Thursday, September 17, 2020

World leaders greet PM Modi on his birthday

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (File photo)

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): World leaders wished Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he turned 70 on Thursday.

"Warm wishes to my good friend, PM @narendramodi as you celebrate another year of your life. I wish you success and the best of health," Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksha 
said in a tweet.

High Commission of India in Georgetown, Guyana tweeted: "@AntiguaOpm Hon @gastonbrowne conveys warm wishes for good health, happiness & success of Hon'ble @PMOIndia @narendramodi on occasion of 70th birthday."

The President of Turkmenistan too greeted PM Modi on his birthday.

"The President of Turkmenistan, Mr. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has written a letter to PM @narendramodi, conveying birthday greetings," tweeted PM Modi.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson extended his greetings to PM Modi as he turned 70 on Thursday and expressed hope to meet him soon.

Taking to Twitter, Johnson said, "Very best wishes to my friend @narendramodi on his 70th birthday. I hope to see you soon."

Meanwhile, wishes poured in for PM Modi from all corners of the world on his birthday. The leaders across parties greeted him.

President Ram Nath Kovind was among the first ones to wish the Prime Minister. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin were among the foreign leaders who extended their greetings to the Indian Prime Minister. (ANI)

Facebook to combine Messenger, Instagram chats in new app

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Washington DC [USA], September 17 (ANI): Facebook will be launching a new app called 'Facebook Business Suite' to let small business owners manage pages and profiles across Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram.

This decision to launch a new app was announced by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Thursday
 through a blog post. With this app, the business owners can receive messages from customers, alerts, and notifications in one unified inbox, the Verge reported.

As per a report in the Verge, there are also plans to add WhatsApp integration in the future in this particular app.

Through this app, small businesses will be able to post on Facebook and Instagram at the same time and they can also get insights about how ad campaigns are performing on the platforms. (ANI)

Indian 'critical' after brutal attack by Pakistani national in Saudi, Mother seek help from Centre

Khatija Begum, mother of an Indian national attacked by Pakistani national in Saudi Arabia. (Photo/ANI)

Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], September 17 (ANI): Khatija Begum, the mother of an Indian national hospitalised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and in 'criticial' condition after being allegedly beaten by a Pakistani national, has requested the Central government's help in bringing her son back to the country.

Begum alleged that her son Shaik Sadiq was beaten by a Pakistani national on July 15 and is currently on ventilator support at Jeddah hospital.

"I am from Hyderabad and my son Shaik Sadiq has been working in a warehouse in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia since last three years as a labourer. On July 15th , he was attacked by a Pakistani national and admitted in King Fahad General Hospital, Jeddah for treatment," Begum told ANI.

"Sadiq's kafeel (sponsor) and his company Managers said that his condition is very serious, he was on ventilator support for 23 days, since past 10 days he is not in touch with us, we do not know how my son is right now," she added.

She requested Indian Embassy in Riyadh and Indian Consulate in Jeddah to "personally visit the hospital and let us know the actual position of my son." (ANI)

10th meeting of BRICS NSAs takes place, threats to global security discussed

Russian Chairmanship held the 10th Meeting of BRICS NSAs (Photo tweeted by Russian Embassy)

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): The 10th meeting of BRICS National Security Advisors took place on Thursday under the Russian Chairmanship.

"On Sept 17, the Russian Chairmanship held the 10th Meeting of #BRICS National Security Advisors. Challenges and threats to global, regional and national
 security were discussed," Russian Embassy in India said in a tweet.

According to a release, the parties exchanged views on key issues of global and regional security, discussed the main areas of practical cooperation in the field of security. (ANI)

Zhenhua a private company, has no links to government: Chinese Embassy spokesperson

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New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): Zhenhua is a privately-owned company and has no links with the Chinese government, Chinese Embassy spokesperson on Thursday said over reports of Chinese firm snooping on Indians.

"I want to stress that Zhenhua is a private company and has no links to the Chines
e government. There are many foreign companies engaged in such similar business," the spokesperson of the Chinese embassy here said while adding that "relevant report makes groundless accusations on the "presumption of guilt", purely trying to find excuses aiming to blame others."

Claiming that China has always been a staunch defender of cybersecurity, the spokesperson said some forces with ulterior motives hype up the so-called "China watching and manipulating data", which is a part of planned and premeditated strategy to suppress, contain and smear China.

