960. He lives in Chika 18L of the village of Rinala Khurd, in Okara—the same south Punjab district from where Mohammad Ajmal Amir Iman, the terrorist arrested in the course of last month's massacre in Mumbai, grew up.

Mahmoud Bahaziq, another Lashkar leader to be declared a terrorist, is a Saudi citizen of Indian origin. He is considered the main financier of the LeT and its activities in the 1980s and 1990s and coordinated LeT's fundraising activities with Saudi non-governmental organisations and Saudi businessmen. He is allegedly the brain behind recruiting Indian expatriate Muslims in Arab countries, particularly in Saudi Arabia, and sending them to Pakistan for training and subsequently launching them into terrorist activities in India.

Haji Mohammad Ashraf has assisted the expansion of the LeT in Saudi Arabia and Iraq and coordinating the terror activities there. Ashraf was born on March 1, 1965, and holds Pakistani passport.

Producing evidence to prove the culpability of Pakistan-based terrorist groups and their handlers in the military establishment is not an issue. There is enough now on Mumbai attacks. There was enough evidence of the involvement of Pak military establishment and Lashkar elements in the attack on Indian mission in Kabul in which two senior diplomats were killed besides several others.

The problem is that Pakistani military leadership views the Jehadi groups as their first line of offence and defence and the most effective weapon to bleed India, while maintaining its deniability. The 1999 Kargil war, designed and executed by the former Army chief and President Musharraf, clearly established this strategy. The Northern Areas Scouts, a wing of the Pakistani army, were sent as part of the jehadi groups. President Zardari himself is a victim of the jehadi outfits that the Pakistani army and ISI gave birth and nourished to an uncontrollable giant.

Enjoying "tea" at a Pakistani restaurant in Brussels, Belgium, this journalist, Tejinder Singh was told by Cheema Saheb, Head Chef citing something he heard on a TV talk-show: "Every nation has an army while Pakistani army has a nation."

The day the political leadership tames the army, that day augurs well for Pakistani people and their status in the international community. Until that happens, the world community will have to do the dirty work of corking up these "middle age" mammals.

UN bans Pakistani outfit but logical follow-up action should speed up

Author: Tejinder Singh
16 December 2008 - Issue : 813


Pakistani melodrama failed to stop the international community from acting recently as the UN Security Council swiftly placed the Lashkar-front "Jamaat ud Dawa" and four of its top leadership on the list of terrorists. Pakistan's feeble attempts to draw the linkage to Kashmir had no takers. Its ally, China, which had helped Pakistan using its veto-powers in preventing similar action by the Security Council in 2006, choose to keep distance with the problematic client.

An editorial in "The Daily Times," a leading Pakistani media outlet wrote on December 13, "It is the Chinese "message" that has changed our mind. The Chinese did not veto the banning of Dawa on Wednesday, and they had reportedly told Islamabad as much beforehand, compelling our permanent representative at the UN to assert that Pakistan would accept the ban if it came."
The Pakistani economy has reached near bankruptcy stage, while the political stability remains a far cry. Provoking India and a roll-back in the peace process is a time-tested strategy to re-gain Army's pre-eminent position. The memory of Kargil has not faded yet.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Western political pundit summed it up: "Army's policy to maintain its pre-eminence has three key features, namely the power monopoly under a sham democracy, anti-India orientation modulated by deniable terrorist cadres, and a client regime in Afghanistan."

While the Pakistan Army succeeded in provoking India with the Mumbai attacks, international community has seen through its strategy and refused to buy its Kashmir-tilt. Even President-elect Obama's innocent remark on finding a solution to Kashmir issue was played up and words were put into his mouth on the prospect of former President Clinton being chosen as his man-Friday for the purpose.

However, the situation was getting untenable with the Army increasingly getting sucked into the tribal quagmire and incessant American drone attacks challenging the sovereignty of the country.

It is not difficult to see through the unfolding strategy of the Army/ISI to wriggle out of its reluctant partnership to fight against terrorism on the western frontier and get the international focus turned to eastern border. They have long been waiting for an opportunity for this "U" turn. Despite the assurance given by the then President Musharraf to the world community not to allow its territory for terrorist activities in India, terror infrastructure remained intact.

Musharraf cleverly played a hide and seek game with gullible President George W. Bush, convincing him of his sincerity in fighting Taliban and Al Qaida and making him to cough over USD 10 billion in military aid. For eight years, American field commanders have been constantly complaining of Pakistan ISI/Army double game but to no avail.

