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Huge Warning For Indian Navy In US Dossier On China

NEW DELHI, Nov 30: China may station aircraft carriers, large warships and submarines in its first overseas military base in Djibouti, a move that would have profound security ramifications for the Indian Navy.

Details of the base feature in the US Department of Defence's annual report on China, which is submitted to the US Congress. The report, released on Sunday, comes less than four months after NDTV published high-resolution satellite images of the base, including a large Chinese Navy landing ship at the dock. This is the backbone of China's amphibious assault forces.

"In late March 2022, a FUCHI II class (Type 903A) supply ship Luomahu docked at the 450-metre pier for resupply; the first such reported PLA Navy port call to the Djibouti support base, indicating that the pier is now operational," says the US Department of Defence's 2022 China Military Power Report.

"The pier likely is able to accommodate the PLA Navy's aircraft carriers, other large combatants, and submarines," it adds.

This is not the first time that the United States has raised the possibility of China getting ready to deploy aircraft carriers in the Indian Ocean region. In 2017, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., who was commanding the US Pacific Command, had said, "There is nothing to prevent them from sailing in the Indian Ocean today."

Since then, China has been busy developing its aircraft carriers and now has three operational ships, each with incrementally greater capability. The Indian Navy presently operates two aircraft carriers, the made-in-Russia INS Vikramaditya and the INS Vikrant which is still several months away from being fully operational.

The US report says, "PLA Navy Marines are stationed at the [Djibouti] base with wheeled armoured vehicles and artillery, but are currently largely dependent on nearby commercial ports due to the lack of experience utilizing its recently operational pier on its base."

Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces deployed in the Djibouti base "have interfered with U.S. flights by lasing pilots and flying drones, and the PRC (People's Republic of China) has sought to restrict Djiboutian sovereign airspace over the base", it notes.

In other words, the US military believes Chinese forces deployed in the region have used ground-based lasers to temporarily blind or impair the vision of US fliers in the region. These have also targeted US drones.

The base in Djibouti appears to be just the start of a process of Beijing identifying and ultimately acquiring land in countries where it can expand its military presence.

"Beyond its base in Djibouti, the PRC is very likely already considering and planning for additional military logistics facilities to support naval, air, and ground forces projection," the US report says. This includes securing a presence in the Indo-Pacific beyond the artificial islands that it has illegally constructed in the South China Sea.

"As of early 2021, dredgers were spotted off Cambodia's Ream naval base, where the PRC is funding construction work and deeper port facilities that would be necessary for the docking of larger military ships,'' says the US report.

China established a standing Naval patrol off the Horn of Africa 14 years ago. While there was initial scepticism about their ability to deploy far away from their home shores, the Chinese Navy was able to demonstrate the ability to keep ships on station for six to nine months. With the base in Djibouti fully operational, China will be able to permanently position warships in the region.

"The Persian Gulf is 8,400 km and the Horn of Africa 8,800 km from the nearest Chinese naval base of Hainan; both 10-15 days sailing time,'' says Admiral Arun Prakash (retired), India's former Navy Chief.

"So, China is merely fulfilling the objectives it had set out in its Defence White Papers of 2015 and 2019, of creating 'strategic strong points' in locations that provide support for overseas military operations and act as a forward base for deploying military forces overseas," he says.

Built at a cost of $590 million and under construction since 2016, China's base in Djibouti lies by the Bab-El-Mandeb Strait, one of the most critical channels of international commerce which guards the approach to the Suez Canal.

For the Indian Navy, the operationalisation of this base raises one key query. "For India, it is a portent that a Chinese Indian Ocean Squadron is in the offing," says Admiral Prakash. "Will it be led by an aircraft carrier?"

Russia Has Lost 1,500 Officers, Including 160 Generals, In Ukraine War: Report

LONDON, Nov 29: Russia has lost more than 1,500 military officers in the Ukraine war that has been going on for more than nine months, according to a report in Independent. It is based on an open-source tally that collates social media and other publicly-available information.

The tally has been compiled by a Twitter handle KilledInUkraine, which keeps posting Russian articles in on casualties. Russia has been continuing their attack on Ukraine, which has left their energy grid teetering on the brink of collapse and disrupted power and water supplies to millions.

Russia has suffered heavy casualty in the war, and among those killed are 160 generals and colonels, according to the tally.

Earlier this month, top US General Mark Milley said that more than 100,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, with Kyiv's forces likely suffering similar casualties.

Milley also said there is a chance for talks on ending the war, and that military victory may not be possible for either Russia or Ukraine.

"There has to be a mutual recognition that military victory is probably in the true sense of the word maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means," Milley said.

"There's... an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation."

President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Ukrainians to expect another brutal week of cold and darkness ahead, predicting that Russian attacks on infrastructure would not stop until Moscow runs out of missiles.

Meanwhile, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in its daily update on Monday that Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian attacks in several areas, including Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the Donetsk region over the past 24 hours.

Protests Swell In China Against Covid Lockdown, 'Step down, Xi' Slogans Chanted

BEIJING, Nov 29: Thousands of people from major cities and universities in China are on the streets to protest against the authorities demanding to be freed not only from incessant Covid tests and lockdowns but strict censorship and the Communist Party’s tightening grip over all aspects of life.

The protesters are also demanding Chinese President Xi Jinping's resignation. Across the country, “want freedom” has become a slogan for a groundswell of protests which is mainly led by the younger generation.

China is witnessing massive protests against restrictions that force millions of people to stay in their homes due to fear of the spread of COVID. The authorities relaxed anti-COVID regulations in a few locations, after the large-scale agitations but upheld its strict "zero- COVID" strategy on Monday.

“Give me liberty or give me death!” crowds shouted in several cities, according to videos circulating online, as vigils to mark the deaths of at least 10 people in a fire in Xinjiang spiraled into political rallies. Videos circulating online seem to suggest China’s strict zero-Covid policy initially prevented emergency workers from accessing the scene, angering residents across the country who have endured three years of varying Covid controls, as reported by CNN.

CNN has verified protests in 16 locations, with reports of others held in dozens of other cities and universities across the country. Some protesters also chanted for free speech, democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and other political demands across cities from the eastern financial hub of Shanghai to the capital of Beijing, the southern metropolis of Guangzhou and Chengdu in the west.

While protests in several parts of China appear to have largely dispersed peacefully over the weekend, some saw a stronger response from authorities. The security has been tightened across cities in a country where authorities have far-reaching surveillance and security capabilities.

In Beijing, a heavy police presence was apparent on Monday evening, a day after protests broke out there. In a symbolic protest against ever-tightening censorship, young demonstrators across China held up sheets of white paper – a metaphor for the countless critical posts, news articles and outspoken social media accounts that were wiped from the internet.

“I think in a just society, no one should be criminalized for their speech. There shouldn’t be only one voice in our society – we need a variety of voices,” a Beijing protester told CNN in the early hours of Monday as he marched down the city’s Third Ring Road with a thin pile of white A4 paper.

“I hope in the future, I will no longer be holding a white piece of paper for what I really want to express,” said the protester, who CNN is not naming due to concerns about repercussions for speaking out. Throughout the weekend, censors moved swiftly to scrub videos and photos of the protests from the Chinese internet, though the startling images made headlines worldwide.

In online commentaries, Chinese state media did not mention the protests, instead focusing on the strengths of Beijing’s anti-Covid policies, emphasizing they were both “scientific and effective.” Many protesters are bringing together many liberal-minded young people whose attempts to speak out might otherwise be thwarted by strict online censorship.

A Shanghai resident in their 20s who took part in the candlelight vigil in the early hours of Sunday said they were greeted by other young people holding white papers, and flowers and shouting “want freedom” as they walked toward the makeshift memorial, as reported by CNN.

“My friends and I have all experienced Shanghai’s lockdown, and the so-called ‘iron fist’ (of the state) has fallen on all of us,” they told CNN, “That night, I felt that I could finally do something. I couldn’t sit still, I had to go.” They broke into tears quietly in the crowd as the chants demanding freedom grew louder.

“At that moment, I felt I’m not alone,” they said. “I realized that I’m not the only one who thinks this way.” Political dissent. In some cases, the protests have taken on an even more defiant tone and openly called for political change.

During the first night of the demonstrations in Shanghai, a crowd shouted “Step down, Xi Jinping! Step down, Communist Party!” in an unprecedented, direct challenge to the top leader. On Sunday night, some protesters again chanted for the removal of Xi.

