Monday, October 12, 2020

UK Committee on Standards launched inquiry into All Party Parliamentary Groups

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London [UK], October 12 (ANI): The UK Committee on Standards on Monday announced that a new inquiry will be conducted into All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) including the risk of the group being used for access by foreign governments, into the rules for and regulation of the unofficial groups.

It will be the first in-depth investigation into the informal cross-party groups since the Standards Committee previously reviewed them in 2013, according to an official statement.

The APPGs are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within the UK Parliament. They are run by and for Members of the Commons and Lords, though many choose to involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.

The Committee said it is particularly interesting to investigate-- the value and benefits of APPGs to the House, transparency and appropriateness of funding of APPG activities and secretarial support, the role of external secretariats to APPGs, the risk of APPGs being used for access by lobbyists, other organisations or by foreign governments, and how any conflicts of interests arising can be managed and use of Parliamentary passes by a staff exclusively supporting APPGs.

It will also investigate "Financial governance and controls, other governance and compliance issues, including assurance that APPGs are meeting relevant employment law and data protection laws, the status of APPGs within the House, including the risk of confusion with select committees, and branding of APPG activities and publications, who should be accountable for ensuring an APPG comply with the rules, how APPGs can be better supported to comply with the rules and the proportionality and effectiveness of current requirements on holding of AGMs and formal meetings, and the election of officers."

According to the statement, the previous inquiry considered a wide range of aspects of APPG regulation, and in its report proposed a number of changes to the rules on APPGs which were agreed by the House in 2014. That inquiry followed a report by the Speakers' Working Group led by the former Leader of the House, Rt Hon Jack Straw MP.

Since the previous inquiry into APPGs, there has been continual growth in the number of them operating across Parliament, with more than 600 APPGs now active, the statement said.

"The unofficial groups can represent anything from subjects such as Acquired Brain Injury to Archaeology, with country groups aiming to foster improved relations or better understanding with other countries," it added.

Chris Bryant MP, Chair of the Committee on Standards, said that all-Party Parliamentary Groups may be informal, but they can play a vital role in the work of Parliament and our democracy.

"These all-encompassing groups draw attention to issues and concerns of great national importance that otherwise may go under the radar. They cover everything from acquired brain injury - which I Chair myself - to arts, health and wellbeing," he said

"This new inquiry from the Standards Committee will take a closer look at the rules and regulation of these groups, and will investigate how they can contribute to the high standards of conduct within the House," he added. (ANI)

170 Taliban terrorists dead as Afghan forces launch counteroffensive in Helmand

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Helmand [Afghanistan], October 12 (ANI/Sputnik): A total of 170 Taliban terrorists have been killed in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand after government forces moved to retake territories following the movement's days-long offensive in the region, the provincial police chief said on Monday.

On Saturday, the Taliban launched a series of attacks in Helmand's Nad-e-Ali district and Babaji area, pushing back Afghan security forces.

"Supply forces have arrived in Helmand and retaliatory strikes have been launched to retake areas recaptured from the Taliban. 170 Taliban terrorists have been killed and several others wounded in ground operations and airstrikes," Khalil Ul Rahman Jawad told reporters.

Amid heavy clashes in the area, locals have fled to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

According to the Helmand Department for Refugee Affairs, "in the last two days, 4,500 people have been displaced from Babaji and Nad-e-Ali and are in need of first aid."

Along with the fall of some areas in Nad-e-Ali and Babaji area, the Taliban have also seized several sections of Helmand-Kandahar highway, hindering traffic.

Against this backdrop, US forces in Afghanistan have hit the Taliban with airstrikes to support Afghan forces.

"Over the past two days USFOR-A has conducted several targeted strikes in Helmand to defend ANDSF forces under attack by Taliban fighters, consistent with the U.S.-Taliban agreement. USFOR-A has & will continue to provide support in defense of the ANDSF under attack by the Taliban," USFOR-A spokesman Sonny Leggett wrote on Twitter.

The Resolute Support Mission commander, Gen. Austin Scott Miller, stressed that the Taliban offensive was not in line with the Doha agreement.

"The Taliban need to immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country. It is not consistent with the US-Taliban agreement and undermines the ongoing Afghan Peace Talks," he said.

The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, has also denounced the violence, which came amid ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha. (ANI)

Facebook to remove content that denies or distorts the Holocaust

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Washington [US], October 12 (ANI): Facebook has announced it would remove all content that "denies or distorts the Holocaust."

This expansion of its hate speech policies is a response to 'the well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally and the alarming level of ignorance about the Holocaust, especially among young people', said the company.

According to The Verge, Facebook has previously faced strong criticism for letting Holocaust denial content spread freely on its platform.

