Monday, October 19, 2020

9th session of India-Oman Joint Commission held

Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Hardeep Singh Puri

New Delhi [India], October 19 (ANI): The ninth session of the India-Oman Joint Commission was held virtually on Monday.

The meet was co-chaired by Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, Hardeep Singh Puri, and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion of the Sultanate of Oman, Qais bin Mohammed.

According to an official release, the meeting was attended by representatives of various government departments/ministries from both sides. During the meeting, both sides reviewed the recent developments in trade and investment ties and reaffirmed their commitment to expand the bilateral trade and encourage businesses to invest in each other's country in order to realize the untapped potential in the commercial and economic relationship.

Among other things, both sides agreed to cooperate in areas of Agriculture and Food Security, Standards & Metrology, Tourism, Information Technology, Health and Pharmaceuticals, MSMEs, Space, Civil Aviation, Energy including renewable energy, Culture, Mining, and Higher Education.

The two sides also reviewed the progress of prospective Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) in the field of mining, standards and metrology, financial intelligence, cultural exchange, and information technology, and agreed to conclude them expeditiously.

The two sides also exchanged views on the unprecedented global health and economic situation arising due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

Puri highlighted the recent initiatives taken by the government for improving the ease of doing business and to boost domestic manufacturing in India, including the production-linked incentive (PLI) schemes for various sectors, and invited Omani Sovereign Wealth Funds and private businesses to invest in India.

India and Oman have always enjoyed close and friendly relations which go back to several millennia. The close bilateral ties, including vibrant trade and cultural exchanges, have now expanded into a strategic partnership based on trust and mutual respect. Increasing bilateral trade and investment between the two countries is a key element of the strategic partnership.

"The economic and commercial relations between India and Oman are robust and buoyant. India is among Oman's top trading partners. For Oman, India was the 3rd largest source for its imports and 3rd largest market for its non-oil exports. Bilateral trade between India and Oman grew at 8.5 per cent in 2019-20 over the previous year to reach USD 5.93 billion. While India's exports to Oman were valued at USD 2.26 billion, India's imports from Oman amounted USD 3.67 billion in 2019-2020," said the release.

Both sides agreed to nominate a focal point from their respective Ministries of Commerce and Industry to carry forward the follow up on the discussions held and the decisions taken during the JCM. (ANI)

Australia to participate in Exercise Malabar 2020

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New Delhi [India], October 19 (ANI): India on Monday announced the participation of Australia in the upcoming Malabar exercise alongside the US and Japan.

"As India seeks to increase cooperation with other countries in the maritime security domain and in the light of increased defence cooperation with Australia, Malabar 2020 will see the participation of the Australian Navy," the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

The Defence Ministry added that this year, the exercise has been planned on a "non-contact - at sea" format. The exercise will strengthen the coordination between the Navies of the participating countries.

"High-end military exercises like MALABAR are key to enhancing Australia's maritime capabilities, building interoperability with our close partners, and demonstrating our collective resolve to support an open and prosperous Indo-Pacific," Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia said.

Payne further said the announcement was another important step in Australia's deepening relationship with India.

"This builds on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, to which Prime Minister Morrison and Prime Minister Modi agreed on 4 June 2020, and which I progressed with my counterpart, Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar, this month when we met in Tokyo," said External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

According to a joint media statement, Australia last participated in Exercise MALABAR in 2007. (ANI)

PM Benjamin Netanyahu says peace deal with UAE conducive of lower consumer prices in Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Moscow [Russia], October 19 (ANI/Sputnik): Every Israeli citizen will benefit from the agreement on normalisation of relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as imports of cheap and high-quality merchandise will drive prices on consumer goods down, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Netanyahu spoke after visiting a UAE cargo vessel in the port of Haifa earlier in the day, together with Israeli Transportation Minister Miri Regev. The freighter arrived a week ago on the back of a landmark peace accord that was signed between the two countries in mid-September.

"We are on the deck of the ship that arrived from the United Arab Emirates, with very many containers. I asked what is in the containers and they explained to me - washing machines. This is now lowering the price of washing machines, electric devices and food. Everything that arrives here simply lowers the cost of living and every citizen of Israel will feel the impact of it," Netanyahu said, as quoted in a press release by his office.

According to the Prime Minister, the ship anchored in the Haifa port signifies the end of Israel being a "cul-de-sac" and an opening of an era in which Israel is "becoming a main hub, both maritime and in the air."

"We are joining the State of Israel to the maritime artery that brings to it cheaper merchandise and products at excellent quality. This is good for every citizen," Netanyahu said, going on to describe the day as "genuinely historic."

The Israeli-UAE peace deal was brokered by the United States on par with a similar one between Israel and Bahrain. Both were signed during a ceremony in Washington on September 15. (ANI/Sputnik)

Thai protesters defy new 'selfie' rule

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Bangkok [Thailand], October 19 (ANI): Thousands of Thai protesters defied the recently imposed state of emergency decree, which has made it illegal for people to take or post selfies on social media of the ongoing anti-government protests in Thailand.

