Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Islamabad HC to take up case relate to appointment of Kulbhushan Jadhav's defence counsel

Kubhushan Jadhav.

Islamabad [Pakistan], September 2 (ANI): The Islamabad High Court (IHC) will take up the case related to appointment of defence counsel for Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav on Thursday, according to reports.

ARY News reported that a larger bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Amir Farooq, and Justice Mian Gull Hassan Aurangzeb will hear the case.

Last month, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of India had said that it has asked Pakistan for Jadhav to be represented by an Indian lawyer for filing a review petition against his death sentence.

"We are in touch with Pakistan through diplomatic channels. We believe for a free and fair trial in keeping with the letter and spirit of International Court of Justice (ICJ) judgment, we have asked that Jadhav be represented by an Indian lawyer," MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said during a virtual briefing.

"However, it is important that Pakistan needs to address the core issues and these core issues involve providing all the necessary documents in this case as well as providing unimpeded consular access to Jadhav," he had said.

Last month, the IHC had formed a larger bench to hear the petition case pertaining to the appointment of legal representative for Jadhav, who is on death row in Pakistan.

Geo News had reported that the larger bench, comprising IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Amir Farooq and Justice Mian Gull Hassan Aurangzeb, was formed, which will hear the case on September 3.

The decision came after India continued to pressurise Pakistan into allowing consular access to Jadhav.

Pakistan media had reported earlier that Islamabad Court said Indian officials should be given an opportunity to present their stance. India had said that it had not received any communication from Pakistan government.
India also said that Pakistan has blocked all avenues for effective remedy available to it in the case.
Pakistan claims that Jadhav was arrested from Balochistan in 2016 on charges of espionage.

India has rejected Pakistan's allegations and said he was kidnapped from the Iranian port of Chabahar. In early 2017, a Pakistani military court sentenced him to death.

The ICJ upheld India's claim that Pakistan has committed an egregious violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations on several counts. (ANI)

Pompeo expresses concern over Chinese actions in Tibet

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. (Photo: ANI)
Washington D.C. [US], September 2 (ANI): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday expressed concerns over China's actions in Tibet in the wake of Chinese President Xi Jinping's call to promote "sinicisation" of Tibetan Buddhism.

He called upon Beijing to enter into dialogue with Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions to reach a settlement.

"We are concerned about Chinese actions in Tibet in light of General Secretary's recent call to sinicise Tibetan Buddhism and fight splitsim there," Pompeo said at a press briefing.

"We continue to call upon Beijing to enter into dialogue with Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions to reach a settlement that resolves their differences," he added.

Terming China as the most flagrant violator of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Pompeo said nations across the world are registering their disapproval.

He also accused China of bullying its neighbours. "That bullying is also evident in South China Sea. Last week, the US imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on Chinese individuals and entities responsible for CCP's Imperialism there, doing things such as unlawful energy surveillance activities in the economic zones of Philippines and other countries."

"More missile tests were done in China last year than all western nations combined. If you're going to be serious, you've to use those in a way that is consistent with how nations undertake obligation under nuclear proliferation treaties," Pompeo said.

According to a Pentagon report, China is seeking to establish a more robust overseas logistics and basing infrastructure to allow the PLA to project and sustain military power at greater distances.

According to "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China (PRC) 2020" report, a global PLA military logistics network could both interfere with US military operations and support offensive operations against the United States as the PRC's global military objectives evolve.

"Beyond its base in Djibouti, the PRC is very likely already considering and planning for additional military logistics facilities to support naval, air, and ground forces projection. The PRC has likely considered Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, United Arab Emirates, Kenya, Seychelles, Tanzania, Angola, and Tajikistan as locations for PLA military logistics facilities," the report said. (ANI)

Lockdown extended in Kathmandu Valley with spike in COVID-19 cases

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Kathmandu [Nepal], September 2 (ANI): Local Administrations of Kathmandu Valley has decided to continue the ongoing lockdown by another one week following the continuous surge in COVID-19 cases.
In the virtual meeting between Chief District Officers of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur on Wednesday evening, it was decided to extend the lockdown, which was imposed 2 weeks before, till September 9.
"Analysing the ongoing situation and recorded cases on daily basis, we decided to extend it for another week. The risk of further spread is still high, so we opted to lengthen it by another week," Janakraj Dahal, Chief District Officer of Kathmandu told ANI over phone.
Enlisted as a major hotspot of coronavirus infection, Kathmandu Valley currently hosts a total of 6,112 active cases, as per the data from the Ministry of Health and Population.
Kathmandu Valley in last 24 hours recorded a total of 388 cases out of 1,120 reported throughout the nation.
The Local Authorities of Kathmandu Valley had first imposed lockdown from August 20 for a week which has been extended for the second time today. (ANI)

US imposes new restrictions on Chinese diplomats

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Washington [US], Aug 26 (ANI): US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Wednesday announced sanctions on certain Chinese nationals involved in the militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea.

He said that the Department of Commerce has added 24 PRC state-owned enterprises to the Entity List, including several subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

"Today, the Department of State will begin imposing visa restrictions on People's Republic of China (PRC) individuals responsible for, or complicit in, either the large-scale reclamation, construction, or militarization of disputed outposts in the South China Sea, or the PRC's use of coercion against Southeast Asian claimants to inhibit their access to offshore resources," read an official statement released by the State Department.

Pompeo further said, "These individuals will now be inadmissible into the United States, and their immediate family members may be subject to these visa restrictions as well. In addition, the Department of Commerce has added 24 PRC state-owned enterprises to the Entity List, including several subsidiaries of China Communications Construction Company (CCCC)."

He said that since 2013, the PRC has used its state-owned enterprises to dredge and reclaim more than 3,000 acres on disputed features in the South China Sea, destabilizing the region, trampling on the sovereign rights of its neighbours, and causing untold environmental devastation.

"CCC led the destructive dredging of the PRC's South China Sea outposts and is also one of the leading contractors used by Beijing in its global "One Belt One Road" strategy. CCCC and its subsidiaries have engaged in corruption, predatory financing, environmental destruction, and other abuses across the world."

"The PRC must not be allowed to use CCCC and other state-owned enterprises as weapons to impose an expansionist agenda. The United States will act until we see Beijing discontinue its coercive behaviour in the South China Sea, and we will continue to stand with allies and partners in resisting this destabilizing activity," Pompeo added.

Meanwhile, the Department of Commerce said in its official statement, "The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in the Department of Commerce (Commerce) added 24 Chinese companies to the Entity List for their role in helping the Chinese military construct and militarize the internationally condemned artificial islands in the South China Sea," read an official statement issued by the US Department of Commerce.

"The United States, China's neighbours, and the international community have rebuked the CCP's sovereignty claims to the South China Sea and have condemned the building of artificial islands for the Chinese military," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

"The entities designated today have played a significant role in China's provocative construction of these artificial islands and must be held accountable." (ANI)

NIA files charge sheet against 5 accused in ISKP case

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New Delhi [India], September 2 (ANI): The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday filed a charge sheet against five accused in the NIA Special Court in New Delhi in connection with the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) case.

The accused have been charge-sheeted for their affiliation with the proscribed terrorist organisation ISIS/ISKP and for allegedly conspiring to create disaffection against the Government of India, promoting enmity among different religious communities and for committing subversive activities, a statement from NIA said.