"China has proposed the Global Initiative on Data Security. We call on all parties to work with China to make tangible efforts to truly safeguard global data security and build a peaceful, secure, open and cooperative cyber space," the statement read.

"Regarding some Indian media's intensive coverage of untrue information on Shenzhen Zhenhua Data Company in recent days, China and India have maintained communication on this issue. China is willing to work with Indian side to enhance cooperation to jointly maintain cyber security and create good atmosphere for the development of bilateral relations," it added.

The Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator has been constituted to study reports of surveillance of Indians by a Chinese firm, evaluate its implications and assess any violations of law.

The expert team will submit its recommendations within 30 days. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing that the ministry has taken up the matter of surveillance with the Chinese side.

"We have seen the media reports on this issue. MEA had accordingly taken up the matter with the Chinese side. The Chinese side has conveyed that the company is a private entity. The Chinese side has also claimed that there is no connection between the company concerned and the Chinese Government," he said. (ANI)

Police crackdown on protestors demanding reappointment of retired Electricity Authority MD

Nepal Police has continued crackdown on protestors hitting streets (Photo/ANI)

Kathmandu [Nepal], September 17 (ANI): Nepal Police has continued crackdown on protestors hitting streets with demand for reappointment of recently retired Managing Director of state Electricity Authority.

A group of youth staging demonstration in Maitighar, popular protest site in Nepali capital Ka
thmandu were baton charged and arrested by Police for gathering at a public place defying the restriction.

"We have orders not to let any protest be held with COVID-19 restrictions; large gathering and protests are still prohibited," a police official told ANI.

Dispersing protestors before formal start of the protest, Police had diverted the traffic to and filtered the protestors who tried to flee from the scene in their motorcycles. Some of them were identified, beaten, either arrested or released afterwards.

Protestors have demanded reappointment of Kul Man Ghising, recently retired MD of Nepal Electricity Authority who is regarded as the person who worked to end Nepal's decade long load shedding which gripped the Himalayan nation up to 18 hours in a day.

Agitating youths carried placards with slogans, "Reappoint Kul Man Ghising", "We have lights only because of you" and "We want Kulman, the Light man" and chanted slogans against incumbent Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for not reappointing him.

Ghising's four-year term as Managing Director of state Electricity Authority, ended on September 14. He is regarded as the one who successfully transformed once-bankrupt state electricity authority during his tenure. (ANI)

US agency releases advisory on activities of China's MSS

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Washington D.C. [US], September 17 (ANI): The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has released an advisory on the activities of China's Ministry of State Security (MSS) and its associated agencies and contractors, according to a report in The CyberWire.

This comes in the wake of repo
rts about snooping by Chinese firms. There has been growing concerns over the Chinese espionage campaign in the recent times with several countries pushing back against it.

According to the report, these operations are characterized by collection of open-source intelligence and by the use of readily available exploits and while there is nothing particularly exotic about the tactics and techniques, but they have been proven effective nonetheless.

The US Department of Justice on Wednesday announced charges against five Chinese nationals and two Malaysian nationals for hacking more than a hundred targets in the US and elsewhere that include telecommunication companies universities, and pro-democracy politicians, and activists in Hong Kong.

The Justice Department said that the two defendants were arrested in Malaysia while the remaining five defendants, one of whom allegedly boasted of connections to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, are fugitives in China.

India's Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator has been constituted to study reports of surveillance of Indians by a Chinese firm, evaluate its implications and assess any violations of law.

The expert team will submit its recommendations within 30 days. External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing in New Delhi that the ministry has taken up the matter of surveillance with the Chinese side.

"We have seen the media reports on this issue. MEA had accordingly taken up the matter with the Chinese side. The Chinese side has conveyed that the company is a private entity. The Chinese side has also claimed that there is no connection between the company concerned and the Chinese Government," he said. (ANI)

Wishes pour in from Bollywood as PM Modi turns 70

Actors Akshay Kumar, Madhuri Dixit and singer Asha Bhosle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Image Source: Twitter)

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): Several Bollywood celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Madhuri Dixit, and others on Thursday extended birthday wishes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.

The celebrities took to Twitter to wish the Prime Minister on his 70th birthday.

"Wishing ou
r Hon. Prime Minister @narendramodi ji a very Happy Birthday. And many more to come," tweeted actor Shahid Kapoor.

Kumar on the other hand marked the day by posting a throwback picture of himself with the Prime Minister.

