Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Japan calls for increased cooperation in Indo-Pacific to counter China expansion

Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono

Tokyo [Japan], September 09 (ANI): Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono on Wednesday called for increased cooperation in the India-Pacific region to counter Chinese expansion.

Speaking at a webinar held by Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies, Kono pitched for a larger region
al mechanism or global mechanism to counter China.

"In order to check Chinese expansion. I think we need to force China to pay some cost when they are violating international rules, international norms ... The U.S. and Japan alone cannot do it. I think we need to work with the global community. So a larger regional mechanism or global mechanism would be necessary," Kono was quoted by the Yonhap news agency.

Indo Pacific region is largely viewed as an area comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.

China's territorial claims in the South China Sea its efforts to advance into the Indian Ocean are seen to have challenged the established rules-based system. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have counterclaims in the South China Sea.

In recent years, Japan has expressed increasing concern regarding Beijing's activities in the region especially concerning the situation with the disputed Senkaku islands, known in China as the Diaoyudao islands and claimed by Beijing to be Chinese territory. (ANI)

PM Modi speaks to Saudi King, discusses bilateral relations

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (ANI)

New Delhi [India], September 09 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday had a telephonic conversation with Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud during which the two leaders expressed their satisfaction at the state of bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia and committed to further strengthen cooperation in all areas.

Prime Minister Modi expressed appreciation for the leadership provided by Saudi Arabia during its ongoing presidency of the G20 grouping, according to a statement by the Prime Minister Office.

The two leaders exchanged views on the global challenges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Modi expressed his special thanks to King Salman for the support provided to Indian expatriates by the Saudi authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The two leaders expressed their satisfaction at the state of bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia, and committed to further strengthen cooperation in all areas. Prime Minister expressed his special thanks to King Salman for the support provided to Indian expatriates by the Saudi authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement read.

Prime Minister conveyed his warm good wishes for the good health and wellbeing of King Salman, other members of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia and all citizens of the Kingdom.

Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the leadership provided by Saudi Arabia during its ongoing Presidency of the G20 grouping.

"The leaders agreed that the initiatives taken at the level of the G20 had helped in promoting a coordinated response to the pandemic. They also discussed the main priorities presently on the agenda of the G20," the statement read. (ANI)

PoK activist writes to UK lawmaker over threats British Kashmiris face from Pakistanis

Shabir Choudhry

London [UK], September 09 (ANI): A political activist from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), Shabir Choudhry has written to UK Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, apprising her about the serious threat British Kashmiris face from some Pakistanis on the street of England and urged British authorities to take appropriate steps to take action against growing menace.

In a letter to Debbie Abrahams, who is a Chairperson All Parties Parliamentary Group, on Wednesday, Choudhry cited the recent incident during which a peaceful demonstration outside Pakistani Consulate in Bradford was interrupted by some 'trouble makers' and Pakistan supporters. He said that such incidents highlighted the serious threat to Kashmiris' face in the UK.

The protest was called in support of British citizen Tanveer Ahmed who was arrested, beaten up, dragged, insulted and put in prison without any charges in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Tanveer was tortured and arrested after he removed Pakistani flag from Dadyal in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) on August 14.

"To protest against his illegal arrest and detention, Jammu Kashmir National Independence Alliance (JKNIA) arranged a demonstration outside the Pakistani Consulate in Bradford. The JKNIA had permission from the police to hold this protest," the letter read.

"In order to intimidate Kashmiri nationalists and create chaos, the Consulate allowed their supporters and some trouble makers to assemble at the same spot. As expected, this created a serious tension. The supporters of Pakistan started using foul language and intimidate the other group which is pro-people, pro-peace and pro-Jammu and Kashmir," it added.

Choudhry said that the Pakistani controlled media and their foot soldiers started making allegations and hurling threats that these people will not be allowed to continue their activities in Britain.

"In my view, this is a serious threat to community relations, peace and harmony and to our fundamental rights. I hope APPG and the British authorities will take appropriate steps to nip in the bud this growing menace," he said. (ANI)

Jaishankar meets Russian Foreign Minister

External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar on Wednesday met his Russian counterparts Sergey Lavrov. (ANI)

Moscow [Russia], September 9 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and said the talks reflected the Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

"Pleasure to meet FM Sergey Lavrov, this time in person. Excellent talks that reflect our Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership. Value our exchanges on the international situation," Jaishankar said in a tweet.

Earlier in the day, Jaishankar, who is in Moscow to attend Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting, held meetings with his Kyrgyz and Tajik counterpart and discussed various issues of mutual interests and ways to boost bilateral relations.

Jaishankar landed in Moscow for SCO Foreign Ministers' meet on Tuesday. (ANI)

China growing anxious as Myanmar proceeds cautiously with BRI projects: Report

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. (Photo: ANI)

Naypyitaw [Myanmar], September 9 (ANI): Chinese officials are growing anxious as Myanmar government is taking cautious steps regarding the implementation of already-delayed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.

Recently Yang Jiechi, a Politburo member and director of the Office of the Foreign Aff
airs Commission under the Communist Party of China's (CPC) Central Committee, recently made a stop in Myanmar capital en route to Europe and conveyed that Myanmar has "set a high standard" when it comes to green-lighting BRI projects, reported The Irrawaddy.

