Friday, July 31, 2020

US welcomes EU's announcement regarding cyber sanctions framework

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo

Washington D.C. [US], July 31 (ANI): The US on Thursday (local time) welcomed the announcement from the European Union's High Representative Josep Borrell regarding the body's first designations under its cyber sanctions framework.

"The United States and the EU share a vision for open, interoperable, reliable and secure cyberspace, and for responsible behavior on the international stage. Destructive, disruptive, or otherwise destablilizing activities in cuberspace threaten this vision," US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

He stated that the United States supports efforts to promote accountability for bad actors' malicious cyber activities, and the EU's actions today are an important milestone.

"We continue to work with the EU, its member states, and many like-minded countries to promote a framework of responsible state behavior in cyberspace, underpinned by the applicability of international law, adherence to non-binding peacetime norms, and the development and implementation of practical confidence-building measures," said Pompeo.

According to a Sputnik report, earlier in the day, the European Council introduced first ever restrictive measures against six individuals and three entities of Russia, China and North Korea, which according to the EU, are responsible for or involved in various cyberattacks. These measures include a travel ban and an asset freeze. (ANI)

US economy contracted at fastest quarterly rate due to coronavirus

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Washington [US], July 31 (ANI): The US economy contracted at a record annual rate of 32.9 per cent in the quarter from April to June due to the coronavirus and consequent loackdown.

According to the Washington Post, the drop in the gross domestic product (GDP) was the fastest fall in quarterly rate since modern record-keeping began.

The pandemic resulted in an obvious uncontrolled public health crisis and tens of millions lost their jobs and business were lost.

There is a mounting fear that the economy could be held back even more as the virus forces more states to shut down bars and restuarants again.

On Thursday, the government also reported that jobless claims increased once again last week to 1.4 million, another sign that any recovery is stalling, according to The Washington Post.

GDP shrank at an annual rate of 32.9 per cent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency the publishes the statistics on quarterly economic activity.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell warned that the most recent surge in infections has begun to weigh on the economy while reemphasising that recovery cannot be sustained unless the virus is under control.

"We're still digging out of a hole, a really deep hole," said Ben Herzon, executive director of IHS Markit. "The second-quarter figure will just tell us the size of the hole we're digging out of, and it's big one."

Bureau of Economic Analysis, in a report explains the reasons for the impact on the economy.

The pandemic has triggered a collapse in oil prices. It was exacerbated by lower gasoline sales and reduced transportation services, as Americans stayed home and avoided commutes or basic errands.

Health care fell off as the pandemic pushed people to cancel non-emergency visits and procedures, triggering layoffs within the health-care industry, Resaurant closures fuelled a drop in food services.

With retail stores shuttered and people swapping out their work wardrobes for leisurewear, clothing and footwear sales dropped.

On Webnesday, Powell said some measures of consumer spending, based on debit card and credit card use, have moved down in the past month. Hotel occupancy rates have flattened out, he said, and Americans are not going to restaurants, gas stations and beauty salons as much as they had been earlier in the summer.

"On balance, it looks like the data are pointing to a slowing in the pace of the recovery," Powell said during a news conference Wednesday. "I want to stress it's too early to say bnoth how large that is and how sustained it will be." (ANI).

Two dead, 16 injured as terrorists open mortar fire at Nigeria's Maiduguri

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Maiduguri [Nigeria], July 31(Sputnik/ANI): Terrorists from the Boko Haram group, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, have opened mortar fire at the northeastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, leaving two person dead and 16 others injured.

The attack took place on late Thursday when people were preparing for the celebrations of the Eid al-Adha, one of the most important Muslim holidays, the PRNigeria news outlet reported.

The mines fell in three districts of the city, causing panic among its residents.

Officers of the police Explosive Ordinance Detection (EOD) have been sent to the city to investigate the incident.

Boko Haram is infamous for numerous attacks and abductions in the western African region. Nigeria, along with Niger, Cameroon, and Chad, are engaged in military operations combating the militants. (Sputnik/ANI)

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

US, Australia announce working group to combat China's 'harmful' disinformation

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo (Photo credits: Pompeo's Twitter)

Washington DC [USA], July 29 (ANI): The United States and Australia on Tuesday (local time) announced a new working group to check China's "harmful" disinformation on COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.

Speaking at a press conference following the 30th Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) here, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, in a veiled reference to China, said that "some countries were using the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine liberal democracy".

"COVID-19 has, without doubt, exacerbated the security challenges in our region. Some countries are using the pandemic to undermine liberal democracy. The role of multilateral institutions is more important now than ever in supporting our values and our strategic objectives as the world respond to the health and economic challenges of COVID-19," she said in the joint press conference with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo by her side.

"We are therefore pleased also to be able to announce a new working group between Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the United States Department of State to monitor and respond to harmful disinformation," she said.

Payne said that Australia and the US reiterated their commitment to holding states to account when they breach international norms and laws, and noted the two sides will continue to do so in relation to China's erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong.

The top Australian diplomat said that both countries have agreed to expand cooperation under the health security partnership to explore opportunities to detect and respond to infectious disease threats, including ensuring access to vital vaccines.

On his part, Pompeo said the US commends the Australian government for standing up for democratic values and the rule of law, despite intense, continued, coercive pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to bow to Beijing's wishes.

"It is unacceptable for Beijing to use exports or student fees as a cudgel against Australia. We stand with our Australian friends," Pompeo said at the conference.

The two sides discussed the COVID-19 pandemic and Washington commends Canberra for publicly condemning China's disinformation campaign and insisting on an independent review into the origin of the virus, he said.

Pompeo stated that the two countries look forward to working together on bringing their respective economies back on track from the "entirely preventable pandemic".

"We look forward to working together on our nations' ongoing economic recovery from this entirely preventable pandemic. Today, we reaffirmed our collective commitment to strengthening supply chains, so that they are resilient against future pandemics, CCP retaliation, and the use of forced labour," he said.

Pompeo underlined that the US and Australia "spent a great deal of time" discussing the CCP's attempts to dominate the technology space.

"We also addressed the CCP's attempts to dominate the technology space. We, in fact, spent a great deal of time on this issue. Australia was ahead of us in awakening to the threat of untrusted vendors like Huawei and ZTE. We look forward to nations becoming 'Clean Countries' together," he said.

Apart from Pompeo and Payne, US Secretary of Defence and his Australian counterpart Linda Reynolds were present in the press conference. (ANI)

US rightly accusing China stealing intellectual property Tibetan govt in exile

TG Arya Spokesperson for Tibetan Government in exile (Photo/ANI)

Dharamsala (Himachal Pradesh) [India], July 29 (ANI): The US government has rightly accused China of stealing intellectual property especially in COVID vaccines technology, TG Arya, Spokesperson for Tibetan-government-in-exile said on Tuesday referring to the recent decision to close Chinese consulate in Houston.