The accused have been identified as Jahanzaib Sami (36), Hina Bashir Beigh (39), Abdullah Basith (26), Sadiya Anwar Shaikh (20) and Nabeel Siddick Khatri (27).

The agency has filed the charge sheet under Sections 120B, 124A, 153A and 201 of IPC and sections 13, 17, 18, 38, 39 and 40 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against the accused persons.

In its charge sheet, the NIA further said that that this case was initially registered by Delhi Police Special Cell on March 8, after the arrest of Kashmiri couple Jahanzaib Sami Wani and his wife Hina Bashir Beigh from their rented accommodation in Okhla Vihar, Jamia Nagar in the national capital. The agency re-registered the case on March 20 and took up the investigation.

During the probe, the agency claimed to have found that Jahanzaib, a resident of Ferozpur in Punjab, got radicalised and inclined towards ISIS/ISKP by reading about it on the internet. He then established contact with ISIS handler Huzaifa-al-Bakistani and latter's father-in-law Abu Usman-Al-Kashmiri (head of Indian affairs of ISKP) in 2017 on a secure messaging platform.

Huzaifa-al-Bakistani further introduced him to Abdullah Basith, another ISIS operative, who is already in judicial custody at Tihar jail in connection with another NIA case (ISIS Abu Dhabi Module), the NIA added in its release.

The investigation further revealed that Hina Bashir also got radicalised since 2014-15 by reading ISIS-related content on the social media platform.

As per NIA, Jahanzaib, Hina Bashir, Abdullah Basith and Sadiya were conspiring to utilise the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests to instigate Muslims against the Government by coining seditious slogans and writing graffiti at public places and highlighting them on social media.

Accused Jahanzaib, Hina, Abdullah Basith and Nabeel Siddick also tried to make an improvised IED and were planning to carry out mass-killings in crowded places to further the activities of ISIS/ISKP in India, the statement added.

Another accused Abdur Rehman was also arrested from Bengaluru by the NIA on August 17, who was in contact with Jahanzaib as part of the conspiracy to promote the activities of ISIS/ISKP and had also visited ISIS medical camp in Syria in 2014.

The investigation into the activities of Abdur Rehman and other suspects, in this case, is continuing, NIA said. (ANI)

Cabinet approves MoU between India, Japan for cooperation in Textile sector

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (File Photo)

New Delhi [India], Sep 2 (ANI): The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Textiles Committee, India and Nissenken Quality Evaluation Centre, Japan for improving quality and testing of Indian textiles and Clothing for the Japanese market.

Briefing reporters after the Cabinet meeting, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar said the MoU would enable Nissenken Quality Evaluation Centre, Japan in assigning Textile Committee as their cooperative Testing and Inspection service providers in India for Textiles and Apparel products.

The products include Technical Textiles and any other products mutually agreed upon at a later date for both domestic and overseas clients or buyers. (ANI)

Pakistan asks US blogger Cynthia D Richie to leave country within 15 days

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Islamabad [Pakistan], September 2 (ANI): Cynthia D Richie, American blogger based in Pakistan, has been asked to leave the country within 15 days.

According to Geo News, the Pakistani Interior Ministry rejected Cynthia's request to extend her Pakistan visa and asked her to leave the country within 15 days.

As per the report, the Islamabad High Court had on July 10 asked the Ministry of Interior to decide on a petition filed by a Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader seeking to deport Cynthia after she was accused by the party of making derogatory remarks about former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Earlier this year, Cynthia alleged that she was "raped" in 2011 by the country's then-"Interior Minister Rehman Malik" and accused former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of psychically manhandling her.

In a video broadcast live on Facebook, she had also alleged that two senior PPP leaders including former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani "physically manhandled" her when "he was staying at the President's House".

Levelling serious allegations, she had posted a series of tweets, giving out further details.

"Occurred at IM's house in min enclave 2011 around the OBL incident. I thought it a meeting about my visa but I was given flowers/ a drugged drink. I kept quiet - who in PPP govt would help me against PPP IM? Recently they attacked family; I've had it. Ready to face any accuser," she had said in a tweet.

Further, she had claimed of having informed about the same to someone in the US Embassy, but due to "fluid situation", she said the response was "less than adequate". (ANI)

Pompeo slams Beijing for bullying neighbours, hopes for peaceful resolution of situtation on India, China border

US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo (File Photo)

Washington D.C. [US], September 2 (ANI): US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday slammed the Chinese Communist Party, saying it is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbours from the Taiwan Strait to the Himalayas and beyond and hoped for a peaceful resolution of the situation on the India-China border.

Addressing a press conference here, Pompeo said that the Chinese Communist Party is also engaged in bullying in the South China Sea.

"From the Taiwan Strait to the Himalayas and beyond, the Chinese Communist Party is engaged in a clear and intensifying pattern of bullying its neighbours. It is also evident in the South China Sea," he said.

"We are hoping for a peaceful resolution of the situation on the India-China border," he added.
Pompeo said more missile tests were done in China last year than all western nations combined.

"If you're going to be serious, you've to use those in a way that is consistent with how nations undertake obligation under nuclear proliferation treaties," he said.

The Indian Army thwarted Chinese Army's attempt on the night of August 29 and 30 to transgress into areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso.

Indian Army spokesperson 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.

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.

India and China are in a standoff from 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.

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.

The External Affairs Ministry said on Tuesday that India had taken up the matter of recent provocative and aggressive actions with the Chinese side through both diplomatic and military channels and urged them to discipline and control their frontline troops from undertaking such provocative actions.

The ministry said Indian side is firmly committed to resolving all outstanding issues along the LAC in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue. (ANI)

