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44 Dead, Over 100 Injured In Suicide Blast At Pak Political Meet

PESHAWAR, July 30: At least 44 people were killed and dozens more wounded Sunday by a suicide bombing at a political gathering of a leading Islamic party in northwest Pakistan, officials said.

The blast targeted the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-F (JUI-F) party -- a government coalition partner led by an influential firebrand cleric -- as hundreds of supporters congregated under a canopy in the town of Khar, near the Afghan border.

"The tent had collapsed on one side, trapping people who were desperately attempting to escape," said Abdullah Khan, who tried to help the victims.

"There was utter confusion, with human flesh, limbs, and body parts scattered throughout the area, alongside lifeless bodies."

Sabeeh Ullah, a 24-year-old party supporter who had his arm fractured by the blast, said the scale of injuries was horrifying.

"I found myself lying next to someone who had lost their limbs. The air was filled with the smell of human flesh," he said.

As the toll kept rising, Riaz Anwar -- the health minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province -- said late Sunday that 44 people had been confirmed killed and over 100 wounded.

"It was a suicide attack, with the bomber detonating himself in close proximity to the stage," he said.

Images from the blast site circulating on social media showed bodies strewn around the scene, and volunteers helping blood-soaked victims to ambulances.

Pakistan's national assembly is due to dissolve in the next few weeks ahead of elections expected in October or November, and political parties are already preparing to campaign.

The blast coincides with a visit to the country by a senior delegation of Chinese officials, including Vice Premier He Lifeng, who arrived in the capital Sunday evening.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the local chapter of the Islamic State (IS) group has recently carried out attacks against JUI-F.

Last year, IS said it was behind violent attacks against religious scholars affiliated with the party, which has a huge network of mosques and madrassas in the north and west of the country.

The jihadist group accuses JUI-F of hypocrisy for being an Islamic group while supporting hostile governments and the military.

The party's leader, cleric Fazlur Rehman, started political life as a firebrand Islamist hardliner but has softened his public image over the years in a bid to forge alliances with secular parties on the left and right of the spectrum.

With the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of madrassa students, his party never musters enough support for power on its own but is usually a key player in any coalition.

Pakistan has seen a sharp rise in terrorist attacks since the Afghan Taliban surged back to power in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2021.

Pakistan's home-grown Taliban group, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has largely directed its campaign against security officials, including police officers.

In January, a suicide bomber linked to Pakistan's Taliban blew himself up in a mosque inside a police compound in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 80 officers.

The terrorist assaults have been focused in regions abutting Afghanistan, and Islamabad alleges some are being planned on Afghan soil -- a charge Kabul denies.

Pakistan was once plagued by almost daily bombings, but a major military clearance operation in the former tribal areas starting in 2014 largely restored order.

The seven remote districts that border Afghanistan, of which Bajaur is one, were later brought under the control of Pakistani authorities after the passage of legislation in 2018.

Analysts say terrorists in the former tribal areas have become emboldened since the return of the Afghan Taliban.

One security analyst suggested Sunday's attack was more likely linked to the election rather than having a sectarian motive.

"This is part of terrorism violence that seems to be ramping up in Pakistan ahead of elections to create a sense of instability that could eventually lead to a delay in the elections," said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies.

Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the attack in a statement, adding Kabul "shares its deepest condolences with the affected families".

Zelensky Says 'War Returning To Russia'

KYIV, July 30: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned on Sunday that "war" was coming to Russia after three Ukrainian drones were downed over Moscow.

"Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia - to its symbolic centres and military bases, and this is an inevitable, natural, and absolutely fair process," Zelensky said on a visit to the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk.

"Ukraine is getting stronger," he added, warning however that the country should prepare for a new attack on energy infrastructure in winter.

"But we must be aware that, just as last year, Russian terrorists can still attack our energy sector and critical facilities this winter," Zelensky said, adding that preparations for "all possible scenarios" were discussed in Ivano-Frankivsk.

Zelensky spoke after three Ukrainian drones were downed over Moscow early on Sunday, the Russian defence ministry said. The attack damaged two office towers and briefly shut down an international airport.

Separately, Moscow said on Sunday its forces had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to attack Russia-annexed Crimea with 25 drones overnight.

The attacks reported Sunday were the latest in a series of recent drone assaults - including on the Kremlin and Russian towns near the border with Ukraine - that Moscow has blamed on Kyiv.

Germany Warns Of 'Risk Of Scientific Espionage' With Some China Students

BERLIN, July 29: Germany's education minister on Saturday called for a revision of student exchange practices with China, citing an increased risk of scientific espionage posed by Chinese students who come to study in Germany on full state scholarships.

"China is becoming more and more competitive and is a systemic rival in the domain of science and research," Bettina Stark-Watzinger said in an interview published on Saturday by the Mediengruppe Bayern.

The minister hailed a decision by the Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) in Bavaria, which regularly partners with German industry in research projects, to no longer accept China students whose sole financing comes from the China Scholarship Council (CSC), which is a state institution.

According to recent reports published in Deutsche Welle and the Correctiv investigative platform, recipients of these scholarships must sign a loyalty oath to the Chinese state or risk legal proceedings.

Stark-Watzinger hailed the German university for its decision, saying it was motivated by "the realisation that the freedom of opinion and scientific freedom anchored in German Basic Law cannot be fully exercised by the CSC scholarship recipients due to the conditions of their scholarships and there also exists an increased risk of scientific espionage".

"The FAU decision should prompt other institutions to revisit the terms of their cooperation with the CSC," she said.

In mid-July, Germany toughened its approach to China, publishing a 64-page strategy in response to a "more assertive" China, sparking ire from Beijing.

The document, covering security policy as well as economic and scientific cooperation, was the product of months of wrangling within the German government over its strategy toward China.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted Thursday that Berlin had "reacted to a China that has changed and become more assertive," and that his government wanted to reduce economic reliance on Beijing in critical areas.

Beijing said the new approach would increase "man-made risks" and "exacerbate divisions" in the world.

Berlin's harder line has sparked fears in German industry, which has grown increasingly dependent on China.

Corporate giants such as Volkswagen and Siemens have in recent months outlined growth strategies that rely heavily on the Chinese market.

Ukraine Uses North Korean Rockets To Blast Russian Forces: Report

Ukrainian soldiers were observed using North Korean rockets that they said were seized by a "friendly" country before being delivered to Ukraine, the Financial Times reported on Saturday.

Ukraine's defence ministry suggested the arms were captured from the Russians, the newspaper said.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, including alleged shipments by sea, but has not offered proof and North Korean weapons have not been widely observed on the battlefields in Ukraine.

North Korea and Russia deny conducting arms transactions.

The North Korean weapons were shown by Ukrainian troops operating Soviet-era Grad multiple-launch rocket systems near the destroyed eastern city of Bakhmut, site of lengthy brutal fighting, the report said.

Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu made a rare visit to Pyongyang this week to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, the first visit by Moscow's top defence official since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

During the visit, Shoigu was photographed viewing banned North Korean ballistic missiles with leader Kim Jong Un at a military expo in Pyongyang, signalling deeper ties between the two countries as they each face off with the United States.

French President Macron Warns Against 'New Imperialism' In Pacific

PORT VILA, July 27: French President Emmanuel Macron denounced "new imperialism" in the Pacific during a landmark visit to the region on Thursday, warning of a threat to the sovereignty of smaller states.

Macron -- speaking in Vanuatu on the first visit by a sitting French leader to an independent Pacific Island state -- sought to offer a French alternative in a region where the US and China are competing for influence.