"One to always keep the best interests of the nation & its people in mind and emerge victorious in the toughest of situations,the nation looks up to you for your dynamic leadership," Akshay wrote along with the picture.

"Wishing you a very happy birthday sir @narendramodi ji, love & prayers always #HappyBirthdayPMModi," he added.

Filmmaker Karan Johar also wished the Prime Minister on the occasion.

"Happy Birthday honorable PM @narendramodi ji! It has been my good fortune to discuss love for movies and the impact of our cinema on the global footprint with you," he tweeted.

"Your graciousness, warmth & understanding has always served as a guiding light! Wishing you health and happiness," he continued.

Devgn also took to Twitter and said, "Happy 70th Modiji More Power to you Sir. @narendramodi #HappyBirthdayPMModi."

Bollywood's Dhak Dhak girl Madhuri Dixit hopped on the micro-blogging site and shared a picture of herself with the Prime Minister to wish him on the day.

"My heartiest congratulations to you on your 70th birthday @narendramodi Ji. Wishing you a healthy & happy year ahead. May our country continue to achieve great heights under your leadership," she wrote along with the picture.

Legendary singer Asha Bhosle also posted a picture of herself with PM Modi and wrote, "Adarniya Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modiji ke janam din par, unko meri bahut bahut shubhkamnayein. Deergha ayushaman rahiye, Bhagwan se yahi Prarthana hai. Jai Hind."

Actor Sanjay Dutt also took to the platform and said, "Wishing our Hon. Prime Minister @narendramodi Ji a very Happy Birthday. May God bless you with good health and happiness."

Scores of other Bollywood celebrities like Bhumi Pednekar, Kartik Aaryan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, and others wished the Prime Minister on his 70th birthday. (ANI)

Russia's Vector says COVID-19 vaccine provides immunity lasting at least 6 months

Moscow [Russia], September 17 (ANI/Sputnik): The vaccine against COVID-19 developed by Russia's research center Vector does not provide life-long immunity, but guarantees immunity that will last at least six months, the head of the center's zoonotic diseases and flu department said on Thursday.

s vaccine does not provide life-long immunity, and this is fine, as we do not introduce any changes [in our system] that will last forever ... We can now say for sure that the immunity created by this vaccine is enough for at least six months," Alexander Ryzhikov said in a live-stream on Instagram.

One can be revaccinated safely, the expert assured. (ANI/Sputnik)

Expert committee formed to look into reports of surveillance of Indians by Chinese firm: MEA

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New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): The Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that an expert committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator has been constituted to study reports of surveillance of Indians by a Chinese firm, evaluate its implications and assess any violations of law.

The expert team will submit its recommendations within 30 days.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing that the ministry has taken up the matter of surveillance with the Chinese side.

"We have seen the media reports on this issue. MEA had accordingly taken up the matter with the Chinese side. The Chinese side has conveyed that the company is a private entity. The Chinese side has also claimed that there is no connection between the company concerned and the Chinese Government," he said.

"The government has constituted an Expert Committee under the National Cyber Security Coordinator to study these reports, evaluate their implications, assess any violations of law and submit its recommendations within 30 days," he added.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had communicated this decision to Congress MP KC Venugopal on Wednesday in response to demands from him and other MPs for protecting data of Indian leaders and others from spying by Chinese companies.

Venugopal had demanded a clarification from the Centre in Rajya Sabha on the issue of 'Chinese surveillance on political leaders and key officials.'

The Congress leader had said in Rajya Sabha that as per media report, Zhenhua Data Information, a Shenzhen based technology company with links to the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government is tracking over 10,000 Indians in its global database of foreign targets.

"This includes the President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Opposition leader, Army Chief and MPs. This is a major area of concern. I want to know from the government if it has taken note of it. If so, what actions have been taken?" he had asked. (ANI)

Pak violates ceasefire along LoC in J-K's Poonch

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Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], September 17 (ANI): Pakistan violated the ceasefire by firing with small arms and shelling with mortars along the Line of Control (LoC) in Mankote sector in Poonch district on Thursday.

The unprovoked ceasefire by the Pakistani side began at about 7 pm.

Indian Arm
y is retaliating. Further details are awaited.

This morning Pakistan violated ceasefire along the LoC in Balakote and Mendhar sectors in Poonch district. (ANI)

Surge in sectarian violence targeting minorities in Pakistan threatens new round of instability in country

Thousands of protestors at an anti-Shia protest in Karachi, Pakistan last week.. (Photo: ANI)

Peshawar [Pakistan], September 17 (ANI): There has been a surge in sectarian violence in Pakistan in recent days with state-backed extremists targeting minorities including Shias and the Ahmadi community.