"The American government asked for it to be closed because it was observed that diplomatic facility was involved in the theft of intellectual property, especially in covid vaccines technology," he told ANI, while adding there were reports that many spying agents were also working there.

The US recently ordered China to close its Consulate General in Houston over allegations of espionage. In retaliation, China ordered America to close its diplomatic facility in Chengdu.

"American government has been telling China to contain the coronavirus. Human rights abuse in Tibet is also a matter of concern, but China is not listening," he said.
"Now the American government has come to realise that China appeasement policy is not working. Now they need to confront the Chinese government. So that's why they have ordered the Chinese diplomatic facility in Houston to be closed because activities were doubtful," he added.

Arya also questioned as to why files were being burnt in Chinese diplomatic facility in Houston.

"Many files have been burning. Why these files have been burned? It shows that there is something wrong. Now in order to retaliate, the Chinese government has ordered to close US diplomatic facility in Chengdu," he said. (ANI)

Monday, July 27, 2020

China pressurises Vietnam to cancel, compensate offshore firms operating in South China Sea

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Washington DC [USA], July 27 (ANI): Amid the growing Chinese movement in the South China Sea, Vietnam has agreed to pay around a billion dollars to two international companies after cancelling their drill operations following pressure from Beijing, The Diplomat reported.

To maintain its presence in the South China Sea region, China, for several years, continued its efforts to prevent the Vietnam-based companies developing oil and gas resources in the area.

Citing a well-placed oil industry source, Bill Hayton, author of the article, said, "Vietnam's state-owned energy company PetroVietnam will pay the money to Repsol of Spain and Mubadala of the United Arab Emirates in 'termination' and 'compensation' arrangements."

Meanwhile, Russian energy company Rosneft has been forced to suspend its plans for drilling offshore even as China Coast Guard vessels continue operating in the area where the drilling was supposed to place.

In another instance, a drilling rig standing in the Vietnamese port of Vung Tau for two months has been stood down. "Its owners, Noble Corporation, noted that the contract "includes a termination payment. This is likely to cost Vietnam several million dollars more," the author said.

Similarly, Repsol, once one of the largest players in Vietnam's offshore industry and owning rights in 13 blocks of the seabed, had to cancel its planned exploration drill in July 2017 and again on March 2018.

Hayton said, "With minimal interests in China, Repsol appeared ready to withstand political pressure from Beijing. Two of its best development prospects were particularly bold: located at the far edge of Vietnam's claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and well within the U-shaped, nine-dashed line drawn on Chinese maps since 1948..."

Repsol executives were reportedly informed that the cancellations were a political decision, ordered by top Vietnamese leadership, following extreme pressure from China, Hayton said.

The author said, "China had assembled a flotilla of 40 naval ships off the coast of Hainan Island, about two days' sailing from the drill site, and it appeared to be ready for confrontation."

As compensation for the investments made by Repsol and Mudabala, Vietnam is paying USD 800 million for their rights in the blocks and a further USD 200 million, Hayton quoted a regional oil industry source with knowledge of the settlement as saying.

"This will be a billion dollars that PetroVietnam would otherwise have paid into the Vietnamese government's budget."

As China's pressure on Vietnam continues, recently, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said, "The United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei's EEZ, and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia). Any PRC action to harass other states' fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters - or to carry out such activities unilaterally - is unlawful."

Extending help to Vietnam on the matter, he said, "America stands with our South-East Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law." (ANI)

Russia-US talks on space security, arms control to start on Monday

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Washington DC [USA], July 27 (Sputnik/ANI): Russia and the United States will start expert-level talks in Vienna on Monday to discuss space security, nuclear doctrine and potential, as well as transparency and verification.

The first day of the meetings will focus on space.

Last week, the US expressed hope that the space dialogue with Russia will strengthen bilateral understanding of each other's policies and prevent any potential escalation.

US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher Ford said that the two could benefit from having a communications channel to address concerns over space activity.

At the same time, he slammed Russia for "hypocritical advocacy" of outer space arms control over its alleged testing of an anti-satellite weapon.

Slur of space weaponisation accusations

The US Space Command stated on Wednesday to have evidence that Russia conducted a "non-destructive test of a space-based anti-satellite weapon" on July 15. The command argued that the activities in question looked inconsistent with the mission of an inspector satellite.

The Russian Foreign Ministry fired back by saying that "the testing did not pose any threat to other space objects and, most importantly, did not violate any norms and principles of the international law".

According to the ministry, a Russian inspector satellite simply inspected another Russian spacecraft at close range, using special equipment for this purpose.

Moscow has denounced the US' claims as a campaign to discredit Russia's space demilitarisation initiatives, justify its own actions to weaponise space and get additional funding to this end.

Ahead of the space security talks, Ford himself rejected Russia's and China's space arms control initiatives as "bad ideas". According to the official, the two "attempt to approach the space domain in a sort of traditional and reflexive arms control sort of way of defining a space weapon then purporting to ban it".

Ford argued the challenge of such initiatives is that it is "virtually impossible" to adequately define what a space weapon is and then verify compliance with this rule. Another aspect, he added, is that the proposals have failed to address earth-based anti-satellite weapons.

The US, Ford insists, hopes to "pursue good ideas" to work out standards of predictable and safe behaviour in space.

Nuclear arms control

The next three days of the Vienna talks will be devoted to nuclear issues.

Moscow offers to extend the New START treaty, the last major arms control agreement between Russia and the United States, which is set to expire in February 2021.

The US continues pushing for trilateral arms control. China, which has a much smaller nuclear arsenal, has repeatedly firmly rejected the idea of joining the process.

Following strategic nuclear talks in Vienna in June, Russian deputy foreign minister in charge of non-proliferation, Sergey Ryabkov, said he did not feel that the US was ready to extend New START treaty.

This time, the Russian delegation will be led by Vladimir Leontiev, deputy director of the Foreign Ministry's Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, a diplomatic source told Sputnik.

The US team will be comprised of representatives from the Departments of State, Defense and Energy, as well as the National Security Council. (Sputnik/ANI)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Plane with 6 people on board crashes in Utah: US Aviation Administration

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Washington [USA], July 26 (Sputnik/ANI): A plane with six people on board has crashed into a residential area in Utah, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"A single-engine Piper PA-32 with six people aboard crashed under unknown circumstances into a residential backyard in West Jordan, Utah, Saturday afternoon," the FAA said in a statement.