"There is in the Indo-Pacific, and particularly in Oceania, new imperialism appearing, and a power logic that is threatening the sovereignty of several states -- the smallest, often the most fragile," Macron said in a speech.

"Our Indo-Pacific strategy is above all to defend through partnerships the independence and sovereignty of all states in the region that are ready to work with us."

China is seeking to expand its influence in the South Pacific, notably making inroads in Solomon Islands, with which it signed a secretive defence pact last year.

Beijing also maintains sweeping, contested claims over the South China Sea.

The United States -- the dominant military force in the South Pacific since World War II -- has responded by announcing new aid, opening embassies in the region, and signing pacts including a recent defence deal with Papua New Guinea.

Macron said he felt free to issue the warning over major powers' ambitions in the Pacific because "we recognise our colonial past here in Vanuatu".

Vanuatu, a former French-British colony until independence in 1980, endured a colonial history of "grabbing wealth and exploitation of the people", he said.

"We are the heirs of this past," Macron added, listing a history since European settlement that included the trafficking of indigenous people to work on plantations.

"Vanuatu suffered a colonisation as brutal as those imposed elsewhere in Africa or Asia. This heritage must not be forgotten."

Macron is seeking to reassert his country's significance as a "balancing power" in the region.

France has 1.6 million citizens in the Asia-Pacific across seven overseas territories, including New Caledonia and French Polynesia, and an exclusive economic zone spanning nine million square kilometres (3.5 million square miles).

But France had to reassemble its strategy in the Pacific after Australia in 2021 tore up a deal for Paris to provide a fleet of diesel-powered submarines.

Canberra opted instead for US- and British-built nuclear-powered vessels under the so-called AUKUS pact.

With climate change a priority for low-lying Pacific Island states threatened by rising seas, France and Vanuatu issued a joint call for international action.

"France and Vanuatu reiterate that the first urgency to reduce the damage caused by climate change is to accelerate the phasing out of fossil fuels," they said in a statement.

The French leader has already encountered resistance on his Pacific tour, however.

On his first 48-hour stop in the French territory of New Caledonia, some pro-independence indigenous Kanaks boycotted talks with Macron to discuss its future.

The president warned that separatism risked leading to violence as he urged the pro-independence camp to accept the results of three referendums that favoured remaining part of France.

In a sign of the global focus on the Pacific region, Macron's three-stop tour -- his next destination is Papua New Guinea -- coincided with two visits by senior US officials.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks Thursday with ally New Zealand, and warned of "predatory" Chinese investment in Tonga the day before.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin also met with the government in Papua New Guinea on Thursday and announced the deployment of a US Coastguard ship there after the signing of the recent defence pact.

China names Wang Yi as new foreign minister, replaces ‘missing’ Qin Gang

BEIJING, July 25: China's foreign minister Qin Gang was removed from office on Tuesday, state media reported, after not being seen in the public eye for a month.

"China's top legislature voted to appoint Wang Yi as foreign minister... as it convened a session on Tuesday," state media outlet Xinhua said.

"Qin Gang was removed from the post of foreign minister."

The report did not give a reason for Qin's removal but said President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order to enact the decision.

Qin had been seen as a confidant of President Xi and many analysts attributed his recent fast rise through the diplomatic ranks to their relationship.

China has remained tight-lipped for weeks about the fate of Qin, who has not been seen in public since June 25 when he met Russia's deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko in Beijing.

His absence sparked a storm of speculation that he had been removed from office or was subject to an official investigation.

Qin Gang's duties had lately been taken on by China's top diplomat Wang, who leads the ruling Communist Party's foreign policy and outranks Qin in the government hierarchy.

Qin Gang had replaced Wang as foreign minister in December last year.

North Korea Fires Possible Ballistic Missile: Japan, South Korea

SEOUL, July 24: North Korea launched a possible ballistic missile, Japan's defence ministry said on Monday.

The projectile is believed to have fallen outside Japan's exclusive economic zone, according to public broadcaster NHK citing government officials.

South Korea's military also said Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile toward the Sea of Japan, Kyodo news agency reported.

Pyongyang routinely conducts weapons tests, and the incident comes days after leader Kim Jong Un personally oversaw the firing of the country's newest intercontinental ballistic missile, the solid-fuel Hwasong-18.

Relations between the two Koreas are currently at one of their lowest historical points, as diplomacy between Pyongyang and Seoul has stalled and Kim has called for ramping up weapons development, including tactical nukes.

In response, Seoul and Washington have staged joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and US strategic assets.

The launch also comes ahead of celebrations in North Korea this week marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War.

A Chinese delegation will travel to the North in what is the first known visit by a foreign delegation since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

Putin, Belarus President Meet For First Time Since Wagner Mutiny

MOSCOW, July 22: Russian President Vladimir Putin has met his closest ally, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, for the first time since the latter helped broker a deal to end a mutiny by Wagner fighters inside Russia last month.

A video posted on Sunday by the Lukashenko's press service showed the two longtime leaders arriving at Saint Petersburg's Konstantinovsky palace together ahead of scheduled talks.

North Korea Launches Cruise Missiles Into Sea After Warning Over US Sub

SEOUL, July 22: North Korea fired cruise missiles toward the western waters on Saturday following an earlier threat to use nuclear arms over the arrival of a US nuclear-capable submarine in South Korea.

South Korea detected several launches from around 4 a.m. and is working with the US to analyze the specifications of the missiles, its Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a text message.

The launches follow a warning from North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam earlier this week that the dispatch of the USS Kentucky puts Pyongyang within its rights to use a nuclear arm.

US Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh slammed North Korea for the threat, calling it "dangerous" and saying that the port call is a sign of long-standing cooperation with South Korea. Seoul has also denied the deployment is a demonstration of nuclear weapons to Pyongyang.

Washington is separately seeking the release of a US soldier who crossed into North Korea on foot on Tuesday. The two countries have no direct diplomatic ties.

'Any Nuke Attack Would End Kim Jong Un Regime', Warns South Korea

SEOUL, July 22: South Korea has warned North Korea that any nuclear attack from the latter's side would mean an "end" of the Kim Jong Un-led regime, Yonhap News Agency reported on Friday.

Seoul's warning has come after Pyongyang had said the deployment of a US nuclear-capable submarine and other strategic assets here could meet the conditions for its use of nuclear arms.

Seoul's defence ministry renewed the warning after Pyongyang's Defence Minister Kang Sun-nam issued a sharp-tongued statement the previous day, criticizing the arrival of the USS Kentucky, an 18,750-ton Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), in South Korea and the inaugural meeting of the South Korea-US Nuclear Consultative Group (NCG) this week, Yonhap news agency reported.

"In the event of any North Korean nuclear attack against the South Korea-US alliance, it will face an immediate, overwhelming and decisive response from the alliance, and (we) strongly warn again that through this, (the attack) will result in the end of the North Korean regime," Yonhap news agency quoted the Seoul ministry as saying.

The USS Kentucky arrived in the southeastern port city of Busan on Tuesday. Its arrival coincided with the first NCG session aimed at strengthening the credibility of the extended deterrence commitment by the US to use the full range of its military capabilities, including nuclear, to defend its ally.

The ministry defended the NCG gathering and the SSBN's deployment as a "rightful" defensive measure against North Korea's "continued nuclear and missile threats", dismissing the North's claim that they posed a nuclear threat to the recalcitrant country, Yonhap news agency.

It also said Pyongyang's nuclear program and missile provocations are "clear" violations of UN Security Council resolutions and "illicit activities," noting the country is the "only" one that repeats threats of a nuclear attack against the South Korea-US alliance.