A report in Asia Times said Pakistan is reeling under a new surge of sectarian violence targeti
ng Shia and other religious minorities across the country, threatening new rounds of instability in the Muslim majority nation.

The minorities have been subjected to various forms of oppression in the country with tacit support of state. Incident of abduction and forced marriages of girls from minority communities are often reported.

According to the report, over the last month, four people including two Shia Muslims, one Ahmadi sect member and a US citizen who renounced the Ahmadi sect have been brutally gunned down for apparent religious reasons.

In the same period, around 50 people mostly belonging to the Shia sect were booked under different section of blasphemy law which have been used as a tool to persecute the minorities.

Last week, thousands of people rallies in Karachi in massive anti-Shia demonstration which clearly had the backing of security agencies and authorities.

The rally pelted an imambargah (Shiite religious place) with stones as unruly radical Sunni mobs went berserk in the Imamia Lines Area, the report said.

Worryingly, the report said, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is inciting religious violence by exhorting people to kill those who negate the finality of Prophet Muhammad.

Citing a 2019 report by Pakistani think tank, it said 28 Shia and two Ahmadis were killed in targeted attacks, while 58 others were injured in related violence.

Social media in Pakistan was filled with posts, photographs and videos of the protest, in which a sea of protestors was seen chanting "Shias are Kaffir" (disbelievers) and holding banners of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, a terrorist organisation, linked to the killing of Shias over the years.

Blasphemy is a sensitive issue in Pakistan and people convicted are given death penalty for allegedly making insensitive remarks on Islam. In the last few decades, sectarian violence has gripped Pakistan with Shia and Ahmadi believers being attacked and their shrines targetted. (ANI)

India hopes China will not make further attempts to change status quo on LAC, work sincerely for disengagement

MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivasatava

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): India said on Thursday that China should sincerely work with it for complete disengagement at the earliest from all friction areas including Pangong Lake and hoped the Chinese side will strictly respect the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and "not make further attempts to unilaterally change status quo".

Addressing the weekly media briefing, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said both sides should focus on easing tensions in the friction areas by refraining from any actions that may lead to an escalation in the situation.

"The Chinese side should sincerely work with the Indian side for complete disengagement at the earliest from all friction areas including Pangong Lake as well as de-escalation in border areas in accordance with the bilateral agreements and protocols on the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in border areas. We hope the Chinese side will strictly respect and observe the line of actual control and not make further attempts to unilaterally change status quo," he said.

Srivastava said that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Chinese counterpart in Moscow on September 10.

He said the two Foreign Ministers reached an agreement which outlines the way forward and this meeting followed the meeting that the two Defence Ministers had in Moscow on September 4.

"There was consensus between the ministers of the two sides, during both the meetings, that there should be quick and complete disengagement of troops from all friction areas along the LAC. Both sides should, therefore, focus on easing tensions in the friction areas by refraining from any actions that may lead to an escalation in the situation. This requires strict adherence to the bilateral agreements and protocols and not making unilateral attempts to change the status quo," Srivastava said.

He also referred to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's remarks in the two Houses of Parliament and said the minister had stated that India is committed to peaceful dialogue with the Chinese side, including through diplomatic and military channels.

Rajnath Singh on Thursday said in the Rajya Sabha Sabha that conduct of the country's armed forces throughout India-China border clashes showed that they maintained 'sayyam' (restraint) and displayed 'shaurya' (bravery) in face of provocative actions by the Chinese army.

The two countries have been engaged in a stand-off since April-May and the Chinese have not vacated areas in the Finger area and other friction points in the eastern Ladakh area.

Multiple rounds of talks have failed to yield any significant result in defusing border tensions. (ANI)

India says Pakistan has not fulfilled obligations related to ICJ judgment in Kulbhushan Jadhav case

MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava speaking during virtual press briefing on Thursday. Photo/ANI

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): India said on Thursday that Pakistan has not been able to fulfil its obligations on implementation of ICJ judgment in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case and has not yet addressed core issues including provision of all documents and unimpeded access.

Ministry of Externa
l Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing that Pakistan has also not addressed the appointment of an Indian lawyer or a Queen's counsel to ensure a free and fair trial for Jadhav.

