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NIA says close to solving case, finds ‘clear’ Pakistan link in Pulwama attack

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is close to cracking the Pulwama terror attack case, with evidence pointing to an elaborate operation by four or five Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants, including suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar and a local handler, according to people familiar with the developments.

The owner of the Maruti Eeco vehicle used in the February 14 attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy that killed 40 troopers has also been identified, said the people cited above. The vehicle was registered in Kashmir some eight years ago and was being used by the group with the knowledge of the owner, who has gone missing, they added.

NIA investigators, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Pakistani footprint in the attack is clearly visible. The bomber’s vehicle was loaded with about 25 kilograms of RDX stored in a container. While it is still being investigated on how the JeM unit behind the attack managed to procure the RDX, investigators believe that the explosives knowhow came from across the border.

“We have the full details about the vehicle, which was sighted with the same group at least a couple of times,” said an NIA investigator.

The NIA has found that Dar was “active” with the JeM unit since he went missing last March. The group comprised largely of terrorists from across the border. Adil particularly disliked the CRPF after an alleged attempt by security forces to set Dar’s Kakapora house on fire in end May or June, 2018.

The investigators point to a JeM statement after the June 2, 2018 grenade attacks on the security forces at Fateh Kadal and Badshah Chowk in Srinagar as part of “Operation Badr”. At that time, local news agency GNS quoted a JeM spokesperson as saying that “government forces made a vain and shameful attempt of setting ablaze the house of one of our colleagues Adil Ahmad Dar alias Waqas of Kakapora Gundibagh, Pulwama, during the dead of night”. The spokesman, according to GNS, warned that every army camp in Jammu and Kashmir was a target, and would be burned.

Investigators believe that Dar may have been radicalised by his local Jaish handler after the alleged ransacking of his house, and prepared for the extreme step on instructions from across the border.

Although the NIA declined to reveal the identities of people involved in the attack at this stage, a senior official said that the full details of the case should be known over the next two weeks.

“We have pieces of evidence; the job of joining of dots to unravel the entire conspiracy is on. Someone brought the RDX from across the border, while another person rigged the device. The vehicle was perhaps repainted with someone doing the reconnaissance of the spot and selection of target. We have the full picture of the attack,” the senior official added.

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Odd-even in Delhi ends today, air pollution levels to decide extension of scheme

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A decision on extending the odd-even road space rationing drive will be taken on Friday, transport minister Kailash Gahlot said on Thursday.

“As of now, Friday is the last day of the odd-even drive in Delhi. However, we have received a number of requests and appeals to extend the drive as air quality is still in the severe category,” Gahlot said.

The minister said a final call on whether the road rationing drive should be extended would be taken only on Friday, based on the air pollution levels. On Wednesday, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had said the Delhi government was ready to extend the odd-even drive if pollution levels in the national capital continued to spike.

On Thursday, 475drivers were prosecuted for violating the drive. With this, the total number of challans issued since November 4, when the drive started, stands at 4,309.

Meanwhile, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Goel once again staged a protest against the scheme. On Thursday, the leader stood at the busy ITO intersection holding placards blaming the Delhi government for the spike in pollution levels.

“The Kejriwal government failed to work on 90% of the internal factors that cause pollution. Kejriwal should resign for making Delhi a gas chamber. Even the Supreme Court has raised serious questions on the implementation and impact of the odd-even drive,” Goel said.

On the first day of the odd-even drive, Goel had staged a protest by deliberately violating the rule.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for violating the pollution control norms in Delhi. “When pollution increases in Delhi, the BJP celebrates and their slogan is ‘Pradushan Badhao’ (increase pollution). It’s unfortunate that when the AAP government arranged a four-day laser show to encourage people not to burn crackers this Diwali, the BJP encouraged people to burn crackers in Diwali,” said Sanjay Singh, AAP leader and Rajya Sabha MP.

“When the AAP government brought back odd-even, then BJP leaders drove cars violating the norms, he said.

The AAP leader urged union environment minister Prakash Javadekar to hold a meeting with all state governments of North India to discuss solutions for stop stubble burning and suggest long-term anti-pollution measures.

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Hand over wanted Indians living in Pak if you want better ties: S Jaishankar

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External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said the relationship with Pakistan remains “difficult” because it openly practices terrorism against India, and if Islamabad is serious to cooperate with New Delhi, it should hand over the Indians wanted for terrorist activities living in Pakistan.

In a wide-ranging interview with French daily Le Monde, the minister said Pakistan does not deny sending terrorists to India.

“The relationship is difficult since many years, mainly because Pakistan has developed an important terrorist industry and sends terrorists to India to carry out attacks. Pakistan itself does not deny this situation,” he said, in response to a question about Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s recent statement that relations with India are “close to zero”.

“Now, tell me: which country would be willing to talk and negotiate with a neighbour who openly practices terrorism against it… We need actions that demonstrate a real willingness to cooperate.

