Nirmala Sitharaman to get a hotline with James Mattis as India, US scale up ties

India and the US have agreed to set up a dedicated hotline between their defence ministers for real time communication on global security issues and coordination between the first and the fourth strongest militaries in the world, according to Indian government officials familiar with the matter. An announcement to this effect is expected on September 6 during the so-called two-plus-two dialogue between US secretary of state Mike Pompeo and defence secretary James Mattis with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi.

South Block sources said India has agreed to a decade-long US proposal for a dedicated line between the defence leadership of the countries. The basic idea is to cut through bureaucratic red tape and communicate discreetly in matters of bilateral and multilateral importance. With both the countries interested in the IndoPacific region and happenings in West Asia, the hotline is expected to ensure cogent response from the two major defence allies

The hotline was first proposed by the US in 2008 to the then United Progressive Alliance regime but was ignored due to pressure from the Cold war warriors in the Manmohan Singh government, the officials added. There is already a direct line between US National Security Advisor John Bolton and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

India and US are also expected to finally sign the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) during the two-plus-two dialogue with both sides frenetically working on a mutually acceptable final draft. COMCASA is a foundational military agreement which will allow India to use US communications for its US-built platforms. “The draft of COMCASA is being worked at and the agreement should be ready for initials during the ministerial dialogue, “said a senior South Block official.

India has also agreed to place a military officer at the US Central and Pacific Commands for better coordination between the militaries. Which US CENTCOM has both Pakistan and Afghanistan under its jurisdiction, the PACCOM is responsible for the IndoPacific region.

The hotline and the signing of COMCASA will further reinforce the ongoing trend of the two countries working closely together. In recent weeks, the US has granted India a status hitherto reserved for NATO member countries to import key defence equipment and access defence technologies, and the two countries have resolved some sticky trade issues. On Monday, US President Donald Trump is expected to sign off on a waiver for India from a US regulation instituting sanctions against countries doing business with Russia, one of India’s key suppliers of defence equipment.

“The structural basis of India-US ties has never been better and defence is very much in the lead. Constant communication is central to taking it forward,” said S Jaishankar, former foreign secretary of India who has also served as India’s ambassador to the US. up its offensive against the National Democratic Alliance on issues such as the Rafale deal, exclusion of 4 million people in National Register of Citizens in Assam and non-implementation of promises to Andhra Pradesh.

As many as 17 bills were introduced during the session and the Lok Sabha spent the most time—49 out of 102 hours—in legislative business. A PRS Legislative Research analysis said this is “the highest amount of time spent on legislative business by both Houses in the 16th Lok Sabha; (and the) second highest since 2004.”

Congress leaders came out on the street inside the Parliament complex to protest against the government on Friday, but barring some sporadic protests, there was no threat of a washout, like the second half of the last Budget session.

Both Houses passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that is expected to prevent a recurrence of a recent rash of incidents where bank loan defaulters such as Vijay Mallya or fraudsters such as Nirav Modi have fled India for foreign shores. Parliament also cleared the bill for granting constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes and amended the SC/ST bill to tighten the law against offenders. The two important bills aim to address concerns of socially vulnerable sections and can also be important political tools for the ruling section in election times.

Still, the bill to criminalize Instant Triple Talaq, approved in the Lower House, could not be passed in the Upper House when brought for debate on the last day. When the Upper House reconvened after two adjournments, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu announced that the Triple Talaq Bill can’t be taken up as a consensus on the issue is yet to be evolved.

With a year left for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Centre withdrew the contentious FRDI bill that faced opposition from various quarters over the controversial bail-in clause. Finance ministry officials maintained that it may be brought back again after revisiting some of the provisions where concerns were raised.

In her valedictory speech, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan maintained that the monsoon session has been “more productive and satisfactory” than the previous Budget Session and last year’s monsoon session. Both Mahajan and Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu maintained that the session furthered the cause of social justice with legislations such as the NCBC bill and SC/ST bill having a wide impact on the lives of the deprived population.

Addressing the House on Friday, Naidu said, “South West monsoon is very critical for the economy of our country and it has been by and large normal with only about 5% deficit in rain fall so far. And the Monsoon session of Parliament also brought new tidings marking a break from the last two sessions much to the delight of all those who have a stake in our Parliamentary democracy.” Still, while lauding members for this he reminded them that the productivity deficit still remains.

The Narendra Modi government also kept alive the chances of pushing the amendments to the land law as the joint panel reviewing the bill has been given time till the end of the 16th Lok Sabha to submit its report. The contentious bill proposes to relax norms for industries and developments for public purposes to acquire land.

“The discussion on the no confidence motion early on in the session resulted in diffusing the parliament logjam from the previous session. This then enabled the government to get parlimament’s approval on key legislation. One hopes that the bipartisanship on legislative extends to the winter session too,” said Chaksu Ray of PRS Legislative Research.

Interestingly, from the time the 16th Lok Sabha was constituted, till the end of the current monsoon session according to PRS: “fewer bills (have been) referred to Parliamentary Committees (26%) as compared to the 15th Lok Sabha (71%) and the 14th Lok Sabha (60%)”. the Uttar Pradesh police drew flak for doing a shoddy job. The then chief minister Mayawati handed over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) where the case took several sensational turns.

Two CBI investigators reached opposite conclusions on the basis of more or less the same evidence.

The first team led by Arun Kumar claimed a breakthrough on the basis of “scientific evidence”, primarily narco-analysis test reports, and arrested three men— Talwar’s compounder Krishna and two domestic help working in the neighbourhood, Rajkumar and Vijay Mandal. But the agency eventually failed to build a case against them.

Another team probed the parents but it too failed to build a case, filing a closure report.

When the couple objected to the CBI closing the case, the special court rejected the closure report and ordered prosecution of the parents on the basis of existing evidence, leading to their eventual conviction.

The couple was awarded life sentence by a special CBI court in Ghaziabad on November 26, 2013, a day after the conviction.

On October 16, 2017, the couple walked out of the prison in Uttar Pradesh’s Dasna, three days after the conviction was overturned. teacher who was employed as an assistant teacher, and the accused have been suspended from duty,” the NDMC officer said on condition of anonymity.

On Friday morning, Delhi Commission for Women chairperson, Swati Maliwal, asked the Delhi Police to submit an action taken report. The National Human Rights Commission has also taken suo motu cognisance and issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi, and the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, calling for a detailed report in the matter within four weeks.

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 07:29 IST

Updated: August 11, 2018 — 8:04 am