Tuesday, September 1, 2020

INDRA NAVY - 2020 postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic, two Navies to hold non-contact 'Passage Exercise' in Bay of Bengal

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New Delhi [India], September 1 (ANI): INDRA NAVY-2020, the joint exercise between Indian and Russia Navy earlier planned in Vladivostok (Russia) has been postponed due to Covid-19 pandemic situation.

Sources said Russian Navy has instead proposed conducting a "non-contact, at sea only" Passage Exercise (PASSEX), to maintain the continuity engagements between the two Navies.

Russian Navy ships Admiral Vinogradov (Destroyer), Admiral Tributs (Destroyer) and Boris Butoma (Tanker) with integral helicopters will be visiting the port of Hambantota (Sri Lanka) from August 31- September 3 before proceeding to Russia.

According to sources, INDRA NAVY-2020 is planned as PASSEX on September 4-5 during the passage of Russian Navy ships from Hambantota to Malacca Straits in the Bay of Bengal.

Indian Navy will deploy ships Ranvijay (Destroyer), Sahyadri (Frigate), Kiltan (Corvette) and Shakti (Tanker) with integrated Helicopters.

Sources said as part of INDRA NAVY 2020, maritime operations such as Flying, Gun Firing on Surface and Aerial Targets, Tracking Exercises and Replenishment at Sea Approaches (RASAPS) are planned.

India-Russia (INDRA) Exercises between the Army, Navy and Air Force of the two countries have been held since 2005. Joint Tri-Services Exercises "INDRA" are also being held once in two years since 2017. The last INDRA Tri-Services Exercise was held in India in December 2019.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will be leaving for a three-day visit to Russia tomorrow.
"Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh will leave for Moscow tomorrow on a three-day visit to Russia. He will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Defence Ministers' meeting during his visit," Office of Defence Minister said in a tweet. (ANI)

Donald Trump condoles demise of former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee

US President Donald Trump (File Photo)

Washington D.C. [US], September 1 (ANI): US President Donald Trump on Tuesday expressed grief over the demise of former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, and said he was saddened to learn about his passing.

"I was saddened to learn of the passing of India's former President, Pranab Mukherjee. I send my condolences to his family and the people of India as they grieve the loss of a great leader," Trump tweeted.

Earlier, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo condoled the demise of former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, saying his visionary leadership was instrumental in bringing the two countries together.

"Saddened to hear of the passing of former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, whose visionary leadership was instrumental in bringing the United States and India closer together. We extend our deepest condolences to the people of India during this difficult time," Pompeo said in a tweet.
Mukherjee, who had tested positive for coronavirus, breathed his last on Monday, weeks after his brain surgery.

In his long political career, he held several top posts including that of External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister.

The Government of India has announced seven-day official mourning. (ANI)

Pranab Mukherjee's visionary leadership was instrumental in bringing India-US closer: Pompeo

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo (File Photo)

Washington D.C. [US], September 1 (ANI): US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo on Tuesday (local time) condoled the demise of former President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, saying his visionary leadership was instrumental in bringing the two countries closer together.

"Saddened to hear of the passing of former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, whose visionary leadership was instrumental in bringing the United States and India closer together. We extend our deepest condolences to the people of India during this difficult time," Pompeo said in a tweet.

Mukherjee, who had tested positive for coronavirus, breathed his last on Monday, weeks after his brain surgery.

In his long political career, he held several top posts including that of External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister.

The Government of India has announced seven-day official mourning. (ANI)

China's policy of Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism misguided attempt at controlling people's religious beliefs, says CTA President

Lobsang Sangay, President, Central Tibetan Administration (File Photo)

Dharmshala (Himachal Pradesh) [India], September 1 (ANI): Calling Chinese President Xi Jinping's proposed policy directions on Tibet 'misguided' and 'unrealistic', the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) President Dr Labsang Sangay said China's policy of Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism is a misguided attempt at controlling the Tibetan people's religious belief and the reincarnation system.

"China's policy of Sinicizing Tibetan Buddhism is a misguided attempt at controlling the Tibetan people's religious belief and the reincarnation system. China must draw on its past experiences and allow the Tibetan people to maintain its distinct faith and religious traditions," he said.

"For Tibetans, Buddhism is more important than Communism. To force them to treat communism as more important than their faith is not only a violation of international religious freedom, but is also deeply misguided. Sinicization of Tibetan Buddhism is never going to work. The last 60 years of Chinese rule in Tibet is a testament to that fact," he added.

The CTA President termed the demolition of Larung Gar and Yarchen Gar, two of the largest Buddhist institutes in the world by Chinese authorities was a tragic example of Chinese atrocities on Tibetan Buddhism.

"Tibetans continue to undergo untold suffering and brutality. Freedom House has listed Tibet as the least free region in the world after Syria for five consecutive years. Yet, the determination of the Tibetan people inside Tibet is still strong and remains faithfully devoted to His Holiness the Dalai Lama," he said.

At the seventh Central Symposium on Tibet Work, which ended in Beijing on Saturday, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed that more education and guidance should be provided for the public to mobilize their participation in combating separatist activities, thus forging an ironclad shield to safeguard stability, according to Chinese state media.

The CTA President explained that "to foster stability in Tibet, China must first address the genuine grievances of the Tibetan people and not forget the 154 Tibetans who have set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese policies in Tibet."

"The root cause of instability in Tibet is not the Tibetan people's faith, but the repressive and failed policies of the Chinese government. The continuation of these hard-line policies and repression is only going to make matters worse. That's why Genuine Autonomy based on the Middle Way Approach is the only viable solution," he said.

"As envisioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tibetans seek Genuine Autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Resumption of dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama or his envoys remains the only foreseeable solution to resolve the Tibet issue," he said.

The CTA President said China has been quietly militarizing the Tibetan plateau for over 60 years under the pretext of development and modernization. "For Tibet, this has only led to an influx of soldiers, Han settlers, and weapons. For its neighbours, this militarization of the Tibetan plateau has led to a military build-up on its borders, jeopardizing the already contentious border regions as evidenced by the recent Galwan incident," he said.

The CTA President said restoring the status of Tibet as a zone of peace with its historical demilitarized border with India is the only way of enduring peace in Asia. (ANI)

China faces severe food crisis amid massive floods

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Beijing [China], September 1 (ANI): Even as China is dealing with many challenges due to massive floods after the pandemic, the country is confronted with another problem of severe food crisis.

According to a report in The New York Times last month, heavy rains are normal in Southern China during the summer month, but this year's fell harder and longer than usual, inundating the crops.
A national campaign has been launched to stop wastage of food triggered speculations that the country is facing a severe food crisis.

Beijing has so far been able to secure food supplies by importing vast amounts of produce from other countries, and by releasing tens of millions of tons from strategic reserves, reported CNN last month.
"Analysts at the Chinese brokerage firm Shenwan Hongyuan, meanwhile, recently estimated that China could lose 11.2 million tons worth of food compared to last year, given how much cropland was damaged by mid-July. That would be equivalent to 5 per cent of the rice that China produces," the CNN report said.