In Chengdu, the protesters did not name Xi, but their message was hard to miss. “Opposition to dictatorship!” chanted hundreds of people packing the bustling river banks in a popular food and shopping district on Sunday evening, according to videos and a participant, as reported by CNN.

“We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors!” they shouted in a thinly veiled reference to the Chinese leader, who last month began a norm-shattering third term in office. According to the participant, the crowd also protested against revisions to the party charter and the state constitution – which enabled Xi to further cement his hold on power and scrap presidential term limits.

The gathering started as a small candlelight vigil for people killed in the fire in Urumqi on Thursday, much like Shanghai. The vigil turned into a louder arena to air political grievances, as more people gathered.

“Everyone started shouting these slogans very naturally,” the participant was quoted by CNN as saying. “It is so rare that we have such a large-scale gathering and demonstration. The words of mourning didn’t feel enough, and we had to shout out some words that we want to say”.

To her, the experience of suffocating censorship inevitably fuels the desire for “institutional and spiritual freedom,” and mourning the victims and demanding democracy and freedom are two “inseparable” things.

“We all know that the reason why we have to keep undergoing lockdowns and Covid tests is that this is a political movement, not a scientific and logical response of epidemic prevention,” she said. “That’s why we have more political demands other than lifting lockdowns.”

The Chengdu protester said she felt encouraged by the wave of demonstrations sweeping the country. “It turns out there are so many people who are wide awake,” she said. “I feel like I can see a glimmer of light coming through ahead.”

Let's Be Clear, Golden Era With China Is Over: Rishi Sunak

LONDON, Nov 29: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made a clear break with the past on UK-China relations as he declared that the so-called "golden era" of bilateral ties is over due to the "systemic challenge" to British values and interests posed by increasing authoritarianism in Beijing.

In his first major foreign policy speech at the Lord Mayor of London's Banquet on Monday night, the British Indian leader said he wants to "evolve" the UK's approach towards one of Asia's largest economies as he criticised the country's human rights record.

However, he did acknowledge that the UK "cannot simply ignore China's significance in world affairs" and therefore his approach would be one of "robust pragmatism" taking a "longer-term view".

"Let's be clear, the so-called 'golden era' is over, along with the naive idea that trade would lead to social and political reform," said Sunak, with reference to the phrase coined during the David Cameron-led Conservative Party government around seven years ago.

"But nor should we rely on simplistic Cold War rhetoric. We recognise China poses a systemic challenge to our values and interests, a challenge that grows more acute as it moves towards even greater authoritarianism," he said.

Sunak was critical of China's handling of the ongoing anti-lockdown protests in the country and the arrest and beating of a BBC journalist over the weekend, saying instead of listening to people's concerns, the Chinese government "has chosen to crack down further".

"The media and our parliamentarians must be able to highlight these issues without sanction, including calling out abuses in Xinjiang and the curtailment of freedom in Hong Kong," he said.

"Of course, we cannot simply ignore China's significance in world affairs to global economic stability or issues like climate change. The US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and many others understand this too. So together we'll manage this sharpening competition, including with diplomacy and engagement," he said.

The 42-year-old former chancellor, who took charge at 10 Downing Street last month, had faced some criticism over the course of the Conservative Party leadership election back in August for being too soft on his approach towards China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping received an endorsement from the ruling Communist Party last month to continue in power for an unprecedented third term.

It would seem Sunak's first major foreign policy speech was intended to quash any such perception. It comes soon after a proposed meeting with Chinese President Xi, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia earlier this month, had to be cancelled in favour of an emergency meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members over developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"China is conspicuously competing for global influence using all the levers of state power. In the face of these challenges, short-termism or wishful thinking will not suffice," said Sunak.

"We can't depend on Cold War arguments or approaches, or mere sentimentality about our past. So we will make an evolutionary leap in our approach," he declared.

China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its man-made islands in the past few years.

Beijing claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and Taiwan have counterclaims. In the East China Sea, China has territorial disputes with Japan.

Sunak's speech confirmed an updated 'Integrated Review' that would take this approach into account and also strengthen partnerships with like-minded allies around the world, including India and the Commonwealth.

"By 2050, the Indo-Pacific will deliver over half of global growth compared with just a quarter from Europe and North America combined. That's why we're joining the Trans-Pacific trade deal, the CPTPP, delivering a new FTA [free trade agreement] with India and pursuing one with Indonesia," he said.

UK Ousts China From Construction Of Its New Nuclear Project Sizewell

LONDON, Nov 29: Britain on Tuesday ousted China's nuclear firm CGN from construction of its new Sizewell C nuclear power station, which will now be built with remaining French partner EDF.

The announcement came one day after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that the "golden era" of UK-China relations was "over", adding Beijing posed a "systemic challenge" to UK interests and values.

Rishi Sunak's Conservative government is stripping CGN of its controversial 20-percent stake.

The UK plans to invest £700 million ($843 million) in the project, a figure that was matched by EDF in a 50:50 joint venture.

Sizewell C, which is under development on the Suffolk coast in eastern England, will power the equivalent of about six million homes.

London says it will start producing electricity at the earliest in 2035.

Nuclear and renewables, such as offshore wind power, are seen as critical to ramp up Britain's energy security, after key producer Russia's invasion of Ukraine sent household gas and electricity bills rocketing this year.

The Sizewell decision sparks questions about CGN's role alongside EDF in the construction of Hinkley Point, southwestern England, in Britain's first new nuclear power plant in more than two decades.

"The UK government's investment in Sizewell C will support the project's continued development," the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The investment also allows for China General Nuclear's exit from the project, including buy-out costs, any tax due and commercial arrangements," it added.

The UK says Sizewell will deliver cleaner energy than fossil fuels and create thousands of jobs for the local area and national economy.

"The government's historic £700 million stake in Sizewell C is positioned at the heart of the new blueprint to Britain's energy sovereignty, as plans to develop the new plant are approved today," the BEIS added.

"This is expected to create 10,000 highly skilled jobs and provide reliable, low-carbon, power to the equivalent of six million homes for over 50 years."

The project represents a "revitalisation" of the UK nuclear industry with the first state backing of a nuclear project in more than three decades, it said.

Tuesday's news also comes after Britain launched an official energy-saving campaign this week to encourage Britons to use less energy in a policy U-turn, as it seeks to curb total energy demand by 15 percent by 2030.

"Today's historic deal giving government backing to Sizewell C's development is crucial to this, moving us towards greater energy independence and away from the risks that a reliance on volatile global energy markets for our supply comes with," added Business and Energy Secretary Grant Shapps.

"This is at the heart of a package of measures that... will ensure secure supply for now, and for generations to come."

The UK has a total of 15 nuclear reactors at eight sites around the country, but many of them are now approaching the end of their lifespan.

Britain is also turning to nuclear energy to help meet its long-running target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The government added on Tuesday that it would establish a new vehicle, Great British Nuclear, that will be tasked with overseeing development of more projects, with a further announcement expected in the new year.

Covid Lockdown Protests Rage In Chinese Cities

SHANGHAI, Nov 27: Hundreds of people took to the streets in China's major cities on Sunday to protest against the country's zero-Covid policy, in a rare outpouring of public anger against the state.

China's hardline virus strategy is stoking public frustration, with many growing weary of snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and mass testing campaigns.

A deadly fire on Thursday in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China's Xinjiang region, has become a fresh catalyst for public anger, with many blaming Covid lockdowns for hampering rescue efforts. Authorities deny the claims.

On Sunday night, at least 400 people gathered on the banks of a river in the capital Beijing for several hours, with some shouting: "We are all Xinjiang people! Go Chinese people!"

Reporters at the scene described the crowd singing the national anthem and listening to speeches, while on the other side of the canal bank, a line of police cars waited.

Cars honked in support as people remained in the area until the early hours, chanting and waving blank sheets of paper symbolising censorship.

Authorities blocked the road to stop cars passing, and around 100 plainclothes and police officers arrived on the scene.

At around 2:00 am (1800 GMT) they were joined by coaches of paramilitary police.

Eventually protesters agreed to leave after making officers promise their demands had been heard.

In downtown Shanghai -- China's biggest metropolis -- AFP saw police clashing with groups of protesters, as officers tried to move people away from the site of an earlier demonstration on Wulumuqi street, named after the Mandarin for Urumqi.

Crowds that had gathered overnight -- some of whom chanted "Xi Jinping, step down! CCP, step down!" -- were dispersed by Sunday morning.