“For example, there are Indians wanted for terrorist activities living in Pakistan. We are telling Pakistan: hand them over to us,” he said, in a clear reference to criminals like underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, who is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

Dawood, originally from Dongri in Mumbai, is wanted for murder, extortion, targeted killing, drug trafficking, terrorism and various other cases. His name figured in the United Nations Security Council’s updated list of terrorists and militant groups in 2018.

On the situation in Kashmir, Jaishankar said the “reforms” in August, when India revoked Article 370 to withdraw the special status of the region, led to some precautionary measures to avert the danger of violent reactions from radical and separatist elements but that the situation was now returning to normal. “These restrictions have been gradually reduced, and as the situation normalises, telephone and mobile lines have been restored, shops are open and apple harvest is under way. The situation is back to normal,” he said, adding that foreign journalists would be welcome to the region as soon as things are safe.

Asked about the tide of “nationalism” in India, Jaishankar reiterated that India’s nationalism should not be viewed through western lens.

“Each country has a different understanding of nationalism, a different history. In the United States, it has an isolationist connotation. In Asia, at least in India, nationalism is a positive word,” he said.

On a question related to tensions arising out of nationalism for minorities, he reiterated: “It is my country that defines my nationality, not my religion, nor my caste, nor my language.

“The concept of nation is different. In India, we are in a sense a civilization state, with natural, linguistic, ethnic and religious diversity. We have never considered uniformity as a necessity or an aspiration. There are few places in the world where you will see so many people with so many beliefs co-existing.” In the interview which covered a wide spectrum of topics, from India-China relations to the India-US dynamic, the external affairs minister was categorical about India’s growing importance in a world where power will be more dispersed across a range of actors.

“We are in a completely different world. We tend to consider the post-1945 bipolar world and the post-1992 American world as the norm. But look at the history of the world. Things change, nothing is engraved in stone. This world will be different, power will be more dispersed, there will be more actors,” he said.

Asked if Europe would be one such actor, he noted that India would be in favour of that.

“We are a deeply democratic country… in a democratic world, Europe must have a greater role,” he said.

On India and China, the minister said that both countries shared a common interest in making the world more inclusive and a re-balancing of the world requires re-balancing with Asia, and in Asia, which covers primarily with India and China.

“We are two great countries and it is in our common interest to have good relationships,” he said.

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‘India, China dumping garbage into sea that floats into Los Angeles’: Trump

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US President Donald Trump has said countries like China, India and Russia are doing “absolutely nothing” to clean up their smokestacks and industrial plants and the garbage that they drop in sea floats into Los Angeles.

Terming climate change as a “very complex issue”, Trump said he considers himself to be, “in many ways, an environmentalist, believe it or not”.

“So …I’m very much into climate. But I want the cleanest air on the planet and I want to have — I have to have clean air — water,” Trump said in remarks at the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday. Trump told the audience that the US withdrew from the “one-sided, horrible, horrible, economically unfair, ‘close your businesses down within three years,’ ‘don’t frack, don’t drill, we don’t want any energy’ — the horrible Paris Climate Accord that killed American jobs and shielded foreign polluters.”

He said the Paris Climate Agreement was a “disaster” for the US, adding that the deal would have resulted in “trillions and trillions of dollars” of destruction to America. “And it is so unfair. It doesn’t kick in for China until 2030. Russia goes back into the 1990s, where the base year was the dirtiest year ever in the world. India, we are supposed to pay them money because they are a developing nation. I said, ‘We’re a developing nation, too’,” Trump said amidst laughter from the audience.

Responding to a question about how he thinks about risk as it relates to trade policy and issues like climate change, Trump said, “when people ask the question…about climate — I always say: You know, I have a little problem.

“We have a relatively small piece of land — the United States. And you compare that to some of the other countries like China, like India, like Russia, like many other countries that absolutely are doing absolutely nothing to clean up their smokestacks and clean up all of their plants and all of the garbage that they’re dropping in sea and that floats into Los Angeles, along with other problems that Los Angeles has, by the way.”

“But when you see this happening, it’s — nobody wants to talk about it. They want to talk about our country. We have to do this. We have can’t have planes any longer. We can’t have cows any longer. We can’t have anything. I said, “What about China?”,” he said.

He said he wants clean air and crystal-clean, clear water and the US today has the “cleanest air we’ve ever had in our country, meaning, over the last 40 years. I guess, 200 years ago was cleaner, but there was nothing around.” “But I want clean air. I want clean water, environmentally,” he said.

The US last week formally notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate accord, a landmark global agreement which brought together 188 nations, including India, to combat global warming.

The Paris Agreement, in which Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi played instrumental roles, was adopted at the UN climate conference “COP 21” held in the French capital in 2015 with an aim to reduce the hazardous greenhouse gas emissions.

Although Trump had announced his decision to withdraw from the historic agreement on June 1, 2017, the process began on November 4 with the formal notification and the US will be out of the pact on November 4, 2020.

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