Later this year, the company will direct anyone searching on its platform for terms related to this topic to 'credible information' supplied by third-party sources, reported The Verge.

"Enforcement of these policies cannot happen overnight. There is a range of content that can violate these policies, and it will take some time to train our reviewers and systems on enforcement," said Monika Bickert, Facebook's Vice President of content policy, in a blog post.

Earlier this year, Facebook had said it would ban anti-Semitic stereotypes that depict Jewish people as "running the world or its major institutions." But a report a week later by a UK counter-extremism group, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), found that the company's algorithm 'actively promotes' Holocaust denial content.

Removing content that denies or distorts the Holocaust may seem like an obvious decision for a company that is frequently accused of enabling hate speech. But in the past, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, has presented the company's tolerance of Holocaust denial as an example of its commitment to principles of free speech, stated The Verge.

In a recent Facebook post, Zuckerberg said his thinking on the matter had 'evolved,' in part in response to a climate of 'rising anti-Semitism.'

"I have struggled with the tension between standing for free expression and the harm caused by minimising or denying the horror of the Holocaust," said Zuckerberg. "My own thinking has evolved as I have seen data showing an increase in anti-Semitic violence, as have our wider policies on hate speech. Drawing the right lines between what is and isn't acceptable speech isn't straightforward, but with the current state of the world, I believe this is the right balance."

The Holocaust was the state-sponsored killing of six million Jewish men, women, and children by the Nazis in Germany under Adolf Hitler during World War II. (ANI)

WHO says each of last four days brought highest number of COVID-19 cases reported so far

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Geneva [Switzerland], October 12 (ANI/Sputnik): The COVID-19 cases have been increasing around the world, each of the last four days saw the highest number of new cases yet, Director-General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

According to WHO statistics, a cumulative total of 37.4 million cases have been reported to the organization, as of Monday. There have been 307,403 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

"We're now seeing an increase in the number of reported cases of COVID-19, especially in Europe and the Americas, Each of the last four days has been the highest number of cases reported so far," Tedros told a press conference.

According to the WHO chief, some cities have been reporting an increase in hospitalizations as well.

At the same time, "for every country that is experiencing an increase there are many others that have successfully prevented or controlled widespread transmission with proven measures," Tedros said.

The WHO chief urged caution on the idea of herd immunity, pointing out that it referred to the protective barrier achieved through vaccination of a certain percentage of the population rather than exposing them to the disease.

"Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It's scientifically and ethically problematic," Tedros said.

The WHO chief remarked that scientists did not know enough about the strength, duration or other particularities of the COVID-19 immune response. Geneva, Switzerland. (ANI/Sputnik)

3 people killed, another 3 injured in shooting at bus stop in Russia

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Moscow [Russia] October 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Three people were killed, another three were injured in a shooting at a bus stop in the village of Bolshiye Orly in the Nizhny Novgorod Region, a spokesperson for the regional emergency services told Sputnik.

Earlier in the day, an officer on duty of the Unified Duty Dispatch Service of the region's Bor District told Sputnik that four people had been killed and three had been injured in the incident. He also said that the police had caught the shooter who fled into the forest.

"According to updated information, three dead and three hospitalized", the spokesperson said.

Those injured are in moderate condition, a spokesperson for the regional emergency services told Sputnik. (ANI/Sputnik)

Pak SC issues notice to Imran Khan for attending political event

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan

Islamabad [Pakistan], October 12 (ANI): Pakistan Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to Prime Minister Imran Khan for attending a ceremony of the Insaf Lawyers Forum.

"The prime minister of Pakistan took votes from the entire country: he is the prime minister of the entire country, not a particular group or party," Justice Qazi Isa, who presided over the matter, said in the notice.

Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan was also issued a notice by the court for assistance in this regard.

Justice Isa also expressed his displeasure with the advocate general of Punjab for skipping a case hearing to attend the Insaf Lawyers Forum programme, which had been organised at Islamabad's Convention Centre on Friday.

The Apex court also directed the in-charge of the convention centre to inform who paid for the expenses of the event and said that this amounts to misuse of public funds to arrange the party's legal wing.

"How did a political party use a government building for its event? Can the Islamabad administration inform the court whether a fee was paid to book the venue," he asked during the hearing.

The apex court subsequently issued notices to the prime minister, the attorney general, the advocate general Punjab and the Islamabad administration.

It also summoned the vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council and the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association for its next hearing on the matter. (ANI)

Jaishankar, Biegun exchange views on world politics, regional issues

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Deputy Secretary of State, Stephen Biegun. (Photo: ANI)

New Delhi [India], October 12 (ANI): External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday met with visiting US Deputy Secretary of State, Stephen Biegun, wherein they exchange views on world politics and regional issues.