But in the afternoon, hundreds rallied in the same area with blank sheets of paper and flowers to hold what appeared to be a silent protest, an eyewitness said.

China's hardline virus strategy is stoking public frustration, with many growing weary of snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and mass testing campaigns

Social media videos from the area that appeared to be taken in the late afternoon showed the crowd chanting.

By evening, dozens of policemen in yellow high-vis jackets formed a thick line, cordoning off the streets where the protests had taken place.

AFP saw multiple people arrested as officers told demonstrators to leave the area.

A foreigner who wished to remain anonymous said he had seen a standoff as police directed a crowd away from Wulumuqi street.

"The police appeared to be looking for individuals suspected of leading the protests," he said.

"Protesters directed their anger at the police and the party, using the 'step down!' refrain of the last few days."

By midnight the area was calm, though swamped by hundreds of police officers and dozens of cars lining both sides of the road in some places.

Men in hard hats and overalls were erecting tall blue metal barriers on the sides of the street, cutting off the pavement. When asked why, they said they did not know.

In the central megacity of Wuhan, where the coronavirus first emerged, multiple livestreams that were quickly censored showed crowds walking through the streets cheering and filming on their phones.

Footage of protests allegedly taken in major cities Guangzhou and Chengdu was also spreading online Sunday night, but AFP was unable to independently verify the videos.

Earlier in the day, around 200 to 300 students rallied at Beijing's elite Tsinghua University to protest against lockdowns, one witness who wished to remain anonymous told AFP.

A video that appeared to be taken in the same location showed students shouting, "Democracy and the rule of law, freedom of expression", and was quickly taken down.

Other vigils took place overnight at universities across China, including one at Tsinghua's neighbour Peking University, an undergraduate participant said.

He said some anti-Covid slogans had been daubed on a wall in the university.

Some of the words echoed a banner that was hung over a Beijing bridge just before the Communist Party Congress in October.

"I heard people yelling: 'No to Covid tests, yes to freedom!'," he said, adding there were between 100 and 200 people there.

Videos on social media also showed a mass vigil at Nanjing Institute of Communications, with people holding lights and white sheets of paper.

North Korea Aims To Have The World's Strongest Nuclear Force: Kim Jong Un

SEOUL, Nov 27: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country's intends to have the world's most powerful nuclear force as he promoted dozens of military officers involved in the recent launch of a new ballistic missile, state media reported on Sunday.

The announcement comes after Kim inspected a Nov. 18 test of the Hwasong-17, North Korea's largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and pledged to counter what he called U.S. nuclear threats.

North Korea's "ultimate goal is to possess the world's most powerful strategic force, the absolute force unprecedented in the century," Kim Jong Un said in the order promoting the officers, adding that building up the country's nuclear capabilities would reliably protect the dignity and sovereignty of the state and the people.

He described the Hwasong-17 as the "world's strongest strategic weapon" and said it demonstrated North Korea's resolve and ability to eventually build the world's strongest army.

North Korean scientists have made a "wonderful leap forward in the development of the technology of mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles," and were expected to expand and strengthen the country's nuclear deterrent capabilities at an extraordinarily rapid pace, Mr Kim was also quoted as saying.

Kim Jong Un was pictured in photos posing with scientists, engineers and military officials involved in the test.

According to state media, those workers pledged to defend the "absolute authority" of the party and Kim, and vowed that "our missiles will fly vigorously only in the direction indicated" by Kim Jong Un.

Capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, the launch of the Hwasong-17 prompted the United States to call for a United Nations Security Council presidential statement to hold North Korea accountable for its missile tests, which are banned by Security Council resolutions.

State media also showed Kim Jong Un's daughter accompanying him as he reviewed the officers. Her unexpected first appearance at the Hwasong-17 test has raised the prospect that leadership of the totalitarian state could pass to a fourth generation of Kims.

North Korea's powerful Standing Committee of the Supreme People's Assembly awarded the Hwasong-17 missile the title of "DPRK Hero and Gold Star Medal and Order of National Flag 1st Class", state news agency KCNA reported in another statement, using the initials of the country's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"(The missile) clearly proved before the world that the DPRK is a full-fledged nuclear power capable of standing against the nuclear supremacy of the U.S. imperialists and fully demonstrated its might as the most powerful ICBM state," KCNA said.

Niece of Iran's Supreme Leader Asks World To Cut Ties With Tehran: Report

DUBAI, Nov 27: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's niece, a well known rights activist, has called on foreign governments to cut all ties with Tehran over its violent crackdown on popular unrest kindled by the death in police custody of a young woman.

A video of a statement by Farideh Moradkhani, an engineer whose late father was a prominent opposition figure married to Ayatollah Khamenei'sister, was being widely shared online after what activist news agency HRANA said was her arrest on Nov. 23.

"O free people, be with us and tell your governments to stop supporting this murderous and child-killing regime," Ms Moradkhani said in the video. "This regime is not loyal to any of its religious principles and does not know any rules except force and maintaining power."

Khamenei's office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

HRANA said 450 protesters had been killed in more than two months of nationwide unrest as of Nov. 26, including 63 minors. It said 60 members of the security forces had been killed, and 18,173 protesters detained.

The protests, sparked by the death of young Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini after her arrest for "inappropriate attire", pose one of the strongest challenges to the country's clerical establishment since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Challenging the Islamic Republic's legitimacy, protesters from all walks of life have burned pictures of Mr Khamenei and called for the downfall of Iran's Shi'ite Muslim theocracy.

The video was shared on YouTube on Friday by her brother, France-based Mahmoud Moradkhani, who presents himself as "an opponent of the Islamic Republic" on his Twitter account, and then by prominent Iranian rights activists.

On Nov. 23, Mahmoud Moradkhani reported his sister's arrest as she was heeding a court order to appear at the Tehran prosecutor's office. Farideh had been arrested earlier this year by Iran's Intelligence Ministry and later released on bail.

HRANA said she was in Tehran's Evin security prison. Ms Moradkhani, it said, had earlier faced a 15-year prison sentence on unspecified charges.

Her father, Ali Moradkhani Arangeh, was a Shi'ite cleric married to Mr Khamenei's sister and recently passed away in Tehran following years of isolation due to his stance against the Islamic Republic, according to his website.

Farideh Moradkhani added in her video: "Now is the time for all free and democratic countries to recall their representatives from Iran as a symbolic gesture and to expel the representatives of this brutal regime from their countries."

On Thursday, the United Nations top human rights body decided by a comfortable margin to establish a new investigative mission to look into Tehran's violent security crackdown on the anti-government protests.

Criticism of the Islamic Republic by relatives of top officials is not unprecedented. In 2012, Faezeh Hashemi Rafsanjani, the daughter of late former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was sentenced to jail for "anti-state propaganda".

Malaysia's Long-Time Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim Sworn In As PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25: Malaysia's perennial opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister before the king in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, ending a five-day political impasse after inconclusive polls.

The ceremony at the National Palace closed the chapter on one of the most dramatic elections in Malaysia's history, after no party managed to secure a majority to form a government for the first time since independence in 1957.

Anwar's ascension to the premiership caps a turbulent political life, which has not only propelled him into the corridors of power but also landed him inside a jail cell.

"I will not tolerate corruption and abuses ... None should be marginalised under my administration," Anwar told a news conference.

He said his focus would be on the economy.

"This is a national unity government. All are welcome, on condition you accept the fundamental rules of good governance, no corruption and Malaysia for all Malaysians," Anwar said.

He said his multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition had been able to secure a majority after gaining seats from old foes in the former ruling bloc Barisan Nasional and another party in Sarawak state on Borneo island.

Anwar's coalition campaigned on an anti-graft message and won the most seats in the election with 82. That was ahead of the 73 won by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin's Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional bloc but still well short of the 112 needed for a majority.

Both leaders were summoned by the king this week in an attempt to break the deadlock but no deal could be struck. The king then held a special meeting with other royals on Thursday before the palace announced Anwar as the new premier.

Seeking to boost the legitimacy of his appointment, Anwar said his coalition would propose a vote of confidence in parliament on December 19.

Anwar's supporters were in a celebratory mood in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

"I got goosebumps, seriously," said 36-year-old Norhafitzah Ashruff Hassan. "He fought hard to be given the chance to be PM. I hope he performs well and proves his worth."

Muhammad Taufiq Zamri, a 37-year-old product manager said: "I cannot express in words the ecstatic feeling I have."