The Fox 13 broadcaster has reported that multiple people are injured and three houses have been damaged due to the crash.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will look into the accident. (Sputnik/ANI)

People of Sindh, Balochistan are against Pakistan establishment: MQM Founder

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London [UK], July 26 (ANI): The people of Sindh and Balochistan are against Pakistani establishment because it has "colonized" the provinces and captured all their resources, according to MQM founder Altaf Hussain.

"The true sons of Sindh and Balochistan are against Federation of Pakistan because the Federation has colonized the Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhtunkhwa and they captured all the resources of small provinces," a statement quoted Hussain as saying.

He further said that federation is actual the system which protects the interest of Punjab. He appealed to the people of Sindh, Balochistan, Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan to come forward and get freed from the clutches of Punjab.

Hussain said that a day will come when Sindh and Balochistan will get freedom from Punjab. He said in Sindhudesh all citizens will be treated equally and nobody will be deprived in the name of ethnicity, caste, colour or religion.

Altaf Hussain has said that Pakistan was created through the conspiracy hatched by the British Empire and religion was used as a tool for this purpose.

He was delivering a lecture on the history of sub-continent. His lecture live telecast through social media was a brief on the history of Mughal Empire, War of Plassey (1757), war of Mysore (1767) and Mutiny (1857) and colonization of India by British.

He said that Indian history and civilization is thousands of years old and it has different religions, culture and customs.

When the British Empire captured India, Hindus and Muslims started the mutiny against British colonization. To frustrate this mutiny, the British Empire divided Hindus and Muslims through their policy of "Divide and Rule" to strengthen their localisation. British Empire planted the two nation theory for the division of India and used Muslims in the name of Islam.

Hussain said that people of West Punjab helped British for colonization of India and to crush the freedom fighters.

Altaf Hussain said that most of the British army belonged to West Punjab, British army trained them and they were ready to serve the British against Muslims. He further said: "Generals and officers of Pakistan Army are so cruel because their ancestors were trained by Britishers, they killed innocent Muslims in India, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Yemen". (ANI)

Delhi traffic cop dies in accident during duty

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New Delhi [India], July 26 (ANI): An Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) of the Delhi Traffic Police died in an accident while on duty at Rajokri flyover here on Saturday, police said.

The Accident occurred when ACP Sanket Kaushik was managing traffic at the flyover, police added.

He was rushed to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Trauma Centre, where he was declared brought dead. 

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Can't fly without face masks, say US airlines

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Washington [USA], July 25 (ANI): Amid the surge in coronavirus cases, US airlines have announced that passengers refusing to wear face masks will not be allowed to board planes. The rules have been announced by American, Delta, Southwest and United Airlines.

The Washington Post reported that under the new rules only children younger than two-years-old will be permitted to fly without a mask.

Though Delta will be allowing passengers to travel sans any face mask, they will have to undergo a special screening which would take more than an hour to complete.

While the US airlines have been given a free hand in deciding their policies with regard to masks, in recent weeks they have mandated masks for their passengers.

Citing an interview with NBC in "Today", The Washington Post quoted Delta chief executive Ed Bastian as saying that the airline had banned at least 100 people from flying after they refused to wear a mask.

Meanwhile, the airlines have also stated that they will be providing free masks to passengers who don't have them.

The Sputnik reported Johns Hopkins University as confirming that more than 145,000 Americans have died due to COVID-19 so far.

The United States has reported as many as 4,106,247 coronavirus cases till now. (ANI)

PM Modi to inaugurate three new high throughput labs of ICMR on July 27

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New Delhi [India], July 24 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate three new high-throughput labs of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in Noida, Kolkata, and Mumbai through video conference on July 27.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Ministers Yogi Adityanath, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray are expected to take part in the virtual event.

One of the oldest medical research bodies across the world, the ICMR helps in coordinating and promoting biomedical research in the country. Currently, it is helping with COVID-19 tests across the country on a daily basis. It has tested 1,54,28,170 samples till July 23 and it has tested 3,52,801 samples on Friday.

Across the country, there are 12,87,945 confirmed cases. Of them, 8,17,209 have recovered, while 30,601 have lost their lives due to coronavirus. (ANI)

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to visit Ayodhya today

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. (Photo: ANI)

Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) [India], July 25 (ANI): Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will visit Ayodhya on Saturday (today) to review preparations for the 'bhoomi pujan' for the construction of Lord Ram temple at the Ram Janmabhoomi premises.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to lay the foundation stone of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5, according to Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, the president of the temple trust.

The construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya will begin after the ceremony to lay the foundation stone( bhoomi pujan ) in which chief ministers of many states, ministers from the union cabinet and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat are also likely to participate.

The Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust, set up in accordance with the Supreme Court verdict, held its second meeting last week.

In March this year, the 'Ram Lalla' idol was shifted to a temporary structure near Manas Bhawan in Ram Janmabhoomi premises till the completion of the construction of Ram temple.

The Supreme Court had on November 9 last year directed the Central Government to hand over the site at Ayodhya for the construction of a Ram temple.

The Prime Minister had on February 5 announced the formation of a trust for construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The 15-member Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust has been mandated by the central government to oversee the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. (ANI)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

India must speak against China's expansionism in Asia-Pacific region, report says

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Hong Kong, July 23 (ANI): The recent border stand-off with China has prompted India to rethink its policy with its neighbour and speak up for other Asia-Pacific nations while eschewing the trade protectionism that has curtailed New Delhi's influence in the region.

With elections this year and a battered economy following Covid-19, the United States' retreat from the region is likely to continue. "What Asia needs is a collective middle-power response as a balance against China. This is where India can play a role," Mohamed Zeeshan, editor-in-chief of Freedom Gazette and a writer for The Diplomat, has said in an analysis published in South China Morning Post on Tuesday.

India has long steered clear of the geopolitical concerns of other countries in the region and played cautiously. While New Delhi has stepped up bilateral military cooperation with countries like Vietnam, it has generally stayed silent on politically sensitive issues.

In 2016, for instance, when China refused to abide by an international tribunal ruling on its South China Sea dispute with the Philippines, India chose not to explicitly call out Beijing. But India must now speak out more vocally on the concerns of other countries in the Asia-Pacific - and back that with deeper cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Japan, Australia, and others.

But now India must similarly speak up for Hong Kong and Taiwan - both of which are integral to economic activity and stability in the entire region, the analytic piece suggested.

"India should complement this shift in its foreign policy with a more open economic policy. Despite being among the largest economies in the world, India has had little leverage over China. While China is the largest source of imports to India, these imports account for less than 3 per cent of China's total exports. By contrast, Vietnam - whose economy is less than a tenth of India's - makes up a larger share of China's exports pie," Zeeshan said.