The importance of China's nationwide campaign to stop food wastage can be gauged by the fact that this has been promoted by President Xi Jinping.

A few years after the "Clean Your Plate Campaign" launched in 2013, its 2.0 version is arriving, according to a Global Times report.

As per the report, the 2.0 version calls for the public to stop wasting food.

According to the report, President Xi Jinping, said that food wastage is shocking and distressing and that it is necessary to further enhance public awareness of the issue, cultivate thrifty habits, and foster a social environment where waste is shameful and thriftiness is good.

China has resorted to censorship to promote this campaign. Another report by Global Times, said Chinese domestic short-video platforms vowed to "regulate live streaming shows that feature competitive eating."

The report said China's top legislature announced that it is discussing related legislation after Xi urged the establishment of a long-term mechanism to stop wastage of food.

The New York Times report of last month said this year's "flooding has unfolded not as a single natural disaster, with an enormous loss of life and property, but rather as a slow, merciless series of smaller ones, whose combined toll has steadily mounted even as official reports have focused on the government's relief efforts." (ANI)

Indian army thwarts attempt by Chinese to enter Chumar

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By By Ajit Dubey
Leh (Ladakh) [India], September 1 (ANI): In a significant development Indian security forces on Tuesday foiled an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in the general area of Chumar in Eastern Ladakh, sources said.

This comes close on the heels of Indian Army thwarting Chinese Army's attempt on the night of August 29 and 30 to transgress into areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso.

Sources said on Tuesday that around seven to eight heavy vehicles of the Chinese army set off towards the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from their Chepuzi camp.

In reaction, the Indian security forces also made precautionary deployments to prevent any intrusion," they said. The sources said seeing the vehicles from the Indian side along with troops, the Chinese vehicle convoy returned back towards their bases.

Indian security forces are on high alert all along the LAC to prevent any incursion by the Chinese in any sector, they added.

The Indian Army had earlier thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso lake near Chushul in Ladakh on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.

Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand had said on Monday that on the night of August 29/30, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo.

He said the Indian Army took measures to strengthen its position and "and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on the ground".

The spokesperson also said that the Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity through dialogue but is also equally determined to protect its territorial integrity.

A Brigade Commander level Flag Meeting was later held at Chushul to resolve the issues.
Army sources had said that the Chinese Army had tried to transgress into Indian areas using a sizeable number of troops but Indian Army came to know about their intentions and preempted the Chinese attempt and foiled their move.
India and China are in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including Finger area, Galwan valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala.
The talks between the two sides have been going on for the last three months including five Lieutenant General-level talks but have failed to yield results so far.
The Chinese Army has refused to withdraw or disengage completely from the Finger area and seems to be buying time to delay its disengagement from there.
While efforts are underway to resolve the ongoing border dispute, India has rejected the Chinese suggestion to disengage equidistantly from the Finger area in eastern Ladakh. (ANI)

Have taken up matter of aggressive actions with Chinese side, urged them to control frontline troops: MEA

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New Delhi [India], September 1 (ANI): India has taken up the matter of "recent provocative and aggressive actions" with the Chinese side and has urged them to control their frontline troops, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Tuesday.

"We have taken up the matter of recent provocative and aggressive actions with the Chinese side through both diplomatic and military channels and have urged them to discipline and control their frontline troops from undertaking such provocative actions," said MEA.

The Ministry said Indian side is firmly committed to resolve all outstanding issues along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue.

"India and China have been closely engaged through diplomatic and military channels over the past three months to resolve the situation along the India-China border," MEA said.

The Ministry reiterated that Chinese side violated this understanding and engaged in provocative military manoeuvres in the late night of 29/30 August in an attempt to change the status quo in the South Bank area of Pangong Lake.

"As stated yesterday by Indian Army, the Indian side responded to these provocative actions and took appropriate defensive measures along the LAC in order to safeguard our interests and defend the territorial integrity," MEA said.

On 31st August, even as ground commanders of two sides were in discussions to de-escalate the situation, Chinese troops again engaged in provocative action. Due to timely defensive action, the Indian side was able to prevent these attempts to unilaterally alter status quo, said the Ministry of External Affairs.

India and China should have goodwill in maintaining bilateral ties and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day.

"I think both sides should stick to facts and have goodwill in maintaining the bilateral relations and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquillity along the border," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference.

The Indian Army has thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday and talks are being held now to resolve the issue there, an Army spokesperson said on Monday.

"On the night of August 29-30, People's Liberation Army troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo," said Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand in a statement.

The Indian Army took measures to strengthen its position and "and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on the ground".

India and China are engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including Finger area, Galwan valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala.

Negotiations between the two sides have been going on for the last three months, including five Lieutenant General-level talks but have failed to yield any results, so far. (ANI)

Two Bangladeshi nationals apprehended by BSF handed over to BGB in flag meeting

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Kishanganj (West Bengal) [India], Sept 1 (ANI): Two Bangladeshi nationals apprehended by Border Security Force (BSF) troops in Sonamati after crossing over to Indian side illegally were handed over to Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) in a Flag meeting.

According to BSF, on August 31, troops BOP Sonamati, 171 Bn Kishanganj, West Bengal apprehended two Bangladeshi Nationals.

The two were identified as -- Chandra Mohan Pal (18), Babul Chandra Pal (15).

"Both are residents of Thakurpara (Palda Para), Panchgarh (Bangladesh) and were in possession of 02 Mobile Phones, 02 Bangladesh SIM Cards and Bangladesh Taka 50/- while they crossed IB illegally towards Indian side," said BSF.

"After the conduct of Preliminary Questioning, both the apprehended Bangladeshi nationals were handed over to Border Guards Bangladesh in a Flag meeting," it added. (ANI)

India demands tangible action for UNSC reforms

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New York [US], Sept 1 (ANI): India has demanded tangible action for UN Security Council reforms in line with Common African Position and not let the process be held hostage.

The Permanent Mission of India at UN said in a tweet that India has demanded tangible action for UN Security Council reform in line with Common African Position, and not let the process be held hostage, as it has been over a decade, by those who do not want reform.

The mission also attached a letter by Deputy Permanent Representative of India to President of UN General assembly which said that the "draft roll over text as it is now" does not reflect the progress made in the two meetings of IGN (inter-government negotiations) and does not even at the very minimum capture the growing support to the Common African Position and other issues of importance.

"As conveyed to you during our earlier meeting as a part of groups and in our last letter to you dated August 12 and also earlier to the IGN co-chairs on this matter, India is firm in its belief that as the only formal record of the proceeding, of the lGN in this critical year of the UN's 75th anniversary, the PGAs roll-over decision must capture clearly the tangible progress made in the two IGN meetings that were held earlier this year," the letter said.

India said it will continue to voice its strong support for tangible action towards an expanded and reformed Security Council.