Anwar said he had received a congratulatory phone call from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan just before his news conference.

The premiership is the culmination of a 25-year rollercoaster for Anwar.

The firebrand former student activist was first poised to take the reins in the late 1990s, after serving as finance chief and deputy prime minister under Malaysia's political patriarch Mahathir Mohamad.

But the two had a bitter falling-out over how to handle the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Mahathir sacked his former protege, who was also expelled from their then-party the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), and charged with corruption and sexual assault. Anwar said the charges were politically motivated.

Anwar was sentenced to six years in jail for corruption in 1999 and then given an additional nine on a sexual assault charge the following year.

Street protests erupted and evolved into a movement for democratic reforms, with Anwar stringing together an opposition coalition from behind bars.

The Mahathir-Anwar tussle has dominated and shaped Malaysian politics over the past four decades, "alternately bringing despair and hope, progress and regress to the country's polity", according to Oh Ei Sun of the Pacific Research Center of Malaysia.

The Malaysian Supreme Court overturned Anwar's sexual assault conviction in 2004 and ordered him freed.

Anwar re-aligned with Mahathir during the 2018 elections, when his nonagenarian foe came out of retirement to challenge incumbent Najib Razak, who was mired in the billion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal.

Their detente scored a historic victory against UMNO and Najib, who is now serving a 12-year jail term for corruption.

Mahathir became prime minister for the second time, with an agreement to eventually hand the premiership to Anwar.

He never fulfilled that pact and their alliance collapsed after 22 months.

In his most recent bid to lead Southeast Asia's third-largest economy, Anwar once again pledged to end corruption and cultivate multi-ethnic harmony.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken congratulated Anwar in a statement, adding that the United States looked forward to deepening its "comprehensive partnership" with Malaysia "based on shared democratic principles and respect for human rights and the rule of law".

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi similarly applauded Anwar's election win, saying in a tweet that he hoped to enhance the two countries' "Enhanced Strategic Partnership".

James Chin, a professor of Asian studies at the University of Tasmania, told AFP the palace's announcement "will be welcomed internationally since Anwar is known as a Muslim democrat worldwide".

"His biggest challenge will be to lead Malaysia out of the economic malaise following the pandemic."

With Over 30,000 Cases, China's Daily Covid Tally Hits Record High: Report

BEIJING, Nov 24: China's daily Covid cases have hit a record high since the beginning of the pandemic, official data showed Thursday, as the country works to curb the spread with snap lockdowns, mass testing and travel restrictions.

China recorded 31,454 domestic cases -- 27,517 without symptoms -- on Wednesday, the National Health Bureau said.

The numbers are relatively small when compared with China's vast population of 1.4 billion.

But under Beijing's strict zero-Covid policy, even tiny outbreaks can shut down entire cities and place contacts of infected patients into strict quarantine.

The unrelenting policy has caused fatigue and resentment among swathes of the population as the pandemic nears its third year, sparking sporadic protests and hitting productivity in the world's second-largest economy.

Wednesday's figures exceed the 29,390 infections recorded in mid-April when megacity Shanghai was under lockdown, with residents struggling to buy food and access medical care.

Russia Declared 'A State Sponsor Of Terrorism' By European Parliament

BRUSSELS, Nov 23: The European Parliament on Wednesday designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, arguing Moscow's military strikes on civilian targets such as energy infrastructure, hospitals, schools and shelters violated international law.
European lawmakers voted in favour of a resolution calling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

The move is largely symbolic, as the European Union does not have a legal framework in place to back it up. At the same time, the bloc has already imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged the United States and other countries to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, accusing its forces of targeting civilians, which Moscow denies.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has so far refused to list Russia despite resolutions in both chambers of Congress urging him to do so.

The U.S. State Department currently names four countries - Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria - as state sponsors of terrorism, meaning they are subject to a defence export ban and financial restrictions.

In the EU, the parliaments of four countries have so far designated Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, according to the European Parliamentary Research Service: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland.

UK Supreme Court Rejects Scottish Independence Referendum Bid

LONDON, Nov 23: The United Kingdom's top court ruled on Wednesday the Scottish government cannot hold a second referendum on independence next year without approval from the British parliament, dealing a hammer blow to nationalists' hopes of holding a vote next year.

In 2014, Scots rejected ending the more-than 300-year-old union with England by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, but independence campaigners have argued the vote two years later for Britain to leave the European Union, which the majority of Scottish voters opposed, has materially changed the circumstances.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), announced earlier this year that she intended to hold an advisory independence vote on October 19, 2023, but that it had to be lawful and internationally recognised.

However, the British government in London has said it would not grant permission for another plebiscite, saying it should be a once-in-a-generation event. Polls suggest voters remain evenly split over whether or not they support independence and a vote would be too close to call.

The Scottish government's most senior law officer had asked the UK Supreme Court whether the Scottish government could pass legislation paving the way for an advisory second referendum without the approval of the UK parliament.

The court ruled it could not.

"The Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence," Robert Reed, the president of the UK Supreme Court, said.

Under the 1998 Scotland Act, which created the Scottish parliament and devolved some powers from Westminster, all matters relating to the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England are reserved to the UK parliament.

Indonesia earthquake toll soars to 268

BALI, Nov 22: Many of those killed and injured in a major earthquake on the Indonesian island of Java were children, rescuers say, as the death toll soars to 268.

Aprizal Mulyadi, 14, was at school when the quake hit, saying he was trapped after "the room collapsed and my legs were buried under the rubble".

He said he was pulled to safety by his friend Zulfikar, who later died after himself becoming trapped.

More than 1,000 people were wounded, officials say.

In its latest announcements on Tuesday, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) added that 151 people were still missing.

It also said that 22,000 houses had been damaged, and that more than 58,000 people had taken shelter in several locations in the region.

The 5.6 magnitude quake struck a mountainous region on Monday, causing landslides that buried entire villages near the West Java town of Cianjur.

Victims were crushed or trapped after walls and roofs caved in. "It all happened so fast," said Aprizal.

A representative of the National Search and Rescue Agency also confirmed that many of the dead were young people.

"Most of the casualties are children because at 1pm, they were still at school," said Henri Alfiandi.

The earthquake, which struck at a shallow depth of 10km (six miles), was followed by dozens of aftershocks which caused more damage as poorly built homes collapsed.

In the village of Cibereum, a family was trying to retrieve the body of their eldest son - a 28-year-old man who had been crushed when the other levels of the home fell on him.

Rescuers struggled to sift the rubble.

162 Killed In Indonesia Earthquake, Hundreds Injured

CIANJUR (Indonesia), Nov 21: A powerful earthquake killed more than 160 people in Indonesia's West Java province on Monday, with rescuers searching for survivors trapped under the rubble amid a series of aftershocks.

The epicentre of the 5.6 magnitude quake was near the town of Cianjur in mountainous West Java, about 75 km (45 miles) southeast of the capital, Jakarta. The region is home to over 2.5 million people.

West Java governor Ridwan Kamil said on Instagram that 162 people had been killed and 326 were injured.

Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) still placed the death toll at 62 and rescuers were searching for 25 believed to be trapped under rubble and its spokesperson said the search would continue through the night.

Ridwan told reporters that given many buildings have collapsed, the death toll could rise.

"There are residents trapped in isolated places ... so we are under the assumption that the number of injured and deaths will rise with time."

Indonesia straddles the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire", a highly seismically active zone, where different plates on the Earth's crust meet and create a large number of earthquakes and volcanoes.

The BNPB said more than 2,200 houses had been damaged and more than 5,300 people had been displaced. Ridwan put that number at 13,000 and said they would be spread out at various evacuation centres across Cianjur.

Electricity was down, disrupting communications, authorities said, while landslides were blocking evacuations in some areas.

Hundreds of victims were being treated in a hospital parking lot, some under an emergency tent. Elsewhere in Cianjur, residents huddled together on mats in open fields or in tents while buildings around them had been reduced to rubble.

Ambulance were still arriving at the hospital late into the night, bringing more people to the hospital.

Officials were still working to determine the full extent of the damage caused by the quake, which struck at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, according to the weather and geophysics agency (BMKG).

Vani, who was being treated at Cianjur main hospital, told MetroTV that the walls of her house collapsed during an aftershock.

"The walls and wardrobe just fell ... Everything was flattened, I don't even know the whereabouts of my mother and father," she said.