Much of this is due to years of trade protectionism in India, which has curtailed the country's influence in the region, as per Zeeshan, who has also previously served as an adviser to the Indian delegation to the United Nations in New York.

He said India's decision to sit out the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership was a missed opportunity, adding that New Delhi's current unofficial boycott of economic ties with China in response to the recent tensions will also prove counterproductive.

"The Asia-Pacific does not want a confrontation between the world's two largest nations, but it does need a balance of power between competing alliances to deter mutual aggression. India should step up and fill the leadership vacuum in the region," he said further. (ANI)

US condemns deadly airstrikes in Afghanistan's Herat province

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Washington [United States], July 23 (ANI): The United States condemned the airstrikes conducted by the Afghan Air Force in the western province of Herat that left multiple civilians dead, said the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. "The last 24 hours have been very violent in Afghanistan with many losing their lives. In Herat, photos and eyewitness accounts suggest many civilians including children are among the victims of an Afghan airstrike. We condemn the attack and support an investigation," Khalilzad wrote on his Twitter page on late Wednesday, reported Sputnik.

Airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan killed 45 people, including civilians and Taliban fighters, local officials said on Wednesday. Ali Ahmad Faqir Yar, governor of Adraskan district in the eastern Afghan province of Herat, said, "Forty-five people had been killed so far in airstrikes by security forces in the Kham Ziarat area. Taliban were among those killed and at least eight civilians were among the dead".

The diplomat also slammed the Taliban Islamist movement for recent attacks that also resulted in many civilian deaths. "The Afghan people want an immediate start of peace negotiations and a settlement that is in their best interest. More graves will not bring negotiations forward. Rather than setting the process back, we urge all sides to contain the violence, protect civilians, and show necessary restraint as the start of intra-Afghan negotiations is so close," Khalilzad added.

Under the US-Taliban peace agreement which was signed in Doha on February 29, up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released by the Afghan government ahead of the intra-Afghan negotiations. The process has not been completed yet.

Despite the February agreement, the situation in Afghanistan has remained volatile with sporadic attacks both by the Afghan forces and the Taliban, on each other.

'China engaged for years in massive illegal spying, infuence operations throughout US'

Washington D.C. [US], July 23 (ANI): As the relations between two countries worsen, US has said that China has been engaging in massive illegal spying and influencing operations against US government officials and American citizens.

"The People's Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U.S. government officials and American citizens. These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years," US State Department Spokesperson told ANI.

"As detailed by Secretary of State Pompeo, FBI Director Wray, and Attorney General Barr in public remarks, PRC officials have interfered in our domestic politics, stolen U.S. intellectual property, coerced our business leaders, threatened families of Chinese Americans residing in China, and more," the State Department spokesperson said.

US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday (local time) that his administration does not rule out closing additional Chinese diplomatic missions in the United States.
"As far as closing additional embassies, it's always possible. We thought there was a fire in the one we did close, I guess they were burning documents and papers. I wonder what that is all about," Trump said during a daily press briefing at the White House when asked if he planned to close more Chinese diplomatic missions in the country.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US State Department ordered China to close by Friday its consulate in Houston, Texas, over accusations that it engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations in the US.

Regarding the same, State Secretary Mike Pompeo said, "It's not just American intellectual property been stolen, it's been European intellectual property too, causing hundreds - costing hundreds of thousands of jobs, good jobs for hard-working people all across Europe and America stolen by the Chinese Communist Party."

"We are setting out clear expectations for how the Chinese Communist Party is going to behave, and when they do not, we are going to take actions that protect the American people, protect our security, our national security, and also protect our economy and jobs. That's the actions that you're seeing taken by President Trump. We will continue to engage in those," Pompeo told reporters further.

The two countries have sparred over a range of issues in recent times -- China's move to impose national security law in Hong Kong, its human rights violation in Xinjiang and territorial aggression in the South China Sea have all drawn fierce criticism from Washington.

Accusing China of bullying smaller countries, US Defence Secretary Mark T Esper had on Tuesday vowed to deter against China's "coercive behaviour" in the South China Sea. (ANI)

PM Modi to lay foundation stone for Manipur Water Supply project today

Prime Minister Narendra Modi.(Photo:ANI)

New Delhi [India], July 23 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone for Manipur Water Supply Project through video conferencing today.
The Centre had provided funds under Jal Jeevan Mission to Manipur for freshwater household tap connections (FHTCs) to cover 1,185 habitations with 1, 42,749 households.

The Manipur Water Supply project, an externally funded project, was designed to provide FHTCs to remaining households in the Greater Imphal Planning area, 25 towns, and for 1,731 rural habitations covering 2,80,756 households in 16 districts of Manipur.

The project is an important component of the efforts of the state government to achieve the goal of 'Har Ghar Jal' by 2024. The project outlay is about Rs 3054.58 crores with a loan component funded by the New Development Bank.

Manipur Governor Najma Heptulla, Chief Minister N Biren Singh, and his cabinet colleagues, MPs, and MLAs are expected to join the program from Imphal.

The Central government had initiated the Jal Jeevan Mission to provide safe and adequate quantity of drinking water to every rural household of the country by 2024 with the motto Har Ghar Jal.

The programme also implements source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, rainwater harvesting. (ANI)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

China forces Christians to replace images of Jesus with Communist leaders

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Beijing [China], July 22 (ANI): Continuing with its repression of religious minorities, Chinese officials have now ordered Christians to smash crosses and remove images of Jesus from their homes and instead put up pictures of Communist leaders.

Authorities have recently destroyed religious symbols by force in churches in multiple provinces, including Anhui, Jiangsu, Hebei and Zhejiang, according to US-based news site Radio Free Asia, reported Daily Mail.

Daily Mail citing independent outlet Bitter Winter, reported that officials of Shanxi demanded that religious images be taken down and replaced with pictures of Communist leaders.

China has already been facing criticism for massive human rights abuses that it is carrying out against religious minorities in Xinjiang. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has locked up lakhs of people.

The CCP has carried out a massive clampdown on all religious institutions in recent years in line with President Xi Jinping's orders that all religions must 'Sinicise' to ensure they are loyal to the party.

In Huainan province, officials in charge of religious affairs barged into the local Shiwan Christ Church to dismantle its cross on Saturday and Sunday.

The officials had required the church to take down its cross a week earlier, reported Radio Free Asia citing local sources.

Daily Mail reported that according to the article, when the officials arrived at the venue to impose the order, they were confronted by dozens of believers who had gathered to try to prevent them from bulldozing the cross.

Citing a US-based pressure group China Aid, reports said that similar scenes played out in Yongjia in Zhejinag on July 7 where local authorities sent a crane and nearly 100 workers to demolish the crosses on Ao'di Christ Church and Yinchang Christ Church.