Beigun, on Monday, arrived in New Delhi for his three-day visit with an aim to advance the United States-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership

"Pleased to meet US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun. Useful exchange of views on world politics and regional issues. Appreciated the steady progress of our bilateral cooperation. Confident that our Strategic Partnership would continue to deepen," Jaishankar tweeted

Earlier in the day, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Biegun in the opening session of the fourth India-US Forum

"Foreign Secretary @harshvshringla participated along with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun in the opening session of the 4th India-US Forum," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

The visit to India comes ahead of the forthcoming Indo-US 2+2 talks at the foreign and defence ministerial level.

According to the State Department statement, Biegun's engagements in India will focus on advancing the United States-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership and how the United States and India can work together to advance peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the globe. (ANI)

Singer Tom Parker diagnosed with brain tumor

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Washington [US], October 12 (ANI): English singer Tom Parker on Monday said that he has been diagnosed with a brain tumour and is undergoing treatment for it.

The 32-year-old singer broke the news on his Instagram account along with a joint statement with his wife Kelsey Hardwick about his condition and a picture of his family.

Parker and his wife have been quiet on social media for a few weeks.

In the statement, the 'Wanted' singer and his wife said, "There's no easy way to say this but I've sadly been diagnosed with a Brain Tumor and I'm already undergoing treatment. We decided, after a lot of thought, that rather than hiding away and trying to keep it a secret, we would do one interview where we could lay out all the details and let everyone know the facts in our own way."

"We are all absolutely devastated but we are gonna fight this all the way," the couple said.

The statement further stated, "We don't want your sadness, we just want love and positivity and together we will raise awareness of this terrible disease and look for all available treatment options."

"It's gonna be a tough battle but with everyone's love and support, we are going to beat this. Tom and Kelsey," assured the couple.

Parker, in a recently published interview, talked about his health condition. He also revealed he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, which is a grade four brain tumor, as per Fox News.

The 'Glad You Came' singer and his wife of two years are expecting their second child in November. They also have a 1-year-old daughter named Aurelia, Fox News added. (ANI)

Samsung unlocks 90 fps on Galaxy Tab S7 for Fortnite players

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Ridgefield [USA], October 12 (ANI): Tech giant Samsung Electronics on Monday announced that Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+ owners will be able to level up their Fortnite gameplay experience from October 13.

The 90 frames per second (fps) update will provide Galaxy Tab S7 and S7+ Fortnite players their smoothest mobile gaming performance yet.

"To start playing Fortnite at 90 fps, Galaxy Tab S7 and Tab S7+ owners simply have to update their Fortnite app or download and install it through the Samsung Galaxy Store*, the only mobile app store in the U.S. where users can download and enjoy the current season of Fortnite," the tech giant said in an official statement.

With incredible screens, next-gen processors, and long-lasting battery life, the Galaxy Tab S7, Tab S7+ offer unparalleled mobile gaming experiences for the users. (ANI)

PLA accelerates fortification of the Indian border

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Hong Kong, October 12 (ANI): In the wake of border clashes along the Sino-Indian border, but harking back well before that, the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) has been bolstering its defensive networks along the undemarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC).

In fact, given the current tensions and massed troops on both sides, there is a danger that the LAC will become more like the Line of Control with Pakistan, a heavily fortified and strongly defended border where weapon fire exchanges regularly occur.

Indeed, Stratfor Worldview research has listed a sharp increase in new Chinese facilities along the LAC in 2019-20. A report by Sim Tack revealed five new Chinese surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites, three airbases, one electronic warfare station and five heliports (construction of four only commenced after the Galwan crisis).

Tack's research asserted: "China's construction drive projects a future military capability that will see long-term regional tensions with India sustained beyond the two countries' recent standoffs. The 2017 Doklam crisis appears to have shifted China's strategic objectives, with China more than doubling its total number of airbases, air defense positions and heliports near the Indian border over the past three years. The rapid expansion of permanent Chinese military infrastructure points to intentions that span a wider timeframe than current and recent border standoffs."

The Stratfor article continued, "China's strategy aims to confront India with an insurmountable challenge in territorial disputes by leaning on broad support capabilities that provide Beijing with a tremendous ability to mobilize forces into disputed border areas. Such an approach is similar to China's strategy in the South China Sea, where a build-up of permanent defense facilities supports Chinese localized military superiority and significantly raises the potential cost of military opposition to Beijing's maritime claims in the region. In applying this same strategy on the Indian border, China aims to discourage Indian resistance or military action during future border disputes by ostentatiously demonstrating its ability and intent to engage in military confrontations."