"North Korea will never gain any concessions from the South Korea-US alliance through its nuclear development and threats, and (we) urge it to recognize its isolation and destitution will only deepen, and to come out swiftly to the path of denuclearization," the ministry stated.

The first US SSBN's visit to the South since 1981 came after the US pledged to enhance the "regular visibility" of its high-profile military assets, including the strategic submarine, in the Washington Declaration that Presidents Yoon Suk Yeol and Joe Biden issued during their summit in April, Yonhap news agency reported.

Tensions have heightened as Pyongyang has continued its 'sabre-rattling', such as its launches of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 12 and two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday.

Putin To Skip BRICS Summit In South Africa Amid Arrest Threat

JOHANNESBURG, July 19: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend a BRICS nations summit in South Africa next month, the country's presidency said on Wednesday, ending months of speculation he could be detained.

Putin's potential visit has been a thorny diplomatic issue for Pretoria.

The Russian leader is the target of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant -- a provision that South africa as an ICC member would be expected to implement were he to set foot in the country.

"By mutual agreement, President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation will not attend the summit," Vincent Magwenya, a spokesman for President Cyril Ramaphosa, said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will instead represent Russia, Magwenya said.

The decision follows "a number of consultations" held by Ramaphosa in recent months, the most recent of which took place last night, he added.

South Africa is the current chair of the BRICS group, a gathering of heavyweights that also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China, and which sees itself as a counterweight to Western economic domination.

Putin was formally invited to a BRICS summit due to take place in Johannesburg between August 22 and 24, but Pretoria has been under heavy domestic and international pressure not to host him.

The other countries' leaders will all be in attendance, Magwenya said.

"President Ramaphosa is confident that the Summit will be a success and calls on the nation to extend the necessary hospitality to the many delegates who will arrive from various parts of the continent and the globe," he said.

Putin is sought by the ICC over accusations that Russia unlawfully deported Ukrainian children.

In court papers released on Tuesday, Ramaphosa wrote that arresting him would have amounted to a declaration of war on Russia.

The assessment was given in an affidavit responding to an application by the country's leading opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), which aimed at forcing the government's hand and ensuring the Kremlin leader was handed over to the ICC if he were to arrive.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked if the war wording was used in talks between the two nations.

"No, it did not sound that way," he said.

"In this world, it is absolutely clear to everyone what an attempt to encroach on the head of the Russian state would mean.

"That is why there is no need to explain anything to anyone on this," Peskov added.

The affidavit revealed South Africa was seeking an exemption under ICC rules, arguing that enacting the arrest could have threatened the "security, peace and order of the state".

Pretoria has long said it wants to stay neutral over the war in Ukraine but has been accused by critics of tilting towards Moscow.

Some feared hosting Putin could have been read as a signal of support for Russia and jeopardised South Africa's strong economic and trade relations with the United States and Europe.

Trade with Russia is much smaller, but their ties date back decades to when the Kremlin supported the ruling African National Congress party during the struggle against apartheid.

In recent local media interviews, South African Deputy President Paul Mashatile said the government had been trying to persuade Putin not to come.

Over 2,000 Civilians Evacuated Over Crimea Military Base Fire

MOSCOW, July 19: A fire broke out Wednesday at a military training field in annexed Crimea, the Russian-installed governor said, prompting authorities to order the evacuation of more than 2,000 civilians.

Authorities did not specify the cause of the blaze, but some Russian media reported that detonations were heard in the area and footage showed columns of black smoke in the sky.

The news comes days after Ukraine used waterborne drones to attack the Kerch bridge, a key military supply artery from mainland Russia to annexed Crimea.

"The temporary evacuation of residents of four localities adjacent to the military field in the Kirovsky district is planned. That's more than 2,000 people," said the Moscow-installed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov.

A section of the Tavrida highway that crosses the peninsula had been closed due to the fire.

Authorities were carrying out "temporary evacuation" of residents from four settlements, he added, which would see more than 2,000 people moved.

Footage posted on the Telegram account of state-backed Izvestia newspaper purporting to show footage of the fire showed plumes of black smoke billowing into the sky.

Two Russian online media outlets reported that detonations had been audible in the area for over two hours.

Bus traffic on interregional routes had been "temporarily redirected", Nikolay Lukashenko from Crimea's transport ministry wote on Telegram.

The Tavrida highway connects the eastern Crimean port of Kerch to Sevastopol on the peninsula's Black Sea coast in the west, according to Russia's TASS news agency.

Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move not recognised by the international community.

Kyiv has repeatedly said it plans to take back the peninsula.

Kim Jong Un's Sister Says US Should Avoid Any 'Foolish Act'

SEOUL, July 17: North Korea's Kim Yo Jong, sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said on Monday that the United States should avoid any "foolish act" that could put its security at risk and rejected offers of talks as a ploy, state media KCNA news agency reported.

Ms Kim made her comments after White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the United States remains concerned that North Korea would carry out another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, after it last week fired an ICBM off its east coast.

"The United States should stop a foolish act that could put its security at risk by provoking us," Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by KCNA.

She criticised US plans for a nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine to visit South Korea and said that such efforts to increase "extended deterrence" would only push Pyongyang further from the negotiating table.

Ms Kim also rejected US calls for unconditional talks and said that Washington is wrong if it believes North Korea's disarmament was possible.

"The United States is being delusional if it believed that it could stop our advancement and achieve irreversible disarmament by temporarily halting joint military drills, deployment of strategic assets or easing of sanctions," she said.

North Korea has in recent days accused American spy planes of flying over its exclusive economic zone, condemned a recent visit to South Korea by an American nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine, and vowed to take steps in reaction.

IIT Delhi In Gulf, Trade In Local Currencies Focus Of PM's UAE Visit

ABU DHABI, July 15: India and UAE agreed to key economic collaborations and decided to establish an IIT campus in Abu Dhabi during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official visit to the Gulf country today.

India and UAE today agreed to promote the use of local currencies for cross-border transactions and to interlink the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) with the Gulf country's Instant Payment Platform (IPP).

Sharing this update, Modi said, "This is a very important aspect of India-UAE cooperation. It paves the way for enhanced economic collaboration and will make international financial interactions simpler."

Besides, the education ministries of the two countries and IIT-Delhi decided to establish a branch of the premier institute in Abu Dhabi.

"This marks a significant stride in our educational internationalisation and is testament to India's innovation prowess. Education is the bond that unites us, it's the spark that ignites innovation. Together, we will leverage this power for mutual prosperity and global betterment," tweeted the Prime Minister.

PM Modi flew to Abu Dhabi this morning from France and held talks with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who received him at the airport on his arrival.

"It is always gladdening to meet HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His energy and vision for development are admirable. We discussed the full range of India-UAE ties including ways to boost cultural and economic ties," he tweeted.

The Prime Minister also said there was a 20% increase in India-UAE trade since the two countries signed the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement last year. His remarks came following his meeting with the UAE President.

He also said that he got the love of a brother from Mr Al Nahyan and that Indians see him as a "true friend". "The manner in which ties between our countries have expanded, you have made a big contribution to that. Every person in India views you as a true friend," he told the President.

He noted the UAE will this year take over the leadership of COP-28, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, and that he has decided to participate in it. He also met COP28 President-designate Sultan Al Jaber and assured India's full support for UAE's presidency for the climate conference.

"Had a very productive meeting with Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the President-designate of @COP28_UAE. Our discussions focused on ways to further sustainable development. Highlighted India's contribution in this direction, in particular our emphasis on Mission LiFE," tweeted Modi.