"The Government of Pakistan has not been able to fulfil its obligations on implementation of the ICJ judgment in letter and spirit. It has not yet addressed the core issues, which includes the provision of all documents related to the case, providing unconditional and unimpeded consular access to Kulbhusan Jadhav and appointment of an Indian lawyer or a Queen's counsel to ensure free and fair trial," he said.

Geo News had last week cited Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri as saying that there was no other option for India but to "cooperate with Pakistani courts", which only permit the appearance of locally registered lawyers before the bench.

India has said Pakistan should provide for an unimpeded, unhindered and unconditional consular access and that the meeting of Indian officials with Jadhav should take place in an atmosphere free from fear of retribution.

India has also said that any conversation between Jadhav and High Commission officials must necessarily take place in privacy and without the presence of any Pakistani official or recording by Pakistan.

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

Israelis campaign against atrocities on Uyghur as it is 'genocide in making'

An Uyghur man in Xinjiang in northwestern China (File photo)

Washington [US], September 17 (ANI): The ongoing atrocities on Uyghur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region has drawn criticism from even the young Israelis as they feel "this is almost like a genocide in making".

In a conversation with Radio Free Asia's Uyghur Service, Anne Destiny 1, a social activis
t going by her Twitter name, said that the Jews in Israel are increasingly becoming concerned by the Uyghur situation though they are wary of comparing atrocities on Uygur with those committed during the holocaust in Nazi Germany.

Anne Destiny 1 is one of the few Israelis who are actively campaigning against the persecution of Uyghurs in northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) on Twitter.

On whether the atrocities on Uyghurs be compared to the holocaust, she said, "The Jews are kind of divided about the use of the word Holocaust ... But then again, comparing the two, [Uyghurs and Jews] I think we definitely need to compare because this is almost like a genocide in the making."

Speaking about her campaign, she told Radio Free Asia that she is attempting to draw attention to rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as she believes that the Israeli people can help pressure China to end its crackdown in the region.

"In Israel, they are taking part in Friday protests outside the Chinese Embassy in Tel Aviv ... And also, in the last couple of years there have been university lecturers speaking not only about Uyghur culture but also about what is happening to the Uyghurs and the persecution that they are currently facing inside XUAR," she was quoted as saying.

However, she was quick to add that the Jewish people "may not use the actual name Holocaust, because for them it is a kind of reference to what happened to their families in the 40s." (ANI)

India welcomes agreements for normalization of relations between Israel, UAE and Bahrain

MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivasatava

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): India on Thursday welcomed the agreement for normalization of ties between Israel, UAE and Bahrain while also reiterating support for the Palestinian cause.

"We have followed the Abraham Accord between Israel, UAE, Bahrain and the US. India has always supported
 peace and stability in West Asia. We welcome these agreements for normalization of relations between Israel, UAE and Bahrain," Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said at the regular media briefing.

"We also continue our traditional support for the Palestinian cause and hope for early resumption of direct negotiations for an acceptable two-state solution," he added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Tuesday signed the historic Abraham Accord in the presence of US President Donald Trump.

Netanyahu on Wednesday termed the accord as historic and thanked Trump for "unequivocally" standing by Israel's side and for "boldly" confronting what he called the "tyrants of Tehran".

"Thank you, President Trump. You have unequivocally stood by Israel's side and boldly confronted the tyrants of Tehran. You've proposed a realistic vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And you have successfully brokered the historic peace that we are signing today," Netanyahu said in a tweet. (ANI)

14.6 lakh stranded Indians repatriated till now: MEA

MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava speaking during virtual press briefing on Thursday. Photo/ANI

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that as many as 14.6 lakh Indians who were stranded due to COVID-19 restrictions have been repatriated so far under the Vande Bharat Mission.

Addressing a weekly briefing on Thursday, MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivast
ava said that the Ministry is expecting another 1,20,000 people to be repatriated.

"As on September 16, 14.6 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes from 21 countries reaching 22 airports across India and repatriating an estimated 82,000 people," said Srivastava.

He further said, "This phase will continue till end of this month. We expect another 1,20,000 people to be repatriated."

The Vande Bharat Mission started in early May to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions.

The mission is in its sixth phase which will continue till October 24. (ANI)

Chinese debt casts shadow over Maldives' economy

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Male [Maldives], September 17 (ANI): Chinese debt trap has cast a shadow over Maldivian economy with some estimates suggesting that island nation maybe owing huge amount to Beijing.