The fine balance that Musharraf succeeded in creating got upset with some Army elements, eager to have a quick "U" turn, encouraged Taliban-Jaish elements to make an attempt on his life which finally culminated in Lal Masjid confrontation. With Musharraf's departure imminent, the option of Benazir did not fit in the Army-ISI strategy for a "U-turn" and therefore she also had to go.

The intricate entwining of Pakistani jihadis and Al Qaeda-Taliban is best portrayed in the Dec 13 editorial in "The Daily Times" stating: "Pakistan will need to cooperate with the international community in the coming days. The trend among our jihadi outfits so far is not to surrender to bans but to make a beeline for the Kohat Road pockets of terrorism and join the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine to kill our soldiers. Our army discovered all the banned jihadis when it confronted the militants at Darra Adam Khel. If Jaish was let off the hook after it attacked General Musharraf in 2004, it should now be confronted for providing the bulk of suicide-bombers to the Taliban and Al Qaeda."

There has always been alleged proof in plenty for every single incident of terrorist action in India, designed and choreographed by Pakistani Army and its "rogue" agency. The sole surviving terrorist called the Pakistani bluff and denial. He not only revealed his identity, and place of origin, which have been confirmed by the BBC and Los Angeles Times, but also exposed the details of all other nine terrorists and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba commanders that trained them.

Pakistan's Army has again mis-read the mood of the international community against terrorism. Commenting on the UN move, a respectable political observer in Washington urged that the world rage against the terror attack by elements in Pakistan should not rest with the UN resolution and this has to be taken to its logical conclusion, adding on condition of anonymity, "The terror infrastructure in that should be eliminated to its last vestige. While this may not serve its army, it will perhaps lead the way for a peaceful and prosperous country serving the welfare of its people."

The editorial in "The Daily TImes," reconfirmed the expert view concluding: "Last but not least, Pakistan should act not because an "unfair international system" compels it to act; it should act out of conviction. Some commentators are already suggesting the kind of double-faced strategy adopted by Musharraf. It has been exposed as self-damaging and should not be embraced again."

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Dalai Lama blames “greed” for financial crisis

Author: Tejinder Singh
8 December 2008 - Issue : 811


A fter addressing an overflowing house of European Parliament December 4, the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, appeared at a joint press conference with Hans-Gert Poettering, the President of the only directly elected European institution, the European Parliament. Wit, humour, serenity and positive vibes were present in the packed environs of the Anna Politkovskaya European Parliament press room, named after the slain Russian journalist, as the Dalai Lama was at ease with international journalists.

Answering a question about economic crisis, the spiritual leader explained the ongoing market crisis around the world. Saying, “Market itself is a creation of human beings,” the Buddhist leader asked, “What is the real cause of this sort of economic crisis?” Citing answers from his business friends, the Dalai Lama told journalists: “Too much speculation and ultimately greed,” adding, “The pot - ential to help is: reduce greed and (increase) self-discipline. “Economic crisis is something urgent so it will be helpful to reduce some other conflict (that are going on) in the name of faith and nationality.”

Going down memory lane, the Dalai Lama listed the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, and Burma and North Korea as some of the instances that could not have happened or are still happening without China nodding its approval. Citing the “uncomfortable people of Hong Kong,” “reunification of Taiwan,” and the separatist factions in the southwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang as areas where such a moral authority should be displayed, the Buddhist leader insisted he only wants meaningful autonomy for Tibet under Chinese rule.

The leader from Tibet told journalists, “actually the whole world knows we are not separatists and also many Chinese writers and thinkers and many Chinese students if they have the opportunity to know the reality really support it and are in fact very critical of their government policy. “If Chinese government still accuse us of being splitists, we ourselves are confused. We are not ‘splittists,’ but the Chinese government still accuses us of being ‘splittists,’” he said.

China cancelled the annual EU-China Summit slated for December 1 when French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he would meet the Dalai Lama in Poland. Sarkozy also represents the EU Presidency as France holds the rotating EU Presidency till the end of the year before handing it over to the Czech Republic for next six months.

When asked to comment on his meeting with Sarkozy, the Dalai Lama, with a cheerful smile said, “I have met the wife (Mrs. Sarkozy) and will be meeting the husband.” Praising the Chinese people for their diligence and perseverance and citing “manpower, economic and military power” as positive desired contributors for China to becomes “a superpower,” the Dalai Lama pointed out, “Now one important factor is moral authority and that is lacking. “Because of its very poor record on human rights and religious freedom and freedom of expression and freedom of the press — too much censorship — the image of China in the field of moral authority is very, very poor,” he said.

“The sensible Chinese realise China should now give more attention to this field to get more respectability in world affairs,” the Nobel peace laureate said, adding, “My faith in Chinese people has never shaken,” while the top echelons of Chinese leadership is divided into hard liners and soft approach advocates.