Local government officials at Linfen in Shanxi Province summoned all village officials and directed them to crack down on religious activity, reported Bitter Winter.
As per the report, late last year, the Chinese central government ordered its censors to review and edit all translated versions of classic religious books to make sure that their messages reflect the principles of Socialism.

The new editions must not contain any content that goes against the beliefs of the Communist Party, according to the country's top officials on religious matters.
The report comes at a time when China is facing intense criticism for its treatment of religious minorities in Xinjiang province. (ANI)

Monday, July 20, 2020

Pak PM's advisors possess assets worth millions of dollars, dual citizenship

SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari (Photo credit: official twitter)

Islamabad [Pakistan], July 20 (ANI): Six advisors of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan posses dual citizenships and several of top 20 aides have admitted of owning movable and immovable assets worth millions of dollars abroad.

The list was published on the official website of Pakistan government's cabinet division.

All the dual nationals were working as special assistants to the prime minister (SAPM). These people include SAPM on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari (UK), SAPM on Power Division Shahzad Qasim (US), SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar (US), SAPM on Political Affairs Shahbaz Gill (US), SAPM on Parliamentary Coordination Nadeem Afzal Gondal (Canada) and SAPM on Digital Pakistan Tania Aidrus (Canadian citizenship by birth).

According to Gulf News report, the wealthiest SAPM is Power Division and Mineral Resources Assistant Shahzad Syed Qasim who has assets worth over Rs 4 billion followed by SAPM on Petroleum Nadeem Babar with assets worth Rs 2.75 billion. Meanwhile, Adviser for Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari's net assets is estimated over Rs 2 billion.

Giving further details of the wealthiest SAPM, the official website stated that the PM's aide on Power Division and Coordination of Marketing and Development of Mineral Resources owns assets in Pakistan, UAE and US. His three properties in UAE include two villas in Jumeirah Golf Estates and Sienna Lakes, Jumeirah Golf Estates and an apartment at Park Towers, DIFC - all worth Dh20,688,000. He has three cars in the UAE worth Dh400,000 and in the US, he has property worth US$865,000 while he has Rs 4 billion in various local and foreign bank accounts and retirement funds including $2.1 million in US.

Meanwhile, Nadeem Babbar, who is Special Assistant on Petroleum Division, owns assets worth over Rs 2.7 billion, including several properties in Pakistan and abroad and stakes in more than 30 local and foreign companies.

The Gulf News further reported that in the list Dr Moeed Yusuf's, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, the name was also included but was later withdrawn as it was clarified that he had the US residency and only holds the citizenship of Pakistan as per the affidavit submitted to the government. "I have not returned to the US since I took up my current responsibility, have no employment or income in the US nor do I have any millions worth properties abroad" Dr Yusuf was quoted as saying.

The latest list on PM Imran Khan's advisors possessing dual nationalities has sparked strong criticisms by the Opposition leaders. (ANI)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

British Parliamentary group headed by MP Abrahams, who was denied entry into India, received Rs 30 lakh from Pak govt

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London [UK], July 19 (ANI): A British parliamentary group, chaired by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, who was denied entry into India earlier this year, received Rs 30 lakhs from Pakistan government for a visit to Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). According to the register of All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), the All-Party Parliamentary Kashmir Group (APPGK) received "benefit in kind" of £31,501- £33,000 on February 18 this year for a visit to Pakistan and PoK.

Earlier in February this year, Abrahams', was denied the entry at the Indira Gandhi International Airport after she arrived on Emirates flight from Dubai. A day after Abrahams was denied entry into New Delhi, the Indian embassy in the UK had clarified that the Labour lawmaker did not hold a valid visa and there is no provision for visa on arrival for UK nationals.

"Mission has confirmed from the Indian immigration authorities that Debbie Abrahams did not hold a valid visa. Further, there is no provision for visa on arrival for UK nationals. She was accordingly requested to return," Indian mission in the UK had tweeted. Abrahams had raised a question that her visa was denied as she has been critical of the Indian Government on Kashmir.

"Why did the Indian Government revoke my visa AFTER it was granted? Why didn't they let me get a 'visa on arrival'? Is it because I have been critical of the Indian Government on #Kashmir human rights issues?" she had tweeted. (ANI)

US Commerce Secretary hospitalized on non-coronavirus issues

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (ANI)

Washington [United States], July 19 (ANI): Washington [United States], July 19 (ANI): US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has been hospitalized but was being informed that it is unrelated to coronavirus.

A department spokesperson said there were 'minor, non-coronavirus related issues'.

Ross who is 82, is 'doing well', the spokesperson said, and that they anticipate Ross will be released from the hospital 'soon,' CNN reported.

Meanwhile, the US has reported 3,711,297 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease till now, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. (ANI).

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Galwan Valley Skirmish part of broader expansionist campaign of China: Report

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Washington D.C. July 18 (ANI): The bloodiest killing of 20 Indian Army personnel by Chinese troops at Patrolling Point 14 of the Galwan region of Western Sector of Ladakh border is part of a broader campaign by China to insert military forces and assert territorial claims over countries in the South Asian region, as per documents obtained by US News and World Report.

Citing the documents which offered an insight into the Indian government's thinking on the deadly skirmish last month between forces in the Himalayas, Paul D Shinkman, a national security correspondent of US News, said that New Delhi links the latest encounter in Ladakh to "Beijing's sweeping imperialist designs. Its expansionism 'eschews direct military action but resorts to coercive diplomacy by penetrating and undermining sovereignty and economies of many countries." Shinkman said that the document, which has not been previously published, is supported by some analysts.

And it comes amid US fears that Beijing has successfully exploited the international fallout from the coronavirus pandemic to secure territorial claims along other portions of its border, including in the South China Sea and Hong Kong. "The moves have prompted retaliatory measures from the Trump administration that have escalated this week," the correspondent said further.

At least 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives in the June 15 violent face-off, and American intelligence believes 35 Chinese troops also died, as per the reports.

The incident bore some similarities to prior skirmishes between the two countries, including in 2010 and 2014, as well as a brawl between Indian and Chinese forces in Doklam, a separate part of the border in 2017. "Those incidents, though violent at times, ended relatively peacefully and swiftly," Shinkman said.

"With the latest offensive, India believes Beijing seeks to grab greater control of the mountain regions along China's southwest border - contested territory loosely demarcated by a tentative agreement known as the Line of Actual Control - in an attempt to gain greater accessibility to its partner Pakistan, India's chief rival," he added.

A USD 60 billion deal between the two countries, known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - part of China's broader "Belt and Road" infrastructure initiative - would grant Beijing direct access over the land to the sea through at least two routes in Pakistan.