One important difference along the LAC compared to the South China Sea, however, is that the former is solely a military confrontation. In the latter, China can use its coast guard or maritime militia in "gray-zone" contingencies to assert its claims. With no other players existing in isolated sections of the LAC, activity is confined purely to military operators.

Chinese airpower also allows the PLA to project military strength deep into the Himalayas. New infrastructure development supports this - for example, new aircraft shelters are being built that make it harder to observe planes. The PLA Air Force (PLAAF) has been operating H-6 bombers from Kashgar Air Base, these loaded with KD-63 land-attack cruise missiles. Similar bombers have also appeared at Golmud in Qinghai Province, along with Y-20 transporters, while the presence of 18 helicopters there suggests they could be rehearsing special forces heliborne operations.

Tack concluded, "By forcing India to respond in kind, China's aggressive strategy is leading to a greater concentration of military assets in heavily disputed areas along the border that could raise the risk of potential escalations and sustained conflict." Correspondingly, India announced on 14 September that it would build six new runways and 22 helipads across Ladakh.

"Efforts by both India and China to translate these capabilities into dominance during future border disputes will increase the possibility of direct confrontations. And with strong logistical structures supporting frontline forces on both sides, such incidents could rapidly devolve into greater military engagements between the two nuclear-armed neighbours," Tack bleakly forecast.

As mentioned, the PLAAF has stiffened its SAM defenses, with several new HQ-9 sites under construction along the LAC. An existing deployment is at Gonggar, but new sites have appeared at Manasarovar (opposite Uttarakhand), Shigatse, Pagri (bordering Bhutan and Sikkim) and Nyingchi. This suggests the PLAAF has weakened its air defenses elsewhere to bolster strength in Tibet.

Both sides accuse each other of firing shots along the LAC, the first time this has occurred in 45 years. Despite ministerial-level talks agreeing to disengage, both sides continue to mass troops along the border. The threat of further confrontation is definitely real.

Oriana Skylar Mastro, a Center Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, discussed for the Lowy Institute in Australia how an armed Sino-Indian conflict could be resolved if it did occur. "Unless India is squarely defeated and thus cannot continue to fight, or China decides to withdraw unilaterally again, the war may drag on for longer than either side wants."

She said power asymmetries matter, since it is less risky for two evenly matched opponents to talk whilst still fighting since neither can be classified as the loser. "While India does enjoy some local advantages, Chinese conventional military power is superior to that of India. If China enjoys undisputable operational success, Beijing will likely offer talks quickly to the Indian side. China would do so to lock in any territorial gains with a peace agreement if India agrees, and looks reasonable in the international community's eyes if New Delhi refuses."

Mastro continued, "India's calculations will likely be the opposite. Rhetoric on how China believes India to be weak, and the need to stand up to Chinese aggression, will surge. Any Indian politician that suggests talking with the Chinese will be attacked. In other words, unless India is squarely defeated and thus cannot continue to fight, or China decides to withdraw unilaterally again, the war may drag on for longer than either side wants."

There are complicating factors, however, such as any US support for India. Russia is friendly to both India and China, and it could emerge as a mediator.

Mastro concluded, "Complex calculations about how the enemy will interpret and respond to a willingness to talk create an extra obstacle to peace when wars break out. This means high costs even if the war stays at the conventional level, because it is likely to drag on. The other possibility is that the war ends quickly because China secures a decisive victory. But this scenario does not bode well for the future either. It would leave the world with a weaker India and emboldened China."

In recent weeks it is significant to note that China has revived a claim on a "very clear" border demarcation dating from 1959, as elaborated in a letter that Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai sent to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. This is the first time in decades that China has tacitly spelt out its stand on the boundary. Furthermore, plotting the presence of new Chinese outposts shows a clear intent by the PLA to enforce what it believes to be its legitimate 1959 territorial claim. This all amounts to dissipation of relatively soft stances on the border demarcation in recent decades.

There are particular hotspots too. M. Taylor Fravel, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated that Chinese claims on the southern bank of Lake Pangong lie to the west of India's perception of the LAC. "In fact, it may be one area where China's claims lie beyond its view of the LAC. Thus, this is a potentially volatile area."

China has never enunciated any motive for its actions in the Galwan Valley and nearby locales, instead preferring to blame India's "false confidence and strategic aggression".

In the absence of any official explanation from China for its unilateral actions along the LAC, it is useful to glean some degree of understanding on Chinese thinking from other sources. One is a July article entitled "The behavioral logic of India's tough diplomacy toward China" written by Hu Shisheng, Director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).

As expected, he echoed the Chinese Communist Party talking points, but his comments give insights into Chinese thinking, even though each point is debatable from an Indian perspective.