India, France seal key pacts in defence, UPI

PARIS, July 14: India and France have announced several agreements to deepen defence cooperation, including the construction of three submarines for the Indian Navy and the development of jet and helicopter engines. The two countries also plan to roll out the Unified Payment Interface system in Europe from September.

Additionally, India and France have agreed to work on building low and medium power modular nuclear reactors and have adopted a new Indo-Pacific Roadmap to advance their economic and security interests. The agreements were made during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Defence cooperation is a key pillar in India-France relations and the two sides should work on the co-production of military platforms to meet not only their own needs but those of friendly third countries, Modi said at a joint media interaction with Macron ahead of their official talks.

Security cooperation, ranging from co-development of defence hardware to space-based maritime domain awareness and joint steps to ensure peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, formed a crucial part of Modi’s remarks. He also outlined several steps aimed at taking bilateral relations to the next stage, including a roadmap for the next 25 years of the strategic partnership.

Following the success of the Scorpene submarine construction programme or P75, state-run Mazagon Dockyard Ltd and France’s Naval Group signed a MoU for the construction of three additional Scorpene submarines.

After the delivery of 36 Rafale combat jets to India, the two sides will extend their cooperation in advanced aeronautical technologies by supporting the joint development of a combat aircraft engine, according to a joint document titled “Horizon 2047”. A roadmap for this project will be prepared between France’s Safran and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) by the end of the year.

The two sides will support industrial cooperation for developing an engine for India’s multi-role helicopter programme with France’s Safran. A shareholders’ agreement between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Safran Helicopter Engine was concluded for the engine development.

Another contract was concluded between Safran Helicopter Engine and HAL for transfer of technology for forging and castings for the Shakti engine. Yet another MoU between Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd and France’s Naval Group will focus on collaboration on a surface ship that meets the requirement of India and international naval forces.

Both countries are also working on adopting a Roadmap on Defence Industrial Cooperation. India will also set up a technical office of the DRDO at its embassy in Paris.

Last week, India’s NPCI International Payments Limited (NIPL) and France’s Lyra Collect signed an agreement to roll out UPI in France and Europe. The payment mechanism is in its last phase of production and will go live by September, with the Eiffel Tower in Paris as the first merchant in France to accept UPI, the document said.

“Defence cooperation is a key pillar in our ties that reflects the two countries’ deep trust in each other. France is an important partner in the Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiatives,” Modi said, speaking in Hindi. The two leaders would discuss co-development and co-production of new defence technologies, including submarines and naval platforms, to meet not only their own needs but also those of friendly third countries, he added.

“There is scope for increasing cooperation between our defence space agencies. We are moving forward on French companies setting up MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul) facilities and producing spare parts and helicopter engines in India. We will focus on making this cooperation stronger,” Modi said.

In the civil nuclear domain, the two sides will discuss the scope for cooperation on small and advanced modular nuclear reactors, he said without giving details.

Though it had been widely anticipated that the two countries would make announcements about India procuring 26 Rafale Marine combat jets, there was no official word on this matter. India’s defence acquisition council (DAC) had on Thursday cleared the Indian Navy’s proposals to acquire the jets and the three submarines from France.

Macron, who spoke before Modi, recalled the role played by Indian soldiers in past wars and in Friday’s Bastille Day Parade, at which Modi was the guest of honour. He said the armed forces of the two sides are in close contact and both countries are working to maintain peace and security and ensure respect for international laws, including in the Indo-Pacific.

The work done by India and France on renewable energy and countering plastics are just two examples of how their cooperation can lead to success in many fields, Macron said. India is France’s second largest trading partner in Asia, and the two sides are also exploring new areas in steel, space, energy, civil nuclear cooperation and technology, he said.

Modi said the presence of an Indian tri-services contingent in the Bastille Day Parade was a “splendid picture” of the growing bilateral cooperation. At a time when the two sides are observing 25 years of their strategic partnership, this can be used as a solid foundation for preparing a roadmap for the next 25 years in which they can set bold and ambitious targets, he said.

“Indians are committed to build a developed country, and we see France as a natural partner in this journey,” Modi said. He welcomed another long-term agreement between Indian Oil and France’s Total company for the supply of LNG, saying this will bolster the country’s clean energy transition goals.

Modi added, “We should work with like-minded countries for democratising technology supply chains. Climate change and protecting the environment are a shared and important priority. After setting up the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which has become a movement, we now want to speedily work on a roadmap for the blue economy and ocean governance.”

As resident powers in the Indo-Pacific, India and France have a special responsibility for region peace and stability and to give concrete shape to collaboration in this sphere, both sides are working on an “Indo-Pacific cooperation roadmap”, he said. The two sides are discussing a proposal for an Indo-Pacific triangular development cooperation fund that will open new doors for start-ups and innovation.

Referring to the successful launch of the Chandrayaan moon mission, Modi said there has been deep cooperation between the Indian and French space agencies, and the two sides had finalised new agreements on satellite launch services, measuring land and sea temperatures, and weather monitoring. This includes the making of the Trishna satellite.

“In areas like space-based maritime domain awareness we can increase cooperation. India and France have also had deep people-to-people contacts for long, and this will become stronger after our talks. In southern France, we will open a new consulate in Marseilles,” Modi added.

India's UPI To Be Used In France: Modi

PARIS, July 13: India's most successful payments system UPI will be used in France, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing the Indian community in Paris today.

"India and France have agreed to use UPI in France. In the coming days, it will begin from the Eiffel Tower, which means Indian tourists will now be able to pay in rupees," PM Modi said, referring to the Unified Payments System, or UPI.

Allowing UPI in France will open up huge possibilities in the way Indians can spend. UPI will be able to do away with cumbersome forex cards and avoid the need to carry cash to spend.

Modi began his France visit with "fruitful" meetings with his French counterpart Elisabeth Borne and Senate President Gerard Larcher, during which he discussed ways to impart new impetus to India's multifaceted cooperation and time-tested strategic partnership with the key European nation.

India's UPI powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application (of any participating bank), merging several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments into one hood. It also caters to "peer to peer" collect request, which can be scheduled and paid as per requirement and convenience.

The National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) conducted a pilot launch with 21 member banks in April 2016. Since then, UPI use has seen tremendous growth. Even hawkers accept UPI payment for as little as ₹ 5 or 10 for a cup of tea.

In 2022, the NPCI signed an MoU with France's fast and secure online payment system, called Lyra. This year, UPI and Singapore's PayNow signed an agreement, allowing users in either country to make cross-border transactions.

The UAE, Bhutan and Nepal have already adopted the UPI system.

NPCI International is in talks to extend UPI services in the US, other European countries and West Asia.

Work Visas, New Consulate: Modi's Big Announcements In France

PARIS, July 13: A statue of Tamil philosopher Thiruvalluvar will be built in France, five-year post-study visa for students pursuing masters programme, a new consulate, among others, were some of the big announcements by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris.

In France, an agreement has been made for the use of India's UPI...It will be started from the Eiffel Tower, and now Indian tourists would be able to make payments in Rupees, through UPI, in the Eiffel Tower.

Indian government has decided to open a new consulate in Marseille with the help of the French government.

It has been decided that Indian students pursuing Masters in France will be given 5-year long term post-study visa.

In a few weeks or months from now a statue of great Tamil philosopher Thiruvalluvar will be built in the Cergy Prefecture.

Today every rating agency is saying that India is a bright spot. You invest in India now. This is the opportune time. Those who invest early will reap benefits.