Beyond expanding China's commercial shipping network, the new routes would also allow Beijing to bypass the Straits of Malacca - a chokepoint between Malaysia and Indonesia that the US Navy closely patrols with its regional allies and partners.

As per the report, the Indian government believes that to create reliable access to those projects in Pakistan, China must first try to oust Indian troops occupying positions in the contested region.

That troop presence "is preventing a military and territorial link-up between China and Pakistan. And China sees it as a security risk to CPEC and all the related investments," according to one of the papers.

The Indian assessment also comes as the Trump administration has ratcheted up pressure on China in recent weeks, issuing retaliatory sanctions against Beijing after it imposed sanctions on a collection of US lawmakers. (ANI)

Pompeo says Chinese Communist Party trying to dominate global communication networks

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (File Pic)

lowa [USA], July 18 (ANI): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the Chinese Communist Party is not only crushing freedom in Hong Kong and threatening a free Taiwan but also trying to dominate the global communication networks.

"Today, the Chinese Communist Party is crushing freedom in Hong Kong. It is threatening a free Taiwan and trying to dominate the world communications networks," Pompeo said during a visit to lowa on Friday (local time).

"A few weeks back, I read a report about the Chinese Communist Party forcing mass abortions and sterlilisation on Chinese Muslims in Western China. These are some of the most gross human rights violations we have seen and I have referred to it as the stain of the century," he added.

On Friday, Washington booked five Chinese foreign national and two Chinese entities under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. It also imposed visa sanctions on certain employees of Chinese technology companies including Huawei that provide material support to regimes engaging in human rights abuses globally.

In a statement on Webnesday, Pompeo had announced the restrictions and said: "Telecommunications companies around the world should consider themselves on notice: If they are doing business with Huawei, they are doing business with human rights abusers."

Pompeo had said that Huawei is an arm of the CCP's surveillance state that censors political dessidents and enables mass internment camps in Xinjiang and the indentured servitude of its population shipped all over China.

The US action comes a day after the UK announced its decision to ban British companies from buying Huawei-produced equipment for 5G networks from the end of the year.

US President Donald Trump called Chinese technology "untrustworthy".

"We confronted untrustworthy Chinese technology and telecom providers. We convinced many countries not to use Huawei because it's a big security risk. Just today, the UK announced that they are not going to be using it," Trump had said on Wednesday.

The United States had designated Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE Corp as national security threats, says they have close ties with the Chinese Communist Party and China's military apparatus. (ANI)

Rajnath Singh to visit Amarnath Temple today

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. (File Photo/ANI)

Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], July 18 (ANI): A day after sending a strong message to China from Lukung, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will visit Amarnath cave temple, Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday.

The Defence Minister is on a two-day visit to Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir. Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army chief General MM Naravane are also accompanying him.

He will take stock of the situation at both the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Line of Control (LOC).

On the first day of his visit , the Defence Minister interacted with the troops in Lukung, Ladakh along with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane, yesterday.

"Talks are underway to resolve the border dispute but to what extent it can be resolved I cannot guarantee. I can assure you, not one inch of our land can be taken by any power in the world," he said referring to India-China standoff while he interacted with the Indian Army and ITBP personnel at Lukung.

Emphasising on finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff, he further said, "If a solution can be found by talks, there is nothing better."

"Recently what happened between troops of India and China at PP14, how some of our personnel sacrificed their lives protecting our border. I am happy to meet you all but also saddened because of their loss. I pay my tributes to them," he added.

While Pakistan has been continuously carrying out ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and China has been carrying out incursions into Indian territory in Ladakh region in recent past.
On June 15, 20 Indian soldiers laid out their lives during combat with Chinese forces in Galwan valley, leading to tensions between both nations. Chinese soldiers subsequently started moving back following dialogues between two countries through the military level and diplomatic level. (ANI)

Friday, July 17, 2020

India, US likely to partner on 5G: USIBC President

US India Business Council (USIBC) President Nisha Biswal (file photo)

Washington (Reena Bhardwaj/ANI): India and the US are likely to partner on 5G network, US India Business Council (USIBC) President Nisha Biswal said on Thursday, adding that the technology sector is a "very important area" of collaboration between our two countries.

In an interview with ANI, Biswal said expects that digital commerce and all areas of the technology collaboration are going to continue to grow.

"I do think that the technology sector is a very important area of collaboration between our two countries. We have a very trusted relationship, and we have a very large digitally savvy population in both countries," she said.

"So I do expect that digital commerce and all areas of technology collaboration are going to continue to grow. I also think that the US and India will partner on 5G and creating a kind of digital infrastructure of the future. And this will continue to be an area of growing importance," she added.

Biswal said that the US and India economic partnership has been one that has been growing in importance for both countries. "US India economic partnership has been one that has been growing in importance for both countries. We have seen that the pandemic has created enormous disruption on global supply chains including in the pharmaceutical sector and the US India partnership is one of the trusted partners. So as we look at the research and collaboration that`s going on around the vaccine around treatment options," she said.

The India Ideas Summit organised by the USIBC scheduled on July 21-22 will see discussions on a wide range of topics including the impact of coronavirus on global supply chain and healthcare collaboration between the two countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the upcoming Summit, which has assembled a high-powered line-up of US-India corridor leaders from across the business, government and society.

Trump administration may ban US entry for Chinese Communist Party members

American President Donald Trump.

Moscow [Russia], July 16 (Sputnik/ANI): Banning entry to the United States for members of the Chinese Communist Party and their families, over the controversial national security law for Hong Kong, is under consideration by US administration, media has reported citing informed sources.
According to The New York Times, the project, which is currently under discussion, may also allow the US government to annul visas of Chinese Communist Party members who are currently in the country, as well as their families, which will entail their expulsion.

There are also proposals being made to limit travel to the United States for Chinese military and executives at state-owned enterprises. Sources note that the details of the plan have not yet been finalized, and Trump may reject it.

Trump announced on Tuesday that he had signed legislation and an Executive Order punishing China for the encroachment on Hong Kong autonomy. He told reporters that he signed into law the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which passed unanimously through Congress, and gave him the tools to hold those accountable who suppress freedom. The Executive Order signed by the president ends US preferential treatment for Hong Kong and will ensure it is treated the same as mainland China.

Washington's move comes in the wake of Beijing's recently approved security law, which outlaws separatist, subversive and terrorist activities in Hong Kong. On June 30, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed it into effect.

The legislation has been condemned by the Hong Kong opposition, as well as Western officials, who claim it would undermine the city's autonomy guaranteed during its transition from the United Kingdom to China. The new law has been met by a wave of protests in the city, as some residents fear their rights may be infringed upon.