The letter said India is committed to reformed multilateralism and to strengthening this at the UN.
"India will continue to voice its strong support for tangible action towards an expanded and reformed Security Council that reflects today's world and realities. We will also take steps to see how we can realize these goals in the 75th session of the UNGA," the letter said.

In another tweet, Permanent Mission of India at UN said that G4 - India, Brazil, Germany and Japan - in a common letter have demanded concrete action at UNSC.

"The process has lagged on for over a decade without progress," it said.
(ANI)

ISS' orbital altitude to be adjusted by 2,600 feet for next mission on Sept 10: Roscosmos

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Moscow [Russia], September 1 (ANI/Sputnik): The International Space Station (ISS) will have its trajectory adjusted up by more than 2,600 feet on September 10 for the arrival of the next Soyuz spaceship, Roscosmos State Space Corporation told Sputnik on Tuesday.

"To create ballistic conditions ahead of the launch of the Soyuz MS-17 manned crew transfer vehicle, we have scheduled another correction of the ISS orbit for September 10," the company said.

The Progress MS-14 spacecraft, docked to the ISS Zvezda module, will start its engines at 20:32 GMT and will work for 225.1 seconds to increase the orbit's average altitude by about 2,624 feet to 260.7 miles above Earth's surface.

The last adjustment of the orbit took place on July 29.

The Soyuz MS-17 is scheduled for launch at the Baikonur spaceport on October 14. Its crew includes Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, and US astronaut Kate Rubins. (ANI/Sputnik)

Adani ranks as the largest solar power generation owner globally: Mercom Capital

Adani is 70 pc larger than the next largest global solar power generation company

Dallas [USA], Sep 1 (ANI): The latest ranking of global solar companies by Mercom Capital ranks the Adani Group as number one global solar power generation asset owner in terms of operating solar projects.

Adani said its renewable energy portfolio exceeds the total capacity installed by the entire United States solar industry in 2019 and will displace over 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the life of its assets.

The group is one of the most fully integrated solar players in the world, manufacturing solar cells and modules, undertaking project development, construction, financial structuring and owning and operating its assets through its internal asset management platform.

According to the ranking, Adani is roughly 70 per cent larger than the next largest global solar power generation company.

Adani Green Energy Ltd (AGEL) established its first solar project in 2015. It 2017, the company completed two solar projects. It went public in 2018 and has accelerated its presence to reach the current milestone of being the largest solar player in the world in a short span of just five years with a stated target of reaching 25 gigawatts of renewable power by 2025.

"Achieving this ranking is a direct result of our commitment to creating the infrastructure needed for a clean-powered future," said Chairman Gautam Adani.

"While we are pleased to be ranked the largest solar player in the world, we recognise that there is a lot more that remains for us to do as the world transitions into an increasingly decarbonised energy landscape," he said in a statement.

Adani anticipates that over the next decade several existing business models will be impacted as a result of the disruption caused by the intersection of the plummeting cost of renewable energy and the ability of technology to rescale industries.

"We expect our renewable energy platform will create new possibilities for our core business and we will be able to address some of the most intractable problems that humankind has faced, including affordable decentralised energy, availability of distributed clean water, green hydrogen as an alternate fuel, and micro agriculture, among others," he said.

Building partnerships with major industrials, data centre providers and global integrated energy players that seek to reduce their carbon footprints will also continue to further accelerate the growth. "AGEL was launched just five years ago, our story is only beginning."

AGEL also achieved a top spot in the global ranking in terms of under construction and awarded capacity with 10.1 GW of projects, making it the definitive leader in mega-scale renewable energy project deployments. (ANI)

UAE's normalisation of ties with Israel an act of 'betrayal': Khamenei

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (File Photo)

Tehran [Iran], September 1 (ANI/Xinhua): Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that the recent move by the officials of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to normalise ties with Israel is an act of "betrayal," the leader's official website reported.

"The UAE betrayed the Islamic world, Arab nations and the regional countries, as well as the cause of Palestine," Khamenei said here.

"They (the UAE officials) opened the region to the Zionists (Israelis) and put the cause of Palestine, which is a usurpation of a country, into oblivion," he added.

Iran has strongly condemned the recent agreement between Israel and the UAE to normalise ties.
On August 13, Israel and the UAE reached an agreement, brokered by the United States, to work towards a "full normalisation of relations." (ANI/Xinhua)

Nepal allows Bahrain Royal Gaurd expedition to scale Mt Lobuje East, Mt Manaslu

Mi Minaslu (File Photo)

Kathmandu [Nepal], September 1 (ANI): The Nepal government has decided to grant permission to allow a Bahrain Royal Guard expedition to climb Mt Lobuje East and Mt Manaslu.

Dr Yubaraj Khatiwada, spokesperson for the Government of Nepal, said the team will be arriving in Nepal after mid-September in a special chartered flight and would follow the COVID-19 protocols made by the Ministry of Health and Population during their stay.

"Based on the proposal from Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, a team of 15 Bahrainis along with Prince of Bahrain and three British nationals, which will make a total of 18 people, has been given permission to visit Nepal in a charter flight they will make a make summit attempt of Mt Lobuje East and Mt Manaslu," Khatiwada said.

The 18-member delegation has been given the coveted permission to climb Mount Manaslu (8,163 metres), the eighth highest mountain in the world. Before attempting to climb Manaslu, the team will be scaling Mt Lobuje East (6,119 metres) in the Everest region to acclimatise with the conditions.

The team is also planning to scale Mount Everest in the spring season of 2021. Although, the government had announced the resumption of mountaineering and expedition in the country last month, hundreds of tourists have been awaiting the green signal.

Nepal's tourism sector, which is a major contributor to the country's GDP, faced a slump due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nepal halted its expedition activities in March as COVID-19 spread in the Himalayan nation.

Hundreds of trekkers in remote parts of the country were hurriedly flown back to capital Kathmandu while some were evacuated to their respective countries. (ANI)

India, China should take concrete measures to safeguard peace at LAC: Beijing

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying speaking at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday

Beijing [China], September 1 (ANI): India and China should have goodwill in maintaining bilateral ties and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquillity along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

"I think both sides should stick to facts and have goodwill in maintaining the bilateral relations and take concrete measures to safeguard peace and tranquillity along the border," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference here.

She claimed China never occupied an inch of other country's territory and its troops never crossed the line.

"China never provoked any war or conflict and never occupied an inch of other country's territory. Chinese troops never crossed the line. Perhaps there are some communication issues," Hua said.

The Indian Army has thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday and talks are being held now to resolve the issue there, an Army spokesperson said on Monday.

"On the night of August 29-30, People's Liberation Army troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo," said Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand in a statement.

The Indian Army took measures to strengthen its position and "and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on the ground".

In response, the Chinese Embassy in India today claimed that Indian troops "illegally trespassed" the LAC, which "damaged" peace and tranquillity along the border.

"On August 31, Indian troops violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India, illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations, which again stirred tension in the border areas," said a spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India, Ji Rong, in a statement.