Ridwan said 88 aftershocks were recorded while weather agency BMKG warned of more landslides in the event of heavy rain.

Cucu, 48, was searching for one of her seven children.

"The children were downstairs and I was upstairs getting laundry. Everything collapse beneath me... One of my kids is still missing," she said.

In Jakarta, some people left offices in the central business district, while others reported buildings shaking and furniture moving, Reuters witnesses said.

In 2004, a 9.1 magnitude quake off Sumatra island in northern Indonesia triggered a tsunami that struck 14 countries, killing 226,000 people along the Indian Ocean coastline, more than half of them in Indonesia.

Rishi Sunak Unveils Plans To Attract Tech Talent To UK

LONDON, Nov 21: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday unveiled a new scheme for the world's 100 most talented young professionals in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) as part of his vision to make the UK a "beacon" to attract the "brightest and best" from around the world.

Addressing the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference in Birmingham, Sunak told an audience of business chiefs and professionals that control over the country's post-Brexit immigration policy remains crucial.

However, he pledged to create "one of the world's most attractive visa regimes for entrepreneurs and highly skilled people" and make use of the "Brexit freedoms" to strike trade deals with "the world's fastest-growing economies".

The UK is currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, which Sunak has previously told Parliament he wants to get done "as quickly as possible".

"We cannot allow the world's top AI talent to be drawn to America or China," said Sunak.

"That's why, building on the AI scholarships and Master's conversion courses I instigated as chancellor, we are launching a programme to identify and attract the world's top 100 young talents on AI," he said.

He went on to reiterated his determination to crack down on illegal immigration to the country to build trust in the system following Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) to end the free movement of people within the economic bloc.

"We must be honest with ourselves. Part of the reason we ended the free movement of labour was to rebuild public consent in our immigration system. If we are going to have a system that allows businesses to access the best and brightest from around the world, we need to do more to give the British people trust and confidence that the system works and is fair.

"That means tackling illegal migration and that is what I am determined to do," Sunak said.

His speech came as the CBI called on the government to allow more immigration to address the shortage of labour within certain sectors of the UK economy, such as hospitality.

"We don't have the people we need nor do we have the productivity," said CBI Director-General Tony Danker.

Sunak told the conference that harnessing innovation to drive economic growth, embedding innovation in public services and teaching people skills to become "great innovators" is how he believes the problems can be overcome.

"There's one factor above all that drives growth, over the last 50 years innovation was responsible for around half of the UK's productivity increases. But the rate of increase has slowed significantly since the financial crisis. This difference explains all our productivity gap with the United States," said Sunak.

"We are absolutely committed to using our Brexit freedoms to create the most pro-innovation regulatory environment in the world," he said.

Concluding his first major business policy speech as Prime Minister, the British Indian leader dubbed innovation as the "golden thread" of the UK's national story.

"The idea of what's yet to be discovered is surely even greater than all that's come before. I want the United Kingdom to be a place of learning, discovery and imagination, of potential realised and ambition fulfilled. That's how we'll improve the lives of all our people. And as your prime minister, that's what I'm going to do," he said.

US, Japan Hold Military Drills After North Korea Fires Missile: Report

TOKYO, Nov 18: Japan and the United States held joint military drills in the airspace over the Sea of Japan after North Korea fired a missile on Friday, Tokyo defence officials said.

The announcement came after Japan said the ballistic missile was believed to have landed in waters within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) west of Hokkaido.

The EEZ extends up to 200 nautical miles from Japan's coastline, beyond the limits of its territorial waters.

"Japan Self-Defense Forces and US armed forces conducted a bilateral exercise... amid an increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan," a joint staff statement distributed by the Japanese defence ministry said.

The tactical air drills followed "North Korea's ICBM-class ballistic missile launch that landed within Japanese Exclusive Economic Zone in the Sea of Japan", the statement said.

"This bilateral exercise reaffirms the strong will between Japan and the United States to respond to any situation," it added.

The exercise also "further strengthens the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-US Alliance", the statement said.

There are around 55,000 US military personnel stationed in Japan, most in the southern region of Okinawa, with air bases in suburban Tokyo and in the northern Aomori region.

Cost must be imposed on nations supporting terrorism: Modi at NMFT meet

NEW DELHI, Nov 18: Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday that terrorist organisations get money through several sources, including through state support, and that international organisations must not think that the absence of war means peace.

In his inaugural speech at the third No Money for Terror (NMFT) conference, which is being held in New Delhi, Modi said a cost must be imposed upon countries that support terrorism.

“Uprooting terrorism needs a larger, proactive, systemic response. If we want our citizens to be safe, we cannot wait until terror comes to our homes,” Modi said. He highlighted that all acts of terrorism should receive “equal outrage and action”.

“Terrorist organisations get money through several sources. One source is state support. Certain countries support terrorism as part of their foreign policy. They offer political, ideological and financial support to them. International organisations must not think that the absence of war means peace. Proxy wars are also dangerous and violent. There must be a cost imposed upon countries that support terrorism. Organisations and individuals that try to create sympathy for terrorists must also be isolated. There can be no ifs and buts entertained in such matters. The world needs to unite against all kinds of overt and covert backing of terror,” PM Modi added.

“Our country faced the horrors of terror long before the world took serious note of it. Over the decades, terrorism in different names and forms tried to hurt India. We lost thousands of precious lives, but we have fought terrorism bravely. The delegates have a chance to interact with a country and people who have been firm in tackling terror. We consider that even a single attack is one too many. Even a single life lost is one too many. So, we will not rest till terrorism is uprooted.”

The NMFT was started in 2018 as an initiative of the French government which had in 1989 laid the foundation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international body at the forefront of combating money laundering and terrorist financing.

“This is a very important gathering and it should not be seen as a gathering of ministers only, because it deals with a subject that impacts the entire humanity. The long-term impact of terrorism is particularly hard on the poor and on the local economy. Be it tourism or trade, nobody likes an area that is constantly under threat. And due to this, the livelihoods of people are taken away. It is all the more important that we strike at the root of terror financing,” Modi said.

This is the third edition of the NMFT conference. The first edition was in France and the second was in Melbourne. During the pandemic, the third conference, which India had promised to host, could not take place. As of now, 72 foreign countries are participating, India will be the 73rd. Apart from these, there are 15 multilateral international organisations such as Interpol, FATF, Europol and NGOs which are stakeholders in the anti-terror-funding resolve.

PM Modi added, “In today’s world, ideally there should be no need for anyone to remind the world of the dangers of terrorism. However, there are still certain mistaken notions about terrorism in some circles. The intensity of the reaction to different attacks cannot vary based on where it happens. All terrorist attacks deserve equal outrage and action. Further, sometimes, there are indirect arguments made in support of terrorism to block action against terrorists. There is no place for an ambiguous approach while dealing with a global threat. It is an attack on humanity, freedom and civilisation. It knows no boundaries. Only a uniform, unified and zero-tolerance approach can defeat terrorism.”

The Prime Minister said that fighting against a terrorist and fighting against terrorism are two different things. “A terrorist may be neutralised with weapons. Immediate tactical responses to terrorists may be an operational matter. But tactical gains will soon be lost without a larger strategy aimed at hurting their finances. A terrorist is an individual. But terrorism is about a network of individuals and organisations. Uprooting terrorism needs a larger proactive response. If we want our citizens to be safe, then we cannot wait until terror comes to our homes. We must pursue terrorists, break their support networks and hit their finances,” he said.

NIA DG Dinkar Gupta said at a press conference on Thursday that social media platforms are “being used to raise financing, funding or as crowdfunding platforms” and underlined it as “an issue that needs to be discussed.”

On Friday, PM Modi said one of the sources of terror funding is organised crime. “Organised crime should not be seen in isolation and these gangs often have deep links with terrorist outfits. The money made from gun-running, drugs and smuggling is pumped into terrorism. These groups help with logistics and communication too. Action against organised crime is extremely important in the fight against terror. At times, even activities like money laundering and financial crimes have been known to help terror funding. Fighting it needs global collaboration,” he said.

Modi said that in such a complex environment, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Financial Action Task Force (FATF), financial intelligence units, and the Egmont Group, are boosting cooperation in prevention, detection and prosecution of illegal fund flows. This has helped in the war against terror in many ways over the past two decades and also helps in understanding terror funding risks.