'Reflects Colonial Mindset': India On EU Parliament's Manipur Resolution

NEW DELHI, July 13: India has reiterated that Manipur in an "internal matter" after the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in India, with particular reference to the recent clashes in Manipur. The move, the foreign ministry said, reflects a "colonial mindset" and was "unacceptable".

The resolution comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi began a two-day visit to France. He is the Guest of Honour at the country's Bastille Day Parade.

"We have seen that the European Parliament held a discussion on developments in Manipur and adopted a so-called Urgency Resolution. Such interference in India's internal affairs is unacceptable, and reflects a colonial mindset," foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said today.

"Indian authorities at all levels, including the judiciary, are seized of the situation in Manipur and are taking steps to maintain peace and harmony and law and order. The European Parliament would be well advised to utilize its time more productively on its internal issues," he added.

Ahead of the debate on the situation in Manipur in European parliament, India had made its position clear. Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said it has been made clear to EU parliamentarians that it is a matter "absolutely" internal to India.

The resolution titled "India, the situation in Manipur"' was passed at the Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Citing the violence in Manipur, the resolution said the European Parliament, "Strongly urges the Indian authorities to take all necessary measures and make the utmost effort to promptly halt the ongoing ethnic and religious violence, to protect all religious minorities, such as Manipur's Christian community".

It said it "encourages India's central government and all political actors and religious leaders to take urgent steps to restore calm and ensure an inclusive dialogue involving civil society and the affected communities".

It also asked the authorities to allow independent investigation into the violence, and repeal the unlawful Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Manipur has been witnessing ethnic clashes since May, in which more than 80 people have lost their lives. The clashes started on May 3, after tribals organised a solidarity march to protest against the Meiteis' demand for Scheduled Tribe status.

G7 Pledges Long-Term Arms Supplies To Help Ukraine Defeat Russia

VILNIUS, July 12: G7 nations on Wednesday pledged to offer "enduring" military support to Ukraine to help it fight Russia's invading forces and stop any repeat of the war once it ends.

"We will each work with Ukraine on specific, bilateral, long-term security commitments and arrangements towards ensuring a sustainable force capable of defending Ukraine now and deterring Russian aggression in the future," the G7 said in a statement.

Ukraine's international backers are looking to reassure Kyiv on their support after military alliance NATO refused to offer the war-torn country an invitation to become a member.

The group of seven leading democracies -- the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan -- said they would look to agree on providing Ukraine's forces with "modern military equipment, across land, air, and sea domains".

That would mean "prioritising air defence, artillery and long-range fires, armoured vehicles, and other key capabilities, such as combat air," the statement said.

The global powers said that they would offer to provide swift military and financial assistance to Ukraine "in the event of future Russian armed attack".

They would also look "to impose economic and other costs on Russia" if it launched another war once this conflict is concluded.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier welcomed the promises -- made on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Vilnius -- but said that they could not be a substitute for Kyiv's ultimate goal of joining the alliance.

NATO countries -- spearheaded by the United States -- have been wary of giving Ukraine too concrete a commitment on future membership in the bloc for it fear it will drag the West into war with Moscow.

But Western leaders insist they want to show the Kremlin that it cannot wait for their support to Ukraine to falter.

NATO Will Invite Ukraine To Join 'When Conditions Are Met': Alliance Head

VILNIUS (Lithuania), July 11: NATO leaders agreed at a summit in Vilnius on Tuesday that they will invite Ukraine to become a member when certain conditions are reached, alliance head Jens Stoltenberg said.

"We also made clear that we will issue an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO when allies agree and conditions are met," Stoltenberg told journalists after the talks.

Macron Says France Will Send Long-Range Missiles To Ukraine

VILNIUS (Lithuania), July 11: France will provide Ukraine with SCALP long-range cruise missiles to help Kyiv's forces strike targets deep behind Russian lines, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday.

Arriving at a NATO summit focused on Kyiv's battle against Moscow's invasion, Macron said Paris would send the SCALP missile, already supplied by London under the name "Storm Shadow".

Macron said the new missile delivery was designed to allow Ukraine to strike at Russian occupation forces "in depth" during its counteroffensive to liberate its territory.

The SCALP/Storm Shadow is an Anglo-French weapon with a range of 250 kilometres (155 miles) -- the longest of any Western weapon supplied to Ukraine so far -- and Britain announced in May that it would supply a batch of the advanced weapons.

Russia reacted with fury, warning that London risked being dragged directly into the conflict, and even some Western allies were concerned that Kyiv might conduct strikes into Russia itself.

Macron implied, however, that Ukraine had given an undertaking not to use SCALP against such targets, saying that they had been given "in coherence with our doctrine, that is to say to permit Ukraine to defend its own territory."

Macron did not say how many of the missiles would be sent, but France is understood to have an arsenal of less than 400, according to specialist defence review DSI.

Taiwan to set up representative office in Mumbai to further advance substantive ties with India

By Deepak Arora

TAIPEI, July 5: In recent years, cooperation between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of India has witnessed significant progress in numerous domains, including economics and trade, science and technology, critical supply chains, culture, education, and traditional medicine. In light of this development, the R.O.C. (Taiwan) government will establish the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center (TECC) in Mumbai in order to further deepen exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.

Since the TECC in Chennai was set up in 2012, nearly 60 percent of all Taiwanese businesses investing and opening factories in India have chosen to develop their operations in southern India. Chennai and its surrounding areas have thus benefited from the investments made by Taiwanese manufacturing industries. The establishment of the TECC in Mumbai is expected to have a similar effect in western India.

India became the world’s fifth-largest economy in 2022, and becomes the most populous nation this year. With its enormous market and related business opportunities, India has emerged as a major investment destination for global enterprises. Mumbai is the largest city in India, serving as the country’s financial center and boasting its largest port. Many countries have established consulates in Mumbai, including the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

The TECC in Mumbai will help expand mutually beneficial trade and investment opportunities between Taiwan and India. Under Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, it will also promote exchanges and cooperation in science and technology, education, culture, and people-to-people ties between Taiwan and western India.

Furthermore, the TECC in Mumbai will provide visa services, document authentication, and emergency assistance to business people, tourists, and Taiwanese nationals in the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, as well as the union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.

The TECC in Mumbai will work in close coordination with the TECC in India and the TECC in Chennai to offer quality services to Taiwanese nationals and overseas compatriots.

Khalistan Rally In Canada Overshadowed By Pro-India Gathering

TORONTO, July 9: The pro-Khalistan rally in Toronto turned out to be a damp squib today with several members from the Indian community also gathering at the venue with the national flag.

A handful of pro-Khalistan supporters gathered outside the Indian consulate in Canada's Toronto today, but they were severely outnumbered by members of the Indian community who waved the national flag and raised slogans like "Bharat Mata ki jai", "Vande Mataram" and "Long Live India".

The Khalistani group had posters of Sikhs For Justice leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed in UK on June 18.

Earlier this month, the 'Khalistan freedom rally' poster had sparked outrage across India by calling India's High Commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma and Consul General in Toronto Apoorva Srivastava as "killers" of the Khalistan Tiger Force chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

It came a month after Khalistanis, marking the 39th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, put up a tableau of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi with blood on her clothes and a poster that read, "Revenge of attack on Shri Darbar Sahib".

India summoned the Canadian envoy in New Delhi on Monday and issued a demarche over the increasing activities by pro-Khalistani elements in Canada.

Dutch Government Collapses Amid Row Over Migrants' Entry Curbs

THE HAGUE, July 7: Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coalition government collapsed after just a year and a half in office on Friday in a row over measures to curb the flow of migrants, local media said.