"India's move has grossly violated China's territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquillity along the China-India border areas," she added.

The spokesperson said China has made solemn representations to the Indian side and urged the latter to "stop any actions", which could further escalate the situation at the border.

India and China are engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including Finger area, Galwan valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala.

Negotiations between the two sides have been going on for the last three months, including five Lieutenant General-level talks but have failed to yield any results, so far. (ANI)

Bangladesh High Commission to hold special condolence meet for Pranab Mukherjee

Former President Pranab Mukherjee (File Photo)

New Delhi [India], September 1 (ANI): The Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi will hold a special condolence meeting on Wednesday for former President Pranab Mukherjee, who passed away at the age of 84.

On Monday, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing grief over the death of Mukherjee, saying she was profoundly saddened to receive news of the demise of the "highly esteemed leader of South Asia."

"As a renowned scholar and statesman of India, and a highly esteemed leader of South Asia, Pranab Mukherjee commanded the respect and admiration of all. The tireless work of 'Bharat Ratna' Pranab Mukherjee for the welfare of the people of India will inspire the future generation of leaders not only in India but across countries in the region," she wrote in the letter.

In 2013, Bangladesh conferred the honour of 'Bangladesh Muktijuddho Sommanona' (Liberation War Honour) on Mukherjee for his valuable contribution to Bangladesh's Liberation War of 1971.

Mukherjee, who had tested positive for the coronavirus, died on Monday, weeks after his brain surgery.

In his long political career, he held several top posts including that of External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister.

The Government of India and many states have announced seven-day official mourning. (ANI)
Former President Pranab Mukherjee (File Photo)

Beijing [China], September 1 (ANI): China on Tuesday expressed grief over the demise of former President Pranab Mukherjee, who passed away at the age of 84, and said he made a positive contribution to China-India relations and it is a heavy loss to the friendship of two countries.

"Pranab Mukherjee was a veteran statesman of India. In his 50 years in politics, he made a positive contribution to China-India relations. It is a heavy loss to China-India friendship and to India. We express condolences over his death and extend our sympathies," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying.

Mukherjee, who had tested positive for coronavirus, breathed his last on Monday, weeks after his brain surgery.

In his long political career, he held several top posts including that of External Affairs Minister, Defence Minister and Finance Minister.

The Government of India has announced seven-day official mourning.

(ANI)

China claims Indian troops 'illegally trespassed' LAC

Flag of China

New Delhi [India], September 1 (ANI): After India thwarted China's attempt to transgress in Ladakh, China on Tuesday claimed that Indian troops "illegally trespassed" the Line of Actual Control (LAC) which "damaged" peace and tranquillity along the border.

"On August 31, Indian troops violated the consensus reached in previous multi-level engagements and negotiations between China and India, illegally trespassed the Line of Actual Control again at the southern bank of the Pangong Tso and near the Reqin Pass in the western sector of China-India border, and conducted flagrant provocations, which again stirred tension in the border areas," said a spokesperson of Chinese Embassy in India, Ji Rong, in a statement.

"India's move has grossly violated China's territorial sovereignty, seriously violated relevant agreements, protocols and important consensus reached between the two countries, and severely damaged peace and tranquillity along the China-India border areas," she added.

The spokesperson said China has made solemn representations to the Indian side, and urged the latter to "stop any actions" which could further escalate the situation at the border.

"China has made solemn representations to the Indian side..., and immediately (should) withdraw its troops illegally trespassing the Line of Actual Control and immediately stop any actions leading to the escalation and complication of the situation," she said.

Earlier Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the boundary between India and China has not yet been demarcated and "so there have been problems", according to state-run Global Times.

"China will firmly safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and is ready to manage all kinds of issues through dialogue with the Indian side. China is committed to maintaining stability along the China-India border and will not be the first to complicate or escalate the situation," Wang was quoted as saying during his visit to France recently.

The Indian Army has thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday and talks are being held now to resolve the issue there, an Army spokesperson said on Monday.

"On the night of August 29-30, People's Liberation Army troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo," said Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand in a statement.

The Indian Army took measures to strengthen its position and "and thwart Chinese intentions to unilaterally change facts on the ground".

India and China are engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including Finger area, Galwan valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala.

The talks between the two sides have been going on for the last three months including five Lieutenant General-level talks but have failed to yield any results, so far. (ANI)

Nepal: Gandaki govt working to woo Indian tourists after improvement in COVID-19 situation

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Pokhara [Nepal], September 1 (ANI): The Gandaki provincial government is working on a plan to woo Indian tourists once the COVID-19 situation improves.

According to the plan, the government has kept Indian tourists at top of the list. It is to be noted that 40 per cent of tourists who visited Pokhara -- The City of Lakes -- last year were from India.

Last year, a total of 12 lakh tourists visited Pokhara. In 2018, the numbers stood at 11.73 lakhs. In both the years, Indians were at the top of the list in terms of numbers.

"Indian tourists have always remained at the top of the list compared to other tourists from foreign countries. Many of them come here to spend their vacations here and engage themselves in various adventure events like paragliding, trekking, boating and kayaking. As we lost the chance to host them, we are working to bring more Indian tourists along with foreign tourists in the coming years," said Bikash Lamsal, Provincial Tourism Minister.

"We are celebrating the year 2019-2022 as Tourism Year with a target to host two million tourists. 2019 was Domestic Tourism Year, 2020 Neighbour Tourism Year, 2021 Tourism Infrastructure Improvement Year and 2022 International Tourism Year. As the situation is not favourable, we are working on plans to cover the loss incurred this year and will be focusing on revamping efforts next year," Lamsal added.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pokhara has suffered a loss of 13 crore Nepali rupees on a daily basis as businesses have been affected due to a slump in tourists visiting the city.

A total of 10,674 business companies have shut down permanently due to the recession, according to a study conducted by the provincial government.

The tourism sector of Gandaki Province has suffered huge losses in the last four months. (ANI)

NSA Doval reviews situation at India-China border

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (File Photo)

New Delhi [India], Sep 1 (ANI): National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, along with top officials, reviewed the situation at the India-China border, sources said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to call another high-level meeting later today, they added.
This comes after the Indian Army thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, the meeting of brigade commander of the Indian Army with his Chinese counterpart is underway in Chushul/Moldo to discuss issues related to the situation on the southern bank of Pangong lake, Indian Army sources said.

"On the night of August 29/30, PLA troops violated the previous consensus arrived at during military and diplomatic engagements during the ongoing standoff in Eastern Ladakh and carried out provocative military movements to change the status quo," said Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand in a statement on Monday.

India and China are engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including Finger area, Galwan valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala. (ANI)

Thailand delays purchase of Chinese-made submarines after public backlash

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha (File photo)

Bangkok [Thailand], Sep 1 (ANI): The Thai government on Monday delayed the purchase of Chinese-made military submarines for a year following public outrage over the controversial agreement.