Yang's high status as a Politburo member gave the meetings a greater significance than Myanmar leaders' discussions with previous visitors such as State Councilor Wang Yi and Song Tao, the head of the International Department of the CPC's Central Committee, the report said. The meetings also gave Naypyitaw a rare chance to convey important messages to the highest levels in Beijing.

During the working meeting with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmar side emphasized the need for quality investment from China.

The Irrawaddy, in an article, said that the government is proceeding cautiously with the BRI projects and the pace of implementation remains slow.

China has proposed 38 projects under CMEC and Myanmar so far has approved only nine.

Since last year senior Myanmar officials said that Myanmar will only implement the projects that can guarantee mutual benefits for both sides.

Myanmar is demonstrating caution and resistance to China, which has been attempting to deepen its influence through the China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC).

Beijing is eager to see the implementation of its delayed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects start before elections in Myanmar in November, sources said, adding that the Chinese are also concerned with the growing influence of other partners in Myanmar namely the US and Japan.

"Beijing is well aware that both Myanmar officials and the public are wary of the BRI projects and has taken note of the steady rise of anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar," the article noted.

A recent increase in the military capabilities of armed ethnic groups in northern Myanmar is causing serious concern among Myanmar's military leadership. Since last year, the military has seized several caches of Chinese made weapons near the northern border.

China is supplying funds and sophisticated weaponry to armed groups in Myanmar and the Naypyitaw-designated terrorist group, the Arakan Army, to have leverage over Myanmar and India, Licas News had reported.

A military source with experience in South-East Asia confirmed that China is providing approximately 95 per cent of Arakan Army funding. He further revealed that the Arakan Army has approximately 50 MANPADS (Man-Portable Air Defense Systems) surface-to-air missiles.

Even as it promises to assist Myanmar's ongoing peace process, China continues to back ethnic insurgents based in northern Myanmar. (ANI)

Don't allow transgressions, maintain utter discipline: Army instructs ground commanders

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New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): Engaged in a stand-off with the Chinese Army, the Indian Army has given instructions to field commanders that the Chinese should not be allowed to transgress at any cost and also directed them that troops should maintain utter discipline while protecting Indian territory.

The field commanders have also been told that while patrolling their respective areas of responsibility or accomplishing any task, there should not be any extra display of strength or overuse of force, government sources told ANI.

On the situation along the border, the sources said that the Chinese Army is carrying out firing practice well within territory controlled by them in Tibet but it can be heard on the Indian side at many locations along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

Sources said that India has strengthened its defences along the positions occupied by the Indian Army near Rezang La and Rechen La heights by putting concertina wires and the Chinese troops have been warned that there would be consequences if they try to breach Indian defence, the sources said.

The Indian side has also taken up the issue of Chinese Army's soldiers carrying stick machetes and spears along with them during the deployment close to the Indian positions during talks at the Brigade Commander level, they added.

Sources said the Chinese Army has deployed close to 50,000 troops along with heavy tanks and artillery.

On the opposite Indian side of Chushul, the Chinese have been lining up their tanks and infantry combat vehicles within their territory near the friction areas as they have brought in a lot of heavy weaponry to the area, they said. (ANI)

MT New Diamond in stable condition, crude oil intact: Director-General ICG Natarajan

Indian Coast Guard Director General K Natarajan. (Photo: ANI)

New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): The Motor Tanker (MT) New Diamond oil tanker, that caught fire last week following an explosion in its engine off Sri Lanka coast, is in stable condition, and cargo of the crude oil is still intact, Indian Coast Guard (ICG) Director General K Natarajan said on Wednesday.

Talking about the operation carried out by the Indian Coast Guard, Natarajan said that this might be the first time in the maritime history that cargo is intact after such an incident.

"We got a distress call by the master of the vessel at around 12:30 pm on September 3 saying that there was a fire on board and its seeking assistance. As a result of which Sri Lankan Authorities and the Indian High Commission sought the assistance of the Indian Coast Guard. We mobilised our two ships and reached by 5 pm and started fighting fire. Sri Lankan navy reached next day and assisted," Natarajan said

"After 72 hours the fire was doused. Today the vessel's condition is reportedly stable. The entire cargo of crude is still intact which we hope to salvage," he added.

The tanker caught fire after a major explosion in its engine room on September 3 when it was transiting in Sri Lankan exclusive economic zone. The large 333-metre long crude carrier is carrying over three lakh metric tons of crude oil for the Indian Oil Corporation from Kuwait to Paradip.

"This is the first time in the maritime history that as of now cargo is intact. The 3 lakh metric tonne cargo crude which is in five tanks of the ship is absolutely intact There is no breach in the tanks as of now," he said.

There were 23 crewmen including the master and 19 Philippines crew and as well as four Greek people were on board. Taking about casualties, Natarajan said that there is 'one loss of life' as of now.

"As far as the casualties of human life are concerned...One person is still missing. He is presumably in the part of that compartment. The second individual who was in the cabin, he got injured because of the explosion. He was recovered and taken from the room. They rescued all the people. There is one loss of life as of now," he said. (ANI)

56-member ITBP team goes on Gangotri-II expedition for research

Deputy Inspector General of Police Aparna Kumar Singh talks to reporters regarding the ITBP expedition to Gangotri-2 peak (ANI)

Uttarkashi (Uttarakhand) [India], September 9 (ANI): A 56-member team of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has left for Gangotri-II peak to conduct research work amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Out of the total members of the expedition, 30 will climb the 21,620 feet high peak.

