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India welcomes Trump’s new Afghanistan policy

NEW DELHI, Aug 22: India on Tuesday welcomed United States President Donald Trump’s new policy on Afghanistan. saying his move will help target “safe havens” of terrorism in South Asia. His call for an end to Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism in Afghanistan and his support for Afghan-led peace process addressed a core Indian concern.

“We welcome President Trump’s determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists,” said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in a statement.

In his speech earlier on Monday, President Trump urged India to do more to help Afghanistan with its developmental needs and urged Pakistan to stop the terror attacks that originate from its territory.

India responded saying that it shared concerns of the U.S. government. “We are committed to supporting the government and the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to bring peace, security and stability and prosperity in their country. We have been steadfast in extending reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan in keeping with our traditional friendship with its people. We will continue these efforts,” said the MEA.

North Korea warns of clash as military drills begin

SEOUL, Aug 21: The United States and South Korea began their annual joint military exercises Monday, while North Korea warned that the drills will deepen tensions on the Korean Peninsula by “throwing fuel onto fire.”

Both the United States and South Korea insist that the drills are defensive in nature, but North Korea has long condemned the joint exercises as rehearsals for invasion. During such drills, North Korea has often escalated its warlike rhetoric and lashed out with missile and other weapons tests.

It tested a submarine-launched ballistic missile during the drills in August last year, following it up with a nuclear test, its fifth, the next month.

The exercises this week, known as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, follow a North Korean threat this month to launch four ballistic missiles into waters near Guam, home to major U.S. military bases in the Western Pacific. That warning, combined with another by President Trump to bring “fire and fury” to the North unless it stood down, has escalated tensions in the region, even setting off fears of possible war.

The tensions appear to have eased somewhat since the North Korean leader,
Kim Jong Un, said last week that he would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before deciding whether to approve his military’s plan to fire missiles near Guam. Kim said the United States needs to “make a proper option first and show it through action” to reduce tensions.

If North Korea uses the drills this week as a reason to launch missiles around Guam or elsewhere, it could set off a new cycle of escalation.

“We have no intention of raising military tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said Monday. “North Korea should not use this as a pretext for provocation.”

Moon also stressed his opposition to military action against North Korea to a visiting U.S. congressional delegation. “Even a very limited military option would eventually lead to an armed clash between South and North Korea,” Moon’s office quoted him as telling the delegation, led by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. “This would endanger the lives of many foreigners in South Korea, including American servicemen, as well as South Koreans.”

On Sunday, the North’s main state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, likened the drills to an act of “throwing fuel onto fire” that would “worsen the situation.”

“No one can guarantee that this will not escalate into a real war,” it said, calling the annual drills a “rehearsal for nuclear war” and the “most naked expression of hostility” toward the North.

The war games, which last 11 days, involve 17,500 U.S. service members, including about 3,000 from outside the peninsula, and 50,000 South Korean troops. The exercises include computer simulations carried out in a large bunker south of Seoul intended to check the allies’ readiness to repel aggressions by the North.

The drills this year are the second Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercises since the United States and South Korea reportedly revised their war plans in 2015 to reflect the North’s advances in its nuclear capabilities.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, and Gen. John Hyten, chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, arrived in South Korea over the weekend to observe the exercises. Their unusual presence was meant to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to defend its ally, officials in South Korea said.

It remained unclear whether the drills would involve nuclear-capable long-range bombers and other strategic weapons from the United States.

Race-related protests surface in Canada

TORONTO, Aug 21: Race-related agitation spilled over into Canada from the United States on Sunday and led to the arrest of an Indian-origin activist who was at a counter-demonstration.

A week after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the contagion of race-related protests and counter-protests hit Canada’s Quebec City, where a group called Le Meute, or the Wolf Pack, had planned a vigil outside the provincial National Assembly against what they described as “illegal immigration”.

But they remained holed up in a parking garage for more than four hours, while counter-protestors laid siege to the building they were gathered in. Among those groups was Antifa and its demonstration was deemed illegal by the local police.

The counter-protests turned violent at one stage. One person, Montreal-based activist Jaggi Singh, was arrested by police.

Singh, a prominent social justice activist, told Canada’s CTV News earlier that Le Meute’s message was one “that needs to be confronted”.

However, the anti-immigrant group claimed “success”, as its members finally emerged from hiding to peacefully march down the streets of Quebec City.