The Royal Thai Navy asked the parliament's budget committee to slash the submarine procurement funding to zero for this fiscal year, a person well-versed with the matter said, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Government spokesperson Anucha Burapachaisri said that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who also holds the post of Defence Minister, told the Navy to postpone the agreement until the fiscal year 2022.

The decision comes as a setback for the Thai government amid protests by the youth who are seeking political reforms and protections for civil liberties. It also comes as the country's economy has witnessed a slump due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two Yuan-class S26T submarines were supposed to cost a total of 22.5 billion baht (USD 720 million) over seven years. An allocation of 3 million baht as initial payment was sought by the government in the 2021 budget. But, the decision invited strong opposition from the public, with critics saying the money should be spent to revive the flattened Thai economy.

Anucha said that Thailand will begin talks with China on the details of the delay.

These are the second and third of three submarines which Prayuth had promised to China and the Royal Thai Navy when he was the leader of a junta that toppled the democratically-elected government of Thailand in 2014, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

In 2017, the budget for the first submarine was approved and it is being built in China for delivery in 2024, the Navy said.

On August 22, the agreement attracted public attention, passing a lower house budget subcommittee by the narrowest margin. The meeting did not yield a unanimous conclusion and was tied initially at 4 to 4. However, a ballot from the chairman, who is a member of the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, allowed the deal to proceed to the full budget committee.

Among the four members who opposed this decision was Yutthapong Jarassathian, deputy chairman of the subcommittee from the opposition Pheu Thai Party.

"A memorandum of understanding exchanged upon the first submarine order between Prayuth and then-Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan did not state that Thailand was obliged to buy the two additional submarines," Yutthapong was quoted as saying.

"The Prime Minister must choose between the submarines and the economic survival of the people," he said.

The subcommittee's decision was met with criticism on social media, with a hashtag #PeopleSayNoToSubs trending in Thailand on Twitter. Following this, the Navy was forced to present its views on Monday with Royal Thai Navy chief-of-staff Sittiporn Maskasem commenting that the Navy needed more submarines as to boost its defence sector, and urging the people not to politicise the agreement.

The Thai Prime Minister pushed for a "yes" vote regarding the purchase of the submarines, saying they were vital for national security. "In the next days, everyone will have to take responsibility if something happens to our country," he said.

According to the Navy, most of Thailand's coastal neighbours possess subs. While Vietnam has six submarines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia have five, four and two, respectively. Myanmar has one submarine.

Earlier on August 25, Deputy spokesperson of Democrat Party, Akkaradet Wongpitakrote, had said that at least seven out of 13 Democrats would vote against the agreement, citing economic measures as a long-term and greater priority. The budget committee comprises 48 members from the ruling coaliton and 24 from the opposition.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Thailand's economy hard with Gross Domestic Product shrinking 12.2 per cent on the year in the second quarter, which was the biggest contraction since 1998.

The Office of the National Economic and Social Development Council has forecast a contraction of 7.3 per cent to 7.8 per cent for 2020, which could become the worst slump in Thailand's history. The economy had shrunk 7.6 per cent in 1998, when the country was in the midst of the Asian financial crisis, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Tourism, which accounts for around 20 per cent of the Thai economy, was the hardest-hit industry. Exports, which include spending by tourists, shrank by 28.3 per cent. To revive the sector and overall economic growth, the government has approved a domestic tourism stimulus package which is expected to create two million domestic trips from July to October, thereby helping to generate income for businesses like hotels, airlines, restaurants and travel agencies.

The government has allocated 22.4 million baht budget for the package, nearly the same amount for purchasing two Chinese submarines.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the governments across the Asia-Pacific region to rethink about their defence spending. Earlier in June, Japan decided to stop the deployment of US-made Aegis Ashore missile shield after its price swelled up to USD 4 billion from an estimated USD 2.15 billion. The move could likely free up funds for economic recovery.

Last week, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had announced that the government would boost defence spending by 1 billion Australian dollars to upgrade military facilities and provide additional paid employment to army reservists. This decision is expected to boost the country's economy through consumption and construction orders. (ANI)

6.5 magnitude quake jolts Chile

Representative Image

New Delhi [India], Sep 01 (ANI): An earthquake, measuring 6.5 on the Richter Scale, struck Chile on Monday (local time), according to the National Centre for Seismology (NCS). The epicentre of the quake was situated 607 kilometres north of capital Santiago and the temblors depth was 10 kilometres, NCS said.

So far, there are no reports of damage to property and casualties. Chile lies in the 'Ring of Fire', an area in the basin of the Pacific Ocean, which is vulnerable to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. (ANI)

US aiming for NATO-like alliance with India, Australia, Japan to counter China: Stephen Biegun

US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun (File Photo)

Washington [US], Sep 1 (ANI): The United States seeks to formalise its closer defence ties with countries of the India-Pacific region -- India, Japan and Australia -- similar to something like the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) with an aim to counter China, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said on Monday.

He said that Washington's aim is to get the grouping of four countries and others in the region to work together as a bulwark against "a potential challenge from China", and "to create a critical mass around the shared values and interests of those parties in a manner that attracts more countries in the Indo-Pacific and even from around the world ... ultimately to align in a more structured manner", South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported.

Biegun made the comments while speaking with former US ambassador to India, Richard Verma in an online discussion organised by the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum.

"The Indo-Pacific region is actually lacking in strong multilateral structures. They do not have anything of the fortitude of NATO or the European Union. The strongest institutions in Asia oftentimes are not, I think, not inclusive enough and so ... there is certainly an invitation there at some point to formalise a structure like this," Biegun said.

"Remember, even NATO started with relatively modest expectations and a number of countries (initially) chose neutrality over NATO membership," he added.

However, he cautioned that the US would keep its ambitions for a Pacific NATO "checked", asserting such an alliance "will happen only if the other countries are as committed as the US".

Biegun said the grouping of four countries are expected to meet in New Delhi this autumn and cited Australia's possible participation in India's Malabar naval exercise as an example of progress towards a formal defence bloc, according to SCMP.

India is "clearly indicating an intention to invite Australia to participate in the Malabar naval exercises, which will be a tremendous step forward in ensuring the freedom of passage and the security of the seas in the Indo-Pacific," the senior US department official said.

The naval exercises have been conducted by the US and India since 1992 and mostly takes place in the Bay of Bengal. Japan has been taking part in this exercise since 2015.

Australia had participated in the Malabar naval exercises once, in 2007, "but Beijing pushed back, meaning that India demurred on repeating the invitation, ostensibly for fear of needlessly antagonising China, despite Canberra's clear willingness to take part," according to the Sydney-based think tank Lowy Institute in a July report. Singapore had also participated in 2007.

The report said that the stand off between Chinese and Indian troops at Galwan valley in June, in which 20 Indian soldiers lost their lives, has made India more inclined to get back Australia for the Malabar naval exercises.