China has faced criticism for its infrastructure projects in the developing countries, which are disguised as debt tra
ps intended to increase Chinese footprints in the region.

According to a BBC report, a 2.1 km (1.3-mile), four-lane bridge was built with USD 200m (£148m) from Beijing. The Sinamale bridge or China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, the first built between any islands in the Maldivian archipelago, has also led to a boom in new property and commercial developments on the island of Hulumale, the report said.

It was one of the several projects undertaken during the tenure of Maldives' pro-China President Abdullah Yameen, who was elected in 2013. As per the report, Yameen's tenure was also marked by allegations of human rights abuses with many politicians including former President Mohamed Nasheed, who is now Speaker, getting detained.

Yameen suffered a surprise defeat in the election in 2018 and Ibrahim Mohammed Solih became President.

"The [Chinese debt] bill was USD 3.1bn," Nasheed was quoted as saying. As per the report, the figure included government-to-government loans, money given to state enterprises and private sector loans guaranteed by the Maldivian government. The Speaker of Maldvies' Parliament is worried his country walked into a debt trap.

"Can these assets produce enough revenue to pay back the debt? The business plan of none of these projects has any indication to suggest that it will be able to pay back the loan."

However, former Maldivian officials and Chinese representatives put the figure Male owes China between USD 1.1 to 1.4 billion, a huge sum for a country with GDP of around USD 4.9 billion.

Nasheed worries Maldives could meet same fate as Sri Lanka where Chinese debt trap led to a Chinese state-run enterprise acquired a 70 per cent stake in the Hambantota port on a 99-year lease in 2017.

Maldvies, which is heavily reliant on tourism has been hit hard by coronavirus. According to the report, the foreign tourist arrivals were down 55 per cent by the end of June and estimates suggest the country may lose more than USD 700m, more than a third of its tourism income, this year if the pandemic persists. (ANI)

Army chief in Srinagar to review security situation, to visit forward locations

Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane (File photo)

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): Against the backdrop of rising incidents of ceasefire violations by Pakistan, Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane is visiting Srinagar to review the ongoing security situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

During the visit, the Army Chief would also be visiting fo
rward locations on the Line of Control (LoC) and take a first-hand review of the operational preparedness of troops there, Army sources told ANI.

In Srinagar, the Army Chief would be briefed on security situation by the senior official of the Chinar Corps, they said.

Pakistan Army has increased ceasefire violations along the LoC at a time when India and China are engaged in conflict over territorial issues in the Eastern Ladakh sector.

Gen Naravane has been reviewing the on-ground situation in both Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir frequently with senior commanders. (ANI)

DRDO investigating Howitzer accident, says incident not a setback for project

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New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has ordered a detailed investigation into the accident involving its under-development Howitzer that took place in Rajasthan's Pokharan last week during the trial.

The agency is developing the Advanced Towed 
Artillery Gun Systems (ATAGS) with private sector firms Tata and Bharat Forge. An accident involving the gun took place in Pokharan in Jaisalmer on Saturday.

"We are investigating to find the exact cause behind the accident. It is not a setback to the project in any way and it will help us and the industry to further strengthen the system (howitzer)," DRDO chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy told ANI when asked about the incident involving the gun.

The ATAGS gun has shown the capability to fire shells at distances beyond 50 kilometres and once inducted, would be one of the most advanced and capable guns of its kind in the world.

The accident, involving the indigenous Howitzer being developed by DRDO and to be produced by Tata and Bharat Forge Limited, took place at a time when India has banned imports of Howitzers from abroad from December this year.

The ATAGS would be one of the major systems developed by DRDO with the private sector defence industry. (ANI)

US restrictions on textile imports from China may augur well for India: ICRA

India stands to gain from any such market opportunity due to its strong presence in cotton-based apparel. (ANI)

New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): The US move to impose restrictions on import of certain products originating from Xinjiang autonomous region in China could benefit Indian textile exporters, according to investment information firm ICRA.

The United States cited concerns on illegal and inhumane
 forced labour in the region while imposing the ban earlier this week.

While there were reports of a more broad-based ban on the products originating from the region, the restrictions have been limited to a few entities for now.

Besides banning imports of other product categories, including hair products and computer parts, the ban includes restrictions on some entities from the region involved in manufacturing apparel and producing and processing cotton.

Xinjiang is a major cotton-producing belt which accounts for an estimated 80 to 85 per cent of China's cotton output.