"The main aim of this
 expedition is to conduct research work regarding the change that has taken place on the peak. They will also mark the places where a helipad can be built. They will gauge the level of snow on the top. They will also click photos and collect data on the vegetation," said Aparna Kumar Singh, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police.

"Gangotri-II peak is considered to be the most challenging and technically difficult to climb. But ITBP has successfully climbed 201 mountain peaks so far," she added.

The mountaineering expedition was flagged off by DIG Singh.

DIG Singh said that mountaineering amid the pandemic is a challenge, but the ITBP climbers are ready to mount Gangotri-II.

The duration of the climb is from September 9 to October 11. (ANI)

Oxford COVID-19 vaccine trials not paused in India, clarifies Serum Institute

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New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): After AstraZeneca suspended the trials of COVID-19 vaccine in the UK, Indian pharmaceutical giant Serum Institue of India (SII) on Wednesday clarified that testing of the possible vaccine candidate in India is ongoing and has not faced any issue so far.

"We can not comment much on the UK trials, but they have been paused for further review and they hope to restart soon. As far as Indian trials are concerned, it is continuing and we have faced no issues at all," SII said in a statement.

On Tuesday (local time), UK-based biopharma giant AstraZeneca has said that the phase 3 testing of its COVID-19 vaccine being developed with Oxford University has been put on hold, due to a suspected serious adverse reaction in a participant in the United Kingdom.

The SII had initiated the phase two, three clinical trials to evaluate the safety and immune response of the Oxford University coronavirus vaccine candidate on healthy Indian adults after the pharma company got approval from Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) last month. In India, the vaccine would be manufactured by Serum Institue of India.

According to the Clinical Trial Registry India, the scientific title of the study says that phase 2/3 clinical trial will be observer-blind, randomised, controlled study to determine the safety and immunogenicity of Covishield (COVID-19 vaccine) in healthy Indian adults.

A total of 1,600 eligible participants of more than or equal to 18 years of age will be enrolled in the study, which will be conducted on 17 sites in India.

AstraZeneca said its "standard review process triggered a pause to vaccination to allow the review of safety data," health news site Stat News reported on Tuesday (local time).

The nature of the adverse reaction and when the development took place were not initially clear, although the participant is expected to recover, said an individual familiar with the matter. (ANI)

India, France, Australia hold dialogue to enhance cooperation in Indo-Pacific Region

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla


New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): The foreign secretaries of India, France and Australia co-chaired a first trilateral dialogue on Wednesday with an objective to "synergising their respective strengths to ensure a peaceful, secure, prosperous and rules-based" indo-Pacific Region.

The virtual meeting was chaired by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla; Secretary-General of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, Francois Delattre; Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary, Frances Adamson, according to a statement by Ministry of External Affairs.

The focus of the dialogue was on enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region, the ministry said.

"The outcome-oriented meeting was held with the objective of building on the strong bilateral relations that the three countries share with each other and synergising their respective strengths to ensure a peaceful, secure, prosperous and rules-based Indo-Pacific Region. The three sides agreed to hold the dialogue on an annual basis," the statement read.

During the dialogue, the three sides discussed economic and geostrategic challenges and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and domestic responses to COVID-19.

Cooperation on Marine Global Commons and potential areas for practical cooperation at the trilateral and regional level were also discussed, including through regional organisations such as The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the Indian Ocean Commission, the statement read.

The three countries also had an exchange on the priorities, challenges and trends in regional and global multilateral institutions, including the best ways to strengthen and reform multilateralism. (ANI)

At least 21 people injured as trains collide in Czech Republic's southwestern city

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Prague [Czech Republic], September 9 (ANI/Sputnik): A passenger train collided on Wednesday with a maintenance train at the railway station in the Czech southwestern city of Kdyne, leaving at least 21 people injured, ambulance spokeswoman Maria Svobodova said.

"The most severely injured passengers were taken to hospitals in helicopters and ambulance cars, firefighters continue to retrieve another person trapped in the carriage. There is no threat to the victims' lives," Svobodova said.

The police have launched an investigation into the incident. Railway traffic has been temporarily suspended. (ANI/Sputnik)

US President Trump nominated for 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for brokering UAE-Israel peace deal

US President Donald Trump.

Washington [US], September 9 (ANI): US President Donald Trump has been nominated for 2021 Nobel Peace Prize following his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The nomination was submitted by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament. He nominated Trump citing his "key role in... creating new dynamics in other protracted conflicts, such as the Kashmir border dispute between India and Pakistan".

In an exclusive interview to Fox New, Tybring-Gjedde praised Trump for his efforts towards resolving protracted conflicts worldwide.

"For his merit, I think he has done more trying to create peace between nations than most other Peace Prize nominees," Tybring-Gjedde, a four-term member of Parliament who also serves as chairman of the Norwegian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, told Fox News in an exclusive interview.

In his nomination letter to the Nobel committee, Tybring-Gjedde said that the Trump administration has played a key role in the establishment of relations between Israel and the UAE. "As it is expected other Middle Eastern countries will follow in the footsteps of the UAE, this agreement could be a game-changer that will turn the Middle East into a region of cooperation and prosperity," he wrote.

Also cited in the letter was the president's "key role in facilitating contact between conflicting parties and ... creating new dynamics in other protracted conflicts, such as the Kashmir border dispute between India and Pakistan, and the conflict between North and South Korea, as well as dealing with the nuclear capabilities of North Korea."