At first, the demonstrators posed quickly for selfies before darting away nervously, despite their identities being obscured by face masks or helmets. However, they soon lingered, raising their arms in a three-fingered salute, reported New York Post.

Thailand's political rebellion will be posted on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook the daily reported.

According to the order imposed in the country on Thursday, people who found violating the decree can face up to two years in jail and a fine up to 40,000 baht.

"It is like you are taking your own evidence of disobeying the emergency decree," New York Post quoted Maj Gen Yingyos Thepjumnong, a spokesman for the Royal Thai Police.

The Thai authorities have declared a state of emergency in the capital of Bangkok over the ongoing anti-government protests, Thailand's media reported on Thursday.

The decree on the state of emergency bans gatherings of five or more people, as well as the publication of news or online messages that could infringe on national security, the Bangkok Post newspaper reported.

The anti-government protests have been underway in Thailand for several months, with the opposition calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who came to power as a result of the 2014 coup. (ANI)

Two including district governor killed in ambush in Afghanistan

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Kabul [Afghanistan], October 19 (ANI): Two people, including the district governor of Afghanistan's Zazai Maidan district of Paktia province, were killed in an ambush in Logar province, said the district governor's office on Monday.

"Two people, including Abdulhai Zazai, the district governor of Zazai Maidan district of Paktia province, were killed in an ambush in Logar province on Monday," the Paktia governor's office said as quoted by Tolo News.

No group has claimed the responsibility for the attack.

More details are awaited. (ANI)

US politicians urge Egyptian president to release activists imprisoned illegally

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Cairo [Egypt], October 19 (ANI): More than 50 politicians of the United States have urged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to release activists, journalists, lawyers, and prisoners of conscience detained illegally in Egyptian prisons.

In a letter released on Monday, 55 Congressional Democrats (and one independent) urged el-Sisi to release those "unjustly detained for exercising their fundamental human rights". The letter is spearheaded by three Democratic lawmakers: Ro Khanna, Jim McGovern, and Sherrod Brown, Al Jazeera reported.

McGovern said, "The unjust detention of Egyptian human rights defenders, peaceful political activists and other prisoners of conscience is in direct opposition to the rights and freedoms enshrined in Egyptian and American law."

The politicians are concerned that continued unjust imprisonment during large outbreaks of COVID-19 in Egyptian prisons might lead to their death.

"We are deeply disturbed that in the middle of a pandemic, the Egyptian government continues to wrongfully hold these political prisoners in overcrowded prisons - places where we know COVID-19 can spread like wildfire and cause severe illness and death," McGovern warned.

"Even in the middle of a global pandemic, President Sisi continues to lock up prisoners in notoriously overcrowded, dangerous prisons," Khanna said.

The Sisi government is the second-largest recipient of US foreign military financing and US lawmakers have a special responsibility to press his government to free political prisoners and end its systematic human rights violations. "President Sisi must release human rights activists, lawyers and other prisoners of conscience before they face a COVID-19 death sentence behind bars," Khanna added.

Al Jazeera further reported that the letter warned el-Sisi that "the imprisonment of prisoners of conscience and other violations of human rights fundamentally undermines our countries' mutual interests and values".

The letter specified the names of political activists Ramy Shaath, Zyad el-Elaimy, and Alaa Abdel Fattah; human rights lawyers Mohamed el Baqer and Mahienour el-Massry; journalists Esraa Abdel Fattah and Solafa Magdy, and other unjustly detained prisoners of conscience and demanded their release.

In 2013 el-Sisi led a military coup that overthrew his democratically elected predecessor Mohamed Morsi of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood movement. Since then the Egyptian government has been executing an unparalleled crackdown on dissent.

In April, the United Nations implored Egypt to release prisoners who have been convicted of non-violent offences and those who are in pretrial detention who constitute just below one-third of those in jail. The UN even recognised Egyptian detention centers to be overcrowded, unhygienic, and lacking in resources, Al Jazeera wrote.

Last July, the Human Rights Watch released a report which mentioned that more than 14 prisoners and detainees have died, possibly from COVID-19 complications, in 10 detention facilities. (ANI)

USA based Bottlecapps announces major expansion into the Indian market

Bottlecapps logo

New Delhi [India], Oct 19 (ANI/India PR Distribution): BOTTLECAPPS is the Fastest Growing Beverage Alcohol Platform in the United States with over 1,000 stores in 43 states.

As Bottlecapps Dominance in the United States Continues to Grow Exponentially, it has announced its Rapid Expansion and Partnership Opportunities in India.

"We have continued the expansion of our best in class platform and 360 solution, that places the store and customer at the centre of our business, to the fastest growing and largest emerging market in the world," said Dr Prashant Desai, Executive Chairman and CEO.

"India's population over the next decade will have more drinking age consumers with smartphones, making the transition to e-commerce a necessity for the Indian consumer who already understands how to shop on e-commerce platforms like FlipKart and Amazon," said Dr Prashant Desai.

