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Thursday, April 25, 2019

April 25, 2019

India’s Modi faces fight in Maharashtra state that could decide majority

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves towards his supporters during a roadshow in Varanasi, India, April 25, 2019. Photo: Reuters

NASHIK: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party and a Hindu nationalist ally face a big electoral challenge in the critical western state of Maharashtra where rural distress, unemployment and drought may hurt Modi’s bid for a second term.

Strategists already expect Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to lose ground in the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in the north, as voting is underway in a general election that began on April 11 and ends on May 19.

That coupled with possible losses in Maharashtra, home to India’s financial capital, Mumbai, and the second most seats in parliament after Uttar Pradesh, would make it harder for the BJP-led coalition to win a governing majority, they say.

The BJP and its regional ally, Shiv Sena, won 41 of 48 seats in Maharashtra in the 2014 election. There are 545 seats in the lower house of parliament.

How rural India votes will largely determine the outcome. Nearly two-thirds of its 1.3 billion people live in the towns and villages in the countryside.

Only a few weeks ago, Modi appeared to have turned back the opposition tide in Maharashtra with his tough line on Pakistan after Islamist militants based there killed 40 Indian police in a suicide attack in the disputed Kashmir region.

Modi ordered an air strike on a suspected militant camp in Pakistan, and doubled down on security as a campaign issue.

“In March, it looked like the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra had an edge due to the air strikes,” said Pratap Asbe, a political commentator based in Mumbai.

“But in the past few weeks the opposition has seized on issues such as unemployment and lower crop prices that have hurt voters,” he said.


Reuters interviewed 148 farmers from 11 districts in the state in March and April, and nearly two-thirds said their incomes had fallen and they blamed the government for not doing enough to support crop prices.

The BJP-led state government’s slow response to the farm crisis has inflamed the anti-incumbency mood ahead of a state election due by October, Abse said.

Protests by farmers in the state have grown in the last two years as crop prices plunged, while some gave up hope.

There were 3,661 farm suicides in Maharashtra in 2016, nearly a third of the national toll that year, according to government data. Recent numbers are not available.

The farm crisis is acutely felt in the sugar industry.

Sugar mills in the state, India’s second-biggest producer of sugar, cotton and soybeans, have run up a record $614.8 million in arrears to cane farmers due to poor sales amid a sugar glut.

“Sugar mills are not paying government-mandated prices for cane and have also been delaying payments for months,” said Madhav Pawase, a farmer in Nashik district, nearly 175 km (110 miles) north of Mumbai.

Modi’s administration has done little to ensure mills pay the right price to farmers on time, added Pawase, who voted for Shiv Sena in the 2014 election.

Poor rains have added to farmers’ woes. Rainfall in the state was 23 percent below normal in 2018, wilting crops and causing water shortages.

Farmers say the government is reluctant to open cattle shelters where livestock can get free water and fodder.

The lack of jobs is also major issue for voters in Maharashtra, where competition for government positions has fuelled community tensions.

The state’s dominant Maratha community has organised protests and shutdowns, including marches to Mumbai in recent years, to demand that government posts are reserved for them.

“There are no jobs today. We want a government that will create jobs,” said Akash Phalke, a mechanical engineer who has spent the past two years looking for a job.


Shiv Sena is one of the BJP’s oldest allies, but they have long squabbled over how to share power. Shiv Sena had said it would contest this general election alone, but agreed just before the polls to another tie up with the BJP.

However, it’s not clear if BJP and Shiv Sena cadres have embraced the renewed alliance on the campaign trail, said Sunil Chawake, a senior assistant editor at the Maharashtra Times newspaper.

“The lower level workers of both parties have grudges against each other and don’t work together cohesively,” he said.

The partnership between the opposition Congress party and its Maharashtra ally, the Nationalist Congress Party, is more watertight, Chawake said.

The opposition also got a boost when a regional party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, decided to sit out the general election and its leader Raj Thackeray began campaigning against the BJP.