Hu claimed the Galwan Valley incident was "accidental", but ultimately he blamed reckless Indian commanding officers and India's forward policy along the border. Indeed, he named the root cause a Delhi's illusory "quest for absolute security". He described an ongoing "salami slicing" policy, with claims that Indian troops had crossed the LAC some 1,581 times in 2019 (of which 94% were in the western sector).

Hu argued that India was seeking to cause an incident in Galwan "because of Chinese military activities against the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie Road". Ironically, this in itself is an admission that the PLA was reacting to this highly strategic route that permits Indian military access to Siachen Glacier.

Politically, Hu named the "influence of conservative politics" under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as a diversionary tactic of the government to avert domestic attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. He asserted that 'Make in India' as a policy has not been a success, as the industrial sector only contributes 15% to Indian GDP, the lowest amount in the past 50 years.

He also discussed competition between two great powers rising simultaneously, and their subsequent jockeying for regional dominance. "Coexistence between China and India is particularly hard to achieve because, after World War II, one newly born country has sought to negate the colonial order, while the other is the successor of the colonial order."

Hu believes India is an advantageous position because of current Sino-US tensions, which increases Delhi's strategic value to Washington and the West, though Modi "is failing to turn this into an engine of national rejuvenation". Nonetheless, it is fueling a tough foreign policy towards China, even while Beijing suffers from a deteriorating security environment because of a united international anti-China front, restructuring of supply chains and an anti-globalization movement.

The CICIR director likened this to China in 1959-62, when "India challenged China at the border" and purportedly precipitated the 1962 war. Thus, the state of their shared border is a "vivid reflection of great power geopolitics". Hu pessimistically assessed that China-India relations have "entered a period of high volatility". The alternative is to change course and return to "win-win cooperation", although he did not mention how this can be achieved.

The CICIR piece made no effort to analyze Chinese actions and policies, instead of focusing on broader structural differences between the two protagonists. Of course, the blame was placed entirely on India due to China's innate blamelessness!

This kind of finger-pointing is typical of China. A recent Xinhua commentary asserted, "The responsibility lies entirely with the Indian side ... Adopting a defensive military strategy, China has no intention to stir up border tensions or seek military expansion. However, it allows no infringement on its core interests." The same opinion piece added, "It is time for the Indian side to wake up to reality, take a responsible attitude toward the bilateral relationship and stand on the right side of history."

This long-running border confrontation has turned into a show of strength between two nuclear-armed neighbours. Each interprets the clash as emanating from "unilateral changes" by the other side, and there will be cost implications in terms of logistical support and even casualties to the climate and altitude as winter weather worsens.

India knows it is at risk if it escalates a military confrontation and Beijing counter-escalates. However, Delhi must raise the cost of any Chinese challenge to the border's demarcation, so now it must exhibit resolute strategic patience.

Despite ongoing security tensions all around China's fringes, it seems the PLA has no shortage of people wanting to sign up. It received three million applications in 2020 for its 450,000 annual spots. This was despite recruitment drives in the first half of the year being postponed because of COVID-19. The government said there was "growing Importantly, there is a rising proportion of college recruits and graduates among applicants. (ANI)

India and Maldives conclude $400 mn LoC agreement for GMCP implementation

Maldives Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer and Nirmit Ved, General Manager of Exim Bank signed the agreement earlier today. (Photo: ANI)

Male (Maldives), October 12 (ANI): India and Maldives on Monday concluded USD400 million Line of Credit (LoC) agreement for the implementation of the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), which is the single-largest connectivity and infrastructure project in the island nation.

India in August had announced that it will fund the implementation of the Greater Male Connectivity Project through a USD400 million LoC and USD100 million grant. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had said the 6.7 km bridge project connecting Male with Gulhifalhu Port and Thilafushi industrial zone will help revitalise and transform Maldivian economy.

"$400 million LoC Agreement concluded for the implementation of the Greater Male Connectivity Project - single-largest connectivity & infrastructure project in the Maldives; a national economic engine connecting Hulhumale, Hulhule & Male with the proposed Gulhifalhu Port & Thilafushi!," Indian High Commission in the Maldives tweeted.

Maldives Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer and Nirmit Ved, General Manager of Exim Bank signed the agreement earlier today.

"Minister of Finance @iameeru and Nirmit Ved, General Manager of @Indiaeximbank

has today signed a Dollar Credit Line (LoC) Agreement of USD400 million for the purpose of financing the Greater Male' Connectivity-Male' to Thilafushi Link Project #GMCP," the Maldives finance ministry tweeted.

Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid thanked India for partnering with the Maldives in delivering this project, which will lead to greater possibilities.