Bottlecapps is looking at partnership opportunities for both stores and brands as they continue to expand their footprint in 5 countries with a "laser focused" aim to be the World Leader in Spirit's E-commerce.

"Given our strong leadership team with over 100 years of experience in technology and spirits, our Indian Heritage in both North and South India, and our relentless pursuit to be the predominant provider of spirits in e-commerce, it makes sense to drive our consumer-centric platform to India in this time of crisis with COVID-19 and shutdowns in many parts of India imminent," Dr Desai added.

Bottlecapps continues to grow exponentially in stores, states, numbers of orders processed, as the "only flat-fee" model-based e-commerce platform that lets you "have your cake and eat it too".

This is through the branded app, website, marketing, and exclusive marketplace called BottleRover™ all for one price.

Stores and consumers want "price transparency and parity" to in-store pricing not available on third-party providers who "upcharge" prices and charge "transaction fees" to stores for the exact same service.

Bottlecapps has developed partnerships with the largest brands, distributors, and delivery platforms to provide a turnkey, go to market e-commerce experience.

For more details visit -

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

Pakistan's Maritime Affairs Minister Zaidi refutes reports that Sindh IGP kidnapped, forced to register FIR against Safdar Awan

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Karachi [Pakistan], October 19 (ANI): Pakistan Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi on Monday denied reports that Sindh inspector general of police (IGP) was "kidnapped and forced to register" an FIR against the Pakistani Muslim League (Nawaz) [PML (N)] leader Safdar Awan, the husband of Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader, Maryam Nawaz Sharif.

According to reports, Inspector General Sindh was kidnapped by Rangers at 4 am and added that additional IG "was already present" and were forced to issue the orders for the arrest of Safdar.

"Unfortunate incident. Sindh Govt informed PML-N leader Muhammad Zubair that IG Sindh was kidnapped by Rangers at 4 in the morning he was brought in sector commander's office where addnl IG was already present and were forced to issue the orders for the arrest of Cpt Rtd Safdar," read a tweet from the journalist Hamid Mir.

"Sindh Govt trying to distance themselves from the FIR & arrest of Capt. Safdar. M. Zubair selling nonsense narrative that CM Sindh told him IG was kidnapped & forced to register FIR. If this is true then CM Sindh must fire IG Sindh or resign himself as his orders were followed," Zaidi wrote on Twitter, as quoted by Dawn.

Zaidi referred to an audio message shared by a journalist on Twitter in which PML-N leader Zubair "purportedly can be heard" saying that Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah told him the IGP was kidnapped and forced to register the FIR against Maryam Nawaz, her husband retired Captain Mohammad Safdar and 200 others for violating the sanctity of the Quaid's mausoleum.

He later termed the claim as a "nonsense narrative: adding that the Sindh government was "trying to distance themselves" from the arrest and the FIR.

"I demand that CM Sindh immediately & publicly reject Muhammad Zubair's comments attributed to him regarding the kidnapping of IG," the leader from the Imran Khan-led party wrote.

According to Dawn, in an audio clip, Zubair, who was recently appointed as a spokesperson for the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and daughter Maryam, said that CM Shah confirmed to him that "they tried to put pressure on the Sindh Police first to arrest. When they refused to do that, Rangers kidnapped [the IG]."

"This is what the chief minister told me [...] he [IGP] was picked up and taken to the sector commander's office where the additional IG was brought in and they were forced to issue orders," Zubair says in the clip being attributed to him.

Safdar was arrested on Monday morning from Karachi where he and Maryam Nawaz were staying. "Police broke my room door at the hotel I was staying at in Karachi and arrested Capt Safdar," Maryam wrote on Twitter.

According to Dawn, Zubair said he had talked to CM Shah and provincial minister Saeed Ghani and would reveal the facts before the public soon.

"The easiest way for Imran Khan is to arrest [Safdar] so the entire blame will fall on Sindh government and police," Zubair said.

Speaking about the allegations of state terrorism by the PML-N and Zubair, Zaidi questioned "if arresting a criminal is state terrorism, then what was Model Town massacre by police under Shehbaz when direct firing was done on pregnant women, children and elderly? Was that a training exercise?"

He added, "Instead of focusing on the crime that was committed, they are asking how Capt. Safdar was charged and arrested. Your nonsense won't sell anymore," he said.

Pakistan People's Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and provincial minister Saeed Ghani have both "distanced their government from the arrest", Dawn reported. Quoting a statement, the PPP Chairman condemned the arrest and said he was "shocked to hear about the incident".

"Talking to Maryam Nawaz Sharif over the telephone, the PPP Chairman expressed complete solidarity with her, adding the manner in which the arrest was made is against the traditions of Sindh," the statement read.

It said the Sindh government "was not informed about the arrest" and that the PPP chief had asked the chief minister to investigate the incident fully and to take all measures to secure Captain Safdar's release. (ANI)

Thai Parliament to convene special session over anti-govt protests in Bangkok

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Bangkok [Thailand], October 19 (ANI/Sputnik): Thai lawmakers will meet for an extraordinary parliament session to discuss the demands put forward by participants of the ongoing anti-government rallies in Bangkok, Parliament President Chuan Leekpai said on Monday.