India bans 118 more mobile apps including PUBG, WeChat

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New Delhi [India], September 2 (ANI):
Nearly two months after it banned 59 China-linked apps, the government on Wednesday decided to block 118 mobile apps including PUBG MOBILE Nordic Map: Livik, WeChat Work and WeChat in view of the information available that they are engaged in activities which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity, defence and security of India and public order.
The decision came amid border tensions with China in eastern Ladakh.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said in a release that the decision "is a targeted move" to ensure safety, security and sovereignty of Indian cyberspace.
The ministry said it has received many complaints from various sources including several reports about the misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users' data in an unauthorised manner to servers which have locations outside India.
The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defence of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures, the MeitY added.
The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre of Home Ministry has also sent an exhaustive recommendation for blocking these malicious apps.
Likewise, there have been similar bipartisan concerns, flagged by various public representatives, both outside and inside the Parliament of India, the release said.
It said there has been a strong chorus in the public space to take strict action against apps that harm India's sovereignty as well as the privacy of our citizens.
"On the basis of these and upon receiving of recent credible inputs that information posted, permissions sought, functionality embedded as well as data harvesting practices of above-stated Apps raise serious concerns that these Apps collect and share data in surreptitious manner and compromise personal data and information of users that can have a severe threat to security of the State," it said.
"In the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India and security of the State. And using the sovereign powers, the Government of India has decided to block the usage of certain Apps, used in both mobile and non-mobile Internet-enabled devices," it added.
The release said the government is invoking it's power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 and "in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 118mobile apps since in view of the information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order".
The banned apps are:
-APUS Launcher Pro- Theme, Live Wallpapers, Smart
-APUS Launcher -Theme, Call Show, Wallpaper,HideApps
-APUS Security -Antivirus, Phone security, Cleaner
-APUS Turbo Cleaner 2020- Junk Cleaner, Anti-Virus
-APUS Flashlight-Free & Bright
-Cut Cut - CutOut & Photo Background Editor
-Baidu
-Baidu Express Edition
-FaceU - Inspire your Beauty
-ShareSave by Xiaomi: Latest gadgets, amazing deals
-CamCard - Business Card Reader
-CamCard Business
-CamCard for Salesforce
-CamOCR
-InNote
-VooV Meeting - Tencent Video Conferencing
-Super Clean - Master of Cleaner, Phone Booster
-WeChat reading
-Government WeChat
-Small Q brush
-Tencent Weiyun
-Pitu
-WeChat Work
-Cyber Hunter
-Cyber Hunter Lite
-Knives Out-No rules, just fight!
-Super Mecha Champions
-LifeAfter
-Dawn of Isles
-Ludo World-Ludo Superstar
-Chess Rush
-PUBG MOBILE Nordic Map: Livik
-PUBG MOBILE LITE
-Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade
-Art of Conquest: Dark Horizon
-Dank Tanks
-Warpath
-Game of Sultans
-Gallery Vault - Hide Pictures And Videos
-Smart AppLock (App Protect)
-Message Lock (SMS Lock)-Gallery Vault Developer Team
-Hide App-Hide Application Icon
-AppLock
-AppLock Lite
-Dual Space - Multiple Accounts & App Cloner
-ZAKZAK Pro - Live chat & video chat online
-ZAKZAK LIVE: live-streaming & video chat app
-Music - Mp3 Player
-Music Player - Audio Player & 10 Bands Equalizer
-HD Camera Selfie Beauty Camera
-Cleaner - Phone Booster
-Web Browser & Fast Explorer
-Video Player All Format for Android
-Photo Gallery HD & Editor
-Photo Gallery & Album
-Music Player - Bass Booster - Free Download
-HD Camera - Beauty Cam with Filters & Panorama
-HD Camera Pro & Selfie Camera
-Music Player - MP3 Player & 10 Bands Equalizer
-Gallery HD
-Web Browser - Fast, Privacy & Light Web Explorer
-Web Browser - Secure Explorer
-Music player - Audio Player
-Video Player - All Format HD Video Player
-Lamour Love All Over The World
-Amour- video chat & call all over the world.
-MV Master - Make Your Status Video & Community
-MV Master - Best Video Maker & Photo Video Editor
-APUS Message Center-Intelligent management
-LivU Meet new people & Video chat with strangers
-Carrom Friends : Carrom Board & Pool Game-
-Ludo All Star- Play Online Ludo Game & Board Games
-Bike Racing : Moto Traffic Rider Bike Racing Games
-Rangers Of Oblivion : Online Action MMO RPG Game
-Z Camera - Photo Editor, Beauty Selfie, Collage
-GO SMS Pro - Messenger, Free Themes, Emoji
-U-Dictionary: Oxford Dictionary Free Now Translate
-Ulike - Define your selfie in trendy style
-Tantan - Date For Real
-MICO Chat: New Friends Banaen aur Live Chat karen
-Kitty Live - Live Streaming & Video Live Chat
-Malay Social Dating App to Date & Meet Singles
-Alipay
-AlipayHK
-Mobile Taobao
-Youku
-Road of Kings- Endless Glory
-Sina News
-Netease News
-Penguin FM
-Murderous Pursuits
-Tencent Watchlist (Tencent Technology
-Learn Chinese AI-Super Chinese
-HUYA LIVE - Game Live Stream
-Little Q Album
-Fighting Landlords - Free and happy Fighting Landlords
-Hi Meitu
-Mobile Legends: Pocket
-VPN for TikTok
-VPN for TikTok
-Penguin E-sports Live assistant
-Buy Cars-offer everything you need, special offers and low prices
-iPick
-Beauty Camera Plus - Sweet Camera & Face Selfie
-Parallel Space Lite - Dual App
-Chief Almighty: First Thunder BC
-MARVEL Super War NetEase Games
-AFK Arena
-Creative Destruction NetEase Games
-Crusaders of Light NetEase Games
-Mafia City YottaGames
-Onmyoji NetEase Games
-Ride Out Heroes NetEase Games
-Yimeng Jianghu-Chu Liuxiang has been fully upgraded
-Legend: Rising Empire NetEase Games
-Arena of Valor: 5v5 Arena Games
-Soul Hunters
-Rules of Survival
Earlier in June this year, 59 apps, most of which were Chinese, had been banned by the Centre in view of the information available that they are engaged in activities which are "prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity and defence" of the country.
Almost all the apps banned had some preferential Chinese interest and the majority had parent Chinese companies. (ANI)

Saudi Arabia to allow ISrael_UAE flights pass through its airspace

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Tel Aviv [Israel], September 2 (ANI): Saudi Arabia has agreed to allow flights between Israel and United Arab Emirates to pass through its airspace.

The Times of Israel reported citing Saudi press agency that Saudi Arabia will allow passage in its airspace to flights to and from the UAE "to all countries."

The announcement comes after an official request by the UAE and diplomatic efforts by White House Special Adviser Jared Kushner, reported The Jerusalem Post.

US President Donald Trump had last month announced that Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations.

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

A joint statement issued by the three countries said that 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.

Earlier this week, 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. (ANI)

Possible And 'Logical' That All The 22 Arab States Could Normalise Ties With Israel One Day: Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner (File Photo)

Abu Dhabi [UAE], September 2 (ANI/WAM): It is possible and "logical" that all the 22 Arab states could normalise ties with Israel one day, US President Donald Trump's Senior Adviser, Jared Kushner, told Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview.

Kushner, who is also Trump's Chief Middle East Adviser, revealed that the world could witness the fourth Arab state normalising ties with Israel in "months."

Egypt in 1978, Jordan in 1994 and the UAE in 2020 are the only Arab countries that announced that step to date.

"Let's hope it's months," he said when asked whether it could take years or months to see the fourth Arab state normalising relations with Israel, without revealing what country it could possibly be.
"Obviously anything could happen, but the reality is that a lot of people are envious of the move that the United Arab Emirates has made," he added.

"A lot of people want access to the technology, economy and the advancements that Israel has. Israel is like another Silicon Valley for the Middle East.

"From a faith point of view, many Muslims are excited to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque through the United Arab Emirates I think this is going to be the start of something really exciting and my hope is that more and more countries would want this because being apart doesn't benefit anybody.

"We don't solve problems by not talking to each other. So, normalising relations and allowing people-to-people and business exchanges will only make the Middle East stronger and a more stable place," he continued.
Kushner headed a US-Israeli top-level delegation which started a historic visit to the UAE yesterday, flying on the first-ever commercial flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi.

He met yesterday with Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nayhan, UAE's National Security Adviser, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in the presence of Israel's Head of National Security Council, Meir Ben-Shabbat and US' National Security Adviser, Robert O'Brien.

Asked if he believed it could be possible to see all the 22 Arab states normalising relations with Israel one day, Kushner responded quickly by saying, "100 per cent."

"I believe that it is logical for them to do it and I believe it is the right thing to do over time," he said.
"I am an optimist and that is my blessing and curse in life. It is more fun to be an optimist than being a pessimist, but there are a thousand reasons why it should happen [22 Arab states normalising with Israel] and a very few reasons why it shouldn't happen.

"My hope and prayers are that the leaders will have the strength and courage to make the right decisions and to not be discouraged by the vocal minorities.