The protest by Le Meute was condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. During the course of a news conference in Montreal, held jointly with Ireland’s Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Trudeau described anti-immigrant marches like the one planned by Le Meute as “intolerant, racist demonstrations”.

“The small minority, angry, frustrated group of racists don’t get to define who we are as a country, don’t get to tell others who we are and don’t get to change the nature of the open, accepting values that make us who we are,” he said.

Trudeau added he was “proud to stand with millions of Canadians who reject the hateful, harmful, heinous ideologies that we’ve seen in dark corners of both the internet and our communities from time to time”.

A similar protest in Vancouver on Saturday had been overwhelmed by peaceful counter-protestors. However, those opposing Le Meute turned violent at times, tossing flares, fireworks, and even chairs at police and setting a dumpster on fire.

CBC News reported at least two members of Le Meute had been seen at the rally in Charlottesville.

More anti-immigration demonstrations are being planned in other Canadian cities, including Toronto. This increase in opposition to immigration has partly resulted from the recent surge in people crossing the border from the US into Canada and into Quebec.

However, Trudeau attempted to reassure Canadians the system had not broken down, as he said, “Canadians can be confident in the integrity of our borders, in the strength and rigour of our immigration system.”

North Korea has produced nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles: report

WASHINGTON, Aug 8: North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday, a major development sure to further inflame tensions.

The Post cited parts of an analysis conducted by the Defense Intelligence Agency that says the intelligence community thinks North Korea has “nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery” — including in intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Post said the assessment’s broad conclusions were verified by two US officials familiar with the analysis. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not known if North Korea has successfully tested the smaller warhead design, the Post said, though North Korea last year claimed to have done so.

The progress means North Korea is further along the path to having a deployable nuclear missile than has previously been acknowledged. The Post also reported that another intelligence assessment estimated that North Korea now has up to 60 nuclear weapons, more than previously thought.

North Korea has alarmed the international community by the pace and progress of its missile development program, and in July leader Kim Jong-Un conducted two tests of an ICBM — the first time he had demonstrated ICBM capability.

The first of these trials, which Kim described as a gift to “American bastards,” showed the rocket had the potential range to hit Alaska. The second rocket test last week flew even longer, with some experts even suggesting that New York could be in range. North Korea vowed yesterday that tough new UN sanctions would not stop it from developing its nuclear arsenal, rejecting talks and angrily threatening retaliation against the United States.

Up to 100 feared dead, thousands injured in China earthquake: Govt

BEIJING, Aug 8: A 6.5-magnitude earthquake rattled southwest China late Tuesday, killing at least five people, with up to 100 feared dead, according to a government estimate.

Five people died and more than 60 were injured in the quake, the official Xinhua news agency said, including 30 who were in critical condition.

But China’s National Commission for Disaster Reduction estimated that as many as 100 people may have perished, based on 2010 census data of the mountainous, sparsely populated region.

Over 130,000 houses may be damaged, it added in a statement posted on its website, based on a preliminary analysis of the disaster in a remote region of Sichuan province.

The quake occurred around 9.20 pm, not far from the site of a massive 8.0-magnitude earthquake that struck in 2008 leaving 87,000 people dead or missing.

Its epicentre was 284 kilometres north of the provincial capital Chengdu and struck at a depth of 10 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The affected region, Jiuzhaigou county, includes one of the country’s most famous national parks, a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for karst formations and lakes.

At least one tourist was killed and four others injured in the park, the state-run People’s Daily newspaper said, with more than 100 other people trapped there.

More than 38,000 people visited the tourist site on Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

India says no troop withdrawal at Doklam amid border standoff

NEW DELHI, Aug 2: India on Wednesday rejected China’s claim that the number of troops engaged in the Doklam standoff had fallen and insisted that peace and tranquillity at the border are an “important requisite” for smooth development of ties.

China’s foreign ministry issued a 15-page statement which said Indian troop numbers in the Donglang or Doklam region had fallen from a peak of more than 400 to about 40 at the end of July.

The statement also floated the idea that New Delhi and Beijing should sign a new boundary convention to replace the 1890 “Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet” that is said to have demarcated the Sikkim boundary.

Hours after China pointed to the thinning out of troops, Indian government sources said there had been no withdrawal of Indian forces and the position on the ground remained unchanged.

“Neither has the Indian Army pulled back any troops nor has the force observed any withdrawal by the Chinese side. The status remains the same,” a source said.