"The lawmakers of the government and opposition parties agreed today that there was a need to convene an emergency parliament session to find a way out of the situation in Bangkok and in the country in connection with the mass protests, and it was decided to convene such a session," Chuan told reporters.

The official did not specify the exact date and time of the session.

The parliamentary opposition has been pushing for an emergency meeting since Thursday when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared a state of emergency in Bangkok set to last no longer than 30 days. The decree banned gatherings of more than five people and granted law enforcement agencies special powers.

The opposition has called the introduction of the state of emergency illegal since the demonstrations were peaceful and neither threatened national security nor public order.

Protests in Thailand are now in their third month, with thousands of pro-democracy protesters calling for large-scale constitutional reforms. The protesters demand the dissolution of what they call Prayut's military dictatorship. They also call for limiting the monarchy's power and scrapping the strict laws prohibiting criticism of the king. (ANI/Sputnik)

Tech giant Google shuts down 'Trusted Contacts' app, will end support by December 1

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California [US], October 19 (ANI): Tech giant Google recently shut down its Trusted Contacts app that allowed its users to share location with a trusted contact (parents, family, or kids) when in an emergency.

According to Mashable, as mentioned on the Google page, Trusted Contacts will not be supported after December 1, 2020. If the app is installed on a device, the user can continue to use it until the said date. However, the support will end post-December this year.

Google stated that the user can share location with others during emergencies by setting up 'Location Sharing' on Google Maps. Apart from location sharing, one can enjoy a slew of other safety features on Google Maps.

As per Mashable, the tech company had announced the 'Trusted Contacts' feature back in 2016 where it was first launched only for Android users as a means to share location with others. However, the app is now not available anymore on the Apple app store and Google Play Store. (ANI)

Flood death toll in Cambodia rises to 25

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Phnom Penh [Cambodia], October 19 (ANI/Xinhua): Flash floods in Cambodia have so far claimed 25 lives and forced the evacuation of 37,396 people, Seak Vichet, a spokesman for the National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM), said on Monday.

Tropical storm-triggered rains caused floods in 19 of the kingdom's 25 cities and provinces since the beginning of the month, he said, adding that 312,224 people have also been affected.

"As of Monday morning, the floods have killed 25 people," he told Xinhua, adding that the worst-hit provinces included Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Pursat and Kandal as well as Southwestern suburb of Phnom Penh.

The floods have also inundated 73,720 houses and 293,177 hectares of rice and other crops, the spokesman said. Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training spokesman Heng Sour said on Monday that 77 garment and footwear factories in Phnom Penh and Kandal province have been hit by rain-induced floods, and 23 of them suspended their operations temporarily.

"Approximately 17,000 workers were affected by the suspension of production," he told Xinhua.

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen wrote on his official Facebook page on Monday that the government has so far raised more than 7 million U.S. dollars from charitable people to help the flood-stricken victims.

Floods usually hit Cambodia between August and October. Last year, Mekong River and flash floods claimed 30 lives, as storms killed eight people and injured 131 others, according to the NCDM. (ANI/Xinhua)

France to probe dozens of hate groups after teacher's beheading , says interior minister Gerald Darmanin

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Paris [France], October 19 (ANI): The French security forces are set to carry out "numerous probes" into online hate and radical Islam groups in wake of the beheading of a teacher by a teenager, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday.

"Not a minute's respite for the enemies of the Republic. More than 80 online hate investigations following the Friday attack. 51 associative structures will see visits from state services all week long and several of them will be dissolved," Darmanin wrote on Twitter, as quoted by Sputnik.

Darmanin proposed the dissolution of CCIF (Collective Against Islamophobia in France) and BarakaCity groups, the minister specified in a separate tweet, describing them as "enemies of the Republic."

The French Senate earlier on Monday "deliberated" a draft law that seeks to prohibit justification of crimes with ethnic or religious motives on constitutional grounds, according to Sputnik.

"Believing that community aspirations are making themselves heard more and more, Philippe BAS, Bruno RETAILLEAU, Herve MARSEILLE and several of their colleagues wish, through this proposed constitutional law, to reaffirm that the laws of the Republic prevail over standards arising from religious convictions or rules based on ethnicity," the Senate said in a statement.

Sputnik reported that that the bill envisions amending Article 1 of the French Constitution, allowing the equality of all before the law regardless of origin, race or religion, by affirming the principle, under which "no individual or group may rely on their origin or religion to exempt themselves from respect for the common rule."

The statement further read that the bill also seeks to complete Article 4 of the Constitution with a "provision protecting freedom" to form and manage activities of political parties with respect for secularism "in order to prevent communitarian parties."

On Friday, French history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded in the outskirts of Paris. The main suspect of the attack, a Moscow-born Chechen-teenager who identified as Abdullakh Anzorov, was shot dead by security forces.

The attack came after 47-year-old Paty showed cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad to his students at the school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of Paris.