While Japan and the US have already been invited to participate in this year's exercise, delayed due to COVID-19, India has not yet extended a formal invitation to Australia.

Meanwhile, Biegun stated that the US wants to see Vietnam, South Korea and New Zealand to eventually join an expanded version of the 'Quad' (India, Australia, Japan and the US), citing the "very cooperative" meetings of the grouping of four countries with officials from the these nations regarding the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meetings between senior-level officials of the seven nations were "incredibly productive discussion among very cooperative partners, and one that we should look at to see a natural grouping of countries that really will do their very best to advance this combination of interests that we have made up Pacific", Biegun was quoted as saying by SCMP. (ANI)

China uses coercion, subterfuge and force to spread its influence

Chinese President Xi Jinping (File photo)

Hong Kong, Sep 1 (ANI): As well as using direct military force and creeping militarisation to advance claimed territories along the Indian border and in places like the South China Sea, Beijing has nefarious and deep-running programmes to extend the influence and reach of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) across the globe.

Last week, Chairman Xi Jinping attended the seventh Central Symposium on Tibet Work, promoting his policy of subsuming Tibet. Xi is prioritising security in the Tibet Autonomous Region (the name is a misnomer since autonomy is the last thing on Xi's mind), including the need to "solidify border defences and ensure frontier security" along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with India.

Xi also called for the public to fight against separatism to "form an impregnable fortress in maintaining stability" and to unify Tibetan ethnic groups. His method of doing so is enforcing total loyalty to the CCP and forcing Buddhism to "adapt to socialism and Chinese conditions". In other words, he is subjugating Tibetan identity and religion.

The CCP was definitely alarmed by the boil-over in tensions along the LAC, when Indian and Chinese troops resorted to brutal hand-to-hand fighting in a national battle of wills in mid-June.

Twenty Indian soldiers died, while China continues to refuse to acknowledge its number of dead and wounded. Bilateral meetings since then have singularly failed to get the PLA to return to original positions, meaning that China has successfully achieved significant advances in areas like Lake Pangong. Through inattention during COVID-19, India has permanently ceded these swathes to Chinese control with little chance of regaining them.

As well as its subjugation of Tibet, mention must also be made of the dozens of concentration camps in Xinjiang where a significant portion of the Muslim Uighur population is forcibly incarcerated and brainwashed. If China treats its Tibetan and Muslim citizens like this, can one expect it to suddenly alter its nature and treat outsiders with respect?

China's dubious words and promises must be treated with great caution. When core national interests are at stake, nothing is off-limits for China. Its priority is to preserve domestic stability, stimulate economic development, uphold territorial integrity and secure great power status. Furthermore, these core interests hinge upon the CCP's political security - to threaten one is to endanger the other - and this helps explain the extraordinary lengths China goes to in its bullying.

The US has increased the tempo of its denunciations of the CCP for blatant criminal acts, whether intellectual property theft, cyber espionage or influence operations. Indeed, China has enjoyed spectacular intelligence coups against American concerns. A Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) survey listed 137 busted espionage cases against the US alone since 2000, excluding 1,200+ cases of intellectual property litigation brought by US companies.

The CSIS study discerned that 57 per cent of espionage actors were Chinese military or government employees, 36 per cent were private Chinese citizens and 7 per cent were non-Chinese actors. Some 36 per cent of these cases sought to acquire American military technology from 2000-19. Targets have included the F-16 fighter, F-35 fighter, F-22 fighter, F/A-18 fighter, C-17 transport aircraft, Delta IV rocket, various nuclear laboratories, NASA, Patriot PAC-3 missile, supersonic submarine-launched anti-ship missile, Aegis combat system, high-altitude missile interceptors, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor, Black Hawk helicopter, Littoral Combat Ship, satellites, microchip technologies and submersibles. Yet this incomplete list is only those revealed in open sources where the perpetrators were actually caught.

The CCP also has a talent-recruitment programme designed to obtain overseas technology through non-transparent means at best, or illegal methods at worst. China has acknowledged that it attracted nearly 60,000 overseas professionals from 2008-16.

A report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), entitled Hunting the Phoenix: The Chinese Communist Party's Global Search for Technology and Talent and written by Alex Joske, stated, "These efforts lack transparency; are widely associated with misconduct, intellectual property theft or espionage; contribute to the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) modernisation and facilitate human rights abuses. They form a core part of the CCP's efforts to build its own power by leveraging foreign technology and expertise."

The scale, organisation and level of misconduct set apart China's talent-recruitment scheme. The effort extends much further than the Thousand Talents Plan, for more than 200 different schemes exist. Furthermore, China has some 600 overseas talent-recruitment stations around the world gathering information on scientists and engineers and actively seeking to recruit them.

The US is a primary target, but numerous other nations figure prominently in Chinese efforts to leverage open scientific communities. US investigations into these schemes have only made Chinese efforts more secretive.

The PLA carries out talent recruitment too. The National University of Defence Technology, for instance, has recruited at least four professors from abroad. Similarly, the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics (which runs the nation's nuclear weapons programme) had recruited 57 foreign experts by 2014, including many from the USA's Los Alamos National Laboratory. As well as direct military force, espionage and talent recruitment subterfuge, China has another arrow in its quiver too.

On September 1, ASPI released a report entitled The Chinese Communist Party's Coercive Diplomacy, authored by Fergus Hanson, Emilia Currey and Tracy Beattie. The report tracks the CCP's use of state-sponsored coercion over the past decade, particularly against Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand and East Asia, claiming a sharp escalation since 2018.

The report summarised the issue, "The CCP's coercive tactics can include economic measures...and non-economic measures ... These efforts seek to punish undesired behaviour and focus on issues including securing territorial claims, deploying Huawei's 5G technology, suppressing minorities in Xinjiang, blocking the reception of the Dalai Lama and obscuring the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic."

China gains enormous leverage from the fact it is the largest trading partner for two-thirds of countries around the world. This dependency on China as a trading partner enables China to get away with such diplomatic coercion, which is a quite separate issue from "checkbook diplomacy".

However, the two do go together, creating a carrot-and-stick approach to advancing Chinese interests and bulldozing anyone in its path.

Yet Hua Chunying, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, could declare without any apparent trace of irony in October 2019, "...As a responsible major country, China stands upright with honour. We never strong-arm others, never seek supremacy, never withdraw from commitments, never bully others, and never complain. The word 'coercion' has nothing to do with China."

This ASPI report goes a long way to dispelling such statements as falsehoods, for it documents 152 separate cases where China used coercive diplomacy between 2010 and 2020. Of these cases, 100 targeted foreign governments and the rest individual companies.

There are benefits for siding with China, with the Philippines enjoying not a single case of coercion after President Rodrigo Duterte shifted loyalties to China in 2016. Furthermore, those countries to formally defend China's Xinjiang policies are immune from sanctions.

