New Delhi, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party has suffered an embarrassing defeat in three state elections in its Hindu stronghold just months before national elections.
According to results announced by the Election Commission on Wednesday, the opposition Congress party was a clear winner in Chhattisgarh state, and fell one seat short of a majority in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. With a regional party offering support, the Congress party is set to rule all three states, replacing Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.
Voting in the three states was spread over the past two weeks.
The setback to the BJP is expected to revive the political fortunes of the Congress party under Rahul Gandhi, the 48-year-old scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, who took over as party president from his mother, Sonia Gandhi, a year ago. He had campaigned extensively for his party in the three states.
India's national elections are due by April. Modi came to power in 2014 after his BJP wrested power from the Congress party.
Modi is still the front-runner for the next elections. But his party's defeat in the three state polls is expected to bring disparate opposition parties together with the Congress party as the main threat to Modi.
The BJP attributed the defeat in two of the three states to an anti-incumbency factor, as it had ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years without a break.
Rahul Gandhi told reporters that people voted against the BJP because it failed to create millions of jobs for young people as promised by Modi and deal with unrest by poor farmers across the country over the government's failure to provide them higher prices for their produce and a waiver on their farm loans to alleviate hardships.
In a tweet, Modi congratulated the Congress party for its victory and said he accepted the outcome with humility.
Tokyo, Dec 11 (AP/UNB) — The U.S. military said Tuesday that five missing crew members have been declared dead after their refueling plane collided with a fighter jet last week off Japan's southern coast, and that search and recovery operations have been halted.
The five were on a KC-130 Hercules refueling aircraft that collided last Thursday with an F/A-18 Hornet during regular training. The warplanes crashed into the sea south of Japan's Shikoku island.
Two crew members in the F/A-18 were recovered after the accident, but one died. The U.S. Marines said the survivor was in stable condition when rescued.
The search, joined by Japanese and Australian forces, was halted Tuesday, and the cause of the crash is still under investigation, the Marines said in a statement.
It said the identities of the five people declared dead will be released after their next of kin are notified.
The Marines earlier identified the dead pilot of the F/A-18 as Capt. Jahmar Resilard, 28, of Miramar, Florida.
The crew members of the refueling aircraft were based at Iwakuni air station near Hiroshima as part of the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, whose call sign is Sumo.
"All of us in the Sumo family are extremely saddened following the announcement of the conclusion of search and rescue operation," the squadron's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Mitchell T. Maury, said in the statement. "We know this difficult decision was made after all resources were exhausted in the vigorous search for the Marines."
"Our thoughts are heavy and our prayers are with all family and friends of all five aircrew," Maury said.
The Marines statement said it has not been confirmed whether the two planes were involved in aerial refueling when the collision occurred.
The crash is the latest in a series of recent accidents involving U.S. military forces deployed in and near Japan.
Last month, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet from the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan crashed into the sea southwest of Japan's southern island of Okinawa, though its two pilots were rescued. In mid-October, a MH-60 Seahawk also belonging to the Ronald Reagan crashed off the Philippine Sea shortly after takeoff, causing non-fatal injuries to a dozen sailors.
Two years ago, a MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft Osprey crashed during a night-time refueling exercise off the southern island of Okinawa, injuring two crew members.
More than 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan under a security pact.
Dhaka, Dec 10 (UNB) - Prosecutors are set to charge former Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and former 1MDB president Arul Kanda Kandasamy on Wednesday (Dec 12) over the tampering of the graft-tainted state investment fund’s final audit report.
Sources said that the former prime minister will be charged with using his position to instruct the then Auditor-General to remove “certain things” from the report. Arul Kanda will be charged with abetting Najib, reports Malaysian The Star.
The two are expected to be charged at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court.
On Nov 25, Auditor-General Madinah Mohamad revealed that the final audit report on 1MDB had been tampered with and that Najib had knowledge of it. She also disclosed that two crucial matters dropped from the report were on the presence of wanted businessman Low Taek Jho or Jho Low at a 1MDB board meeting as well as the financial status of 1MDB.
The changes to the 1MDB report were made on Feb 26, 2016, on grounds that it was a "sensitive issue".
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had arrested Najib Razak on Monday (Dec 10) for his alleged role in the tampering of the audit report on 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
He was arrested at around 11am at the MACC headquarters shortly after he arrived for a fresh round of questioning over the issue. MACC sources said the former premier would be released if he could come up with money for bail.
Najib had spent about four hours at the office last Thursday (Dec 6), giving his statement to assist in the same probe.
The MACC has questioned several people about the report tampering, including former legal officer in the Attorney-General’s Chambers Dzulkifli Ahmad, former Auditor-General Ambrin Buang, former chief secretary to the government Ali Hamsa, and the then 1MDB group president and chief executive officer Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
After Najib's arrest, his daughter Nooryana Najwa lamented his arrest on her mother Rosmah Mansor's 67th birthday.
"I know today is not the easiest day for us but let's take a moment to thank Allah that we are all healthy, alive and still able to help others in need," said Nooryana in a message on Instagram accompanied by a photo of her mother Rosmah carrying her when she was a child.
Beijing, Dec 10 (Xinhua/UNB) -- China is likely to become the world's largest cruise market in the next 10 to 20 years while its travel industry and the public sector step up moves to boost marine-based tourism, the China Daily reported Monday.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association, by 2025, the number of Chinese travelers who will have experienced cruise trips is expected to grow to 8 to 10 million, marking a surge from about 2.5 million of last year.
Measures are being taken to modernize and upgrade ports to home-built ships, purchase ocean liners, develop multimodal transport mechanisms and approve longer duration visa-free visits to certain Chinese mainland areas in the neighborhood of ports, according to the report.
The east metropolis of Shanghai plans to build an integrated complex complete with duty-free shops comparable to those at its international airport. Efforts are also underway to introduce linkages between cruises, airlines, trains and buses.
The southernmost island province of Hainan has started a pilot run of its 15-day visa-free policy for tourist groups who take cruises and enter the country from ports in Hainan.
At the corporate level, the world's largest leisure travel company Carnival Corp announced a joint venture with China State Shipbuilding Corp (CSSC) in November, which will operate its own fleet by the end of 2019.
The joint venture will purchase two existing ships from Carnival Corp's Costa Group, a major cruise operator in Europe and Asia, and order two new cruise ships, the first China-built large cruise fleet.
However, the cruise industry in China faces a significant hiring challenge in the face of growing demand, the newspaper said. By 2020, the talent gap in the sector will reach 280,000, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.
Srinagar, Dec 9 (AP/UNB) — Indian troops killed three rebels on the outskirts of disputed Kashmir's main city on Sunday, ending a nearly 18-hour-long gunbattle, officials said.
Indian paramilitary spokesman Sanjay Sharma said the three militants were killed on the outskirts of Srinagar. Two counterinsurgency police officials and a soldier were wounded, he said.
Sharma said Indian troops had surrounded a neighborhood on Saturday on a tip that militants were hiding there. As the troops began conducting searches, militants opened gunfire, triggering intense fighting in which three combatants were killed, he said.
Police identified one of the slain militants as a teenage boy who had joined rebel ranks in August.
The fighting sparked anti-India protests and clashes as residents tried to march to the site of the battle.
Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters. At least five people were injured in the clashes, police and residents said.
Residents said government forces blasted at least five houses with explosives during the fighting, a common tactic employed by Indian troops during counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir.
Authorities also suspended internet services on cellphones in Srinagar, also a common tactic during gunbattles and anti-India protests to discourage further protests and dissemination of protest videos by Kashmiris.
Kashmir is divided between rivals India and Pakistan and both claim the territory in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.