NIA is filing cases against supporters of farmer protests: Yogendra Yadav

Agencies
January 17, 2021

Farmers' Protests: Yogendra Yadav Detained by Haryana Police for 'Breach of  Peace'

New Delhi, Jan 17: A farmer leader on Sunday said the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is targetting those who are part of the farmers' protest or supporting it, while the union leaders reiterated that the proposed tractor rally in Delhi on Republic Day will go on. 

Addressing a press conference at the Singhu border protest site, union leader Yogendra Yadav said, "We will carry out a tractor parade on the Outer Ring Road in Delhi on Republic Day. The parade will be very peaceful. There will be no disruption of the Republic Day parade. The farmers will put up the national flag on their tractors."

The authorities had moved the Supreme Court seeking an injunction against the proposed tractor march or any other kind of protest by farmers which seeks to disrupt the gathering and celebrations of Republic Day on January 26. The matter is pending in court.

Another farmer union leader, Darshan Pal Singh, alleged that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is filing cases against those who are part of the protest or supporting it.

"All farmer unions condemn this," Pal said, referring to the NIA summons reportedly issued to a farmer union leader in a case related to the banned Sikhs For Justice outfit.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting at various border points of Delhi for over a month now demanding repeal of the three laws -- the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act.

Enacted in September 2020, the central government has presented these laws as major farm reforms aimed at increasing farmers' income, but the protesting farmers have raised concerns that these legislations would weaken the minimum support price (MSP) and "mandi" (wholesale market) systems and leave them at the mercy of big corporations.

The government has maintained that these apprehensions are misplaced and has ruled out a repeal of the laws. 

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Agencies
March 1,2021

Amidst heightened border tension, Chinese hackers targeted India's power  through malware: US firm | Law-Order

Washington, Mar 1: Amidst the tense border tension between India and China, a Chinese government-linked group of hackers targeted India's critical power grid system through malware, a US company has claimed in its latest study, raising suspicion whether last year's massive power outage in Mumbai was a result of the online intrusion.

Recorded Future, a Massachusetts-based company which studies the use of the internet by state actors, in its recent report details the campaign conducted by a China-linked threat activity group RedEcho targeting the Indian power sector.

The activity was identified through a combination of large-scale automated network traffic analytics and expert analysis.

Data sources include the Recorded Future Platform, SecurityTrails, Spur, Farsight and common open-source tools and techniques, the report said.

On October 12, a grid failure in Mumbai resulted in massive power outages, stopping trains on tracks, hampering those working from home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and hitting the stuttering economic activity hard.

It took two hours for the power supply to resume for essential services, prompting Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to order an enquiry into the incident.

In its report, Recorded Future notified the appropriate Indian government departments prior to publication of the suspected intrusions to support incident response and remediation investigations within the impacted organisations.

There was no immediate response from the Indian government on the study by the US company.

Since early 2020, Recorded Future's Insikt Group observed a large increase in suspected targeted intrusion activity against Indian organisations from the Chinese state-sponsored group.

The New York Times, in a report, said that the discovery raises the question about whether the Mumbai outage was meant as a message from Beijing about what might happen if India pushed its border claims too vigorously.

According to the Recorded Future report, from mid-2020 onwards, Recorded Future's midpoint collection revealed a steep rise in the use of infrastructure tracked as AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE, which encompasses ShadowPad command and control (C2) servers, to target a large swathe of India's power sector.

Ten distinct Indian power sector organisations, including four of the five Regional Load Despatch Centres (RLDC) responsible for operation of the power grid through balancing electricity supply and demand, have been identified as targets in a concerted campaign against India's critical infrastructure.

Other targets identified included two Indian seaports, it said.

According to the report, the targeting of Indian critical infrastructure offers limited economic espionage opportunities.

However, we assess they pose significant concerns over potential pre-positioning of network access to support Chinese strategic objectives, it said.

Pre-positioning on energy assets may support several potential outcomes, including geostrategic signalling during heightened bilateral tensions, supporting influence operations, or as a precursor to kinetic escalation, Recorded Future said.

RedEcho has strong infrastructure and victimology overlaps with Chinese groups APT41/Barium and Tonto Team, while ShadowPad is used by at least five distinct Chinese groups, it said.

The high concentration of IPs (Internet Protocols) resolving to Indian critical infrastructure entities communicating over several months with a distinct subset of AXIOMATICASYMPTOTE servers used by RedEcho indicate a targeted campaign, with little evidence of wider targeting in Recorded Future's network telemetry, it said.

Recorded Future said that in the lead-up to the May 2020 border skirmishes, it observed a noticeable increase in the provisioning of PlugX malware C2 infrastructure, much of which was subsequently used in intrusion activity targeting Indian organisations.