Tybring-Gjedde, further, praised Trump for withdrawing a large number of troops from the Middle East. "Indeed, Trump has broken a 39-year-old streak of American Presidents either starting a war or bringing the United States into an international armed conflict. The last president to avoid doing so was Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter," he wrote.

On Tuesday, a White House official announced Trump will hold a signing ceremony on September 15 for a groundbreaking Middle East agreement normalising relations between Israel and the UAE.

In a deal brokered by the US, Israel and the UAE last month had agreed to normalise their relations, and an agreement on the mutual establishment of embassies is expected to follow in the coming three weeks. In exchange, Israel said it would halt its plans to formally annex parts of the West Bank.

There were 318 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2020. Out of that 211 were individuals and 107 are organisations.

Those eligible to nominate someone for the Nobel Peace Prize are public figures, including national politicians, professors and former prize winners.

In February and March each year, nominations are shortlisted. The winners are announced in October. (ANI)

Lebanese FM tests positive for COVID-19

Lebanon flag

Beirut [Lebanon], September 9 (ANI/Sputnik): Lebanese Foreign Minister Chabel WEhbe has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and been placed under a two-week quarantine regime, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

"The result of a PCR test, taken by Foreign Minister Charbel WEhbe, is positive. It came after the first one, which he took the day before yesterday [Monday], needed to be confirmed. Since then, the minister has placed under quarantine for a two-week period," the ministry said in a statement.

Wehbe was appointed as the country's foreign minister on August 3. On Monday, Wehbe met with the new ambassadors of Canada and Greece to Lebanon at a protocol ceremony to deliver copies of his credentials.

To date, the Lebanese health officials have confirmed 21,324 cases of COVID-19, with 207 fatalities and 6,722 recoveries. (ANI/Sputnik)

Iran's Foreign Minister to visit Europe amid mounting US pressure

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (File photo)

Tehran [Iran], September 9 (ANI/Xinhua): Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit several European countries next week, Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday.

During his tour, Zarif will visit the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The imminent trip of the minister comes at a time when the US has mounted pressure on the UN Security Council for the return of pre-2015 nuclear deal sanctions against Iran.

Zarif would likely take the Europeans' help to block the US fresh initiative against the Islamic republic.

Recently, the UN Security Council voted against Washington's move to extend a UN arms ban against Tehran and has opposed the return of pre-2015 sanctions. (ANI/Xinhua)

ICJ chides Pak probe body on enforced disappearances

Flag of Pakistan

Islamabad [Pakistan], September 9 (ANI): The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has hit out at Pakistan's Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED), saying it has failed to hold perpetrators responsible for the crime in the last several years.

In 2011, the COIED was formed to trace the whereabouts of missing persons and fix the responsibility on individuals or organisations responsible for the enforced disappearances. The probe body is headed by Justice Javed Iqbal, Dawn reported.

According to a briefing paper titled 'Entrenching Impunity, Denying Redress: The Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan', the ICJ noted that although the COIED had traced the whereabouts of the missing persons in a number of cases, there was no effort to fix the responsibility for the crime.

The paper evaluated the performance of COIED since its constitution and assessed the legal framework, under which the body operates as per international law and standards.

"This commission has failed in holding even a single perpetrator of enforced disappearance responsible in its nine years. A commission that does not address impunity, nor facilitate justice for victims and their families, can certainly not be considered effective," Ian Seiderman, the ICJ legal and policy director, was quoted as saying.

The ICJ was established in 1952 and is active in five continents. It comprises 60 eminent judges and lawyers from all regions of the world and protects human rights through rule of law by using its unique legal expertise to develop and strengthen national and international justice systems, Dawn reported.

Slamming the COIED, the ICJ regretted that hundreds of people continued to remain missing in Pakistan following their apparent arrest or abduction by security forces and military establishment. The UN Working Group on enforced disappearances has described a "culture of entrenched impunity" pertaining to the crime.

Despite the failure of the COIED to meet the objectives, its mandate was extended many times without consultation with the victims' groups. The present mandate is set to expire on September 14.

"The failure of COIED also demonstrates a larger problem," the ICJ said, adding that though ostensibly formed to provide a measure of public accountability, more often than not, the COIED had allegedly promoted impunity by diverting investigation of human rights violations and crimes through the criminal justice process into a parallel ad hoc mechanism vulnerable to political interference and manipulation, according to the Dawn.

"Recent experiences in Pakistan, the South Asia region and around the world suggested that without substantial reform to the existing law and practice, continued use of the COIED would not succeed in providing effective remedies to the victims of human rights violations," the ICJ noted.

The ICJ suggested that the mandate of the COIED should not be extended beyond September 14 and should make public the commission's final report. (ANI)

Jaishankar meets Kyrgyz, Tajik counterparts in Moscow; discusses strengthening bilateral ties

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar with his Krygyz counterpart Chingiz Aidarbekov in Moscow on Wednesday. (Photo source: Jaishankar Twitter

Moscow [Russia], September 9 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday held meetings with his Kyrgyz and Tajik counterparts here on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting, and discussed various issues of mutual interests and ways to boost bilateral relations.

In a tweet, Jaishankar said he had a "fruitful meeting" with his Kyrgyz counterpart Chingiz Aidarbekov and thanked him for his efforts in facilitating the return of Indian nationals.
"A fruitful meeting with FM Chingiz Aidarbekov of Kyrgyz Republic on SCO sidelines. Thanked him for the support in facilitating the return of Indian nationals. Discussed issues of bilateral and regional interest. Agreed to further enhance our Strategic Partnership in all spheres," he said.