The investigation into the matter continues, following the Defense Council meeting on Sunday, chaired by French President Emmanuel Macron, who ordered the strengthening of security in schools across France after the fall break.

According to the media reports, 11 people, including members of the killer's family, have been taken into custody over the deadly attack.

On Sunday tens of thousands of people participated in rallies across France to honour slain teacher Samuel Paty and to defend freedom of expression. (ANI)

Suresh Rajagopalan takes over the reins as Wibmo inc. CEO

Wibmo Inc. logo

Bangalore (Karnataka) [India], Oct 19, (ANI/PRNewswire): Wibmo Inc., a global leader in digital payments and payments security solutions, today, announced the appointment of Suresh Rajagopalan as its new Chief Executive Officer.

He joined Wibmo in April 2020 as the Chief Business Officer. He succeeds Govind Setlur, who will now function in an advisory capacity chairing Wibmo's Advisory Council, as the organization accelerates its international expansion. Wibmo, co-founded by Govind in 1999, was acquired by PayU in 2019. As new Wibmo CEO, Suresh will become part of PayU's leadership team and report to Anirban Mukherjee, CEO, PayU India.

Suresh has close to three decades of work experience in technology, product management, program management, strategic planning, and business development. Prior to joining Wibmo, he has worked with leading Middle Eastern and African banks and Infosys Technologies. In his last assignment he worked with FSS Technologies as President - Retail payments, responsible for product, platform, and solution verticals.

"Suresh is the right leader to pick up the reins after Govind," said Anirban Mukherjee, CEO, PayU India. "His extensive background in technology and business development will help us develop strategic alliances, strengthen existing partnerships, and expand our presence globally. We believe his strong leadership experience will help Wibmo scale greater heights."

Having been a part of core banking operations and issuer-side banking, Suresh's vast experience will be invaluable in leading Wibmo from the front.

"I'm honored to take up this role," said Suresh Rajagopalan. "It is amazing to see how Wibmo has flourished under Govind's leadership over the past two decades. I believe Wibmo has a great business model and a talented, cohesive team. Our inherent capabilities with issuers along with PayU's expertise in servicing merchants will help us scale together as a stronger team, offering AI-powered neo-payments platforms to the industry."

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

Lt Gen SK Saini's visit to US Indo-Pacific Command increases military cooperation: US Army Pacific

Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen. S K Saini at the US Indo-Pacific command. ()Photo credit: US Army Pacific twitter

Washington [US], October 19 (ANI): The ongoing visit by Lt Gen. S K Saini, Vice-Chief of Army Staff, to the US Indo-Pacific command is building trust and interoperability between both the armies, which is central to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, the US Army Pacific said on Monday.

"Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. S K Saini visit builds trust and interoperability between the U.S.-and Indian Army. The U.S.-India Army-to-Army relationship is strong and opportunities exist for increased cooperation," the US Army Pacific said in a tweet.

"A close partnership between India and the United States is central to a free, open, inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region," the US Indo-Pacific command added.

Lt Gen. Saini is on a three-day visit to the US command, from October 17 to 20 with an aim to increase military cooperation between both the armies.

Following the visit, a two-plus-two dialogue between India and the US has been scheduled where both countries are expected to implement an extensive review of their strategic cooperation. (ANI)

India, US expected to sign BECA deal during 2+2 dialogue this month-end

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New Delhi [India], October 19 (ANI): Seeking to build close ties amid an ongoing conflict with China, India and the United States of America are expected to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial cooperation during the 2+2 dialogue between the Defence and Foreign Ministers of the two countries to be held on October 26-27 this month in New Delhi.

This is the third foundational agreement to be signed between India and the US after the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement in 2016 and 2018 respectively.

"The BECA is expected to be signed during the meeting between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper on October 26-27 with their Indian counterparts including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The agreement will ensure that the armed forces of the two countries start talking to each other on enhancing geospatial cooperation," government sources said here.

Sources said the negotiations between both the sides on this agreement had been completed some time ago and after the clearance by the government, it is ready to be signed during the dialogue.

It is believed that the signing of BECA and the follow-up arrangements between the sides will allow India to use American inputs on geospatial intelligence and to enhance military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons like cruise, ballistic missiles and drones.

India and the US have been working very closely in the field of defence and security as India has acquired equipment worth around USD 20 billion from there in the last 15 years including the C-17 Globemasters and the C-130J Super Hercules Special Operations transport aircraft which have become the mainstays of the Indian Air Force's heavy-lift fleet.

In the field of choppers also, the American Chinook heavylift and Apache attack helicopters have come as force multipliers for the armed forces. The Army is also using the Ultra Light Howitzers from the US while the Navy has also recently opted for the American MH-60 Romeo anti-submarine warfare multirole choppers for its requirements.

The two sides are also going to hold regular military exercises with the Army set to hold the 'Yudh Abhyas' and 'Vajra Prahar' with American troops early next year while the Navy is going to take part in the Malabar series exercise in November in the Indian Ocean with the Australian and Japanese Navies also set to participate. (ANI)

Will super apps become as popular in India as they have in Southeast Asia?