“Nowadays, the dynamics of terrorism are changing. Rapidly advancing technology is both a challenge and a solution. New kinds of technology are being used for terror financing and recruitment. Challenges from the dark net, private currencies and more are emerging. There is a need for a uniform understanding of new finance technologies. It is also important to involve the private sector in these efforts. From a uniform understanding, a unified system of checks, balances and regulations can emerge. But we must be careful about one thing. The answer is not to demonise technology. Instead, it is to use technology to track, trace and tackle terrorism,” he said.

“Today, cooperation is needed not only in the physical world but also in the virtual world too. The infrastructure used for cyber terrorism and online radicalisation is distributed. Some also offer weapons training from a remote location and online resources. Communications, travel, logistics there are many links of the chain in different countries. Each country can and must act against the part of the chain within the reach,” Modi said.

“Many different nations have their own legal principles, procedures and processes. Sovereign nations have a right to their own systems. However, we must also be careful not to allow extremists to misuse differences between systems. This can be prevented through deeper coordination and understanding between governments. Joint operations, intelligence coordination and extradition help the fight against terror. It is also important that we jointly address the problem of radicalisation and extremism. Anyone who supports radicalisation should have no place in any country,” he added.

The NMFT sessions will be chaired by senior ministers, including Union Home Minister Amit Shah and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.

India's G-20 will be inclusive, promises Modi as Bali declaration reflects his 'era not of war' message

BALI, Nov 16: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said India's G-20 presidency will be inclusive, ambitious, decisive and action-oriented as India took over the presidency of G-20 for the coming one year. In the next one year it will be our endeavour that G20 works as a global prome mover to give impetus to collective action, Modi said stressing on making women-led developmenet a priority in the G20 agenda.

"It is a matter of pride for every Indian as India takes over the presidency of the G20. We will organise G20 meetings in different states and cities in India. Together we will make G20 a catalyst for global change," Modi said.

The Bali declaration of the G-20 built up on Modi's recent message to Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war that today's era is not of war. In the G20 Bali Leaders' Declaration, the world leaders repeated PM Modi's advice and said today's era is of diplomacy and dialogue and not of war.

"It is essential to uphold international law and the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability. This includes defending all the Purposes and Principles enshrines in the Charter of the United Nations and adhering to international humanitarian law, including the protection if civilians and infrastrucure in armed conflicts. The use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is inadmissible. The peaceful resolution of conflicts, efforts to address crises, as well as diplomacy and dialugue are vital. Today's era must not be of war," the declaration said.

Russia Launches Around 100 Missiles In Fresh Strikes: Ukraine

KYIV, Nov 15: Kyiv said Russian forces launched "around 100" missiles against Ukraine on Tuesday in a fresh barrage of attacks targeting energy infrastructure that led to power outages and forced shutdowns.

"Around 100 missiles have already been launched. The occupiers surpassed October 10, when they launched 84 missiles," air force spokesman Yuri Ignat told Ukrainian television.

"Critical infrastructure facilities are their primary target. Some missiles were shot down, but information on that needs to be clarified," he added.

Modi reiterates calls for ceasefire in Ukraine at G20 Summit

BALI, Nov 15: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday reiterated his call for a return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine, saying the members of the G20 should show “concrete and collective resolve” to ensure peace and security in the world.

Addressing the first working session of the G20 Summit in Bali that focused on food and energy security, Modi also said the onus of creating a new world order for the post-Covid-19 period has fallen on the grouping of the world’s 20 largest economies as multilateral institutions such as the United Nations (UN) have been unsuccessful.

The G20 leaders have gathered for a two-day meeting in the Indonesian resort of Bali amid deep divisions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Western leaders such as US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have said they will use the summit to denounce Russia’s actions and to strengthen international support to oppose the war.

“I have repeatedly said that we have to find a way to return to the path of ceasefire and diplomacy in Ukraine,” Modi said in his address, speaking in Hindi.

He emphasised that finding a solution to the Ukraine crisis will be a focus of India’s presidency of the G20, which begins in December.

“The need of the hour is to show concrete and collective resolve to ensure peace, harmony and security in the world. I am confident that next year when the G20 meets in the holy land of Buddha and Gandhi, we will all agree to convey a strong message of peace to the world,” he said.

India has refrained from publicly criticising Russia’s invasion and consistently called for an end to hostilities and a return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue. Modi, who has spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy several times, has also suggested direct talks between the two leaders.

Noting that world leaders had made a serious effort to take the path of peace after World War 2, Modi said, “Now it’s our turn. The onus of creating a new world order for the post-Covid period lies on our shoulders. The need of the hour is to show concrete and collective resolve to ensure peace, harmony and security in the world.”

The G20 should “not hesitate to acknowledge that multilateral institutions such as the UN have been unsuccessful” in dealing with the global problems associated with climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and the developments in Ukraine, he said.

“And we have all failed to make suitable reforms in them [multilateral institutions]. Therefore, today the world has greater expectations from the G20, the relevance of our group has become more significant,” he added.

Modi congratulated President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, the current G20 president, for giving effective leadership to the grouping in a challenging global environment, with the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis causing havoc around the world.

“Global supply chains are in ruins. There is a crisis of essentials, essential goods all over the world. The challenge for the poor citizens of every country is more severe. Everyday life was already a struggle for them. They do not have the financial capacity to deal with the double whammy,” he said.

Modi said India ensured food security for its 1.3 billion citizens during the pandemic and also supplied food grains to many countries in need. However, the current shortage of fertilisers is a “huge crisis” for food security.

“Today’s fertiliser shortage is tomorrow’s food crisis, for which the world will not have a solution. We should build mutual agreement to maintain a stable and assured supply chain for both manure and food grains,” he said.

India is promoting natural farming, and re-popularising traditional food grains such as millets for sustainable food security. “Millets can also solve global malnutrition and hunger. We all must celebrate the International Year of Millets with great enthusiasm next year,” he added.

Energy security too is important for global growth and for India, the fastest growing economy, Modi said.

“We must not promote any restrictions on the supply of energy, and stability in the energy market should be ensured,” he said.

India is committed to clean energy and environment, and half of the country’s electricity will be generated from renewable sources by 2030. Time-bound and affordable finance and sustainable supply of technology to developing countries is essential for inclusive energy transition, Modi said.

“During India’s G20 presidency, we will work for global consensus on all these issues,” Modi said.

India will host the next G20 Summit in New Delhi in September 2023.

Modi is expected to hold several bilateral meetings with leaders of G20 members and guest countries on the margins of the summit on Wednesday.

People familiar with the matter said he is expected to meet French President Emmanuel Macron over lunch.

He is also expected to meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez Perez Castejon.

Modi Meets Rishi Sunak For First Time At G20 Summit

BALI, Nov 15: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today met his United Kingdom counterpart Rishi Sunak after assuming office for the first time on the sidelines of the 17th edition of the G20 Summit.

This is the first face-to-face meeting that took place between both leaders. Earlier, in October, Modi and Sunak spoke on the phone and emphasized the importance of an early conclusion of "a balanced and comprehensive" Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.

Modi arrived in Bali on Monday and met President of the Republic of Senegal Macky Sall, Netherland's PM Mark Rutte and US President Joe Biden.

PMO also said, "Multilateral summits present wonderful opportunities for leaders to exchange views on diverse issues. Prime Ministers @narendramodi and Mark Rutte interact during the @g20org Summit in Bali."


Istanbul bomb attack: Police says Syrian woman main suspect, detains 46

ISTANBUL, Nov 14: Istanbul Police Monday said it had detained 46 people over the bombing at Istiklal Avenue, the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, news agency Reuters reported. This includes Syrian woman Ahlam Albashir who is suspected to have planted the bomb.

In an initial questioning, the woman said she was trained by Kurdish militants in Syria and entered Turkey through northwest Syria’s Afrin region, the police said.

The explosion occurred around 4:13 PM (1313 GMT), leaving six Turkish residents dead. Others present on the bustling street before the attack fled the site, as ambulances and police vans arrived.

The Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had blamed Kurdish militants from Kobani for the attack on Istanbul. He said, “We have evaluated that the instruction for the attack came from Kobani.” Kobani is a city in northern Syria, where Turkish forces have been carrying out operations against Syrian Kurdish YPG militants in the past years.

PKK, an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party has been internationally listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United States and other members of the European Union, according to the country’s MFA website. YPG is a wing of the PKK.

The bomb explosion on Sunday left four dead at the scene and two at a hospital, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking before his departure to the G-20 summit in Bali, Erdogan called the explosion something that “smells like terrorism”, and said that its perpetrators would be punished.