Recently, hundreds of Indian students and businessmen were repatriated from Kyrgyzstan under the Government of India's Vande Bharat Mission, an initiative aimed at bringing back Indian nationals amid COVID-19 induced travel restrictions.

In a separate tweet, Jaishankar said he had a "warm meeting" with his Tajik counterpart Sirojiddin Muhriddin and expressed satisfaction with the growing bilateral and regional cooperation.

"A warm meeting with Tajik FM Sirojiddin Muhriddin. Pleased with our growing bilateral and regional cooperation. Highly value this strategic partnership," the External Affairs Minister said.

Earlier today, Jaishankar extended greetings to Tajikistan on its 29th Independence Day.
"Congratulate my colleague FM Sirojiddin Muhriddin and the Government and people of Tajikistan on their Independence Day. Our strategic partnership continues to reach newer heights," he said in a morning tweet.

Tajikistan became an independent country in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the SCO Foreign Ministers' meet is slated to be held in the Russian capital on September 10. (ANI)

India condemns attack on Afghan Vice President in Kabul

First Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh (File Photo)

New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): India on Wednesday strongly condemned the terror attack on first Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh in Kabul earlier today.

In a tweet, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava extended his condolences to those killed in the suicide attack and said India stands with Afghanistan to fight terror and for long-lasting peace in the country.

"India strongly condemns the cowardly terrorist attack on Afghan VP @AmrullahSaleh2. Our condolences to martyrs and prayers with injured. India stands with Afghanistan in the fight to eradicate terror infrastructure and sponsors for enduring peace in Afghanistan," Srivastava said.

A suicide blast targetting Saleh's convoy in Kabul left 10 dead and 16 injured, Tariq Arian, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesperson, said, TOLOnews reported.

According to Saleh's office, the target was Saleh's convoy, but he escaped unhurt and some of his staff and bodyguards were injured in the explosion.

The blast was reported in Police District 4 in Taimani area of Kabul at around 7:30 am (local time). (ANI)

Chinese Foreign Minister to attend luncheon meeting with India, Russian counterparts in Moscow

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (File Photo)

Beijing [China], September 9 (ANI): Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is slated to attend a luncheon meeting with his counterparts from India and Russia in Moscow on September 10, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Wang is scheduled to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers' meeting in the Russian capital on Thursday, state-run Global Times reported.
The meeting will come in the backdrop of border tensions between India and China over the standoff at several points in Ladakh.

Chinese soldiers fired in the air while attempting to close in on Indian positions across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Eastern Ladakh on Monday night, the Indian Army said on Tuesday adding that Chinese troops have been "blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres."

In a detailed statement the Army said on Tuesday that the Chinese troops were "attempting to close-in with one of our forward positions along the LAC and when dissuaded by own troops, People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate."

India recently outflanked China by taking control of strategic height near Pangong lake's southern bank. It thwarted an attempt by the Chinese Army to transgress into Indian areas near the southern bank of Pangong Tso near Chushul in Ladakh.

India and China have been engaged in a standoff since April-May over the transgressions by the Chinese Army in multiple areas including the Finger area, Galwan Valley, Hot springs and Kongrung Nala. The situation worsened after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in violent clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan valley in June.

Last Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe on the sidelines of the SCO dialogue in Moscow that attempts by Chinese troops to unilaterally alter the status quo along the LAC was in violation of the bilateral agreements, and Beijing should work with New Delhi for complete disengagement from all friction areas including Pangong Tso. (ANI)

Invest in J-K: PHD Chamber appeals to global players

PoK activist Amjad Ayub Mirza (L) during a conversation with Chairman of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kashmir Chapter) Baldev Sinbgh Raina (R) (Video grab: Facebook)

Glasgow [UK], September 9 (ANI): Noting that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir has improved in the last one year post-abrogation of Article 370, Chairman of PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kashmir Chapter) Baldev Singh Raina appealed to investors across the world to come and invest in the Union Territory.

In a free-wheeling conversation with Amjad Ayub Mirza, a PoK activist who is based in Glasgow, Raina highlighted how development projects in Jammu and Kashmir have been on the fast track for the last one year and described ways to boost the Union Territory's economy.

"There has been a difference (in the situation) now and one year before. Earlier, a person used to think twice before coming to Jammu and Kashmir. Now, it is an opportunity for investors across the world to come here. I urge them to come to Jammu and Kashmir and set up their businesses and projects to boost the economy," Raina said.

He stated that the policies of the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor (LG) have been prepared for every segment be it development, education, horticulture and animal husbandry, terming them as "neat and clean" policies.

"Around 30-40 lakh youth are unemployed in Kashmir. How will they get employment if there is no investment here? We want those big industries should be set up here so that employment gets generated," Raina said.

He said that he recently met LG Manoj Sinha regarding the need to revive and strengthen cottage and small-scale industries in the Union Territory.

"Kashmiri women make shawls at their homes itself. These industries were on the top at one point of time earlier but declined years ago. (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi's dream is that every house is an industry. In this context, we met the LG and suggested various measures to revive these industries," Raina said.

He stressed that Jammu and Kashmir is blessed with a salubrious climate and a system should be formulated so that the business sector flourish in the Union Territory and income can be generated, thereby helping to build the economy stronger.

Talking about strengthening connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir, Raina suggested that there should be 150 daily domestic flights to the Union Territory and direct connections with 10 countries.