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By Lee Kah Whye

Singapore, October 19 (ANI): When Ant Group, previously Ant Financial, goes public simultaneously in Shanghai and Hong Kong in the next days or weeks, it will be the largest IPO of all time.

Media reports speculate that Ant will have a market value of at least USD200 billion upon listing and that value may skyrocket once it starts trading. If this happens, Ant will have a market capitalisation which is more than twice of esteemed financial institutions like Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, and three times that of HSBC Holdings.

Ant said it generated USD 17 billion in revenue in 2019 up 40 per cent from 2018 and a profit of around USD2.5 billion. For the first six months of 2020, it made USD 3 billion in net profit on revenue of USD10.5 billion, netting it an astonishing profit margin of around 30 per cent.

Ant, the rebrand of Alipay, started as a humble mobile payment platform created by Alibaba, China's e-commerce giant. It is what is now known as a "super app".

Super apps are all-in-one mobile-based software application on which one can perform a plethora of tasks without toggling out of it. They are closed ecosystems. These days, depending on the app, you can hail a ride, order takeaway food, shop online, book a hotel, buy cinema tickets, buy airline tickets, buy insurance, perform banking transactions, trade in the financial markets and the list goes on.

China is where super apps first started becoming popular. Alipay together with its main competitor WeChat Pay, dominate 90 precent of the Chinese mobile payment market. iMedia Research estimates that this market is worth about USD52 trillion and there are about 790 million active users in China of such payment platforms. Value of transactions is growing at a rate of about 20 to 30 percent every year.

WeChat, owned by China technology conglomerate Tencent, started as a messaging app. It has now over one billion active users of its messaging platforms. In addition, people can book rides, order food delivery, play video games, make payments, shop online and even buy insurance on the app.

In Singapore, the most popular super app is Grab. On the Grab app, you can among other things book transport services, shop online for various items including groceries, buy insurance, book hotels, buy attraction tickets and order food delivery.

Grab is valued at a more modest USD15 billion compared with Ant. It first started as a taxi-hailing app in neighbouring Malaysia. It has now expanded to other Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and also Japan.

Its closest competitor, Gojek, started in Indonesia and is valued at USD 10 billion. Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines are the other countries Gojek operates in.

Both Grab and Gojek are startups which are privately owned. Industry analysts say they are both unprofitable.

During the height of the COVID-19 enforced economic shutdown, super apps in Southeast Asia were not spared the resultant financial fallout as consumption of services tumbled. With transport services the main revenue driver for the two main players, they were hit especially hard as people stayed at home.

However, the bright spot is that the lockdown accelerated the digitalisation trend. As consumers avoided leaving their homes unnecessarily for fear of catching the virus, they were getting used to the online platforms, buying essential items and ordering food online. Even as the lockdowns lifted, this behaviour appears to have persisted and people are continuing to use digital services. These apps will very soon be providing new services for example banking, wealth management, selling cinema ticket, accommodation and flights.

Morgan Stanley researcher Mark Goodridge estimates that the size of the super app market in Southeast Asia is currently worth about USD 4 billion. This is expected to accelerate almost six times to USD 23 billion by 2025. He adds that the future of super apps will be driven by fintech, digital banking and e-commerce, besides ride booking, ride-sharing and food delivery which are the main services today.

Huge investments are however still required for the Southeast Asian super apps. Winners in the Southeast Asia super app race need to have access to more capital. In his report, Goodridge suggests that these companies will have to fork out twice the money they have already spent. During the 2010-19 period, USD 257 billion was invested by Chinese companies in their super apps compared with USD 43 billion spent by their Southeast Asian counterparts. Based on a per capita comparison, this works out to USD 184 invested per person in China compared with USD 75 per person in Southeast Asia.

The huge investments that will be required would apply anywhere else including India.

In India Paytm is already offering some services alongside its payment offerings. However, it is far from becoming a super app.

The game-changer would be when the two giants of Indian industry, Reliance and Tata Sons launch their super apps.

India's Tata group says its working on building a super app that combines its disparate consumer businesses. Tata's individual companies span Indian Hotels, Titan jewellers, Trent fashion stores, groceries, airlines, electronic goods and even a joint venture with Starbucks.

According to Mint newspaper, Tata is talking to Walmart for a USD 25 billion investment in a super app which they hope will launch in December or January combining fashion, lifestyle, electronics retail, food, groceries, insurance and financial services as well as digital content and education.

Walmart's Flipkart already boasts e-commerce, games and video including importantly mobile payment services PhonePe.

Reliance Industries has already persuaded the likes of American investment firm KKR, Google, Silver Lake Partners, Intel and Qualcomm to take a stake in its Jio Platforms, is rumoured to be in discussions with Facebook to invest in a new super app. Its advantage is that its Jio Networks has nearly 400 million mobile users.