"The Greater Male Connectivity Project will lead to greater possibilities. It is the gateway to a more developed & economically resilient nation. Thank you for partnering with the Maldives in delivering this project with $100 million of grant and $400 million Line of Credit," Shahid tweeted. (ANI)

Over 700 people detained during protests in Belarus

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Minsk [Belarus], September 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Over 700 people were detained during the unauthorized protests held across Belarus on Sunday, with 570 of them placed under arrest until court hearings, the Belarusian Interior Ministry said on Monday.

"On October 11, there were 25 protest rallies in the country. In regional centers the rallies involved from 20 to 100 people. The total number of protest participants across the country amounted to about 11,000.

In total, 713 citizens were detained for violating the legislation on mass events. A total of 570 people were placed in detention until consideration of cases on administrative offenses by the court," the ministry said on Telegram.

According to the statement, the number of protesters decreased compared to October 4, but "the aggressiveness of the crowd increased and there were representatives of various radicalized groups."

Numerous clashes between protesters and police officers were registered during the rallies.

Mass opposition protests have persisted in Belarus following the disputed August 9 presidential election, in which longtime President Alexander Lukashenko claimed a sixth term. Hundreds of people were injured during the riots, including over 130 law enforcement officers. Three protesters died. (ANI/Sputnik)

7 Indian nationals abducted in Libya released: MEA

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New Delhi [India], October 12 (ANI): Seven Indian nationals, who were abducted in Libya last month, were rescued on Sunday, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) announced on Monday.

The Indian nationals were abducted from Asshwerif on September 14. "We are happy to inform (the country) that the seven Indian nationals who had been abducted at Asshwerif in Libya on 14 September were finally released yesterday (11 October)," the MEA said in a statement.

Indian Ambassador to Tunisia Puneet Roy Kundal spoke to them over phone after they were handed over by the abductors to the oil company Al Shola Al Mudia, for which they used to work. "All of them are in good health and are currently staying on the company's premises in Brega. We are trying to complete the requisite formalities to enable their return to India," the statement read.

The Indian government has conveyed "sincere thanks to the Libyan authorities and the tribal elders from the region for their steadfast cooperation in securing the release of our nationals unharmed". "Both our Ambassador to Tunisia and our local consular staff were in constant touch with them and the company all through the crisis," the statement added.

The ministry reiterated that there is a ban on travel of Indian nationals to Libya, irrespective of the purpose, since May 2016 because of the security situation there. (ANI)

US Needs to realise atrocities on Uyghurs by China is nothing less than genocide: East Turkistan govt in exile

East Turkeistan, also known as Xinjiang, Prime Minister Salih Hudayar

Washington [US], October 12 (ANI): Prime Minister Salih Hudayar on behalf of the East Turkistan Government in Exile on Monday said the United States needs to know that "what China is doing in Occupied East Turkistan, so-called Xinjiang, is nothing less than genocide and colonisation as a result of occupation".

"What China is doing in Occupied East Turkistan (so-called "Xinjiang") is nothing less than genocide and colonisation as a result of the occupation. The State Dept and White House need to recognise the genocide and take stronger actions to stop China and its CCP's crimes against humanity," Hudayar said in a tweet.

This comes in response to a video message released by the US State Department on atrocities committed by China in Xinjiang.

On Sunday (local time), the State Department said in a tweet (that came along with the video), "In Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party has committed egregious human rights abuses against Uyghurs and members of other minority groups, including coercive population control, forced labor, and repression of cultural and religious expression."

Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uyghurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 per cent of Xinjiang's population, has long accused China's authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.

About 7 per cent of the Muslim population in Xinjiang, has been incarcerated in an expanding network of "political re-education" camps, according to US officials and UN experts.

Classified documents known as the China Cables, accessed last year by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, threw light on how the Chinese government uses technology to control Uyghur Muslims worldwide.

However, China regularly denies such mistreatment and says the camps provide vocational training. People in the internment camps have described being subjected to forced political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and denial of food and medicine, and say they have been prohibited from practising their religion or speaking their language.

Now, as Beijing denies these accounts, it also refuses to allow independent inspections into the regions, at the same time, which further fuels reports related to China's atrocities on the minority Muslims. (ANI)

WHO admires India's support to Myanmar in fight against Covid-19

The World Health Organisation representative in Myanmar Dr. Stephen Paul Jost. (Photo: ANI)

Nay Pyi Taw [Myanmar], October 12: Amid the continuous Covid-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization agent in Myanmar has appreciated India for its help to Myanmar in the battle against the pandemic.

Dr. Stephen Paul Jost, while addressing Ravindera Jain, an Indian columnist situated in Yangon, shared his viewpoint over the current Covid circumstance and immunization probability to break the chain of the infection.