Both Hong Kong's leadership and the central government in Beijing say the law would not affect residents' rights. Beijing maintains that the recent unrest in Hong Kong is a result of foreign interference and vows to respect the "one country, two systems" principle. (Sputnik/ANI)

China reaffirms support for for JCPOA

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Tehran [Iran], July 17 (ANI): On the fifth anniversary of the Iran Nuclear Deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), China reaffirmed its commitment to the JCPOA.

"Marking the 5th anniv of the conclusion of #JCPOA, China will, no matter how int'l situation evolves, stand on the right side of history & resolutely support JCPOA in a concerted effort w/ other parties to advance the political & diplomatic resolution of Iranian nuclear issue," wrote the Chinese diplomatic mission on its Twitter account, according to an IRNA report.

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had described Iran as a friendly country, saying that China attaches importance to deepening relations with Iran.

"Iran is a friendly nation enjoying normal exchange and cooperation with China," she said.

Meanwhile, the European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell highlighted the fact that the Iran nuclear deal is under pressure, and added that there is urgent need to preserve it.

"Today, the JCPOA is under great pressure on multiple fronts. I am convinced that action to preserve it is not just necessary but urgent, for at least two reasons. First, it took more than 12 years for the international community and Iran to bridge their differences and conclude a deal. If the JCPOA is lost, no other comprehensive or effective alternative will be waiting around the corner," said Borell.

The JCPOA was signed in July 2015 between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The Trump administration pulled the US out of the deal in 2018, a move that has left the exact future of the JCPOA, in ambiguity. (ANI)

Thursday, July 16, 2020

India asks Pakistan to give incoditional access to Kulbhushan Jadhav

Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav. (Photo: ANI)

New Delhi [India], July 16 (ANI): India has asked Pakistan to give unconditional access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, sources told ANI on Thursday.

Earlier Pakistan had claimed that he had refused to file a review plea. India said that he had been coerced into doing that.

India had last Thursday said it is assessing all legal options in the case related to Indian national Kulbushan Jadhav, who is on death row in Pakistan and assured that it is committed to protecting the life of Indian nationals.

Pakistan had earlier claimed that Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer, has refused to initiate review petition of his sentence and conviction.

"We had pointed out how Pakistan's claim that Kulbushan Jadhav has refused to initiate a review petition, is a continuation of the farce playing out for the last 4 years. We are assessing our legal options and we remain committed to protecting the life of our Indian nationals," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said during a media briefing.

India had also dismissed Pakistan's claims that Jadhav has refused to file an appeal in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against his conviction and stated that the Indian national was coerced by Islamabad to forego his rights to seek implementation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

India sought unimpeded access to Jadhav to discuss his remedies under the Ordinance that allowed the High Court to review the sentence awarded by Pakistan's military court.

"Pakistan's claim that Jadhav, who is incarcerated in Pakistan's custody, has refused to initiate review petition is a continuation of the farce that has been in play for the last four years. Jadhav has been sentenced to execution through a farcical trial. He remains under custody of Pakistan's military. He has clearly been coerced to refuse to file a review in his case," Srivastava had said in the statement.

Jadhav was purportedly "arrested" from Balochistan by Pakistani security forces on March 3, 2016, after he allegedly entered the country from Iran as claimed by Islamabad. India has rejected Pakistan's allegations about Jadhav's involvement in spying and subversive activities and said he was kidnapped from the Iranian port of Chabahar where he was running a business.

Srivastava had said: "Since 2017, when Military Court carried out a farcical trial, Pakistan has refused to hand over any relevant document, including FIR, evidence, court order, etc in the case to India. Clearly, Pakistan is attempting to create a mirage of compliance with the ICJ judgment". (ANI)

Important for India, EU to work together to fully use technology benefits: PM Modi

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New Delhi (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that it is important for India and the European Union (EU) to work together to fully use the benefits of technology. The Prime Minister said that the 15th India-EU summit was "extremely fruitful" and discussions on COVID-19, multilateralism, trade and investment, among others. The EU was represented by European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

"Today's India-EU Summit was an extremely fruitful one. @eucopresident @CharlesMichel, @EU_Commission, President @vonderleyen and I interacted on a variety of subjects including the COVID-19 situation, multilateralism, environment, trade, investment, digital economy and more," Modi tweeted. "The future belongs to technology. It is important to work together to further the usage of latest technology for the benefit of our people," the Prime Minister said.

Vikas Swarup, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (West), said that five documents were released post the conclusion of the India-EU summit. He said, "The joint political statement summarises the deliberations and convergences between the two sides on various dimensions of bilateral cooperation, global issues of common interest and joint coronavirus response."

"The India-EU Strategic Partnership: Roadmap to 2025 summarises the framework of our dialogue and cooperation covering wide-ranging areas including foreign and security policy, trade and investment, modernisation, sustainable development, research and innovation, education and exchange of scholars, migration and mobility, and global governance," Swarup said. Discussions were also held on the India-European Atomic Energy Community Agreement on research and development cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy will enable collaboration between the Department of Atomic Energy and EURATOM on issues such as civil applications of atomic energy in areas such as (agriculture, healthcare, industry), radioactive waste management, fusion, nuclear safety and security.

"Renewal of Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement for another five years will enable the continuation of scientific projects and research exchanges in areas such as biotechnology, clean energy, e-mobility, energy efficiency, marine sciences, etc," Swarup said. The joint declaration on resource efficiency and circular economy will enable dialogue and cooperation in areas such as policy and regulations, exchange of best practices and capacities and technical exchanges in areas such as energy efficiency, waste management, recycling, circular business models; and in areas such as mobility, ICT, mobility, construction, food and textiles sector. (ANI)

New French PM says battle against 'radical islamism' an absolute priority

French Prime Minister Jean Castex

Paris (ANI): The new French Prime Minister jean Castex, has promised to be intransigent in defending the nation's official secularism. He gave his word to fight 'radical Islamism in all its forms" as "an absolute priority", reported Al Jazeera today.

Presenting his new government's policy in Paris on Webnesday, Castex said to the National Assembly that the French republic was being "shaken to its foundations" by "the coalition of its enemies - terrorists, conspiracy theorists, separatists and communitarians".

Castex, who graduated from the elite National School of Administration, stated that a new law to counter "separatism" was going to be intrduced.

It would aim to "avoid certain groups becoming closed in around ethnic or religious identities", he said.

China, India achieve progress in easing border situation during corps commander meeting: Chinese foreign ministry

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Beijing [China], July 16 (ANI): China and India have achieved progress in the further disengagement process and easing situation at the western sector of China-India boundary during 4th round of commander-level talks, Chinese Foreign Minister said on Wednesday.