Rutte, the Netherlands' longest-serving leader, presided over crisis talks between the four coalition partners but failed to reach a deal, broadcasters NOS and RTL and the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Kremlin Says Will 'Closely Follow' Meet Between Zelensky, Turkey's Erdogan

MOSCOW, July 7: The Kremlin said Friday it will "closely follow" upcoming talks between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Turkey counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, describing their meeting in Istanbul as "important."

The Ukrainian and Turkish leaders will meet in Istanbul for talks on the eve of the 500th day since Moscow launched its offensive.

"We will very closely follow the results of these talks," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

"It will be interesting for us to find out what was discussed. It's important," he added.

Peskov said Moscow "cherishes" its relationship with Ankara and acknowledged Erdogan's mediation efforts.

"Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly made great efforts to end various problems within the framework of the Ukrainian conflict and played a mediating role," the spokesman said.

He added that Moscow "did not exclude" talks between President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan.

The Turkish leader has retained good ties with both Kyiv and Moscow since the Kremlin launched its Ukraine military campaign last February.

He helped broker a key grain deal last year to unblock Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.

Canada is not soft on Khalistan supporters, terrorists: Justin Trudeau

TORONTO, July 6: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said that Canada has always taken "serious action" against terrorism, rebutting criticisms that his government has been lax on pro-Khalistan activists within the country.

His remarks were in response to accusations from India, which on Monday summoned the Canadian ambassador in New Delhi, expressing concern over escalating activities by pro-Khalistan elements in Canada. This diplomatic move by India also comes two days before a scheduled pro-Khalistan rally outside the Indian High Commission in Ottawa on July 8.

"They are wrong. Canada has always taken extremely seriously violence and threats of violence. We have always taken serious action against terrorism, and we always will," Mr Trudeau stated at a press conference, rejecting the notion that his government is soft on Khalistan supporters and terrorists.

The Canadian Prime Minister's comments were prompted by questions regarding a controversial parade float in the Greater Toronto Area last month. The float, set up by Khalistan supporters marking the 39th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, depicted a tableau of assassinated former prime minister Indira Gandhi with blood on her clothes and a poster reading, "Revenge of attack on Shri Darbar Sahib".

Further inflaming the situation, provocative pro-Khalistan posters labelling several senior Indian diplomats as "killers" have recently sparked widespread outrage in India.

"We have an extremely diverse country and freedom of expression is something that we value, but we will always make sure that we are pushing back against violence and extremism in all its forms," Mr Trudeau affirmed.

India has reportedly requested the Canadian authorities to take adequate measures considering the planned protests by pro-Khalistan groups outside Indian missions in Canada on July 8.

In response to these concerns, Canada has reassured India of the safety of its diplomats. This assurance comes after Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar called upon partner countries, including Canada, the UK and the US, to resist providing platforms to "extremist Khalistani ideology," arguing that it's detrimental to international relations.

On Monday, Jaishankar expressed concern over Khalistani posters in Canada targeting Indian diplomats and condemned the "radical, extremist Khalistani ideology."

In a statement on Tuesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly echoed Mr Trudeau's commitment to the Vienna Conventions regarding diplomat safety. She termed the "promotional material" circulating in the lead-up to the Khalistan rally as "unacceptable" and emphasized that the actions of a few individuals "do not speak for an entire community or Canada".

Wagner Chief Still In Russia, Says Belarus President

MINSK (Belarus), July 6: Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin is still in Russia, Belarus's president said Thursday, raising questions about the deal to end the mercenary leader's mutiny last month.

Rescue workers meanwhile were clawing through rubble in the UNESCO-protected western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which was hit by a Russian missile early Thursday that killed four and injured dozens more.

Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko mediated a deal to end Prigozhin's revolt -- the most serious challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin's rule -- that was to see the mercenary head into Belarusian exile.

"As far as Prigozhin is concerned, he is in Saint Petersburg... He is not in Belarus," Lukashenko, who has ruled isolated Belarus for nearly three decades, told reporters from foreign media outlets in Minsk.

Speaking in the presidential palace, Lukashenko said he knew "for sure" that Prigozhin was a free man, adding: "I spoke to him on the phone yesterday".

The Kremlin replied by saying it was "not following" Prigozhin's movements, nearly two weeks after the June 23 mutiny that saw armed fighters on the march toward Moscow.

Lukashenko said that members of Prigozhin's Wagner mercenary group have not established a base in Belarus yet, despite an offer from the Kremlin for those who took part in the failed mutiny to do so.

"At the moment the question of their transfer and set-up has not been decided," Lukashenko said.

Images broadcast by Russian media on Wednesday showed police entering Prigozhin's residence, a vast and luxurious mansion with a helicopter parked in the grounds, reportedly on June 25.

Lukashenko's comments came hours after what Lviv's mayor said was the biggest attack on civilian infrastructure in the city since the start of the Russian invasion last February.

While Russia regularly pounds Ukraine with missiles, artillery and drones, the Lviv region in the west, hundreds of kilometres from the frontlines and near the Polish border, has largely been spared the aerial onslaughts.

The US embassy in Ukraine described the attack as "vicious" and said in a tweet that "Russia's repeated attacks on civilians are absolutely horrifying."

"We will not stand by and will continue to strengthen Ukraine's ability to defend itself," it added.

Interior Minister Igor Klymenko wrote on Telegram that the missiles had struck a residential building.

"The 3rd and 4th floors in two sections of the house were destroyed," he said.

At least four people had been killed in the attack and 32 were wounded, including a child, the emergency services said later, updating an initial toll.

The attack came as President Volodymyr Zelensky, who vowed a tangible response to the strike, arrived for an official visit in Bulgaria, a major ammunition producer and supporter.

At SCO Summit, Modi says ‘some countries’ are terror havens

NEW DELHI, July 4: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said some countries use cross-border terrorism and give safe haven to terrorists, and urged the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation countries to condemn it.

"Terrorism is a threat to regional and global peace. We will have to fight against terrorism...Some countries use cross-border terrorism as an instrument of their policies and give shelter to terrorists. SCO should not hesitate to criticise such countries. SCO countries should condemn it. There should be no double standards on terrorism," Modi said at the SCO Summit, hosted by India, without naming any country.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was also present at the virtual SCO Summit.

"We do not see the SCO as an extended neighbourhood, but rather as an extended family. Security, economic development, connectivity, unity, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and environmental protection are the pillars of our vision for SCO," Modi said.

Leaders of the SCO held an online summit seeking to expand the influence of the Eurasian group by including Iran and opening a path to membership for Belarus.

China’s President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin participated in the virtual summit, which will be Putin’s first appearance at an international event since the short-lived mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group in late June.

"The situation in Afghanistan has had a direct impact on the security of all of us (countries). India's concerns and expectations regarding Afghanistan are the same as most of the SCO Member countries. We have to make united efforts for the welfare of the people of Afghanistan...It is important that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread unrest in neighbouring nations or promote extremist ideologies," Modi said at the summit.

Formed in 2001 by China and Russia, with former Soviet central Asian states as members and joined later by India and Pakistan, the eight-member SCO is a political and security group that seeks to counter Western influence in Eurasia.

Xi Warns Against 'New Cold War' at SCO Regional Summit

BEIJING, July 4: Chinese leader Xi Jinping warned against "colour revolutions" and a "new Cold War" Tuesday, according to a state media readout of his speech to a virtual summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation leaders.

"We must be highly vigilant against external forces fomenting a 'new Cold War' and creating confrontation in the region, and resolutely oppose any country interfering in internal affairs and staging a 'colour revolution' for any reason," Xi said.