Of course, exerting pressure has always been the preserve of more powerful nations, and the US and Russia are guilty. However, the Australian authors said, "...The CCP's approach is unique in that it rarely employs traditional methods of coercive diplomacy, which are regulated through the state's official capacity. The CCP is instead arbitrarily imposing measures without officially acknowledging the link between the measures taken and the CCP's interests, which allows for greater flexibility in escalating or de-escalating situations with less accountability and international oversight. This non-traditional type of coercive diplomacy, therefore, requires a very different set of policy tools and responses."

The ASPI report breaks down Chinese diplomatic coercion into categories: arbitrary detention or execution, restrictions on official travel, investment restrictions, trade restrictions, tourism restrictions, popular boycotts, pressure on specific companies, and state-issued threats.

In the 2010-20 period, the researchers found that state-issued threats (34 cases, over half of which were recorded in 2020 alone), trade restrictions (19 cases) and tourism restrictions (17 cases recorded) were the most common methods used by the CCP. The steep rise in state-issued threats in 2020 probably relates to the COVID-19 pandemic, where regular tools such as tourism and foreign student embargoes become moot.

Criticism of China's initial handling of the outbreak, and also of its treatment of Hong Kong, resulted in harsh retorts from Beijing. Even during the pandemic, China was unafraid to use medical supplies to punish other nations.

China's modus operandi uses divide-and-conquer tactics to isolate nations. The ASPI document noted, "Remarkably, countries have so far failed to band together to counter CCP coercion, even when that has been manifestly in their interests. This may be due to a lack of awareness of the widespread use by the CCP of coercive diplomacy, a lack of strategic analysis by foreign ministries of the best way to counter such coercion, or both."

China accounts for more than 20 per cent of global tourism, and 150 million Chinese tourists travelled abroad and spent USD 277 billion in 2018. This is a powerful club for the CCP to wield.
Four countries have felt the full effect of Chinese coercion: Australia, Canada Norway and South Korea. These share a remarkably discernible pattern too. After a trigger, a state-issue threat is typically given, followed by such "incentives" as investment restrictions, trade restrictions, restrictions on official travel and then tourism restrictions or popular boycotts.

Arbitrary detentions or executions might be thrown in too, which is what happened with Canada. After Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was detained in December 2018, China retaliated nine days later by arresting Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on spurious national security laws. They remain in prison.

As for CCP coercion against private companies (including Asics, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, Samsung, Swarovski and Versace), in the end, some 83 per cent of them issued an apology. Virtually none received backing from their respective governments. This translates as an extremely successful victory rate for the CCP, as these profit-driven firms conceded to the power of Chinese consumerism.

The ASPI report was not all doom and gloom, for it listed five suggestions on how countries can counter CCP coercion. It warned, "A coordinated and sustained international effort by foreign governments and companies is needed to counter this coercive diplomacy and uphold global stability."
It specifically mentioned increasing global situational awareness about the widespread use of coercive diplomacy; responding via coordinated pushback through multilateral forums and mini-lateral coalitions; Five Eyes countries considering adopting a collective economic security measure that could draw in other partners; factoring in the heightened risks of doing business with China; and developing economic, foreign and trade protocols in collaboration with the business community to respond to coercive methods applied to business.

China's hypocrisy is becoming more evident too. Beijing feels the need to freely comment on others' internal policies and decisions, whereas when anyone does the same about China, they are accused of meddling in its internal affairs. China continually calls on others to examine their faults and to change their ways, when it utterly fails to ever do so itself.

Additionally, China is investing heavily to manipulate social media audiences, particularly in response to Hong Kong protests and COVID-19. Indeed, the latter has provided China with an environment for the party-state to experiment and refine its propaganda and strategic disinformation.

As China leans towards employing Western platforms like Twitter and Facebook (which are banned in China), it can mobilise supporters from the Chinese diaspora. No let-up in this effort is perceived, with propaganda abroad becoming as important as it is at home. (ANI)

Pranab Mukherjee Will Be Forever Remembered In Annals Of Indian History: US State Dept

Former President late Pranab Mukherjee (File photo/ANI)


Washington DC [USA], Sep 1 (ANI): US State Department on Monday condoled the death of former President Pranab Mukherjee, saying that he will be forever remembered in the annals of Indian history.

"Our heartfelt condolences on the passing of former President Pranab Mukherjee. We stand with the people of India as they grieve the loss of a great leader who will be forever remembered in the annals of Indian history," US State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) tweeted.
Scores of foreign countries and leaders from across the world have paid tribute to the former President, who passed away at the age of 84.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing grief over the death of Pranab Mukherjee.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also sent his condolences saying that Mukherjee "made a significant personal contribution to strengthening the relations of a particularly privileged strategic partnership between our countries."

Mukherjee passed away on Monday at the Army Hospital (Research and Referral) Hospital where he was admitted earlier this month and had undergone surgery for the removal of a clot in his brain.
He was admitted to the Army Hospital in Delhi on August 10 and had tested positive for COVID-19. (ANI)

Authorities have arrested over 200 protesters in various US cities: Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump. (File Photo)

Washington DC [US], Sep 1 (ANI): US President Donald Trump on Monday (local) said that over 200 protesters were arrested in various cities in the ongoing demonstrations across the United States.
"...we have arrested a large number of people, it's over 200. But they have been arrested in various cities throughout the United States. We can solve the problem in Portland in approximately one hour but the Mayor refuses, perhaps for the political reasons," Trump told reporters here.

One person died of bullet injures in a shooting incident in Portland on Saturday (local time) night after an evening of violent clashes in the US state of Oregon.

Slamming the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump said: "The wave of violence and destruction that we have seen in recent months have occurred in cities that exclusively controlled and dominated by the Joe Biden's party. Most of them are Democrat-run cities."

"The violence is being fuelled by dangerous rhetoric by far-left politicians that demonise our nation and demonise our police," he added.

He said that "the rioters and Joe Biden have one side. For months, Joe Biden has given moral comfort to the vandals repeating the monstrous lie that these are peaceful protestors."

Violent protests against racial injustice erupted last week in Kenosha in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States after police shot 29-year-old Jacob Blake, an African American man, in the back seven times.

The incident, which occurred on August 23, left Blake paralyzed. Protests turned into riots complete with violence against police and civilians as well as acts of arson and destruction.

According to the Kenosha Professional Police Association, Blake forcefully resisted arrest.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden used a speech in Pittsburgh to argue that Trump has made the country unsafe. "He can't stop the violence because for years he's fomented it," the New York Times reported. (ANI)

US, Israel and UAE say joint accord a 'courageous step' toward prosperous Middle East

Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, U.S. President's Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and UAE's National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan hold a meeting in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi [UAE], Sep 1 (ANI): The accord between the United States, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a "courageous step" toward a more stable and prosperous Middle East, according to a joint statement issued by the three countries.

The statement follows after a US-brokered agreement was signed to normalise ties between Israel and UAE on August 13.

"The accord inverts traditional thinking about the way to address the region's problems and challenges, focusing on pragmatic steps that have tangible, practical outcomes. It carries with it the promise of new bridges that will serve to de-escalate existing conflicts and prevent future conflicts," the joint statement reads.