Chinese and Indian border troops held 4th round of commander-level talks on Tuesday.

Addressing the media, Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Hua Chunying expressed hope that India will work with China to implement consensus with "concrete actions and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in the border areas".

The meeting between Corps commander-level officers including Lt Gen Harinder Singh lasted for close to 15 hours. It started on July 14 at 11:30 am and ended at 2 am on July 15, the Indian sources said.

"Chinese and Indian border troops held 4th round of commander-level talks on July 14. Building on the common understanding reached at previous three rounds of commander-level talks and corresponding implementation work," Hua said.

"The two sides achieved progress in further disengagement between border troops and easing situation at the western sector of China-India boundary. We hope India will work with China to implement consensus with concrete actions and jointly safeguard peace and tranquillity in border areas," she said.

The sources said the Chinese have agreed for complete withdrawal from other friction points including the Galwan Valley, Hot Springs, and Gogra post area in Eastern Ladakh.

"In the talks, the Chinese showed reluctance for complete withdrawal from Finger area as they want to maintain some elements in areas near Finger 8," a source said.
In the areas near Finger four, the Chinese troops have started dismantling their infrastructure from Blacktop and Greentop, the sources said.

However, India has made it clear that it will not accept anything less than both sides going back to their permanent locations which existed in the April-May time frame, the sources said. (ANI)

China trying to intimidate foreign, Chinese citizens overseas through Hong Kong law: Analyst

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Washington [US], July 16 (ANI): The draconian Hong Kong Security law not only impact those sitting in Hong Kong but also applies criminal penalties for vague political offences to anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of whether they have a substantial connection to the city, The Diplomat reported.

The extraterritoriality of the law makes the measure even more expansive than the mainland's own National security law, The Diplomat reported citing legal experts.

The author of the report, Sarah Cook, a senior research analyst at Freedom House said that Article 38 of the Hong Kong security law is the only one of several steps that Chinese authorities have taken over the past month to assert control overviews expressed abroad and to intimidate both foreign and Chinese citizens overseas.

"Taken together, these moves are forcing people around the world to reassess travel itineraries, business models, and communication methods. While some policymakers, foreign leaders, and civil society groups have been outspoken in their criticism of Beijing's actions, they may ultimately be the outliers in a new global wave of self-censorship," she wrote.

Cook believes thousands of Hong Kong students currently overseas who have publicly supported the territory's pro-democracy protesters on foreign university campuses and social media are at the risk.

However, this is not clear yet whether Article 38 of the law will be applied retroactively punishing speech from before the law took effect.

Cook says that Article 38 exposes a much wider array of individuals including herself to the risk of detention and prosecution.

On June 30, a court in Beijing sentenced Canadian citizen and businesswoman Sun Qian to eight years in prison for practising Falun Gong, the meditation and spiritual discipline banned in China but practised freely in Canada and elsewhere around the world.

Cook says that the Chinese government has wielded its control over access to the mainland as a cudgel to enforce self-censorship among the Chinese diaspora, journalists, academics, politicians, international corporations, and even Hollywood film studios.

"In one fell swoop, the Chinese leadership has demonstrated a willingness and ability to upend the established rules of permissible speech and activity in a matter of days; abruptly absorbed a major Asian hub for international finance, media, and activism into its repressive jurisdiction; and added support for human rights in Hong Kong to an already long list of strictly taboo topics," she wrote.

"Hong Kong's border with the mainland was once like a levee separating the unfree world from the free. After years of erosion, that barrier has now been decisively breached, and unless we all work together to hold the water back, we will all be less free as a result," she added. (ANI)

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

I am not Joining BJP: Sachin Pilot

Congress Leader: Sachin {Pilot

New Delhi [India], July 15 (ANI): Former Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister Sachin Pilot on Wednesday said that he is "not" joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"I am not joining BJP," said Pilot in a telephonic conversation with ANI.

The comments came a day after he was sacked as Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister and Pradesh Congress Committee chief by the party.

The decision to sack Pilot was taken yesterday after a CLP meeting at the Fairmont Hotel in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

At the meeting, as many as 102 MLAs unanimously demanded that Pilot should be removed from the party.

The Rajasthan Congress is in turmoil over the past few days. While Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has blamed the BJP for attempting to destabilise the state government by poaching MLAs, Pilot has been camping in Delhi.

A controversy broke out in Rajasthan after Special Operation Group (SOG) sent a notice to Pilot to record his statement in the case registered by SOG in the alleged poaching of Congress MLAs in the State. (ANI)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Protest held in London against China's expansionist policies

Protest were held in London against China's expansionist policies. (Photo: ANI)

London [UK], July 12 (ANI): Indian diaspora and a group of demonstrators led by displaced Muslims of Iranian origin demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy in London on Sunday to demand their rights.

They were joined by a few activists from Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

The demonstrators demanded that China should free Hong Kong and stop exploiting resources in Gilgit Baltistan, the part of erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

They raised slogans "Down with China" alleging it an occupier.

Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza, a political activist from PoK said, "We are the victim of Chinese aggression as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through Gilgit Baltistan and over 6,000 Chinese army and engineers are present in PoK with an aim to expand CPEC project".

Anti-China protests have erupted in parts of the world since after face-off between Indian and Chinese forces in Galwan on June 15. (ANI)

Monday, July 13, 2020

Four Pak Army soldiers killed in exchange of fire with terrorists in North Waziristan

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Islamabad (ANI): Four Pakistani Army soldiers were killed in exchange of fire with terrorists during an intelligence-based operation in North Waziristan on Sunday.

"Four terrorists were killed during an IBP in Vezhda Sar, eight Kilometres southwest of Boya, Miranshah, North Waziristan district," Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), military's media affairs wing was quoted as saying in a statement by Dawn.

"Sanitisation force conducted [an] operation against terrorists" hideout in Vezhda Sar this morning. As soon as the troops cordoned off the area, terrorists opened fire. All dug out terrorists were shot down by security forces," the statement added.

Last month, two Pakistan soldiers were killed during an exchange of fire with terrorists in Waziristan, the ISPR had said.

However, ISPR in its statement did not clarify to which organisation the terrorists belonged. (ANI)

Sunday, July 12, 2020

220 Indians repatriated from Malaysia under Vande Bharat Mission

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Amritsar (Punjab [India], July 12 (ANI): A special flight under Vande Bharat Mission brought back 220 stranded Indians from Malaysia to Pubjab's  Amritsar on Saturday. As many as 5,80,000 Indians have been evacuated from different countries under the Vande Bharat Mission as of July 8, Ministry of External Affairs announced on Thursday. Vande Bharat Mission is being carried out by the Indian government to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus pandemic.

The first phase of the mission commenced on May 7.

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