Russia Confidently Resisting Sanctions, Provocations: Putin At SCO Meet

MOSCOW, July 4: President Vladimir Putin told Iranian, Chinese and other leaders on Tuesday that Russia would continue to counter sanctions imposed by Western countries over Moscow's large-scale military operation in Ukraine.

"Russia is confidently resisting and will continue to resist external pressure, sanctions and provocations," the Russian leader said during a televised address to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The United States and the European Union have levied an unprecedented sanctions regime against Moscow over the military intervention, forcing Russia to pivot economically to Asian markets, in particular for its energy exports.

The Russian leader also thanked SCO members for their support during a short-lived uprising led by the Wagner mercenary group aimed at Russia's military leadership.

"I would like to thank my colleagues from the SCO countries who expressed support for the actions of the Russian leadership to protect the constitutional order and the life and security of citizens," Putin said.

The head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, led his forces in late June in a brief rebellion against Moscow's top military brass, which Putin said posed a threat to the country's very survival.

North Korean Spy Satellite Has 'No Military Use', Says South Korea

SEOUL, July 5: South Korea's military said on Wednesday it had retrieved the wreckage of a North Korean spy satellite that plunged into the sea in May after a botched launch and found it had no meaningful military use as a reconnaissance satellite.

The military last month also recovered parts of the rocket used in the failed launch; the booster and payload crashed into the sea soon after takeoff.

"After detailed analysis on major parts of North Korea's space launch vehicle and satellite which were salvaged, South Korean and US experts have assessed that they had no military utility as a reconnaissance satellite at all," the military said in a statement.

The South's military said it had on Wednesday ended salvage operations, which began immediately after the debris splashed down off South Korea's west coast on May 31. Aircraft, the navy and deep-sea divers were involved in the effort.

It is the first time South Korea has secured a satellite launched by the North, South Korean military experts said.

The initial assessment indicated the reconnaissance capability of the equipment was poor in terms of resolution and tracing targets, said Lee Choon-geun, an expert at South Korea's Science and Technology Policy Institute.

Yang Uk, a fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, also said "the resolution of the optical device loaded on the satellite was not suitable for military use".

South Korea's military tracked the launch of the space vehicle and identified a large, cylindrical piece of debris in the water just hours after the launch, but the object sank to the seabed.

It was recovered two weeks later.

North Korea last month made a rare candid public admission of the botched launch, saying it was the "gravest failure" but vowing to soon succeed in its orbital quest.

The nuclear-armed North has pursued a satellite launch programme since the 1990s and has said it would launch its first reconnaissance satellite to boost monitoring of US military activities.

In 2012 and 2016, North Korea launched objects that still remain in orbit. Pyongyang said they are observation satellites, but there has been no confirmation they were functioning or transmitting signals.

The May 31 launch was widely condemned by South Korea, Japan, and the West as a violation of international law and U.N. Security Council resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology by the North.

Pyongyang rejects such criticism as an infringement of its sovereign right to self-defence and space exploration.

In a key policy address in January 2021, North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, pledged to develop military reconnaissance satellites. In recent months, Pyongyang appears to have upgraded its Sohae satellite launch station, potentially for another attempt.

At a ruling Workers' Party meeting in June, North Korea blamed the failure on loss of thrust in the second-stage engine and criticised the "irresponsible" preparations by officials and engineers involved.

Canada Assures Safety Of Indian Diplomats Amid Row Over Khalistan Posters

TORONTO, July 4: Canada has assured India of the safety of its diplomats following the circulation of Khalistani posters online which named Indian officials and termed the "promotional material" circulating ahead of a Khalistan rally "unacceptable".

The statement by Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly came a day after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India has asked its partner countries such as Canada, the UK and the US not to give space to "extremist Khalistani ideology" as it is "not good" for relations.

Stressing Canada's commitment to the safety of diplomats, Minister Joly highlighted the country's adherence to the Vienna Conventions.

"Canada takes its obligations under the Vienna Conventions regarding the safety of diplomats very seriously," she said in the statement on her Twitter account on Tuesday.

"Canada remains in close contact with Indian officials in light of some of the promotional material circulating online regarding a protest planned for July 8, which are unacceptable," Joly said.

Joly also emphasised that the actions of a few individuals "do not speak for an entire community or Canada."

Jaishankar, when asked about reports of Khalistani posters in Canada naming Indian diplomats, said the issue will be raised with the government of that country.

The "radical, extremist Khalistani ideology" is not good for India or its partner countries such as the US, Canada, the UK and Australia, he told reporters on the sidelines of a BJP outreach campaign in New Delhi on Monday.

"We have already requested our partner countries like Canada, the US, the UK and Australia where sometimes Khalistani activities happen, not to give space to Khalistanis. Because their (Khalistanis) radical, extremist thinking is neither good for us nor for them nor our relations," the minister said.

"We will raise the issue of posters with those governments. I think it would have already been done by now as it happened two to three days earlier," Jaishankar said.

The Indian government on Monday had summoned Canadian High Commissioner Cameron MacKayove over a rally planned by Khalistan supporters in Toronto on July 8.

Last month, India slammed Canada after visuals surfaced on social media of a tableau in Brampton that reportedly celebrated the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Canada's response to the Khalistani issue appeared to be constrained by its "vote bank compulsions" and India will have to respond if the activities impinge on its national security and integrity, Jaishankar had said on the issue.

The Khalistani issue has impacted ties between the two countries in many ways in the last few years, he had said.

India has been asking Canada against giving space to pro-Khalistani separatists and extremist elements, Jaishankar had said.

Ukraine Drone Attack Near Moscow A 'Terrorist Attack', Claims Russia

MOSCOW, July 4: Russia said on Tuesday it had downed five Ukrainian drones in the Moscow region, calling it a "terrorist act" that disrupted the functioning of the Vnukovo international airport.

"An attempt by the Kyiv regime to attack a zone where civil infrastructure is located, including an airport that receives international flights, is a new terrorist act," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.

The Russian military said it had downed all five drones, and that there was no damage or casualties.

Four drones were destroyed by anti-air defence systems while a fifth was neutralised by "electronic means" before crashing, it said.

Emergency services cited by the RIA Novosti news agency said one of the drones was neutralised at Kubinka, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Vnukovo, whose functioning was briefly interrupted by the attack.

Several flights were redirected to other airports and Russia's air transport agency said traffic at Vnukovo resumed at 0500 GMT.

Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency said that other airports in Moscow and the Moscow region were operating normally.

State-run agency RIA Novosti also reported that two drones had been downed near the village of Valuevo in New Moscow, citing emergency services.

The drones had fallen into an "open field" and no casualties had been reported, it said.

Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin called it "another Ukrainian drone attack attempt."

Drone attacks have hit Russian cities throughout Moscow's offensive in Ukraine, but have intensified in recent months.

Moscow and its environs, lying some 500 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, have up to now been rarely targeted.

In early May, two drones were shot down above the Kremlin, and later the same month drones hit Moscow high-rises.

Kyiv said early Tuesday that Russia had launched 22 Iranian "Shahed" attack drones at the Sumy, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Its forces had "destroyed" 16 of the drones, it said.

Peak Of 'Rioting' Has Passed, But 'I Will Be Cautious: France's Macron

PARIS, July 4: French President Emmanuel Macron told a meeting of mayors on Tuesday that the "peak" of rioting had passed but he remained cautious about calling an end to the violence.

"Is it a permanent return to calm? I will be cautious, but the peak that we've seen in previous days has passed," Macron said, according to TV pictures of his speech which was confirmed by a participant at the meeting.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday met with hundreds of French officials to begin exploring the "deeper reasons" for the country's plunge into riots after the killing of a teenager at a traffic stop.