"We went to Bali recently and studied that place. It's a small town. There are 350 flights per day and nearly 400 five-star hotels in Bali. We told the government that they should take the initiative to start 150 domestic flights and 10 direct connections with 10 countries. Right now, there are 50 flights coming to Jammu and Kashmir from places like Delhi, Jammu and Mumbai," he said.

He informed that work on Chenab bridge, the world's highest railway bridge is expected to be completed in another two years, thereby strengthening connectivity between Udhampur and Banihal.
Speaking about the development projects underway elsewhere in Jammu and Kashmir, Raina said, "Work on Sonmarg to Leh tunnel is going on. We have also requested for a tunnel to be constructed on Mughal road. On Jammu-Srinagar highway. 80 per cent of phone lines have been set up and only the Ramban-Banihal stretch remains."

He also said he sees Jammu and Kashmir being integrated with the rest of India in the next five years with the completion of these development projects.

Asked about the situation in PoK where infrastructure including education and medical have collapsed completely, Raina said, "India is one country which can take care of other people. We want people to join us as they are lagging behind. We welcome them here." (ANI)

Land Acquisition for Arun-III Transmission line starts from Nepal's Dhanusha

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Janakpur [Nepal], September 9 (ANI): Land acquisition to construct a transmission line for Nepal's largest hydropower project, Arun-III, has been initiated from Dhanusha. The District Administration Office (DAO), has already started the process to procure five bigha land to construct a sub-station at Dhalkebar and site office for the project.

"We have completed evaluating the properties and will soon start distributing the amount on the basis of it. Distributing the amount for the acquisition of land will start within next week," said Prem Prasad Bhattarai, Chief District Officer, Dhanusha. India's Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN), which is constructing the Arun-III hydro project, has also informed authorities about the construction of transmission line from Dhanusha. It has divided the areas around Dhanusha into five sectors where towers for transmission line will be set up.

The DAO has written to SJVN to provide Rs 25 crores to the family or the owners, whose land will be procured during the construction. "They already have received our letter and we have got the response that it will be completed by next week. Once, we receive the amount we will start compensating the owners, which would open ways for the construction," said Ganesh Chandra Mishra, administrative officer at DAO Dhanusha.

"Officers at SJVN also has asked us to expedite the process so that it would be easier for them to construct. We are working in that spirit," Mishra added. For the transmission line that runs through seven districts including the main hydropower site Sankhuwasabha, a total of 35.27 kilometres is covered in Dhanusha alone. As many as 104 towers will be built in Dhanusha.

The SJVN has also asked other districts to start the land procurement for the construction of 400 kVA transmission line, which will have a distance of 217 kilometres. The transmission line will link the powerhouse of Arun-III at Sankhuwasabha's Diding to India-Nepal border at Mahottari. It will run through, Sankhuwasabha, Bhojpur, Khotang, Udaypur, Siraha, Dhanusha and Mahottari of Nepal to Muzaffarpur in Bihar, India. The transmission line will add an additional 200 MW electricity to Nepal's national transmission line from Dhalkebar sub-station, whereas it will transfer the remaining electricity to India, as per the agreement.

The Government of India has approved investment for transmission component of Arun-III Hydro project (Nepal portion) for an estimated cost of Rs 1,236.13 crore. (ANI)

French Defence Minister To Visit India For Rafale Induction Ceremony

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh (L) and his French counterpart Florence Parly (R) (Photo source: French Embassy in New Delhi)

New Delhi [India], September 9 (ANI): French Defence Minister Florence Parly will embark on an official visit to India on September 10, where she will attend the induction ceremony of the first batch of the Rafale fighter aircraft by the Indian Air Force at Air Force Station (AFS) Ambala.

This will mark Parly's third official visit to India since 2017 and one of her first official trips since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, according to a statement by the French Embassy in New Delhi.
"On this occasion, Minister Parly will strengthen France's forward-looking defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner," the statement said.

During her visit the French Minister will meet her counterpart Rajnath Singh and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

Their broad-ranging talks will cover, among others, industrial and technological partnership in line with the Make in India programme; operational defence cooperation, particularly maritime security in the Indo-Pacific; modalities of continuing the armed forces' joint exercises in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; counter-terrorism cooperation; and major regional and international strategic issues.

At AFS Ambala, she will be received by Rajnath and the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshall RKS Bhadauria. The French Minister will be accompanied, among others, by top executives from Dassault Aviation, Thales Group, Safran, and MBDA, representing the French defence majors that have been partnering with many Indian companies as part of the Rafale agreement.

"These talks will further President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to deepen and expand the India-France partnership, with strategic autonomy and the defence of a multipolar order as its cornerstones," the statement said.

At Ambala, the programme will include the ceremonial unveiling of the Rafale aircraft, a traditional 'Sarva Dharma Puja', air display by Rafale and Tejas aircraft as well as by 'Sarang Aerobatic Team'. Afterwards, a traditional water cannon salute will be given to the Rafale aircraft, the Indian Air Force said in a separate statement.

The programme will culminate with the ceremonial induction of Rafale aircraft to 17 Squadron. After the ceremonial events the Indian and French delegation will have a bilateral meeting, the statement said.

During her visit, Parly will also pay floral tribute to India's valiant soldiers at the National War Memorial in Delhi, according to the statement by the French Embassy in New Delhi.

Five Rafale fighter aircraft arrived in India from France on July 29. The French-origin fighter aircraft are part of the 17 Golden Arrows squadron of the Air Force.

