Archive for India
Lithuania’s foreign minister has asked India to stand true to its promise of starting an embassy in Vilnius. The assurance was given in 2005 by then Indian external affairs minister K Natwar Singh. Currently, the Indian mission for Lithuania is based out of Warsaw, Poland. A ‘lack of funds’ has prevented India from opening an embassy in Vilnius. In an exclusive interview to TOI, foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said Lithuania opened its embassy in New Delhi in 2008, amid the deepest financial crisis of modern times. “With bilateral and economic ties between India and Lithuania growing steadily, it is time for India to start an embassy in Vilnius,” Linkevicius said. “Around 3,000 Lithuanian citizens travel to India each year. For visas, they have to send their passports to Poland, which is inconvenient. An Indian mission in Vilnius will be highly welcome. ” Linkevicius also extended an invitation to his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, to visit Lithuania.
The US has said the aftermath of last year’s Khobragade incident has led to the development of closer ties and closer communication with India. “I think that despite the fact that we had this very uncomfortable and unfortunate situation that we had to work through, at the end of the day I think we have developed closer ties and closer communication with our two systems as a result,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Nisha Desai Biswal said. We have certainly spent many, many long hours discussing with our Indian colleagues ways to ensure that we have greater understandings and greater clarity about our expectations of each other under each other’s laws and under each other’s systems, she said. Ms Khobragade, a 1999 India Foreign Service officer and mother of two daughters has now returned to India. However, the US has still not withdrawn the allegations against her. Both Ms Khobragade and the Indian Government has denied those charges. Ms Khobragade’s arrest, particularly reports that she was handcuffed in front of her children’s school and strip-searched while in detention, infuriated the Indian public. Washington, for its part, was taken aback by the fierce Indian reaction, which included withdrawing diplomatic privileges for US diplomats and removing security barriers at the US embassy in New Delh.
Even before the Iraq crisis prompted the Central government to intervene to ensure the safe return of 46 Indian nurses, there were a few others who underwent the difficulties of war on the Islamic land, and decided to return home safely before their luck ran out. According to Shobha Prabhakaran, a nursing manager, the Indian Embassy in Iraq woke up to the problems of nurses, only when the insurgency became news globally. “When we tried contacting Indian Embassy in Baghdad, as insurgents started taking over Fallujah, which was very close to Ramadi, where we were working. However, there was no encouraging response from the embassy. Later, we sought the help of Directorate of Health in Iraq and returned back,” she said. Shobha was among the first batch of 40 nurses from India, and the only one from Karnataka, who started working in Iraq in 2012, after a government was elected in the country torn by war and internal strife. Just when everything seemed to be getting back to normalcy, the strife between the military of Iraq and insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) broke out, forcing her and her colleagues to live for three months under constant fear for their lives.
The Delhi police is investigating an incident of firing outside a house where several Israeli nationals, including embassy officials, live in South Delhi’s Vasant Vihar. According to the police, four Israeli diplomats were present in the house at the time of incident. A senior police official said the incident took place in B Block on Vasant Marg at around 1.45 am. “We have recovered a bullet shell from the crime scene, but it was of plastic,” the police said, adding a team of special cell also visited the crime scene as the matter involved Israeli diplomats. The official said that a pistol used to give signal to athletes was used in the crime. The police said that a security guard working with Delhi Public School witnessed the whole incident. “We have recorded the statement of the guard. He told us that a man in a car stopped his vehicle outside the house, opened fire and fled from the scene,” the police said, quoting the statement of the guard. After the incident, some officials of the Israel embassy visited the spot and demanded sufficient security for their nationals. The police deployed extra personnel to avoid any untoward incidents in the area.
A man and his family were in for a shock when they were taken to a police station and questioned for more than four hours for clicking a photograph of the US embassy on Friday morning. The family was made to wait at the police station for being questioned by sleuths from intelligence agencies. Rama Rao, an engineer based in Dallas, told TOI that he was on a two-day visit to the capital following which he was scheduled to leave for a trip to northern India. On Friday, he, along with his wife, son and daughter, had gone to see Qutab Minar after having lunch at Connaught Place. “On the way, I stopped near the US embassy in Chanakyapuri and decided to take a photograph of the embassy building since it was July 4, the US Independence Day. I wanted to show the photograph of the decorations to a friend in Dallas,” Rao said. He said that, after he took two snaps sitting in the car, he saw two security men from the embassy running towards him. “They asked me to stop taking photographs and told me it was prohibited. I promised them I would delete the photos immediately and did so, but the security present there asked me to show my passport and accompany them to the police station,” he said. The family added that police seized all their passports and overseas Indian resident cards and asked them to wait for questioning. He added that the ordeal went on for a few hours since the policemen did not have the contact numbers of the intelligence officials who would interrogate them. They were let off after the sleuths were satisfied with the answers. Police said the family was questioned as a part of standard protocol since photography is not permitted anywhere around embassies. No case was registered.
The helpline set up by the Indian embassy in Baghdad has been receiving many calls for rescue. Travel documents of more than 800 people have been readied so that they can be brought back to India from different parts of Iraq. The ministry of external affairs issued a travel advisory for Indian nationals in Iraq and the Indian Embassy in Baghdad has opened six camp offices at Najaf, Karbala and Basra for assisting Indians with travel documents and paper work. Instructions to the workers have been issued in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Urdu and Hindi. Two officials from Hyderabad have been posted at Basra and Najaf to assist in Telugu. Srinivas Rao, a Telugu-speaking official assisting people in Najaf, Iraq, said that there are over 200 Telugu speaking people in Najaf. “The city so far has been peaceful. We have already issued a total of 800 to 1,000 documents for Indians to return to the country. Most of the men are construction workers and most of the women are nurses,” he said adding “We get over 100 calls every day. Some call for help, some call to enquire about their family.”
Reacting strongly to reports of BJP being spied upon by US National Security Agency (NSA), India on Wednesday summoned a top US diplomat here to raise the issue, saying it was “totally unacceptable” that an Indian organization or Indian individual’s privacy was transgressed upon. India also sought an assurance from the US that it will not happen again. However, officials did not say who was the US diplomat summoned by the external affairs Ministry. Significantly, the US currently has an interim ambassador Kathleen Stephens who came in after former US ambassador Nancy Powell resigned from her post. India also noted that it had raised the issue with the US administration in Washington and the Embassy here in July and November last year when reports emerged that NSA had spied upon individuals and entities and said it was still “awaiting a response from American on this”.