The Elysee palace meeting with around 250 mayors, whose municipalities suffered damage over a week of violence, comes as the authorities reported a much calmer night across the country.

"Is it a permanent return to calm? I will be cautious, but the peak that we've seen in previous days has passed," Macron said, according to a participant.

"We all want a lasting, republican order," he said. "That's the absolute priority."

The government has battled riots and looting since 17-year-old Nahel M. was killed by an officer during a traffic stop on Tuesday just outside Paris, rekindling long-standing accusations of systemic racism among security forces.

Overnight violence in French cities had halved in 24 hours, the interior ministry said, with 72 people arrested overnight nationwide.

That included 24 arrested in and around Paris, where the riots first broke out.

The interior ministry said dozens of buildings were damaged -- including attacks on four offices of police or gendarmes -- but there were no injuries.

More than 150 vehicles had been set ablaze, and hundreds of fires started in rubbish bins or other public areas.

Police mobilisation had been kept at the same level as the two previous nights, at 45,000 across France.

Mayors across France had held rallies Monday calling for an end to the violent clashes.

Hundreds More Arrested In Riot-Hit France, Scores Of Buildings Set On Fire

PARIS, July 2: The French government said Sunday that hundreds more had been arrested in a fifth night of rioting sparked by the police killing of a 17-year-old, as police deployed reinforcements to flashpoint cities around the country.

Protesters, mostly minors, have set cars on fire, damaged infrastructure and clashed with police in an outpouring of rage since an officer shot Nahel M. point blank as he attempted to flee a traffic stop on Tuesday.

The killing was captured on video, which spread on social media and fueled anger over police violence against minorities, exposing severe racial tensions in France.

A day after Nahel was laid to rest in his home town near Paris, the interior ministry said police had made 719 arrests overnight -- still a provisional tally -- after around 1,300 the previous night.

Some 45 police officers or gendarmes were injured, 577 vehicles torched, 74 buildings set on fire and 871 fires set in streets and other public spaces, it said.

More than 20 police stations or gendarmerie barracks were also attacked, the ministry said.

While nationwide numbers suggested an overall decline in tension across the country, police still recorded a number of incidents.

The mayor of a town south of Paris said rioters had rammed a car into his home, injuring his wife and one of his children, and started a fire.

"Last night the horror and disgrace reached a new level," said the mayor, Vincent Jeanbrun.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called the attack "intolerable", while prosecutors said they were treating it as attempted murder.

Some 45,000 police had been deployed across France, the same number as the night before, and backup was dispatched to the previous days' flashpoints, including Lyon, Grenoble and Marseille.

Of the total, 7,000 were concentrated on Paris and its suburbs, including along tourist hotspot the Champs Elysees avenue in central Paris following calls on social media to take rioting to the heart of the capital.

The massive police presence had helped keep the violence in check, said Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

"A calmer night thanks to the resolute action of the security forces," he tweeted early Sunday.

After 4 Days Of Riots, France Weighs 'All Options' To Quell Anger

PARIS, July 1: Several cities across France have witnessed sporadic violence and looting in the fourth straight night of protests after the police shooting of 17-year-old Nahel, who was shot dead on Tuesday during a traffic stop in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

The French government said the violence had "lessened", but the interior ministry still reported 1,311 arrests last night - the highest on any night since the protests began on Tuesday. Provisional numbers released by the ministry today said 1,350 vehicles and 234 buildings had been torched overnight, and there had been 2,560 incidents of fire in public spaces, a news agency reported.

Benoit Payan, the Mayor of Marseille, France's second-largest city, urged the national government to immediately send additional troops. "The scenes of pillaging and violence are unacceptable," he tweeted last night. A helicopter and armoured personnel carriers were deployed in Lyon, France's third-largest city.

45,000 officers backed by light armoured vehicles have been deployed and crack police units and other security forces have fanned out across the country in an effort to curb the unrest.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin was quoted as saying that last night's violence had been of "much less intensity". More than 200 police officers have been injured since the violence began, said the minister, adding that the average age of the rioters was 17.

While the violence and looting were reported to be the worst in Marseille and Lyon, clashes between hooded protesters and police also occurred in parts of Grenoble and Saint-Etienne. Sporadic violence was also reported in the suburbs of Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who left a European Union summit early to attend a second cabinet crisis meeting in two days, urged parents to take responsibility for underage rioters. Denouncing the "unacceptable exploitation of a death of an adolescent" in some quarters, he vowed to work with social networks to curb "copycat violence" spread via services such as TikTok and Snapchat.

"The time of violence must give way to that of mourning, dialogue and reconstruction," the French national football team said in a statement posted by captain and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe. Les Bleus said they were "shocked by the brutal death of young Nahel" but asked that violence give way to "other peaceful and constructive ways of expressing oneself".

Buses and trams, which had been targeted in violence on some of the other nights, stopped running at 9.00 pm yesterday and the sale of inflammable liquids and large fireworks has been banned. Asked about a possible state of emergency, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said the government is "looking at all options". Some ministers are, however, opposed to the step.

Nahel's funeral ceremony began in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre with a large crowd gathering at the local cemetery in a tense atmosphere. In her first interview since Nahel's death, his mother, Mounia, told France 5 television on Thursday: "I don't blame the police, I blame one person: the one who took the life of my son." She said the 38-year-old officer responsible, who has been charged with voluntary manslaughter, "saw an Arab face, a little kid, and wanted to take his life".

Nahel's death has revived longstanding grievances about policing and racial profiling in France's low-income and multi-ethnic suburbs. Mohamed Jakoubi, who watched Nahel grow up, said the rage was fuelled by a sense of injustice after incidents of police violence against minority ethnic communities, many from former French colonies.

The UN rights office said yesterday that the killing of the teen of North African descent was "a moment for the country to seriously address the deep issues of racism and racial discrimination in law enforcement".A statement by the French foreign ministry, however, dismissed that charge as "totally unfounded". Britain and other European countries have updated their travel advice and warned tourists to stay away from areas affected by the rioting.

Dutch King Apologises For Netherlands' Historic Role In Slavery

AMSTERDAM, July 1: Dutch King Willem-Alexander on Saturday apologised for the Netherlands' historic involvement in slavery and the effects that it still has today.

The king was speaking at a ceremony marking the 160th anniversary of the legal abolition of slavery in the Netherlands, including its former colonies in the Caribbean.

"On this day that we remember the Dutch history of slavery, I ask forgiveness for this crime against humanity," he said. He said racism in Dutch society remains a problem and not everyone would support his apology.

However "the times have changed and Keti Koti ... the chains have truly been broken," he said to cheers and applause of thousands of onlookers at the national slavery monument in Amsterdam's Oosterpark.

"Keti Koti" are Surinamese words that mean the 'the chain is broken' and it is the title given to July 1 as a day of remembrance of slavery and celebration of freedom.

The apology comes amid a wider reconsideration of the Netherlands' colonial past, including involvement in both the Atlantic slave trade and slavery in its former Asian colonies.

Willem-Alexander apologised in Indonesia in 2020 for "excessive violence" during Dutch colonial rule.

In December Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged the Dutch State bears a responsibility in the Atlantic slave trade and profited from it, and apologised.

Rutte has said the government will not pay reparations, as an advisory panel recommended in 2021.

A government-commissioned study published last month found that the House of Orange profited by around $600 million in modern terms from Dutch colonies in 1675-1770, much of it given as a gift from the Dutch East India Company's spice trade profits.

The Royal House in December commissioned an independent investigation into the Royal Family's role in colonial history, with results expected in 2025.

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