“Thackeray has been propelling the winning chances of the opposition in Mumbai and the adjourning areas,” said Asbe.


from World – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2VtYbju
April 25, 2019

South Africa sweat on injured Steyn for World Cup

South Africa's Dale Steyn

South Africa’s Dale Steyn attempts to field off his delivery. Photo: Reuters

CAPE TOWN: South Africa face an anxious wait over the fitness of experienced seamer Dale Steyn after a flare-up of an old shoulder injury ruled him out for the rest of the Indian Premier League season, putting his World Cup prospects in doubt.

The 35-year-old Steyn felt discomfort having played for the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday, just his second game of the competition after he was signed as an injury replacement for Australian seamer Nathan Coulter-Nile.

“Upon assessment and subsequent investigations, a flare-up of his right shoulder was confirmed,” South Africa team manager Mohammed Moosajee said in a statement on Thursday.

“With the World Cup around the corner, it is our priority to get him back to full fitness before the squad departs on May 19.

“He will consult with a shoulder specialist upon his return and a recovery plan will be put in place.”

Steyn, arguably his country’s greatest fast bowler, was sidelined from South Africa’s one-day international side for two years with shoulder, hamstring and foot problems before returning in Oct. 2018.

He was last week named in a 15-man squad for the World Cup being held in England and Wales, having previously appeared at the tournament in 2011 and 2015.

Steyn is viewed as a key part of a three-man pace attack that also includes Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada, this season’s leading wicket-taker in the IPL.

South Africa open the World Cup campaign against England at The Oval on May 30.


from Sports – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2DBZOlk
April 25, 2019

Atletico put Barca celebrations on ice with win over Valencia

Atletico Madrid’s Alvaro Morata shoots at goal. Photo: Reuters

MADRID: Atletico Madrid delayed Barcelona’s La Liga title celebrations by beating Valencia 3-2 at home in an entertaining game on Wednesday at a sparsely attended Wanda Metropolitano stadium.

Defeat for Atletico would have seen Barca clinch an eighth title in 11 years, but the victory moved Diego Simeone’s side on to 71 points after 34 games, nine points behind the Catalans.

Barca will be champions if they beat Levante at home on Saturday and could seal the title before kickoff if Atletico lose at home to Real Valladolid earlier in the day.

Alvaro Morata put Atletico ahead on a rain-swept evening in the ninth minute by knocking a cross in from close range on the volley but Valencia equalised in the 36th through former Atletico forward Kevin Gameiro.

Atletico’s top scorer Antoine Griezmann put the home side back in front early in the second half with a header but the visitors, who are chasing fourth spot in La Liga, were awarded a penalty for a handball by Saul Niguez following a VAR review.

Captain Dani Parejo slammed the ball home from the spot but Atletico came back again to take the lead for the third time with a brilliant strike from Angel Correa, who sent the ball sweeping just inside the near post from outside the area.


from Sports – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2VqOnHd
April 25, 2019

Russell named in West Indies World Cup squad, Pollard and Narine omitted

West Indies Andre Russell in action. Courtesty: WI Cricket Board

JAMAICA: All-rounders Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine failed to make the cut as West Indies announced their 15-man squad for the World Cup on Wednesday with Jason Holder set to lead the team for the tournament in England and Wales.

Hard-hitting opening batsman Chris Gayle, 39, was called up for what will be his fifth World Cup as was all-rounder Andre Russell, who is currently averaging 65 in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).

“He’s scored a lot of runs and we’ll be using him as a batting all-rounder,” coach Floyd Reifer said of Russell. “He’s doing very well in the IPL. We’ve got to manage his injuries and have three to four days rest between the games.”

Pollard and Narine, who have not been part of the ODI setup since 2016, have played 166 ODIs between them but were both overlooked by an interim selection panel which comprised of Robert Haynes, Jimmy Adams and coach Reifer.

“The selection panel looked at the skill set of the players and the combinations,” Haynes said. “We’ve looked at the wickets that have been used in England in the past, players fitness and their urge to represent West Indies.

“We came up with a balanced team who will represent West Indies in England.”

Evin Lewis, who missed the recent England series with an injury, was also named in the squad. There was also a return for fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who last played in 2017, alongside other quicks Kemar Roach and the relatively inexperienced Oshane Thomas.