Jayanta Roy, Senior Vice President and Group Head for ICRA Ratings, said that while the immediate impact in terms of the market catered to by identified entities is not quantifiable, the development could have major repercussions for global textile trade.

With China being the leading apparel exporter, accounting for more than 35 per cent of the global trade and more than three-fourths of China's cotton originating from the Xinjiang region, any extension of the ban to a wider base in China could trigger a material shift in global apparel trade in coming years," he said.

Amid concerns on the origination of the coronavirus from China, there have already been reports of several

international buyers looking at diversifying their sourcing base across countries.

As per ICRA's channel checks, several major apparel exporters from India have either already started receiving increased orders or are in active discussions with large international buyers, looking at increasing their sourcing from India.

The shift, which was previously expected to take place gradually over the medium term, could be expedited in the light of this recent development.

"While Vietnam and Bangladesh have been the key beneficiaries over the past few years for a shift away from China, India also stands to gain from any such market opportunity which may arise due to its strong presence in cotton-based apparel," said Roy. (ANI)

Amid tensions on border, Indian Navy tracks Chinese research vessel in Indian Ocean

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New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI): In a significant development, Indian Navy warships constantly tracked a Chinese research vessel which entered the Indian Ocean Region last month at a time when tensions rose on the land borders in Ladakh between the two nations.

The Yuan Wang cl
ass research vessel had entered the Indian Ocean Region from Malacca straits last month. It was constantly tracked by Indian Navy warships deployed there in the region, Government Sources told ANI.

The Chinese research vessel returned to China a few days ago after being under constant watch of Indian Navy vessels, the sources said.

Such research vessels have been coming regularly from China and they try to gain sensitive information about Indian maritime territory.

In December last year, the Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 1 was carrying out research activities in the Indian waters near Port Blair in Andaman and Nicobar Islands and was detected by maritime surveillance aircraft operating there.

Such vessels could have also been used by the Chinese to spy on the Indian activities in the Island territory from where India can keep a close eye on the maritime movements in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and South-East Asian region.

Since laws do not allow foreign countries to carry out any research or exploration activities in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the Indian Navy warship at that time had asked the Chinese research vessel to move out of Indian waters. (ANI)

HarperCollins India presents Narendra Modi's LETTERS TO MOTHER, translated from Gujarati by Bhawana Somaaya

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New Delhi [India], September 17 (ANI/PRNewswire): Narendra Modi's LETTERS TO MOTHER

'I am not a professional writer . . . but I do understand emotions - and I write because I feel strongly.' - Narendra Modi

Translated from Gujarati by Bhawana Somaaya

Out Now in both Hardback and E-book editions

'I a
m not a writer, most of us are not; but everybody seeks expression, and when the urge to unload becomes overpowering there is no option but to take pen and paper, not necessarily to write but to introspect and unravel what is happening within the heart and the head and why.' - Narendra Modi.

"In my opinion Narendra Modi's strength as a writer is his emotional quotient. There is a raw intensity, a simmering restlessness which he does not disguise and that is his attraction," Bhawana Somaaya, Translator.

This story is provided by PRNewswire. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article. (ANI/PRNewswire)

Pakistan says Gilgit-Baltistan to be elevated to full fledged province

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Islamabad [Pakistan], September 17 (ANI): Weeks after releasing a political map that laid untenable claims to Indian territories, Pakistan has decided to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan to the status of a full-fledged province, according to a Pakistani minister quoted in a media report.

The Express Tribune
 quoted Minister Ali Amin Gandapur today said that the government has decided to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) to the status of a full-fledged province.

He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan would soon visit the region and make a formal announcement in this regard.

Last month, condemning Prime Minister Imran Khan for releasing Pakistan's new political map laying untenable claims to Indian territories, India had termed the act as an "exercise in political absurdity."

"We have seen a so-called "political map" of Pakistan that has been released by PM Imran Khan. This is an exercise in political absurdity, laying untenable claims to territories in the Indian state of Gujarat and our union territories of Jammu Kashmir and of Ladakh," the Government of India said in a stern statement.

India also slammed Pakistan for their malafide intentions and said it confirms the reality of "Pakistan's obsession with territorial aggrandisement supported by cross-border terrorism."

The Imran Khan government had released a new political map of Pakistan, claiming Indian territories of Junagadh, Sir Creek and Manavadar in Gujarat, of Jammu and Kashmir and a part of Ladakh.