About 81 people were wounded following the attack. Fifty people have been discharged from hospital, sparking concerns of a string of deadly bombings in Istanbul, similar to the ones carried out by outlawed Kurdish groups between 2015 and 2017.

6 Dead In Suicide Bombing At Istanbul Shopping Street, Many Injured

ISTANBUL, Nov 13: A strong explosion of unknown origin shook the busy shopping street of Istiklal in Istanbul on Sunday, leaving six people dead and wounding dozens more, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Turkey's vice president said a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

"It might be wrong if we say for sure that this is terror but according to first signs... there is a smell of terror there," Erdogan told a televised press conference.

"The relevant units of our state are working to find the perpetrators... behind this vile attack," he said.

Police cordoned off the area, where crowds were dense on Sunday afternoon, and helicopters were flying over the city centre as sirens were sounding.

"I was 50-55 metres (yards) away, suddenly there was the noise of an explosion. I saw three or four people on the ground," witness Cemal Denizci, 57, told AFP.

"People were running in panic. The noise was huge. There was black smoke. The noise was so strong, almost deafening," he said.

Parents swept their children up into their arms as they fled the area.

Authorities have given no indication of what caused the explosion.

According to a video journalist on the scene, the police have established a large security cordon to prevent access to the damaged area for fear of a second explosion.

A massive deployment of security forces equally barred all entrances, while a heavy deployment of rescue workers and police were visible.

The explosion occurred shortly after 4:00 pm (1300 GMT) in the famous Istiklal shopping street which is popular with locals and tourists.

According to images posted on social media at the time of the explosion, it was accompanied by flames and immediately triggered panic, with people running in all directions.

A large black crater was also visible in those images, as well as several bodies lying on the ground nearby.

Istiklal Street had already been hit in the past during a campaign of attacks in 2015-2016 that targeted Istanbul.

Claimed by the Islamic State group, those attacks killed nearly 500 people and injured more than 2,000.

Russia Says It Has Completed Retreat From Key Ukraine Kherson Region

KYIV, Nov 11: Moscow announced on Friday that its forces had completed their withdrawal from the strategic Ukrainian city of Kherson, after Ukraine said it had reclaimed dozens of landmine-littered settlements abandoned by the Russians.

The Russian defence ministry said it had finished the pullout of troops from the western bank of the Dnipro river, Russia's state TASS news agency reported, just two days after Moscow announced the retreat.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine, but the announcement would appear to contradict Ukrainian reports that thousands of Russian troops were still on the west side of the river.

Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Thursday it would take at least a week for Russia to pull out of Kherson. He estimated Russia still had 40,000 troops in the region, and said intelligence showed its forces remained in and around the city.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an overnight address that Ukrainian forces had liberated 41 settlements as they advanced through the south, indicating one of the swiftest and most dramatic shifts of control in almost nine months of war.

It was not possible to verify the extent of the Ukrainian advance or the status of Russia's retreat.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the Ukrainian governor of Kherson, posted a video on Telegram of soldiers from the 59th motorised brigade walking through the liberated village of Blahodatne, which is around 20 km (12 miles) from the outskirts of Kherson, waving Ukrainian flags.

In the village of Posad Pokrovskiy, about 12 km (7 miles) back up the road, wrecked buildings and a destroyed truck sitting on the highway to Kherson marked the former front line. A Ukrainian flag fluttered above a bus stop pitted by bullet holes.

Homes and buildings on both sides of the road were gutted by shellfire and shattered branches hung from the trunks of trees lining the highway. Ukrainian soldiers manned checkpoints waving at passing Ukrainian military vehicles.

If any Russian troops are still on the west bank of the Dnipro, Moscow must figure out how to ferry them to safety across a wide river under fire from the advancing Ukrainians.

The already damaged Antonivskiy bridge, the only road crossing from Kherson to the Russian-controlled eastern bank of the Dnipro River, collapsed, Ukraine's public broadcaster quoted local residents as saying. That could make it harder for Russian troops to flee while also stopping Ukrainian troops from following them across.

It is the third major Russian retreat of the war, and the first to involve abandoning such a large occupied city. Moscow's forces were driven in March from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv and ousted from the northeastern region of Kharkiv in September.

Kherson province is one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed from Ukraine in late September. The loss of the regional capital would appear to end dreams expressed by some Russians of seizing Ukraine's entire Black Sea coast, although Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the region's annexed status remained unchanged.

Ukrainian military analyst Yuri Butusov said the city of Kherson was within range of Ukrainian artillery and the closest Ukrainian reconnaissance patrols were less than 18 km (11 miles) from the city.

"Ukrainian forces are trying to break into Kherson on the shoulders of the retreating enemy," he said. "In the area of the river crossings, where Russian troops are concentrated, firefights are breaking out."

Explosives experts were going into areas retaken from Russian forces to rid them of thousands of unexploded landmines they left behind, Mr Butusov said.

In his address, President Zelenskiy said that 170,000 square km (66,000 square miles) remained to be de-mined, including places where there was still fighting and "where the enemy will add landmines before its withdrawal, as is the case now with Kherson".

The region's Ukrainian-appointed governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said on Telegram that Russian troops had "taken away public equipment, damaged power lines and wanted to leave a trap behind them".

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Zelenskiy, said on Thursday Russia wanted to turn Kherson into a "city of death", mining everything from apartments to sewers and planning to shell the city from the other side of the river.

Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians, though its forces have pulverised Ukrainian cities in a conflict that has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Russian fired missiles overnight at Mykolaiv, the nearest big Ukrainian-held city to Kherson, hitting a residential area and killing six people, Ukrainian officials said.

Rescuers were digging through the debris of an apartment block for survivors on Friday after the Russian attack, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said.

Ukraine's defence minister said he did not know when the war would end but that it was clear to him how it would end.

"It will be victory for Ukraine. It will (be) when we are in a position to de-occupy or liberate all Ukrainian temporarily occupied territories to the borders of 1991, including Crimea, Luhansk, and Donetsk," Reznikov said.

Xi Jinping To Meet Joe Biden At G20 Summit In Indonesia

BEIJING, Nov 11: Xi Jinping will attend the G20 summit in Indonesia next week and meet his US counterpart Joe Biden, Beijing's foreign ministry confirmed on Friday, in their first in-person talks since the Chinese president sealed a historic third term as leader last month.

The two met prior to Biden taking office in January 2021 and have spoken by phone a number of times since then, but the Covid-19 pandemic and Xi's subsequent aversion to foreign travel have prevented them from meeting in person.

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing Xi will meet Biden and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron next week in Bali, between November 14 and 17, as well as Senegal's Macky Sall and Argentina's Alberto Fernandez.

He will then travel to Thailand from November 17 to 19 to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, Zhao confirmed.

The White House has already said Biden will meet Xi on Monday, when the "leaders will discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication", as well as how to "responsibly manage competition and work together where our interests align".

The US and China have a massive investment and trade relationship but are also challenging each other's military and diplomatic influence, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

They also face a potential flashpoint over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, a close ally of the US that Xi has made clear he believes should be under Beijing's control.

On Wednesday, Biden said he has already made clear to Xi that he is "looking for competition, not conflict", adding they will discuss Taiwan, but that the US stance on the island "has not changed at all".

After almost three years of self-imposed pandemic isolation where international diplomacy was largely conducted via videolink, China now aims to shore up its global alliances -- especially with developing countries -- in the face of increased competition with the US and a world destabilised by the Ukraine war.

A flurry of state visits to China this month has highlighted the importance of maintaining trade and other diplomatic ties -- even as China acts more assertively to defend its interests.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz defied fierce domestic criticism to visit Beijing last Friday with a business delegation in tow, vowing to deepen trade cooperation with China alongside raising contentious issues such as the Ukraine war.

His visit capped off a string of trips by the leaders of Pakistan, Tanzania and the Vietnamese Communist Party -- the most numerous face-to-face meetings Xi has conducted since hosting more than a dozen world leaders at February's Beijing Olympics.

France's foreign minister last week said Macron is likely to visit China in the coming months.

Imran Khan Shot At Rally In Pakistan, 1 Killed, Many Injured

LAHORE, Nov 3: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan was rushed to a Lahore hospital after he was wounded in firing at his rally in Wazirabad in Pakistan's Punjab on Thursday afternoon. A supporter was killed and 13 others were injured in what his party called an "assassination attempt" on the former cricketer during his ongoing march to Islamabad against the army establishment-backed central government.