"Twitter is not a real place; people are angry on Twitter and you have some radicals too. People who are against normalisation are against progress. Normalisation is about giving everybody an opportunity, respecting each other's faith and having a more stable region. If you are against normalisation then what are you standing for? You are standing for extremism, division, intolerance.
"I think thanks to the UAE leadership there will be a much bigger coalition. [There will be] what I call 'a vocal majority' that will be in favour of normalising. I think the vocal minority who have been against it will be more and more isolated in the region," he continued.

Kushner, 39, explained that the discussions over the Israeli suspension of the annexation of the West Bank will be held sometime "in the future," but not "in the near future."

"Right now, the focus is on this relationship [UAE and Israel] and the [Israeli] relationship potentially with other countries, that is very important to Israel and the region," he said.

"Israel has agreed to suspend the annexation and suspend the Israeli law to those areas for the time being, but in the future, I am sure that it is a discussion that we will be had, but not in the near future," he added.

Asked about the boycott of Qatar by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt since 2017, Kushner said that it was on the agenda to discuss with the leaders of the respective countries.

"On this trip I had the opportunity to discuss it with the leadership of the UAE. I will be in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and will discuss it with them as well," he revealed.

"We'll continue to engage until we find what is a fair and proper solution that we believe could endure," he added. (ANI/WAM)

Reconstruction drive under Indian Government brings happiness to people of Gorkha

Arjun attended a session of the Free Drawing Intiative held in a school in Gorkha. (Photo/ANI)

Gorkha [Nepal], September 2 (ANI): Until last year, Arjun Sunar's life was still largely in limbo as he lost his house in 2015 earthquake.

Forty-year-old Arjun was working as an employee at a bread-making factory in Chitwan and used to earn 12,000 Nepali rupees a month, most of which he used to send back home for his family of five.

Arjun's eldest son Ganesh is suffering from paralysis on one side of the body and required constant care while he himself had lost fingers of his right hand. As earthquake flattened his house he had no bases to construct it and had planned to move out from his ancestral place of Kusunde, Padhera to some other place.

But he had no lands elsewhere and in order to move out from pre-existential place he had to take a hefty loan from relatives, which would pile up debt on his previous 1 million Nepali rupees, which he took for the treatment of his son.

"I have huge loans to pay off, but more than the money as such, I'm worried about my son's condition. I just want him to be able to go to school, be happy," Arjun recalled his bygone days.
Though the government of Nepal had announced to provide a grant for reconstruction, Arjun had no idea about how to start over. He didn't have a building permit from the municipality nor any kind of pre-requisites to start over building a new shelter for his family.

Arjun then attended a session of the Free Drawing Initiative held in a school in Gorkha, organised jointly by UNDP's Gorkha Housing Reconstruction Project -- part of the socio-technical facilitation support for reconstruction funded by the Government of India -- and the Palungtar Municipality, in collaboration with the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering (IoE).

"It's nice to know that help is available, because the reconstruction process can seem very complicated when you are doing it by yourself," Arjun says. "Even if there's still a long way to go before our lives can return to normal, the guidance from the team has given us a much-needed boost in that direction."

After learning of his situation, the team helped Arjun measure his house, and prepare a drawing to submit to the municipality. Now Arjun has shifted into his newly built house with his family.
"God knows what would have been my fate if the Government of India and UNDP hadn't taken the steps to help people like us for reconstruction. It's only because of them I and my family are able to shift to a new house," he said.

The Government of India, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) on March 8, 2018 signed a partnership agreement to expedite the post-earthquake reconstruction process in Nepal.

Under the agreement, the Government of India provided a US$ 16.2 million grant to the two UN agencies (US$ 8.79 million to UNDP and US$ 7.41 million to UNOPS) to support safer reconstruction of 50,000 houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot. While UNDP provided this facilitation to 26,912 houses in Gorkha and UNOPS covered 23,088 houses in Nuwakot. (ANI)

No Indian soldiers killed in recent border clash, says China

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (File photo)

Beijing [China], September 2 (ANI): No Indian troops were killed in the recent incursion attempt by Chinese soldiers near the southern bank of Pangong Tso, China said on Wednesday.

"As far as I know, no Indian soldiers were killed in the recent border clash," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted by state-run Global Times as saying.

She claimed that India "violated" consensus on the western section of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

"India has repeatedly violated important consensus on the western section of the China-India border, unilaterally changed the status quo by force, causing tensions in border area. The responsibility rests entirely with the Indian side," Hua said.

The response came 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 last month.

In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Tuesday that 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.

"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 LAC in the Western Sector through peaceful dialogue.

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 few months including five Lieutenant general-level talks but have failed to yield any results, so far. (ANI)

Pranab Mukherjee was close friend of Sri Lanka: Mahinda Rajapaksa

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the India House on Webnesday. (Photo credits: Indian High Commission in Colombo)

Colombo [Sri Lanka], September 2 (ANI): Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday paid rich tributes to late former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and said he was as a "close friend" of the island country and its people.

Rajapaksa visited the India House here and wrote about Mukherjee in the condolence book. In a tweet, the High Commission of India in Colombo thanked Rajapaksa for being the first to offer his condolences at the India House.

"Thank you HE PM Mahinda Rajapaksa for being the first to offer condolence at India House on the demise of former President of India Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee," the High Commission said. Quoting Rajapaksa, the High Commission said, "Your personal thoughts and sentiments and those of the people of Sri Lanka are a source of comfort to the bereaved family and the people of India at this hour of grief."

Rajapaksa said people of Sri Lanka and India will miss the benevolent leadership of Mukherjee.
"In his condolence message, HE PM Mahinda Rajapaksa remembered the former President Pranab Mukherjee as a close friend of Sri Lanka and its people and said that people of India, Sri Lanka and the world will miss his benevolent leadership," the High Commission said in a tweet.

Mukherjee, who had tested positive for coronavirus, breathed his last on Monday, weeks after his brain surgery. He was 84.

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

The former President was cremated with full state honours on Tuesday.

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

(ANI)

Japan's northern Kyushu region braces for powerful typhoon

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Tokyo [Japan], September 2 (ANI/Xinhua): Japan's weather agency on Wednesday said that a powerful typhoon is making its way from the Nagasaki region to the northern part of Japan's main island of Kyushu.

Typhoon Maysak, which has already pummeled Japan's southernmost prefecture of Okinawa and injured eight people, is moving north at a speed of 15 kilometres per hour, Japan's Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

According to the agency, the powerful storm has a central atmospheric pressure of 940 hectopascals and is packing winds at its core of up to 162 kilometres per hour.

Maysak's maximum instantaneous wind velocity was clocked at 234 kilometres per hour, the JMA said while issuing a warning to people to be vigilant for gusty winds, high waves, storm surges, as well as possible landslides, flooding and swollen rivers.

Shinkansen bullet train services have been temporarily suspended as a result of the typhoon between Hiroshima and Hakata stations on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line.

West Japan Railway said the suspension of the service will continue until at least 8 am (local time) on Thursday.

The JMA stated Typhoon Maysak will likely to continue on a northern trajectory towards the northern area of Kyushu through Thursday, with unstable atmospheric conditions in western Japan leading to thunderstorms and torrential downpours.

Through Thursday, Kyushu, Shikoku and Tokai regions are likely to be lashed by downpours of up to 80 millimetres per hour while also being struck by thunderstorms, the JMA said.