It also already has a payment platform JioMoney as well as a leading shopping presence in the form of Reliance Retail. With the anticipated deal with Facebook, it would not be a surprise if this combination also emerges as a formidable player in the Indian super app space. (ANI)

Taiwan, India growing closer amid Chinese aggression, censorship: Report

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Washington [US], October 19 (ANI): Taiwan and India do not have formal diplomatic ties but their citizens have bonded over a shared feeling of being targets of Chinese aggression and censorship, reported The Diplomat.

As China and India are engaged in border stand-off, netizens support their counterparts in Taiwan and Hong Kong, bringing along masala chai to become an adjacent member of the online pro-democracy "Milk Tea Alliance."

Ahead of Taiwan National Day, the Chinese Embassy in India sent guidelines to Indian media on how to refer to Taiwan. The move backfired and led to outrage in both India and Taiwan.
China in recent years has also increased military drills around Taiwan, with almost 40 Chinese warplanes crossing the median line between the mainland and Taiwan on September 18-19 -- one of several sorties the island's President Tsai Ing-wen called a "threat of force."

"It looks like communist China is hoping to march into the subcontinent by imposing censorship," Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted on October 7. "Taiwan's Indian friends will have one reply: GET LOST!"

The Chinese demand did, in fact, spur a flurry of op-eds and news coverage of Taiwan's National Day and the state of Taiwan-India ties, in both countries.

In India, #TaiwanNationalDay trended on Twitter throughout the day on October 10 as internet users, along with journalists and politicians, sent well wishes to Taiwan.

Y. Satya Kumar, national secretary of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tweeted: "Greetings to my Taiwanese brothers and sisters on #TaiwanNationalDay. India stands in solidarity with the courage, strength and resolve that you people have displayed in your struggle against colonialism and oppression by the imperial power!"

Indian Twitter users followed Taiwanese accounts, including that of President Tsai Ing-wen, en masse. Tsai thanked her new followers on Tuesday by tweeting several photos from her trip to India in 2012, writing: "Your architectural marvels, vibrant culture & kind people are truly unforgettable." (ANI)

US to offer loans to lure developing countries to shun Chinese telecom gear

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Washington [US], October 19 (ANI): The US government is making efforts to persuade developing countries to stop using Chinese telecommunication equipment, offering financial assistance to use alternatives that Washington deems safer.

The United States is ready to offer loans and other financings, potentially worth billions of dollars in total, to countries to buy hardware from suppliers in democratic countries rather than from China, Wall Street Journal reported citing Bonnie Glick, the deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is spearheading the effort.

According to the report, the USAID, which is known for providing food assistance than technology, will dispatch staff to meet politicians in the developing countries with an aim to persuade them that using telecom equipment from two Chinese giants, Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp is a bad idea.

The offer of financial assistance represents a new tool Washington is deploying as it broadens the tech Cold War with China.

The Trump administration has been trying to curb Chinese technological advances over what it says are concerns about spying and trade practices.

From the last two years, the US has lobbied allies to join the US in banning Chinese-made equipment for networks using 5G wireless technology, which promises superfast speeds to enable driverless vehicles, more efficient factories and other innovations.

The American officials say Huawei and ZTE pose threat to national security and the Chinese government can order the two companies spy or conduct cyberattacks, a scenario that the companies and Beijing say would never happen.

The US campaign initially focused on 5G deployments in Europe, where it has had some success, including in Britain and Poland. Other countries, most notably Germany, are still debating whether to restrict or ban Chinese-made equipment.

The USAID this month has signed an agreement with the Federal Communications Commission to jointly counter 5G deployments using Chinese equipment in developing countries, combining the FCC's technical and policy expertise and the aid agency's network of some 10,000 employees in about 100 countries.

Glick said the messages to developing countries will hit two themes: Chinese equipment is vulnerable to espionage, and the loans that Chinese finance agencies such as the state-controlled China Development Bank offer that finance the equipment can trap them.

"There's a lot of fine print," Glick said. "Countries are left in a tremendous amount of debt, and China takes over control of national assets," Glick said. (ANI)

Adele to host 'Saturday Night Live' next week with musical guest H.E.R.

Adele to host 'Saturday Night Live' next week with musical guest H.E.R.

Washington [US], October 19 (ANI): English singer-songwriter Adele is all set to assume host duties for next week's Saturday Night Live (SNL).

The 'Someone like you' singer will be assuming hosting duties during the sketch comedy show's Oct. 24 episode. H.E.R. will be the night's musical guest.

As p
er Variety, 'Saturday Night Live' announced the news on Sunday, following the third episode of the show's 46th season.

Adele, who has not released new music since her 2015 album '25', took to Instagram to share her excitement about hosting the show.

"Bloooooody hellllll I'm so excited about this!! And also absolutely terrified! My first ever hosting gig and for SNL of all things!!!! I've always wanted to do it as a stand alone moment, so that I could roll up my sleeves and fully throw myself into it, but the time has never been right," the singer penned down in the caption. "But if there was ever a time for any of us to jump head first into the deep end with our eyes closed and hope for the best it's 2020 right?"

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"It'll be almost 12 years to the day that I first appeared on the show, during an election...which went on to break my career in America, so it feels full circle and I just couldn't possibly say no!" she added.