The Dalai Lama called the Chinese regime a “capitalist totalitarian regime,” and urged the importance of trust and transparency telling journalists, “trust is the key factor and for that transparency (is) really very much needed.” Calling upon the Chinese authorities to “adjust to new reality,” the Buddhist leader suggested that the Chinese authorities also can change to fit into the changing world scenario. Earlier, he addressed the European Parliament during his second day in the Belgian capital, where he was greeted by loud applause and Tibetan flags.

President Poettering, assured that the parliament would “continue to defend the rights of the Tibetan people to their cultural and religious identity.” He called on Chinese leaders to hold meaningful talks with representatives of the exiled Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, and has sought “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet since he had to leave his homeland following a failed uprising in 1959 against Chinese rule, nine years after Chinese troops invaded the region. Ruled by China since the 18th Century, Tibet became independent in 1911, but the new Communist regime in China reasserted control in 1951, and installed a Communist government in 1953.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pharma package seen for Dec 10

The European Commission will present the much-delayed “pharma package” on December 10 at a press conference.

Ton van Liero, spokesman for Gunter Verheugen, European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, told me, “We foresee a press conference on Wednesday on the pharma package.”

Moreover, the Commission announced that the College of Commissioners (27 Commissioners) will be presented with it next Wednesday.

Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio told journalists: “On the agenda of the Commission meeting next Wednesday, will be a major pharmaceutical package. It has been subject of many draft directives, amendments, existing directives and Commission communications by Mr. (Gunter) Verheugen and various proposals and drafts and regulations, so the whole package that is for pharmaceutical industry.”

Earlier today addressing a joint press conference with health ministers from G7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US), Mexico and the World Health Organisation, European Health Commissioner Andrroulla Vassiiou also had expressed hope that the pharma package will come out soon.

The Commissioner was hosting Global Health Security Initiative (GHSI) to forge stronger global collaboration on health security.

VASSILIOU ADDRESSES DIFFERENCES

Replying to a question about disagreements within the Commission, Commissioner Vassliou said, “It (Pharma package) is one of the most difficult packages and it is natural that all cabinets are very interested about it and there is a lot of discussion so that our purpose is to reach a final agreement on a package which will be in agreement with everybody,” adding, “I am hopeful that it will come up with something which will be satisfactory to everybody and useful to everybody.”

The European Commission has repeatedly delayed since October 21, the publishing draft regulations which could overhaul the pharmaceutical sector, amid rumours that divisions within the Commission are leading to the delays.

VERHEUGEN STAYS CONFIDENT

European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Gunter Verheugen had denied that his package of proposed new regulations for the pharmaceutical industry will be substantially altered despite its publication being delayed but APM understands there are disagreements within the College over such subjects as banning the repackaging of medicines, which is widely practiced by parallel traders.

The pharma industry has been pushing to ban repackaging of medicines saying it is the only way to stop trade in counterfeit products.

But supporters of parallel trade believe it could damage the legitimate practice of traders buying low-price drugs in markets such as Greece and selling them at a profit in other countries where they can command a higher price.

A report published recently on the website of the Commission's directorate general for Enterprise and Industry said that repackaging and relabelling medicines posed an inherent risk to patients but banning the practice would result in a dramatic reduction in the level of parallel trade and in the loss or redeployment of some 10,000 jobs across Europe.

The sources recently told me that a revamped package is now being prepared that will not ban repackaging. "Those proposals are history," said one.

This is in line with comments from a Commission spokesman earlier. "There is no ban foreseen on repackaging or relabelling ... Parallel trade is a legal economic activity in the European Union (and) the commission does not intend to change that."

INFORMATION TO CONSUMERS FACTOR

But other measures in the pharmaceuticals package are also controversial, such as a proposal to allow companies to provide information on their drugs to patients, which some commentators believe is tantamount to permitting direct-to-consumer advertising.

The Association Internationale de la Mutualit√©, Health Action International (HAI) Europe and Medicines in Europe Forum today in an open letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said: “The proposals on “information to patients” represent yet another tactic to delay generic competition by enabling the pharmaceutical companies to communicate directly to the public on their respective prescription-only medicines, thereby building "brand loyalty" and market share for their own originator products at the expense of affordable medicines for the public.”

Greg Perry, Director General, European Generic Medicines Association (EGA) had told me: "We understand the reason for the delay is due to lack of agreement on ITP (information to patients virtual network) proposal."

Perry said the EGA's main concern was now that the proposed legislation will not make it through this session of the European Parliament, particularly the pharmacovigilance package which is "a good proposal in terms of  improving patients safety, harmonisation and better regulation."