The weather agency also said for the 24 hours through Thursday morning, up to 300 millimetres of rain is expected in the Shikoku region, and as much as 250 millimetres in Kyushu and Tokai.

Over the 48-hour period through Friday morning, meanwhile, Shikoku and Tokai may well be inundated with between 100 to 200 millimetres of rain, the JMA stated. (ANI/Xinhua)

China's Latest Incursion Attempt Was Deliberate To Provoke India: US Intelligence

Pangong Tso in Ladakh (File Photo)

Washington [US], September 2 (ANI): China's transgression attempt near the southern bank of Pangong Tso, which was thwarted by the Indian Army was a deliberate move to provoke India, according to American intelligence assessment.

Beijing is infuriated with its local commander withdrawing forces when a physical conflict appeared imminent, added the assessment report.

Washington said Indian troops have prevented any loss of ground, according to a source familiar with the assessment who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Pangong Tso region situated high in the Himalayas is considered to be within India's territorial control, according to US News and World Report.

The US believes that Indian forces were better prepared to face the Chinese provocation following the deadly violent standoff in June in the Galwan valley, in which 20 Indian soldiers had lost their lives. However, the assessment did not conclude whether Chinese forces were the first to act in a provocative manner in this case, although the US has chosen to side with India due to China's past provocative behaviour.

American intelligence officials and local analysts have questioned the timing of the latest standoff even as China is seeking to cool tensions or it has given the appearance it wishes to do so and improve its relations with India.

"We are staggered at the timing of the Chinese actions but shouldn't complain either if Beijing shoots itself in the foot," according to the intelligence assessment.

Indian officials are slated to meet with their counterparts virtually from the US, Australia and Japan later this month for a summit, which Indian sources say, will likely result in a new intelligence-sharing agreement among the countries.

"The result of the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue and its Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement will not only equip the Indian armed forces with the vital intelligence it needs to better understand Chinese military positions and movements, but it will serve as an important step in formalizing a partnership with New Delhi that Washington would like to see grow even stronger at China's expense," according to US News and World Report.

The US Defence Department said China has prioritised military spending over the last decade to focus on expanding its capabilities to be operated in disputed regions along its border, including India and Bhutan to contested waterways in the East and South China seas.

"China's leaders use tactics short of armed conflict to pursue China's objectives. China calibrates its coercive activities to fall below the threshold of provoking armed conflict with the US, its allies and partners, or others in the Indo-Pacific region," according to the latest version of the Pentagon's annual Military China Report, which was released on Tuesday.

The US intelligence assessment stated that Chinese troops this time were building encampments in contested space, a tactic adopted by both sides to gain a foothold they can expand later into infrastructure to support broader operations in the future.

Chinese President Xi Jinping would have known about the latest clashes in advance due to the nature of Chinese military's decision-making. Xi may have created a "cycle of provocations" and does not know how to extract the Chinese Army without appearing to show weak, according to US intelligence officials.

Analysts at that time believed Chinese troops did not anticipate the mood of the Indian people following the Galwan valley clash. The Indian government subsequently took action, which included banning several Chinese mobile applications.

Talks have been held between the two sides but the outcome has not come out yet. Recently, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a five-nation visit in Europe to ease tensions, particularly the growing skepticism of using Chinese telecom major Huawei to help build 5G networks.

"The timing is puzzling given the upcoming US-India talks and what appeared to be some recent - if not particularly successful - efforts to reduce tensions along the border," Sheena Greitens, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs, was quoted as saying by US News and World Report.

"One effect of the standoff has been to add a sense of urgency to efforts to strengthen US-India ties, especially in terms of defense cooperation. But developments at the 2+2 should not be viewed as a knee-jerk response to this week's flare-up: There is a long-standing interest in the United States in strengthening ties with India in its own right," Greitens said. (ANI)

Afghan govt may free Taliban prisoners, send delegation to Doha

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (File Photo)

Kabul [Afghanistan], September 2 (ANI/Sputnik): The Afghan government will free all remaining Taliban prisoners later on Wednesday, and the government delegation is scheduled to leave for intra-Afghan talks in Doha tonight or Thursday, Fraidoon Khawzoon, spokesperson for Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, told Sputnik.

However, a security source told Sputnik that the government will free all Taliban prisoners except the ones whose release is opposed by France and Australia. The two countries object to the release of Taliban prisoners suspected of deadly attacks against their citizens.

Local sources in Kandahar said that the Taliban, in return, released four Afghan Army commandos last night.

Abdullah said last week that the talks would begin in the first week of September, but the Taliban did not back the move. The release of prisoners on both sides is a pre-condition for peace talks, which was initially agreed by the Taliban and the US in February. (ANI/Sputnik)

Nearly 90 per cent of IT employees miss office enviroment: Knight Frank survey

Most employees miss the office environment due to benefits of communication and collaboration (Photo: ANI)

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], September 2 (ANI): Nearly 90 per cent of respondents in a recent survey with 1,600 information technology (IT) professionals say they miss their office environment while working from home (WFH), Knight Frank India said on Tuesday.

In the share of employees who miss their workplace, National Capital Region (98 per cent) leads the table followed by Mumbai (94 per cent), Bengaluru (91 per cent), Chennai (90 per cent), Pune (88 per cent) and Hyderabad with 81 per cent.

The COVID-19 enforced WFH also appears to have adversely impacted the productivity and performance of the employees. About 30 per cent of employees expressed deterioration in their productivity and work performance while working from home.

Considering the significance of 4.1 million IT sector employees and their influence in decision making, Knight Frank India conducted the survey with 1,600 employees of IT and IT-enabled services companies in India to understand their proclivity towards WFH.

The survey showed 60 per cent of respondents believed time saved due to no office travel and 58 per cent highlighted savings due to no cost of travel as advantages for WFH.

In terms of disadvantages, 43 per cent felt a lack of office-driven social life and 42 per cent cited difficulty to focus in an informal setting.

The IT sector has been a key driver of India's office market. It contributed 44 per cent of cumulative office space demand in the last 10 years (2010-2019).

"This market research of the real users of IT/ITeS office spaces clearly indicates that despite certain conveniences sited for work from home arrangement, most employees miss the office environment due to benefits of communication and collaboration," said Sugata Sarkar, Senior Director for Consultancy and Market Research at Knight Frank India.

For any IT/ITeS services company, new work arrangements should bring in significantly greater efficiencies for it to be considered successful. However, as the survey clearly shows, end-users have not seen any remarkable increase in efficiency.

"At best, it has remained same as before. Without significant improvement, the real value of WFH arrangement may not be impactful on a long-term basis," said Sarkar. (ANI)

Contradicting China, developer says city project on Myanmar-Thailand border part of BRI

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Yangon [Myanmar], September 2 (ANI): The Chinese developer of a "new city" project on the Myanmar-Thailand border, has said the project is a part of China's controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), despite the Chinese Embassy in Yangon denying the same earlier.

The project in Karen State, locally known as Shwe Kokko New City after the village in which it is situated, was launched in 2017 by Yatai International Holdings Group (YIHG) following the company's deal with a local ethnic Karen armed group, the Border Guard Force (BGF), The Irrawaddy reported.

Locals have criticised the project citing lack of transparency, confusion over scale of construction and growing influx of Chinese migrants. Also, the company is believed to be having links to illicit cryptocurrency and casino operations, raising suspicions among the people.