In a historical step, the first commercial flight from Israel to UAE reached in Abu Dhabi, carrying Israeli officials. US President Donald Trump's senior Middle East adviser Jared Kushner and Israel's national security adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat were also on board.

In the joint statement, the UAE, Israel and the US have urged Palestinian leaders to "reengage with their Israeli counterparts in discussions aimed at achieving peace."

It further states that "over the last decade we have seen a marked increase in war, destruction, and dislocation, and a growing demographic shift towards a younger population. If we are to meet the needs of current and future generations, we must be responding actively to all these changes."

Furthermore, both UAE and Israel expressed gratitude to US President Donald Trump for his leadership and to his administration for the critical role it has played in achieving this diplomatic breakthrough.

The newly signed accord has initiated a historic breakthrough in normalizing ties between Israel and the UAE and has led to the suspension of Israel's plans to extend its sovereignty.

The UAE has become the third Arab country to fully recognize Israel after Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. The two states are expected to sign a number of agreements for cooperation in investments, tourism, security and other areas.

The treaty also appears to have put Israel's plans to extend its sovereignty over lands in the West Bank on hold, but, despite the circumstances, the Palestinian administration has strongly condemned this tripartite agreement. (ANI)

AstraZeneca's vaccine has reached Phase 3 clinical trials in US: Trump

US President Donald Trump. (File Photo)

Washington DC [USA], Sep 1 (ANI): US President Donald Trump on Monday announced AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine has reached Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States and is very close to being finalised for approval.

"I am pleased to announce that AstraZeneca's vaccine has reached Phase 3 clinical trials and has joined various vaccines that are very close to the end. In the United States, we are doing things that people thought were not possible," Trump said in a press conference.

He said that process could have taken years but his administration did in a matter of months.
AstraZeneca also announced that its vaccine, developed by researchers at Oxford University will enroll approximately 30,000 adult volunteers at 80 sites in the US.

"Trial centres across the US are recruiting up to 30,000 adults aged 18 years or over from diverse racial, ethnic and geographic groups who are healthy or have stable underlying medical conditions, including those living with HIV, and who are at increased risk of infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus," AstraZeneca said in a statement.

The phase 3 trial is being implemented as part of Operation Warp Speed in the US, which aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.

The AstraZeneca shot is one of the leaders in the race to develop Covid-19 vaccine. Other companies that have Covid-19 vaccines in phase 3 trials include Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. (ANI)

US visa policy that supports Indian talent is 'win-win' for both: Jaishankar

India's foreign minister S Jaishankar interacting with Timothy Roemer, former US envoy to India, at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum's summit. (Credit: MEA)

New Delhi [India], Sep 1 (ANI): India's foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, said on Monday a U.S. visa policy that supported Indian talent would be beneficial for both countries. A more knowledge-driven, global economy will require more trusted talent, which is an opportunity for India, Jaishankar told a virtual conference on relations between the two nations.

"That is an opportunity for India and it is an opportunity which should be reflected to some degree in American immigration policies," he said, adding that immigration was a "win-win" for both countries. U.S. President Donald Trump has this year restricted several categories of foreign work visas, blocking the flow of certain skilled Indian workers into the United States.

The suspension included H-1B visas for skilled workers, which are often used by the tech industry. Indians made up 72 percent of the some 388,000 H-1B visa petitions approved in fiscal-year 2019, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services data. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the same conference later on Monday that the United States was working to fix its broken immigration system "once and for all" and the reforms would be based on a merit-based principle.

"We want people to come to this country that are ready to participate and ready to contribute as people from India have done and as people from the U.S. have done in India," Pence said.

Japan to extend emergency loan for India to fight Covid-19 pandemic

Suzuki Satoshi, Ambassador of Japan to India here in New Delhi on Monday

New Delhi [India], Sep 1 (ANI): Japan on Monday said it will extend emergency loan support of upto 50 billion yen towards India's response to the Covid-19 pandemic that includes implementation of health and medical policy.

Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs of Finance Ministry, CS Mohapatra and Japanese ambassador Suzuki Satoshi exchanged notes here on Monday, concerning the provision of the yen loan to New Delhi to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to an official release by the Japanese embassy, this "COVID-19 crisis response emergency support loan" provides the necessary funds for India's fight against coronavirus.

This financial support will support the implementation of health and medical policy by the Government of India, and will lead to the development of hospitals equipped with ICUs and infection prevention and management facilities.

It is expected that these measures, in addition to controlling the spread of infection in the country, will also contribute to the recovery and stability of the country's society and economy, as well as to sustainable development.

The loan will have an interest rate of 0.01 per cent per annum with a redemption period of 15 years, including a four year grace period.

Moreover, both the countries also exchanged notes on a grant worth 1 billion Yen to India through Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) scheme, namely, "The Economic and Social Development Programme".

It is expected that this grant aid will lead to reinforcing the fight against infectious diseases including COVID-19, in India, and contribute towards further strengthening cooperation between Japan and India. (ANI)

Nepal delegation attends 4th BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee meeting

A delegation from Nepal at the 4th BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee meeting on Monday

Kathmandu [Nepal], Sep 1 (ANI): Ahead of the 21st Session of BIMSTEC Senior Officials' meeting, a delegation from Nepal attended the 4th BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee meeting on Monday.

"Nepali delegation at the 4th BIMSTEC Permanent Working Committee meeting held virtually today. The Meeting prepared the ground for the 21st Session of BIMSTEC Senior Officials' Meeting (virtual) to be held on 2 September 2020," said Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal.

The 21st session of the BIMSTEC SOM comprising foreign secretaries of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation member states will be held in Sri Lanka on September 2.

BIMSTEC member countries include Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan. (ANI)

Shambhu S Kumaran Appointed India's Envoy To Micronesia, Palau

Diplomat Shambhu S Kumaran (Photo Credit: Embassy of India to Rabat, Morcco)

New Delhi [India], Sept 1 (ANI): Shambhu S Kumaran has been concurrently accredited as the next Ambassador of India to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Monday.

Kumaran, a 1995 batch IFS, is presently serving as the Ambassador of India to the Republic of Philippines. Previously, Kumaran also served as the Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Morocco.

Kumaran's diplomatic assignments abroad include postings in Frankfurt and Berlin (1997-2002), as Political Counsellor in Kathmandu (2007-2009) and as Deputy High Commissioner to South Africa (2009-2012).

At Headquarters, he was Deputy Secretary (West Europe Division) handling relations with the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain as well as the Commonwealth from 2002-2004. He was Officer on Special Duty (Press Relations) in the External Publicity Division from 2004-2007.

From 2012-2016, Kumaran was Director (East Asia/China), Joint Secretary (Establishment) and Joint Secretary (Eurasia) in the MEA.

During January 2016-May 2019, he was on deputation to the Ministry of Defence as Joint Secretary (Planning and International Cooperation). (ANI)

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