The Rafale aircraft have already flown over the Ladakh region and have been familiarising with the terrain over which they have to fly in different parts of the country. The five Rafales which have arrived in the country include three single-seaters and two twin-seaters.

The Rafales, armed with the air-to-air meteor, air to ground SCALP and hammer missiles, are expected to give an edge to the Indian Air Force over its traditional adversaries China and Pakistan in the South Asian skies due to its long-range hit capabilities.

India had signed a contract for 36 Rafale jets under the largest-ever defence deal signed by the country worth over Rs 60,000 crores, of which the majority payments have already been made to French firm Dassault Aviation.

Rajnath had paid a visit to France in October last year to accept the first batch of the Rafale jets on the auspicious festival of Dussehra and also flew the aircraft after performing pooja with traditional Hindu rituals. (ANI)

China's BRI under threat after Pakistan Taliban reunification

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Peshawar [Pakistan], September 9 (ANI): Pakistan Taliban's recent reunification of various breakaway factions will pose threats to projects linked to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in northwestern Pakistan and create internal security issues in the region, according to analysts.

The recent development has led to concerns regarding the safety and security of Chinese nationals and projects, an Islamabad-based security official told the Nikkei Asian Review on condition of anonymity.

"In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province's various remote areas, several Chinese development projects, mainly in the field of hydro-electricity generation and infrastructure, are going on. The Pakistan Taliban's recent reunification has increased concerns about the safety of Chinese nationals and projects," the official said.

The three major factions of Pakistan Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the Hizb ul-Ahrar and Hakeemullah Mehsud group. They had split in 2014 due to leadership issues. However, it was announced that the factions were coming back together last month and were also joined by a faction of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a banned terror group operating in Balochistan province.

Since its formation in 2007, the TTP, a strong ally of al-Qaeda, became an umbrella organisation for terror groups and has been involved in several terror attacks.

The TTP's initial footprints were in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and in semi-autonomous tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. However, the group later expanded its presence in other parts of the country but were countered in a military operation in 2014, forcing the group to take sanctuary over the border in Afghanistan after its command and control structure was shattered in tribal areas.

According to analysts, several TTP splinter groups recognised they would no longer be viable alone in a changing political scenario in Afghanistan. To honour its commitment to stop harbouring foreign terrorists, the Afghan Taliban will not be able to shelter the TTP anymore.

"The self-realisation of the threats for its survival in the changing political landscape of Afghanistan, and then possible pressures from the Afghan Taliban, could have played a more significant role behind this process of reunification," Abdul Sayed, a Sweden-based researcher on jihadi groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, told Nikkei Asian Review.

The TTP's reunification has put China in a tight spot, given the fact that they were pressing Pakistan to crack down on ethnic separatist groups in Balochistan and Sindh due to projects linked to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a part of the BRI.

Chinese companies in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are involved in many infrastructure and energy projects including the Karakoram Highway Phase II. The Suki Kinari Hydropower Station and the Havelian Dry Port lie along the highway, which ends at the Khunjerab Pass in Gilgit-Baltistan. It then becomes China National Highway 314 after crossing the border, leading to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province in northwestern China.

"The TTP often issues detailed statements against the China state, condemning the situation faced by Chinese Muslims in their own country. More importantly, targeting CPEC projects can create severe economic problems for the Pakistani state -- destabilising it is the ultimate goal of TTP and its allied anti-state jihadists," Sayed said.

At China's request, Pakistan in 2013 had banned three terror groups linked to al-Qaeda -- the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union. Beijing believed these groups had established sanctuaries in tribal areas of Pakistan with TTP's assistance.

While China was initially less of a concern for the TTP than American and Pakistani security forces, some transitional actors operating in Pakistan's tribal areas have encouraged the group to target Chinese projects as retaliation for mistreatment of Uyghur Muslims by the Chinese government, analysts said.

The TTP has already killed and kidnapped several Chinese nationals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. As the TTP reunites, Pakistani security forces have been deployed to protect the Chinese present in the region, according to security officials.

"The TTP's reunification can pose a threat in some districts of Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the terror group has networks in these areas," Muhammad Amir Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based think tank, told Nikkei Asian Review.

According to a PIPS report, TTP and its splinter groups carried out 97 terror attacks in 2019, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan, which claimed 209 lives. (ANI)

2 Killed, 12 injured after blast targets Afghan Vice President's convoy in Kabul

Visual of the spot in Kabul on Webnesday morning. (Photo source: TOLOnews Twitter)

Kabul [Afghanistan], September 9 (ANI): A suicide blast targettubg first Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh's convoy in Kabul left two dead and 12 wounded on Wednesday morning, Pakhwok News Agency reported quoting sources.

Saleh escaped unhurt in the explosion, according to his son Ebad Saleh.

"I was alongside H.E FVP when our vehicle was targetted. I assure you he is fine and everybody is fine, no martyrs from ours just yet," Ebad wrote on Twitter.

The blast was reported in Police District 4 in Taimani area of Kabul at around 7:30 am, TOLOnews reported.

Security forces, ambulances and firefighters are presently at the spot. The area has been cordoned off.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast so far.
More details are awaited. (ANI)

Brazil's COVID-19 case count up 14,279

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Brasilia [Brazil], September 9 (ANI/Sputnik): Brazil's number of recorded COVID-19 cases increased by 14,279 in the past 24 hours to surpass 4,162,000, the country's Health Ministry said in a statement.