From the beginning, the developer has asserted that the USD 15 billion project along the Myanmar-Thailand border was part of the BRI, which includes several projects in Myanmar.

In response, the Chinese Embassy in Yangon claimed the project is a third-country investment and has no connections with the BRI.

But the YIHG, in its bizarre statement, released on its WeChat account said, "This project is not the act of the Chinese government, but is still in service of the Belt and Road Initiative."

YIHG also said the company was not involved in gambling or related industries, although the investors are accused of engaging in illegal casino activities in Cambodia and the Philippines. However, the statement said the firm "has determined" to try its luck in the casino sector after the Myanmar government recently completed the process of legalising foreign investment in the gambling industry, according to The Irrawaddy.

The statement comes following the Myanmar government's recent establishment of a tribunal to probe the project over alleged irregularities. But the tribunal team has not been able to visit the site due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shwe Kokko is among three Chinese-backed projects in Karen State, which poses a challenge to the US interests, US Institute of Peace, a think tank, has said. It alleges that Chinese enterprises involved include individuals with a history of involvement in known triads -- Chinese organised crime groups -- active in the US and now expanding quickly in Karen State.

Before leaving Myanmar, former US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel had told The Irrawaddy that some Chinese projects like Shwe Kokko needed local consultation and careful analysis as they seemed to bring several social ills.

While the YIHG did not deny the existence of gambling at its new city project, it blamed others, saying the firm leased some properties to other enterprises and did not check their activities and business operations due to lack of experience.

"It may be that some companies got involved in inappropriate activities without the approval of the Yatai IHG," the statement said, claiming that such things would be ended once detected.

The company reluctantly admitted that it "may have introduced some criminals into the Yatai City, but as we perfect our platform, we will remain resolute in our respect for local laws and regulations, and crush all illegal activity so that the Yatai New City can better serve even more law-abiding companies."

Apparently not pleased to confine itself in Myanmar, YIHG also disclosed its plans for a future project in Mae Sot, situated just across the border in Thailand, where a "twin city" will be constructed.

"This new city in Mae Sot will incorporate a large-scale industrial park for the medical industry, which will bring together technology, capital, medicine, medical resources, and establish a comprehensive platform for the incubation of pharmaceutical technology companies," the statement read citing The Irrawaddy. (ANI)

CPEC chairman should face allegations, accountability won't affect project: Maryam Nawaz

PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz (File Photo)

Islamabad [Pakistan], September 2 (ANI): Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) vice-president Maryam Nawaz has said the process of accountability of one person will not affect the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project and asked its chairman retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa to face corruption allegations levelled against him.

Speaking in response to an investigative news report on alleged offshore properties and businesses of Bajwa and his close family members, Maryam stated that answer to questions in the report should not be taken as a "conspiracy against CPEC", Dawn reported.

"If the founder of CPEC (Nawaz Sharif), who brought investment of USD 60 billion to Pakistan and was removed because of one 'iqamah' and that did not affect the project, then the removal or addition of one person will not affect CPEC," she said.

"It is the matter of an individual. Allegations have been made against him (Bajwa) and he should answer them," she added.

The PML-N leader made the comments after appearing at the Islamabad High Court (IHC) for hearing of an appeal against her conviction and that of her father and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and husband Muhammad Safdar in connection with the Avenfield corruption case.

Maryam underlined that the evidence against Bajwa was "huge".

"If you have been appointed to a government post on taxpayers' money and allegations are made against you and evidence is presented, you should face them," she said.

"In our case, it was like making a mountain out of a molehill but still we served punishments thrice. If you have been accused and evidence has been brought, then you should not hesitate to face the law," she added.

Attacking Prime Minister Imran Khan, Maryam remarked, "(Imran Khan) used to say that Nawaz has left the country which has weakened his narrative of accountability. Then he used to say that someone has gotten bail (or) someone has been acquitted so his narrative of accountability has weakened."

"I want to question Imran Khan and his government that today, when allegations have been made against Asim Saleem Bajwa with proof, why is his narrative of accountability sleeping? Is there no challenge to his narrative of accountability now?" she was quoted as saying by Dawn.

The CPEC is the flagship component of China's massive Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure project, both of which were announced in 2015. The BRI has been heavily criticised as being a veil for Chinese colonial expansion, leaving less developed countries with huge amounts of debts, thereby allowing Beijing to exert its influence over them.

Over the years, Pakistan, which is battling with a crippling economy, has continued to seek loans from its all-weather ally China and other international organisations, including World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to shore up its crumbling economy. (ANI)

China's oppression of Uyghurs amounts to 'genocide': Biden campaign

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (File Photo)

Washington [US], September 2 (ANI): The Chinese government's oppressive and discriminatory treatment of Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in the northwest region of Xinjiang is "genocide" and former US Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden "stands against it in the strongest terms", the Biden campaign has said.

The statement assumes significance as many countries and international organisations have repeatedly criticised China over its treatment of its people in the country, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet.

While Beijing has vehemently denied that it is engaged in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, reports from journalists, NGOs and former detainees have surfaced, highlighting the Chinese Communist Party's brutal crackdown on the ethnic community, Axios reported.

Genocide is a serious crime under international law and the US government has adopted the term on rare occasions only after extensive documentation. Some experts said reports of mass surveillance, torture, arbitrary detentions and forced detentions employed by China against Uyghurs amounts to "demographic genocide".

Biden campaign spokesperson Andrew Bates initially gave the statement in response to a report by Politico, which reported that the Trump administration is planning to formally label China's actions in Xinjiang as genocide, according to Axios.

"The unspeakable oppression that Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of China's authoritarian government is genocide and Joe Biden stands against it in the strongest terms. If the Trump administration does indeed choose to call this out for what it is, as Joe Biden already did, the pressing question is what will Donald Trump do to take action. He must also apologize for condoning this horrifying treatment of Uyghurs," Bates was quoted as saying.

Top Trump administration officials have publicly denounced China's treatment of the Uyghurs and the Treasury Department has slapped sanctions on a number of Chinese officials and entities involved in human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Both the Trump and Biden campaign have hit out at each other over who is "tougher" than China during campaigning for the presidential election.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo described the ethnic cleansing of the Uyghurs as the "stain of the century" and condemned it as "a human rights violation on a scale we have not seen since the Second World War," according to the Voice of America. (ANI)

Shares of Adani Green jump 9 pc at Rs 541.90 per unit

The company will displace over 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the life of its assets

Mumbai (Maharashtra) [India], September 2 (ANI): Shares of Adani Green Energy spurted by more than 9 per cent at noon on Tuesday, a day after Mercom Capital ranked its parent group as the number one global solar power generation asset owner in terms of operating, under-construction and awarded solar projects.

Adani said its renewable energy portfolio exceeded 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 said it 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.

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

At 12 noon, Adani Green was trading 9.17 per cent higher at Rs 541.90 per share. (ANI)

China-backed Thai canal potential next front in India-China conflict

South China Sea (File Photo)

Washington [US], September 2 (ANI): The long-awaited canal in southern Thailand's Kra Isthmus is the latest in China's attempt to encircle India with a series of alliances and naval bases even as tensions continue between New Delhi and Beijing over the standoff in Ladakh, according to a report.

The Thai canal could be a crucial strategic asset for China, allowing its navy to quickly move ships between its newly constructed bases in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean without diverting over 1,100 kilometres south to round the tip of Malaysia, Foreign Policy reported.