This came after the first anniversary of the Indian government's decision to revoke Article 370 which gave special powers to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. (ANI)

Swedish clothing icon H&M joins global clamour to end human rights abuses in Xinjiang

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Stockholm [Sweden], September 17 (ANI): Days after the US imposed a ban on import of five specific manufacturers in Xinjiang, Swedish clothing icon H&M has decided not to buy raw materials from the region's farms and factories suspected of using "forced labour".

The fashion house said on Tuesday that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang -- China's largest growing area of the cash crop. It also clarified that it did not work with any garment factory in the region.

H&M said it had conducted "an inquiry at all the garment manufacturing factories we work with in China aiming to ensure that they are not employing workers ... through what is reported on as labour transfer programmes or employment schemes where forced labour is an increased risk."

By de-linking from restive Xinjiang, where reports of the incarceration of Uyghur and Kazakh Muslim community have been rampant, H&M has joined the United States, which announced that it was severing commercial ties with companies suspected of using "forced labour" in this sensitive border region.

The US administration recently targeted five specific manufacturers in Xinjiang as well as next-door Anhui province, involved in producing a range of products including cotton, garments, hair products and electronics.

Besides, the Americans have taken aim at the Lop County No 4 Vocational Skills Education and Training Centre in Xinjiang. The Rights groups have long alleged that instead of imparting skills, these so-called vocational training camps functioned as "concentration camps".

"This is not a vocational centre, it is a concentration camp, a place where religious and ethnic minorities are subject to abuse and forced to work in heinous conditions with no recourse and no freedom," US Homeland Security Acting Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli was quoted as saying.

By serving notice to the Chinese government's human rights record in Xinjiang, H&M has joined other European corporate heavyweights, which have already told Beijing bluntly that they no longer can look the other way from the suspected ethnic war that is raging in the region.

Jow Kaeser, CEO of Germany's corporate bellwether Siemens, told newspaper Die Zeit, that his company is "watching the current developments in Hong Kong, but also in the province of Xinjiang carefully and with concern."

The snowballing outrage against China in Europe, which now appears to be acquiring critical popularity, was visible in plain sight on September 14 when the European Union (EU) asked China to permit entry of a team of independent observers to Xinjiang, amid fears that around 1.8 million Uyghurs--a jaw-dropping number--may have been locked up in internment camps.

EU's Council President Charles Michel said in a statement that he had raised concerns about Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as China's imposition of national security laws on Hong Kong during a video conference summit with China's President Xi Jinping on September 14.

"We reiterated our concerns over China's treatment of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, and the treatment of human rights defenders and journalists," Michel said.

"We asked for access for independent observers to Xinjiang and we called for the release of the arbitrarily-detained Swedish citizen Gui Minhai and two Canadian citizens," he said following the meeting.

Gui Minhai, a naturalised citizen of Sweden, was in February sentenced for 10 years for "illegally providing intelligence overseas".

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron, another European heavyweight, went ballistic in calling the Uyghur repression as "unacceptable," after 30 French lawmakers had written him a letter expressing concerns over abuses in Xinjiang, the news outlet EURACTIV reported.

"All these practices are unacceptable because they run counter to the universal principles enshrined in international human rights conventions, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms," Macron said. He added that Paris will "remain fully mobilised on the situation of the Uyghurs."

Human rights situation in Xinjiang has also filtered into the geopolitical orbit. Europe has remarkably pivoted towards the Indo-Pacific region, where the Quad of India, United States, Japan and Australia, appears set to counter China's expansionism in the region. On September 2, the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas announced his country's rotation in the direction of Indo-Pacific, which comprises countries on either side of the Malacca Straits.

The European powerhouse spotlighted that it "wants to work more intensively with the countries of the (Indo-Pacific) region, be it to strengthen the rule of law and human rights" and that the "security-policy sector plays a special role in this context."

The emphasis on human rights is significant, as Germany has factored China's suppression of the ethnic Uyghur community in its policy shift.

In bolstering the European leg of the Indo-Pacific strategy, it is likely that a Franco-German partnership will play a key role. The Franco-German alliance, where France takes the lead in security and Germany does the economic heavy lifting, avoiding a security high profile for historical reasons, has been a prominent feature of the Paris-Bonn relationship after World War II.

By working lock-step with France, Germany would be in a good position to benefit from the French presence in its overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte in the South-west Indian Ocean. France also maintains two inter-services bases located in Djibouti and in the United Arab Emirates. (ANI)

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