Since the beginning of the epidemic in Brazil, 4,162,073 cases of infection have been registered with 127,464 deaths. A total 504 infected people have died in the past day. The number of recovered patients exceeds 3.3 million.

The day before, the case count rose by 10,273 and the death toll by 310.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11.

According to the global health body, the coronavirus death toll worldwide has surpassed 891,000 with the number of cases worldwide exceeding 27.2 million.(ANI/Sputnik)

AstraZeneca Says COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Paused Due To Unexplained Illness Of Participan

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Washington [DC], September 9 (ANI): Detailed locations of as many as 15 detention camps for Uyghurs have been unearthed in Turpan city of the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang, the region where several scenes of Disney's new film 'Mulan' were filmed, according to a Washington-based Uyghur group.

This is a significant development as Disney has come under fire for shooting in Xinjiang province, the region where Chinese government is accused of carrying out a brutal campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims.

The movie, slated for release across China on September 11, garnered controversy after Disney thanked Turpan Public Security Bureau and the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China's "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region" Committee in the film credits, which are Chinese government entities directly involved in mass internment of Uyghurs and others, said the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM).

Mulan's lead actor, Liu Yifei, has also been criticised for backing the Hong Kong Police crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

ETNAM had publicly released the coordinates of 182 concentration camps, 209 prisons and 74 Bingtuan (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps) labour camps across East Turkistan in November last year. The group has now shared the exact locations of 10 concentration camps and five prisons located nearly 130 kilometres radius of Turpan region.

It said there were five concentration camps and two prisons operating in Turpan City alone. In Pichan County of Turpan, four concentration camps and two prisons are present while one concentration camp and one prison are present in Toqsun County of Turpan.

These facilities have been operating since 2017 and many of the concentration camps have been expanded in 2018. According to testimonies of former detainees in concentration camps and prisons and their size, these facilities easily hold more than 100,000 people, mostly Uyghurs, according to ETNAM.

Salih Hudayar, the group's founder and president said, "By filming the movie in Turpan, East Turkistan, where there are possibly hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs being detained in concentration camps and prisons, Disney is not only helping promote Chinese government propaganda but it is also helping the CCP whitewash the genocide faced by Uyghurs and demonising the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of East Turkistan as 'barbarians' and as enemies of China and the Chinese people."

Last December, China had claimed that everyone in the so-called "re-education" concentration camps across Xinjiang had "graduated". However, these concentration camps and prisons are still operating based on the satellite image seen from March to July this year.

ETNAM has called on the people all over the world to boycott 'Mulan' and asked Disney to cancel its screenings of the movie as soon as possible. The group has also demanded a formal apology to the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of East Turkistan.

China has been criticised globally for cracking down on the Uyghurs by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forceful re-education or indoctrination. (ANI)

Uyghur detention facilities found in Xinjiang's Turpan, where Disney's Mulan film was shot

Location of 15 detention facilities in Turpan, Xinjiang (Photo source: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement Twitter)

Washington [DC], September 9 (ANI): Detailed locations of as many as 15 detention camps for Uyghurs have been unearthed in Turpan city of the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang, the region where several scenes of Disney's new film 'Mulan' were filmed, according to a Washington-based Uyghur group.

This is a significant development as Disney has come under fire for shooting in Xinjiang province, the region where Chinese government is accused of carrying out a brutal campaign of repression against Uyghur Muslims.

The movie, slated for release across China on September 11, garnered controversy after Disney thanked Turpan Public Security Bureau and the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China's "Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region" Committee in the film credits, which are Chinese government entities directly involved in mass internment of Uyghurs and others, said the East Turkistan National Awakening Movement (ETNAM).

Mulan's lead actor, Liu Yifei, has also been criticised for backing the Hong Kong Police crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

ETNAM had publicly released the coordinates of 182 concentration camps, 209 prisons and 74 Bingtuan (Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps) labour camps across East Turkistan in November last year. The group has now shared the exact locations of 10 concentration camps and five prisons located nearly 130 kilometres radius of Turpan region.

It said there were five concentration camps and two prisons operating in Turpan City alone. In Pichan County of Turpan, four concentration camps and two prisons are present while one concentration camp and one prison are present in Toqsun County of Turpan.

These facilities have been operating since 2017 and many of the concentration camps have been expanded in 2018. According to testimonies of former detainees in concentration camps and prisons and their size, these facilities easily hold more than 100,000 people, mostly Uyghurs, according to ETNAM.

Salih Hudayar, the group's founder and president said, "By filming the movie in Turpan, East Turkistan, where there are possibly hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs being detained in concentration camps and prisons, Disney is not only helping promote Chinese government propaganda but it is also helping the CCP whitewash the genocide faced by Uyghurs and demonising the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of East Turkistan as 'barbarians' and as enemies of China and the Chinese people."

Last December, China had claimed that everyone in the so-called "re-education" concentration camps across Xinjiang had "graduated". However, these concentration camps and prisons are still operating based on the satellite image seen from March to July this year.

ETNAM has called on the people all over the world to boycott 'Mulan' and asked Disney to cancel its screenings of the movie as soon as possible. The group has also demanded a formal apology to the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of East Turkistan.

China has been criticised globally for cracking down on the Uyghurs by sending them to mass detention camps, interfering in their religious activities and sending members of the community to undergo some form of forceful re-education or indoctrination. (ANI)

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