The Chinese Navy is moving further west into the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, building an East African logistics base in Djibouti and conducting joint exercises in the region with Myanmar, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

"The plethora of China-sponsored port infrastructure projects throughout the region only add to the impression of encirclement. India has responded by gearing up for potential future confrontations with China at sea," the article said.

Long controversial, the canal, has now seemed to garner widespread support among Thailand's political elite, with a parliamentary committee scheduled to deliver its recommendations on the project this month. This is significant even as Thailand has strongly tilted towards China after the United States refused to acknowledge the government, which was established by the military junta in 2014.

The Malacca Strait, which is one of the key shipping lanes in the region, has seen more than 80,000 ships passing through the narrow sea lane.

Thai Canal Association, which is closely linked to the politically powerful Thai Army, says that building industrial parks and logistics hubs at both ends could become one of Asia's major transit arteries, according to Foreign Policy.

While the canal would be uneconomical at today's shipping rates and fuel costs, according to industry experts, the Strait of Malacca has nearly reached its safe limit in terms of shipping volume it can handle.

The current Thai canal proposal -- the 9A route -- would have two parallel channels each having 30 metres deep, 180 metres wide and running 75 miles at sea level from Songkhla on the Gulf of Thailand to Krabi in the Andaman Sea, the report said.

As Thailand's territorial integrity is relatively secure today, a successful Thai canal project would see a change in Southeast Asia's political geography -- a situation where China would be a permanent security partner and cannot be easily kicked out.

"Coupled with planned investments in ports at Sihanoukville in Cambodia and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar, China will see the Thai canal as a strategic waterway connecting its string of pearls. Were a hostile government in Bangkok ever to threaten to cut that string, it is not inconceivable that China would support an independence movement in the south and seize control of the canal in an intervention justified by the need to protect its own interests--again," the article said.

Thailand, however, risks being divided in two while embracing the proposed canal project. The country faces an active insurgency in its three southernmost provinces, which has a majority of Malay Muslims. The article highlights that the canal could become a symbolic border between "mainland" Thailand in the north and a separatist movement in the south.

While the Thai military's aggressive counter-insurgency campaign will not be hampered, it would create a divide, which could go on for centuries.

"Once the channels have been dug out, they would be impossible to fill in, and if Thailand were ever to break in two, the Thai canal could be the fault along which it cracks," said the article.

A Thai canal would pose a little threat to the US and its allies, including India, which can effectively counter Chinese expansionism with the upgradation of domestic forward bases in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Foreign Policy reported.

"The real concern is that it would further undermine the independence of poor southeast Asian countries like Myanmar and Cambodia, which have comparatively weak civil societies that are highly vulnerable to Chinese interference. And it absolutely imperils Thailand," the article said. (ANI)

US backs out from global effort to develop, distribute COVID-19 vaccine

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Washington [US], September 2 (ANI): The United States has said it will not join a global effort led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to develop, manufacture and distribute a vaccine to cure coronavirus.

Over 170 countries are in talks to take part in the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) Facility, aimed at fasttracking vaccine development, secure doses for all nations and distributing them to the most high-risk segment of each population, The Washington Post reported.

The initiative, co-led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, was of interest to some members of the Donald Trump administration and is supported by US allies including Japan, Germany and the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union.

However, the US will not participate as Trump pulled out his country from the WHO in July after he criticised the body for covering up the outbreak of COVID-19, which first emerged in China last year.
"The US will continue to engage our international partners to ensure we defeat this virus, but we will not be constrained by multilateral organisations influenced by the corrupt WHO and China," White House spokesperson Judd Deere was quoted as saying.

The decision to back out from the initiative highlights the fact that the administration bets it could win the vaccine race. But it, however, eliminates the chance to get more doses from a pool of vaccine candidates, which is a potentially risky approach.

"America is taking a huge gamble by taking a go-it-alone strategy," said Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University.

Kendall Hoyt, an assistant professor at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, said the decision was like opting out of an insurance policy.

"The US could be pursuing bilateral deals with drug companies and simultaneously participating in Covax. Just from a simple risk-management perspective, this (Covax decision) is shortsighted," Hoyt said.

Experts said the plan behind Covax is to prevent hoarding and focus on vaccinating high-risk people in every country -- a plan which could improve health outcomes and lower costs. However, the US move to back out from Covax makes that harder.

"When the US says it is not going to participate in any sort of multilateral effort to secure vaccines, it is a real blow," said Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

"The behaviour of countries when it comes to vaccines in this pandemic will have political repercussions beyond public health. It's about: Are you a reliable partner, or, at the end of the day, are you going to keep all your toys for yourself?" she was quoted as saying.

A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun had an interest in exploring some type of role in Covax. However, there was opposition within the administration and a belief the US has enough COVID-19 vaccine candidates that it can go it alone.

However, an unlikely worst-case scenario could surface is that none of the US vaccine candidates are viable, leaving Washington with no option as it has not joined Covax, according to experts.

Another possibility is that if a US vaccine does pan out, but the country hoards doses and vaccinates hundreds of thousands of Americans, including those at low risk, while leaving other countries without, The Washington Post reported.

According to health security experts, there are two problems with that strategy. A new vaccine is unlikely to offer complete protection to all people, which means that a portion of the American population would be still vulnerable to imported cases even as the economy reopens.

The second issue is that a US recovery is dependent on global economic recovery. If several parts of the world are still shut down and supply chains are disrupted, America will not be able to recover.
"We will continue to suffer the economic consequences -- lost US jobs -- if the pandemic rages unabated in allies and trading partners," said Thomas J Bollyky, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the director of its global health programme.

Those who back a multilateral approach to global public health would want to see all countries participating in Covax initiative. But WHO officials have said that countries need not choose as they can adopt strategies by signing bilateral agreements and also joining Covax.

"By joining the facility at the same time that you do bilateral deals, you are actually betting on a larger number of vaccine candidates," Mariangela Simao, a WHO assistant director-general for drug and vaccine access, was quoted by The Washington Post, as saying at a briefing last month.

While the US has long been the biggest contributor to the WHO and a major funder of vaccine initiatives, it, however, could pledge surplus doses of vaccine to Covax to ensure that they are equitably distributed. (ANI)

Major US stock indices dip broadly despite fifth straight month of gains, records

The Dow, the bradest index on the New York Stock Exchange, closed down 224 points, or 0.8 per cent, at 28,430

New York [US], September 2 (ANI/Sputnik): Wall Street ended broadly lower despite posting a fifth straight month of gains and new record highs for top US stock indicators S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite.

"There has been nothing normal about 2020 and this month is no different," senior analyst at online trading platform OANDA, Craig Erlam, said on Monday.

"There is growing optimism that we're getting closer to a COVID-19 vaccine that will unleash the potential of the economies around the world and until then, tech stocks have gone stratospheric and central banks have flooded the system with liquidity," Erlam added.

The Dow, the broadest index on the New York Stock Exchange, closed down 224 points, or 0.8 per cent, at 28,430. For August, the Dow rose 7.6 per cent for its fifth straight positive month and the best monthly performance since 1984, data showed.