The PlugX activity included the targeting of multiple Indian government, public sector and defence organisations from at least May 2020, it said.

While not unique to Chinese cyber espionage activity, PlugX has been heavily used by China-nexus groups for many years.

Throughout the remainder of 2020, we identified a heavy focus on the targeting of Indian government and private sector organisations by multiple Chinese state-sponsored threat activity groups, it said.

In its report, Recorder Future alleged that it also observed the suspected Indian state-sponsored group Sidewinder target Chinese military and government entities in 2020, in activity overlapping with recent Trend Micro research.

The Massachusetts-based company's report came as the armies of the two countries began disengagement of troops locked in over eight-month-long standoff in eastern Ladakh.

Both countries reached a mutual agreement last month for the disengagement of troops from the most contentious area of North and South banks of the Pangong Lake.

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Agencies
February 24,2021

Strong leadership fought COVID-19 in Africa: the next step is to harness  research

Geneva, Feb 24: Poorer countries will most likely "bear the brunt of hundreds of thousands of needless deaths" due to inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccines.

This dire warning was given by the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland in a video address to the High-Level Segment at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday.

More than 130 high-level dignitaries, including heads of state, foreign ministers and heads of international organisations, spoke during the High-Level Segment.

The Commonwealth Secretary-General said: "COVID-19 has shone a harsh light on health inequalities within and between countries. Nowhere is this more evident than in access to vaccines.

"Although vaccines are a vital lifeline, they remain out of the grasp of far too many.

"Crucially, it means that citizens of the poorest nations may bear the brunt of hundreds of thousands of needless deaths.

"We must not allow this. Leaders of our world must come together to ensure that this does not happen."

The Secretary-General also warned inequitable vaccine access could derail the global economic recovery and make wealthier nations lose money.

She added: "Covid has taught us that in order for any of us to be safe, we all must be safe. We must act together."

This past year has enhanced lingering existential threats, including the climate emergency, the Secretary-General stated.

She reaffirmed the Commonwealth's resolve to support small states and other vulnerable countries to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

The Commonwealth's 54 member countries include 32 small states.

Social injustices, including discrimination, poverty among marginalised communities and violence against women and girls, have also been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The Secretary-General called for inclusive development and multilateral co-operation, stressing that recommitment to human rights must be central to Covid-19 recovery efforts.

She concluded: "Human rights are not the panacea to all challenges brought about by the pandemic, by climate change or by the never-ending list of conflicts across the world. But the last 12 months have taught a painful lesson to humanity. We must learn from experience.

"We have to make human rights central to building back better. Without human rights, humanity is not a sustainable project. We cannot afford to fail."

The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal sovereign states. The combined population is 2.4 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.

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Agencies
February 23,2021

How Will India's Revised FDI Policy Impact Future Chinese Investment?

New Delhi, Feb 23: There is no change in the foreign direct investment (FDI) policy from China post disengagement and easing of tension between the two Asian giants.

The Commerce Ministry sources discarded recent media reports, which suggested that with easing of tensions at the border, India has given approval to various Chinese FDI's and many are in pipeline.

Government sources told media that there is no change or easing in FDIs from China as of now and nor it is planned in near future. All investments from China have to follow the procedures and government clearance route, nod will only be given to those investments that bear no implications on Indian security interests. Any Chinese company that potentially impinges on India's security will not be cleared.

Ever since the Galwan clash at the eastern border, India has tightened screws on Chinese investment inflows coming into India and has also banned several Chinese apps. Beijing says these actions are against the ethos and rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

However, the government sources say that three proposals, which are recently cleared are based in Hong Kong and one is a Japanese origin company; they are all security cleared.

Sources said clearance of investments had no linkage with disengagement as projected by some media reports. These proposals came up during the meeting on January 22 and were cleared by Ministry of Commerce and Industry on February 5.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced disengagement plan on February 11 in the Upper House of the Parliament.

According to Commerce Ministry sources, one company that has got the go-ahead is Nippon Paint Holdings Co. Ltd, Japan (Nippon Japan). Nippon Japan is listed on the Tokyo stock exchange.

Another FDI proposal, which is cleared is of Citizen Watches (India) Private Limited (Citizen Watches (HK) Ltd, Hong Kong (Citizen Watches Hong Kong) which is 100 per cent held by Citizen Watches Company Limited, Japan (a company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange).

FDI proposal of Netplay Sports Private Limited is also recently cleared, according to commerce ministry sources, Netplay India is involved in sports, amusement and recreation activities. The investee company has set up a chain of sports facilities/centers for, inter alia, badminton, basketball, football. Four more sports centres are proposed to be opened with the investment funds.

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