Jost applauded India for its commitment to Myanmar with the gift of Remdesivir, an antiviral medication. He stated, "India has been supporting Myanmar. There have been 3000 vials of antiviral medications made accessible. It's called Remdesivir, through a new visit by the Foreign Secretary of India, and this is likewise much valued and furthermore different backings that are there." 

He added, "As have different nations, Singapore for example, through the Foreign Minister has as of late made accessible 25,000 PCR-based test packs and 1,000,000 covers and 200,000 jugs of sanitizers. As have different nations that have contributed, the United Nations family has additionally contributed an incredible arrangement and WHO inside yet there are numerous different offices likewise UNICEF, WFP, UNOX, UNHCR and many have been making a difference." 

Conveying his perspective over the pandemic, Jost stated, "Social estimates that have been embraced by the National Health Authorities and by the Central Committee drove by state advisor. This administration viewpoint, the political initiative, the organization, the preventive measures, and individuals' investment, those four have been fundamentally significant in beating this pandemic, and that will stay valid for the deliverer future." 

Myanmar is one of India's essential neighbors and shared a 1,640 km-long outskirt with various northeastern states including Nagaland and Manipur. (ANI)

India sees Kuwait as trusted partner in achieving energy security: Pradhan tells Kuwaiti oil minister

Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan. (Photo: ANI)

Kuwait City [Kuwait], October 12 (ANI): Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Steel, Dharmendra Pradhan, had a meeting with Kuwaiti oil minister Khaled Ali Al-Fadhel on Monday wherein he conveyed that New Delhi sees the gulf country as an important and trusted partner in achieving energy security.

Pradhan, who is on a two-day visit to Kuwait, invited Al-Fadhel to invest in India as a part of the #AatmaNirbharBharat initiative.

"Had a good meeting with HE Dr. Khaled Ali Al-Fadhel, Minister of Oil and Acting Minister of Electricity and Water, State of Kuwait. We discussed on how to enhance our energy partnership, including two-way investments in the oil & gas sector," he tweeted.

"India sees Kuwait as an important and trusted partner in achieving energy security. Invited HH Al-Fadhel to invest in India as a part of the #AatmaNirbharBharat initiative and be a part of India's growth story," he further tweeted.

Pradhan embarked on a two-day visit to Kuwait on Sunday to offer condolences to the Kuwaiti leadership on the passing away of former emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Jaber al-Sabah last month.

The minister will be delivering letters from President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the new leadership of the oil-rich Gulf nation.

Before his arrival in the gulf country, the Indian minister said that he looks forward to meeting the new leadership of Kuwait to further strengthen the multi-faceted India-Kuwait relationship and take forward "our historic relationship" in diverse areas. (ANI)

Pakistan PM's top aide Asim Bajwa resigns as SAPM on information

Pakistan Prime Minister's top aide Lt Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa. (Photo: ANI)

Islamabad [Pakistan], October 12 (ANI): Pakistan Prime Prime Minister Imran Khan's top aide Lt Gen (Retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa on Monday announced his resignation as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting.

"I requested the honourable Prime Minister to relinquish me from the additional portfolio of SAPM on Info & broadcasting. He very kindly approved my request," Bajwa said in a tweet.

He will continue to work as chairman of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) Authority.

He had submitted his resignation last month shortly after debunking allegations of corruption against him in a rebuttal that was posted on Twitter, Geo News reported.

An investigative report by Pakistani journalist Ahmed Noorani alleged properties and business worth millions of Bajwa and his close family members in Pakistan and abroad.

The report claimed that Bajwa's brothers, wife and two sons own a business empire, which has set up 99 companies in four countries including a pizza franchise with 133 restaurants worth an estimated USD 39.9 million.

Weeks later, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), the country's financial regulatory agency, had deleted the records of five of six companies owned by CPEC Chairman Bajwa's family members, FactFocus reported. (ANI)

Bangladesh's cabinet gives nod to death penalty for rape

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Dhaka [Bangladesh], October 12 (ANI/Xinhua): The Bangladeshi government on Monday approved a proposal for stringent punishment for rapists.

The proposal was approved in principle at a cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair, the country's Law Minister Anisul Huq told journalists.

He said the proposed law stipulates that "the maximum punishment is death penalty for the sex offenders."

After the cabinet's approval of the proposal to enact the punishment, he said Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid will soon promulgate an ordinance increasing the punishment of rapists from the existing life term to death.

Huq said they placed the proposal before the cabinet to make quick amendments to the laws dealing with sexual assault.

In the wake of unprecedented countrywide anger over a series of rapes and sexual assaults recently, he said the government decided to adopt capital punishment for the crime by changing the law. (ANI)

Nobel Prize in Economics goes to Paul R. Milgrom, Robert B. Wilson

The award comes with a 10-million krona ($1.1 million) cash prize and a gold medal. (Photo: ANI)

Stockholm [Sweden], October 12 (ANI): The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday was awarded to Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson "for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats."