Fabian Allen and Ashley Nurse will be on spin duty while Nicholas Pooran is set to compete with Shai Hope for the wicketkeeper’s spot.

West Indies, champions in 1975 and 1979, start their World Cup campaign on May 31 when they take on Pakistan in Nottingham.

Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wicketkeeper), Nicholas Pooran (wicketkeeper), Carlos Brathwaite, Andre Russell, Ashley Nurse, Shannon Gabriel, Fabian Allen, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell.


from Sports – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2GrMDUo
April 25, 2019

Bayern reach German Cup final to keep double in sight

Bayern Munich’s Thomas Mueller celebrates scoring their second goal with team mates. Photo: Reuters

BERLIN: Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich beat Werder Bremen 3-2 with two goals from Robert Lewandowski on Wednesday to advance to the German Cup final for the second straight year and keep the domestic league and cup double firmly in their sights.

The Bavarians, who also beat Werder in the league last week, will now face RB Leipzig in the final on May 25. Bayern had lost last year’s final to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Werder scored twice in two minutes to come back from two goals down to level at 2-2 before Lewandowski hit an 80th minute penalty to secure victory for Bayern, who are chasing a record-extending 19th cup victory.

“We knew it would be tough. We had the penalty but we also had the chances. We deserved to go through,” said Bayern’s Niko Kovac, who can become the first coach to win the German Cup in consecutive years with different teams.

“We were caught napping in those two minutes and suddenly Bremen are level,” said Kovac, who won the Cup with Frankfurt last year. “The penalty may have been a bit lucky but overall we fully deserved the win.”

Bayern opened their account with the Bundesliga’s leading scorer –Lewandowski — who stabbed in from close range after a looping header from Thomas Mueller had bounced off the post in the 36th minute.

The hosts had their share of chances but it was Bayern who scored again with Mueller in the 63rd.

Werder, however, fought back through Yuya Osako in the 74th minute and Milot Rashica in the 75th.

Lewandowski, however, silenced the home crowd with his spot kick, which was awarded for a foul on Kingsley Coman by Theodor Gebre Selassie that left the Bremen players furious with the decision.

The Poland forward should have had a hat-trick but he hit the post from a metre out in stoppage time.


from Sports – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2XCUHZq
April 25, 2019

China leads the US on potent super-fast missiles

ZHUHAI: China is leading the US in a race to deploy hypersonic missiles that would defeat existing air defence systems, according to senior US officials.

The combination of speed, manoeuvrability and altitude of these missiles makes them difficult to track and intercept. They travel at speeds of more than five times the speed of sound or about 6,200 kilometres (3,853 miles) per hour. Some will travel as fast as 25,000 kilometres per hour, according to the US and other Western weapons researchers. That’s about 25 times as fast as modern passenger jets.

Admiral Harry Harris, the former head of US Pacific Command, told the House Armed Services Committee in February last year that hypersonic weapons were one of a range of advanced technologies where China was beginning to outpace the US military, challenging its dominance in the Asia-Pacific region.

Last April, Michael Griffin, the US Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China has deployed, or is close to deploying, hypersonic systems armed with conventional warheads. These can travel thousands of kilometres from the Chinese coast and threaten American forward bases or carrier battle groups, he said.

“We do not have defences against those systems,” Griffin said.

Russia may have already fielded a hypersonic weapon. At a parade in May last year, the Russian military displayed what it had earlier said was a hypersonic missile. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the missile as invincible.

Russia’s defence ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters about its hypersonic weapons capabilities.

The Chinese military in 2014 said it had conducted a hypersonic test flight. By early 2016, it had conducted six successful tests, according to US military officials.

In early November, China unveiled a new ballistic anti-ship missile, the CM-401, at the biennial airshow in the southern city of Zhuhai. Reports in the official state-controlled media said the new missile was a hypersonic weapon. An information panel alongside a model of the new missile said the CM-401 was a “high supersonic” ballistic missile which had a trajectory reaching near space. It had a range of up to 290 kilometres, the panel said.

China, Russia and the United States have focused research and development on two classes of these weapons: hypersonic glide vehicles and cruise missiles that fly at hypersonic speeds, according to the US and other Western weapons analysts and military officials. Both types could carry conventional or nuclear payloads.