His right leg bandaged, Khan, 70, was seen waving as he was shifted into an SUV — an early indication that the injury wasn't critical. He was later reported "out of danger".

The attack brought back chilling memories of how another former PM, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated during a rally in 2007.

A police video later showed the attacker, who was overpowered and arrested, saying he was not backed by anyone. "I wanted to kill Imran Khan as he's been misleading the people," he said on camera. There were unconfirmed reports of another gunman, with an automatic rifle, at the spot.

The attacker, a young man, fired pistol shots from below at Imran Khan as he stood atop a container-truck, which serves as the centrepiece of his 'Haqeeqi Azadi' (True Freedom) March against the Shehbaz Sharif government.

"I shot #ImranKhan because he was misleading the people... I operated alone": #ImranKhan shooter in video released by police

At least four of Imran Khan's party leaders were among those injured, one of whom — parliamentarian Faisal Javed Khan said a supporter was "martyred".

Imran Khan was taken to Lahore's Shaukat Khanam Hospital, 100 km away, that he'd got built in his mother's memory in the 1990s.

The attack in Gujranwala district, about 200 km from Islamabad, came just seven months after Imran Khan's government fell upon losing the defence establishment's confidence. He has since been campaigning against the army and intelligence agency ISI's "interference" that "has undermined democracy by installing a puppet government".

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the firing and directed Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah to seek an immediate report from the police and administration.

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the PPP, whose mother Benazir was killed in similar firing, said: "I strongly condemn the attack on Imran Khan. I am praying for his swift recovery."

Federal government will extend all support necessary to Punjab govt for security & investigation. Violence should have no place in our country's politics, said Shehbaz Sharif.

Imran Khan's party — Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) — has raised fingers at the central government and demanded answers from Punjab's provincial government, which is run by another party.

Once seen as having been "selected" by the army — he served about four years until last April — Khan has been marching to demand resignation of the new government formed by his two main opponents that are each other's rivals otherwise, the Sharifs' Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and the Bhuttos' Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Barely an hour before the firing, Imran Khan had told supporters in another part of Wazirabad town, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech, that they should accompany him to a different area instead, and promised to speak there, Geo reported.

His party tweeted a video showing him boarding the container-truck from his black SUV.

The firing took place minutes later as he got to the roof for his speech.

The gunman fired from a pistol from the left side of where Imran Khan was standing; he could not get close enough for a clear shot in a tight crowd, reports said. A party worker grabbed his forearm and dragged him to the ground.

The man killed was identified as Moazzam, 35.

Those injured included Ahmad Nasir Chattha, son of local legislator Hamid Nasir Chattha, shot in both legs. A 13-year-old child received a bullet in the abdomen.

UK's Rishi Sunak Committed To Free Trade Pact With India: Downing Street

LONDON, Nov 2: Intensive negotiations continue towards a free trade agreement (FTA) between India and the UK and new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is committed to achieving a balanced deal, Downing Street said on Wednesday.

Rishi Sunak, who took charge at 10 Downing Street last week, had a "very warm" introductory call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during which both sides expressed their commitment towards an FTA.

The UK Prime Minister's office also reiterated that the focus remains on a balanced trade deal that benefits both sides and therefore no timeframe is being specified after a proposed Diwali timeline had to be abandoned last month amid political turmoil in the UK.

"Both sides are very committed to it, intensive negotiations are continuing led by the Department for International Trade (DIT)," a spokesperson told reporters at a Downing Street briefing.

"The Prime Minister had a very warm, introductory call with Prime Minister Modi last week. In terms of the speed of it [FTA], we have been very clear that we won't sacrifice quality to achieve speed. We will sign when we have a balanced deal that represents both of our interests but both sides remain committed," the spokesperson said.

In his first phone call after taking charge as Prime Minister last week, Rishi Sunak had referenced "good progress" being made to finalise the FTA.

"The Prime Minister hoped the UK and India could continue to make good progress in negotiations to finalise a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement," a Downing Street readout of the call said.

The two leaders are expected to meet in person at the G20 Summit in Indonesia later this month, unless they meet at the COP27 Summit in Egypt where the UK Prime Minister has confirmed attendance of the Leader's Day but Modi's visit is as yet unconfirmed.

Rishi Sunak is on the record expressing his commitment to an FTA with India while Chancellor of the Exchequer at No. 11 Downing Street when he flagged financial services as a particularly "exciting" aspect of the bilateral trade relationship.

The City of London Corporation, the financial hub of the UK capital, has expressed the hope that Rishi Sunak's focus on services would take the FTA in the right direction.

"Services make up around 70 per cent of annual trade between our countries. So, a deal that doesn't deliver for this sector would be a missed opportunity," said Chris Hayward, Policy Chairman at the City of London Corporation.

The focus of the FTA negotiations is on reducing the barriers to trade, cutting tariffs, and supporting easier imports and exports into each other's markets.

According to official UK government data, India-UK bilateral trade currently stands at around GBP 24.3 billion a year and the aim is for that to be at least doubled by 2030.

N. Korea Missiles land close to S. Korea waters

SEOUL, Nov 2: North Korea fired at least 17 missiles Wednesday, including one that landed close to South Korea's waters in what President Yoon Suk-yeol said was "effectively a territorial invasion".

It also fired an artillery barrage into a maritime "buffer zone", in what experts said was part of an "aggressive and threatening" response by Pyongyang to the large-scale joint air drills the United States and South Korea are currently conducting.

One short-range ballistic missile crossed the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, prompting a rare warning for residents on the island of Ulleungdo to seek shelter in bunkers.

Seoul's military said it was the "first time since the peninsula was divided" at the end of Korean War hostilities in 1953 that a North Korean missile had landed so close to the South's territorial waters.

"President Yoon pointed out today that North Korea's provocation is an effective territorial invasion by a missile," his office said in a statement.

One of the missiles landed in waters just 57 kilometres (35 miles) east of the mainland, the military said, adding it was a "very rare and intolerable" incident.

Pyongyang fired a total of seven short-range ballistic missiles and 10 other missiles, Seoul's military said.

North Korea also conducted an artillery barrage, firing into a maritime "buffer-zone" set up in 2018 in a bid to reduce tensions between the two countries, during an ill-fated bout of diplomacy.

The huge volley of launches were "provocations against South Korea," said Go Myong-hyun, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they lead up to a nuclear test," he added.

South Korea, for its part, said it had fired three air-to-ground missiles into the sea towards the north of the two countries' maritime boundary.

President Yoon called a meeting of the National Security Council, ordering "swift and stern measures so that North Korea's provocations pay a clear price".

South Korea closed some air routes over the East Sea, also known as the Sea of Japan, advising local airlines to detour to "ensure passenger safety in the routes to the United States and Japan".

Vigilant Storm

Pyongyang's latest launch comes as Seoul and Washington stage their largest-ever joint air drills, dubbed "Vigilant Storm", which involve hundreds of warplanes from both sides.

Pak Jong Chon, a high-ranking official in North Korea, said the drills were aggressive and provocative, according to a report in state media Wednesday.

Pak said the name of the exercises harks back to Operation Desert Storm, the US-led military assault on Iraq in 1990-1991 after it invaded Kuwait.

"If the US and South Korea attempt to use armed forces against the (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) without any fear, the special means of the DPRK's armed forces will carry out their strategic mission without delay," he said.

"The US and South Korea will have to face a terrible case and pay the most horrible price in history."

One of the missiles on Wednesday landed in waters just 57 kilometers (35 miles) east of the South Korean mainland, the military said.

"In protest of the joint US-South Korea drill, Pyongyang seems to have staged the most aggressive and threatening armed demonstration against the South since 2010," Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute told AFP.

In March 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, killing 46 sailors including 16 who were on their mandatory military service.

In November the same year, the North shelled a South Korean border island, killing two marines -- both of them young conscripts.

"It is now a dangerous and unstable situation that could lead to armed conflicts," he added.

The test follows a recent blitz of launches, including what the North said were tactical nuke drills, that Washington and Seoul have repeatedly warned could culminate in another nuclear test -- which would be Pyongyang's seventh.

The Vigilant Storm air drills were preceded by 12 days of amphibious naval exercises.

"As far as I can remember, North Korea has never made such a provocation when South Korea and the US were holding their joint drills," said Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University.

"Pyongyang seems to have completed its most powerful deterrent. This is a serious threat. The North also seems confident in their nuclear capabilities."

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