The prize, called the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, is the last of the Nobel awards to be announced this year.

"The 2020 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel has been awarded to Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson 'for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats'," the academy tweeted.

"This year's Laureates, Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, have studied how auctions work. They have also used their insights to design new auction formats for goods and services that are difficult to sell in a traditional way, such as radio frequencies. Their discoveries have benefitted sellers, buyers and taxpayers around the world," the academy said.

The award comes with a 10-million krona ($1.1 million) cash prize and a gold medal.

The economics prize has been given to 84 individuals between 1969 and 2019. Only two women have been recipients to date, according to NBC.

The coveted Nobel Peace Prize was awarded on Friday to the United Nations World Food Program for its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity around the globe. (ANI)

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov re-imposes state of emergency in Bishkek: Office

Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov

Bishkek [Kyrgyzstan], October 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has re-imposed the state of emergency in Bishkek, a spokesperson for his office told Sputnik on Monday, explaining that the move is due to the parliament's inaction.

The parliament has failed to discuss the state of emergency, introduced late last week amid the unrest, in due time. Therefore, the state of emergency should be abandoned under the Kyrgyz legislation, the spokesperson explained. The new decree says that the state of emergency will be in force through October 19. However, if the parliament fails to approve this decree, the state of emergency will be automatically lifted on October 15.

"Kyrgyz Republic President Sooronbay Jeenbekov has signed a decree, according to which the state of emergency on the territory of Bishkek is re-imposed," the spokesperson said. (ANI/Sputnik)

Border deal with Israel to aid ailing Lebanese economy by allowing oil drilling: Official

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Beirut [Lebanon], October 12 (ANI/Sputnik): Lebanon's struggling economy will significantly benefit from the revenues from the extraction of oil and gas from the disputed area once the country reaches a border demarcation agreement with Israel, Lebanese Economic and Social Council General Director Mohammad Seifeddine told Sputnik.

Two sides are expected to hold long-awaited negotiations in an attempt to resolve the maritime border dispute later this month.

"Reaching an agreement similar to this and the subsequent extraction [of the oil and gas] will benefit Lebanon as it would yield large sums of money into the country's treasury, which will allow the country to rebalance the public budget, and at a later stage, to make investments based on the revenues gained from this extraction," Seifeddine stated.

Seifeddine added that the government has "high hopes" for the upcoming border-demarcation agreements with Israel, which if successful will allow the consortium of companies licensed by the Lebanese government to begin taking the necessary steps towards the extraction of the oil and gas reserves in the disputed Block-9 off the Lebanese coast.

The Mediterranean country has been suffering from the most severe economic crisis since its independence in 1943, which has led its national currency, the Lebanese Pound, to lose roughly 80% of its value over the course of the past year. (ANI/Sputnik)

European Union extends by one year sanctions for chemical weapons development, use

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Geneva [Switzerland], October 12 (ANI/Sputnik): The European Union will extend by October 16 in 2021, the sanctions on individuals and entities involved in the development and use of chemical weapons, the Council of the EU said on Monday.

The sanctions, initially introduced two years ago, apply to nine persons -- five linked to the "Syrian regime" and four involved in the poisoning of Russia's former double agent Sergei Skripal -- and also to Syria's Scientific Studies and Research Centre, the council noted.

"The Council today decided to extend the regime allowing the EU to impose restrictive measures on persons and entities involved in the development and use of chemical weapons by one year, until 16 October 2021," the Council of the EU said in a statement.

The restrictions consist of a ban on EU travel and an asset freeze. (ANI/Sputnik)

Indians in UAE no longer need to register with Embassy to come to India: Air India Express

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New Delhi [India], October 12 (ANI): Indians in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will no longer be needed to register with the Indian Embassy for travelling to India and can book directly with Air India Express, the airline said on Monday.

"As India and UAE are part of the Air Bubble agreement, registration of passengers is no longer required and the bookings may be done directly with Air India Express," Air India Express wrote on Twitter.

Last week, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that as many as 17.2 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM).

"As of October 7, 17.2 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes under this VBM. The modes include, Air India, Air India-Express, Private and foreign carriers, chartered flights, naval ships and land-border crossing," Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson of the External Affairs said at the weekly briefing.

He added, "Under Phase-VII of VBM -- which is presently operational since October 1 -- 873 international flights have been scheduled from 25 countries to be operated during the course of this month. These include flights from 14 different countries with which India has a bilateral air bubble arrangement."

The VBM started in early May to evacuate Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus-induced travel restrictions. The mission is currently in its seventh phase. (ANI)

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