A hypersonic glide vehicle is boosted aloft on a rocket to heights of between 40 km to 100 km above the earth before detaching to glide along the upper atmosphere towards its target. It is released at a height and speed that would allow it to glide unpowered to the target. Control surfaces on the glide vehicle mean it can steer an unpredictable course and manoeuvre sharply as it approaches impact.

These glide vehicles follow a much flatter and a lower trajectory than the high, arching path of a ballistic missile, these researchers say. That makes them much harder to detect early with radar, giving missile defences less time to respond.

Hypersonic cruise missiles, meanwhile, have internal engines. But unlike regular cruise missiles, they travel far faster and higher.

After years of stop-start development of hypersonics, the US is now trying to accelerate testing and deployment to match China and Russia, according to senior Pentagon officials.

Last year, the US Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin Corporation two contracts to develop hypersonic missiles. And, the US navy said it conducted a successful test of a long-range hypersonic missile on October 30, 2017. Last month, the Pentagon awarded missile-maker Raytheon Company a $63.3 million contract for hypersonic weapons development, the company said in a statement.

“Frankly, we were the leaders in that 10 and 15 years ago, and we just let it drop,” Griffin told the US Senate Armed Services Committee in April last year. “We need to get started again.”

from World – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2UT3CsZ
April 25, 2019

Putin, Kim discuss how to break N Korean nuclear standoff

Putin Kim Summit

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un talk during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Photo: Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP

VLADIVOSTOK: Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Thursday they had good talks about their joint efforts to resolve a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, amid stalled negotiations with the United States.

Speaking at the start of the discussions at a university on the Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok, Putin voiced confidence that Kim’s visit will “help better understand what should be done to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes going on now.”

Kim’s first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North. Putin meanwhile wants to expand Russia’s clout in the region and get more leverage with Washington.

“We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalise North Korea’s relations with the United States,” Putin told Kim.

Following their one-on-one meeting at the start of broader talks involving officials from both sides, Putin and Kim said they had a good discussion.

“We discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula and exchanged opinions about what should be done to improve the situation and how to do it,” Putin said. Kim noted that they had a “very meaningful exchange.”

“The reason we visited Russia this time is to meet and share opinions with your Excellency President Putin, and also share views on the Korean Peninsula and regional political situation, which has garnered the urgent attention of the world, and also hold deep discussions on strategic ways to pursue stability in the regional political situation and on the matters of jointly managing the situation,” Kim said.

He also congratulated the Russian leader on his re-election to another six-year term last year.

In February, Trump-Kim talks ended without any agreement because of disputes over US-led sanctions. There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the US and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.

Kim wants the US to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the U.S. maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearisation moves.

North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations. Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.

Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday aboard an armoured train, telling Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia would “successful and useful.” He evoked his father’s “great love for Russia” and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries. The late Kim Jong Il made three trips to Russia, last time in 2011.

Like the US, Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang’s nuclear bid. Putin has welcomed Trump’s meetings with Kim, but urged the US to do more to assuage Pyongyang’s security concerns.

Ahead of the talks, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from Trump-Kim meetings. He noted that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favourable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula.”

Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said that Putin will likely encourage Kim to continue constructive talks with the US, reflecting Russia’s own worry about the North nuclear and missile programs. “Russia can’t be expected to side with North Korea and, let’s say, support the North Koreans all the way in the Security Council where Russia is a veto-wielding member and where all sanctions imposed on North Korea require Russia’s approval,” he said.

Trenin emphasised that Moscow is skeptical that the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its nuclear weapons, considering it a “mission impossible.”

“North Korea will not give up the only guarantee of the survival of the North Korean state and its regime,” Trenin said.

Russia would also like to gain broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia’s electricity supplies and investment to modernise its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.

Vladivostok, a city of more than half a million on the Sea of Japan, faced gridlock on its roads as traffic was blocked in the city center due to Kim’s visit. The authorities have temporarily closed the waters around Russky Island to all maritime traffic.


from World – The Himalayan Times http://bit.ly/2UzUMeN