The S&P 500, a barometer for the top 500 US stocks, hit record highs for a seventh session in a row, peaking at 3,515. It settled the day down 9 points, or 0.3 per cent, at 3,499. For August, the S&P rose 7 per cent for its fifth straight month of gains.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index climbed 80 points, or 0.7 per cent, to finish at 11,775. It hit a record high of 11,830 earlier. For August, the Nasdaq gained almost 10 per cent, rising for a fifth straight month. (ANI/Sputnik)

Pakistan's house of cards may be failing, with Gulf states openly moving closer to India

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi King Salman holding talks in Riyadh last year.

Doha [Qatar], September 2 (ANI): Amid an increasingly polarised Muslim world, Pakistan's strategy to maintain diplomatic ties with countries in the Middle East is no longer working.
In a break from the past where the Gulf countries balanced their relations with Pakistan and India, they are now seen moving towards New Delhi and distancing from Islamabad, according to a report in the Al Jazeera.

Pakistan, on the other hand, is seen moving closer to Turkey and Malaysia - two countries that Saudi Arabia sees as challengers to its stronghold within the Muslim world, according to foreign policy analysts Abdul Basit and Dr Zahid Shahab Ahmed writing in the Al Jazeera.

The relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, went haywire last month when Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi openly rebuked the kingdom for its lack of support for Islamabad's interests on the Kashmir issue.

During a television talk-show, the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi made a statement that irked the Saudi "big brother", where he said that Pakistan would be "compelled" to "call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir."

In Basit and Shahab Ahmed's article, the remark by Pakistani Foreign Minister was not taken well by Riyadh and was seen as a veiled threat to concoct a new side against the Saudi-dominated Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

In retaliation, the kingdom was quick to request the sudden repayment of a billion-dollar loan extended to Pakistan in November 2018, which was renegotiated just six months ago. Besides this, it also refused to renew a deferred oil payments scheme that was part of the same loan which was given to Islamabad when the country was trying to avoid a possible sovereign default.

After Riyadh raised the bar, Pakistan was forced on a back foot. Thereafter, Qureshi, trying to save face, refuted reports that ties have strained between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia in the past few weeks. "The kingdom has neither asked Islamabad to return its loan nor has it suspended oil supply to Pakistan," Qureshi was quoted as saying by The News International.

As a result of Qureshi's backtracking, Pakistani journalists slammed the Foreign Minister saying it contradicted the comments he made earlier.

Soon after, Pakistan went into damage-control mode and had to send Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa to Riyadh. However, the visit turned out be futile as the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) did not meet Bajwa, and they were left to meet with Saudi Deputy Defence Minister Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

According to the Al Jazeera report, "the latest diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan should be seen in the broader context of recent strategic realignments in the Middle East and the Muslim world."

"For some time, Pakistan has been struggling to keep to its traditional policy of maintaining neutral relations with rival Muslim powers. While Islamabad is concerned about the deepening strategic and economic cooperation between its arch-rival India and a group of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is equally frustrated by Pakistan's overtures towards Muslim-majority states it views as hostile, such as Turkey, Malaysia and Qatar," it said.

The Gulf countries are now visibly seen moving towards India and distancing from Pakistan. The tides are turning in India's favour. One such example is MBS's February 2019 visit of South Asia.
During his tour, the Saudi Crown Prince made the unprecedented move of visiting India directly after Pakistan. After signing agreements worth USD 20 billion with Pakistan, MBS said he expects Riyadh's investments in India "to exceed USD 100 billion in the coming two years".

Saudi Arabia is not the only one. After India's August 2019 move to revoke article 370, Pakistan called Arab states to raise their voices. However, its Gulf partners including Saudi Arabia failed to put a front against India. Riyadh even told India that it understands "India's approach and actions in Jammu and Kashmir".

Amid the strategic readjustment in the Middle East, political analysts say that relations between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is bound to get bumpy as it appears that the former will continue to move closer to New Delhi. Islamabad, on the other hand, will have to retain its partnerships with several countries in the Middle East and return to Saudi Arabia's sphere. (ANI)

Thailand mulls land passegeway for reducing shipping traffic on Strait of Malacca

The Strait of Malacca (File Photo)

New York [US], September 2 (ANI): In an effort to reduce shipping traffic on the Strait of Malacca, Thailand is planning to construct a 100-kilometre-long land passageway that would link the Indian and Pacific Oceans, bypassing the already congested sea lane.

The strait, a narrow sea lane between Malaysia and Singapore, is one of the world's busiest shipping routes. Currently, it is the shortest sea route connecting the Asia-Pacific region with India and the Middle East, Bloomberg reported.

"The Strait has become quite congested," Thailand's Transport Minister Saksiam Chidchob said in an interview with Bloomberg News last week.

"Using an alternative route through Thailand would cut shipping time by more than two days, which is very valuable for businesses," he added.

Each year, around a quarter of the world's traded goods, pass through the Strait of Malacca.

Thailand is looking to construct two deep seaports on either side of the country's southern coasts and connect them via highway and rail, Saksiam said. The "land bridge" would replace an existing proposal to dredge a canal through the isthmus, which would lead to environmental degradation, according to the minister.

This idea of developing a canal that would transverse the country's narrowest point and cut travel distance by 1,200 kilometres was put forward and rejected several times over the last few decades.
The Thai government has approved a 75 million baht budget for a study to look into the construction of two seaports and another 90 million baht to examine highways and rails linking them, Saksiam was quoted as saying. (ANI)

India, Negeria discuss bilateral ties, resolve to strengthen cooperation in defence, trade

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New Delhi [India], September 2 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday held talks with his Nigerian counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama and acknowledged the excellent long-standing, multifaceted and strategic bilateral ties between the two countries, based on mutual friendship and cooperation.

Jaishankar and his Nigerian counterpart Geoffrey Onyeama held a wide-ranging discussion on the entire gamut of India-Nigeria bilateral relations, via video conferencing.

According to an official release, the discussions covered a wide spectrum of cooperation on political, economic and trade, defence and security, developmental assistance and cultural cooperation.

Both sides recalled their extensive cooperation in the field of defence training and capacity building and expressed satisfaction that it was expanding to newer areas such as defence equipment support, medical and maintenance services, sharing of R&D expertise for counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency.

The two Ministers noted that the next meeting of the Joint Defense Cooperation Committee will be held later this year in Abuja.

The two Ministers acknowledged ongoing collaborative efforts through information sharing between the Indian and Nigerian Navies and increase of surveillance for Maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, though collaboration between Indian and Nigerian Navies.

"With a bilateral trade turnover of USD 13.9 billion in 2019-20, India is Nigeria's largest trading partner, and Nigeria is India's largest trading partner in Africa. Nigeria is a leading energy security partner of India, and both sides agreed to strengthen their cooperation in this sector including at Government to Government level," the official release states.

"Both sides also agreed to expand cooperation in Information Technology (IT), Defense and solar energy projects to be executed through the Indian Line of Credit (LoC). Both parties reiterated their commitment to conclude pending MoU's /Agreements between the two countries expeditiously," the release further added.

Moreover, the Nigerian side expressed appreciation to India for the recent donation of medical supplies in support of the on-going fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the two sides agreed to further strengthen cooperation in Consular matters and the desire to conclude on bilateral agreements in the field of Mutual Legal Assistance, Extradition Treaty and the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

Lastly, both sides thanked each other for facilitating essential travel by their respective citizens and residents over the last two months, including the return of over 5800 Indian nationals to India on 23 flights from Nigeria, and over 500 Nigerian and 1500 permanent Indian residents on 8 flights from India. (ANI)

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