"I am beside myself that H.E.R will be the musical guest!! I love her SO much I can't wait to melt into a flaming hot mess when she performs, then confuse myself while I laugh my arse off in between it all." the 32-year-old concluded her caption. (ANI)

South Korea reports 76 more COVID-19 cases

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Pyongyang [South Korea], October 19 (ANI/Xinhua): South Korea reported 76 more cases of the COVID-19 as of midnight on Sunday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 25,275.

The daily caseload stayed below 100 for the fourth straight day, but the double-digit expansion continued owing to small cluster infections in Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province as well as imported cases.

Of the new cases, 11 were Seoul residents and 15 were people residing in Gyeonggi province.

Twenty-six were imported from overseas, lifting the combined figure to 3,533.

No more death was confirmed, leaving the death toll at 444. The total fatality rate stood at 1.76 per cent.

A total of 56 more patients were discharged from quarantine after making full recovery, pulling up the combined number to 23,368. The total recovery rate was 92.45 per cent.

Since January 3, the country has tested more than 2.47 million people, among whom 2,437,188 tested negative for the virus and 16,763 are being checked. (ANI/Xinhua)

Skill center provides free training to women in J-K's Poonch

Rural self-employment training institute is providing free services to the women in rural areas of Poonch, J&K. (Photo/ANI)

Poonch (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], October 19 (ANI): Women in rural areas of Poonch in Dara Village, Jammu and Kashmir, are being imparted skill training to enable women's economic empowerment and which in turn contributes to the economy of the country.

Skill development is being imparted through Rural Self Employment and Training Institutes (RSETIs), under the Ministry of Rural Development.

Women in Poonch women have expressed gratitude towards the J-K administration and the training institute RSETI for giving them the opportunity to learn a new skill and become financially independent.

"With the tutelage, we'll earn a livelihood. We're getting experience which will benefit us in being independent," Japneet Kaur, a student enrolled for training told ANI

"We really needed a skill centre like this. Our trainer is cooperating with us. There are many families who need money but have no avenues. Such initiatives will not only bring women empowerment but also bring economic welfare to our UT and country," Preet Kaur, another student, said.

The women are being trained under strict SOPs of COVID-19 protocols. Safety measures like sanitisation and masks are compulsory throughout the session.

Mahinder Kaur is the trainer at RSETI, Poonch centre. "I think all the women enrolled in this course will definitely create livelihood opportunities for themselves after successful completion of this course. It is a great step towards empowering our girls," she told ANI. (ANI)

CM Studios and Lightstream win gold at Promax India Awards 2020

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Mumbai (Maharashtra), [India], October 19 (ANI/ PRNewswire): Rainshine Entertainment owned CM Studios and Lightstream earned Gold in the 'Branded Content Promotion' category at the Promax India Awards 2020.

The recognition was won for the promotional film created for 'Hoop Nation', a four-part lyrical docu-series created for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and sponsored by Uber. Held on October 9, the awards acknowledge creativity and excellence, and have emerged as a top recognition in the entertainment space in India.

'Hoop Nation' has been conceptualized and produced by CM Studios and Lightstream for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and presented by Uber. Earlier this year, the production won Silver at the Promax India Digital Re-Invent 2020 awards in the 'Best Branded Content' category. The first-of-its-kind format of this series was created by Ruchir Joshi - President & Head of Content, CM Studios, narrating four stories of human resilience and achievement enabled by Basketball, and features some of India's top indie artists such as Kaam Bhaari, Spitfire, Symphonic Movement, and Dee MC. The stories are brought to life through the interplay between lyrics and interviews, and were captured in the promotional film directed by

"The success 'Hoop Nation' has enjoyed, and the recognition it has earned is a matter of joy and honor for everyone involved in the project. And this would not have been possible without the support from our partners, NBA, and Uber. These back-to-back awards prove that there is an appetite and appreciation for immersive and long-form content. So, while the love audiences have shown can be gauged from the millions of views, receiving appreciation from peers and industry leaders is always special and encourage us to continually push the boundaries of creativity," said Anuraag Srivastava - COO, Rainshine Entertainment, and CEO, CM Studios & Lightstream.

"We were looking to create awareness about the sport in India through content that went beyond the sport itself. The response and feedback we received for this docu-series has been heartening. We are glad that in CM Studios and Lightstream we found the right partners to help us bring our vision to life," said Sunny Malik, Head of Global Content and Media Distribution, NBA India.

"Hoop Nation is a heartwarming series of stories about people, overcoming various trials and their rather challenging destinies. These stories of transforming their circumstances were inspiring and we were really excited to partner with CM Studios and Lightstream in the production. Our brand philosophy #MoveForward made for a seamless fit. This is a well-deserved win," added Sanjay Gupta, Marketing Director, Uber India.

Since the launch, the docu-series has received a total viewership of 28 million and a reach of 55 million across Facebook and YouTube.

The 'Hoop Nation' promotional film can be viewed here -

The full series can be viewed here -

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

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