The sources said around 350 Indian troops have been deployed at Doklam for the past six weeks.

Responding to China’s statement which contended the face-off at Doklam was triggered in June by Indian troops “trespassing” into Chinese territory, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said: “India’s position on this issue and related facts have been articulated in our press statement of June 30, 2017.

“India considers that peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas is an important prerequisite for smooth development of our bilateral relations with China.”

The Indian statement of June 30 – the only official readout on the standoff that is in its second month – had expressed New Delhi’s concern at Beijing’s attempt to build a road in the India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction that would “represent a significant change of status quo with serious security implications”.

But the Chinese foreign ministry contended it had informed India in advance about its road building activity in Doklam and also accused India of interfering in the Bhutan-China boundary issue. “The China-Bhutan boundary issue is one between China and Bhutan. It has nothing to do with India. As a third party, India has no right to interfere in or impede the boundary talks between China and Bhutan, still less the right to make territorial claims on Bhutan’s behalf,” the statement said.

India has asserted that China’s road construction activity will change the status quo and goes against an understanding reached by the two sides in 2012 that the “tri-junction boundary points between India, China and third countries will be finalised in consultation with the concerned countries”.

Beijing referred to the 1890 convention and a “non-paper” provided by the Indian side during a May 10, 2006 meeting of the Special Representatives on the boundary issue to back up its claims. “Both sides agree on the boundary alignment in the Sikkim Sector,” the Chinese statement quoted the non-paper as saying.

A non-paper is an informal document, usually without explicit attribution, used in diplomatic negotiations. It is rare for the contents of such documents to be officially made public by either party involved in negotiations.

In a first, the Chinese statement also floated the idea that New Delhi and Beijing should sign a new boundary convention to replace the 1890 “Convention between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet”.

The face-off began on June 16, when Indian troops opposed the building of a road by Chinese forces at Donglang or Doklam, which is under China’s control but claimed by Bhutan.

The Chinese statement said the boundary in Sikkim sector “has long been delimited by the 1890 convention” and even the signing of a new convention would “in no way” alter the nature of the boundary in the region.

The more than 2,500-word statement was the latest in the series of steps by the Chinese side blaming India for the impasse.

Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has said both sides should pull back their troops before any talks but China has set the unilateral withdrawal of Indian troops from Donglang as a pre-condition for a dialogue.

No decision yet on UN ban on Masood Azhar, says China

BEIJING, Aug 2: China on Wednesday said it will take “a decision in due course” on its hold on the US-led proposal to designate Pakistan-based JeM terror group leader Masood Azhar as a global terrorist which is expected to come for a review later this month.

Early this year the US along with the UK and France approached the UN’s sanctions committee for the ban on Azhar.

However, it was stopped by Beijing which again put a six-month technical hold on it. The US proposal came after India’s efforts last year to get Azhar listed as a global terrorist by the UN were scuttled by China.

“The Chinese side will make the decision in due course,” the foreign ministry said about the pending application proposed by the US, the UK and France among others in the 1267 anti-terrorism committee of the UN security council.

“We have stated China’s position on the listing of the 1267 Committee of the UN security council many times” in the past, the ministry said in a written response.

China has been blocking India’s move stating that there is no consensus in the UNSC 1267 which enforces a global ban on terror groups and their leaders with affiliations to Al- Qaeda and Islamic State. JeM has already been in the banned list.

This is the second-year China has blocked attempts to bring about a UN ban on Azhar which would force Pakistan to act against him.

India moved for the UN ban against Azhar in March last year accusing him of masterminding the Pathankot terrorist attack.

China first blocked the Indian move for six months followed by three months technical hold, which ended on December 31 last year leading to the lapse of the application.

China was the only member in the 15-nation UN body to put a hold on India’s application with all other 14 members of the Council supporting New Delhi’s bid to place Azhar on the 1267 sanctions list that would subject him to an assets freeze and travel ban.

China steps up activities along Himachal Pradesh border in Kinnaur

SHIMLA, Aug 1: Heightened Chinese activities were reported across the international border in two Himachal Pradesh districts adjacent to the mountainous and arid Tibetan region where Beijing is building roads and infrastructure.

The reports surfaced after the India-China standoff over Doklam across the Sikkim border in the eastern sector.

Himachal shares a 260km porous border on its northeastern side with China and three battalions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) are maintaining constant vigilance since the Doklam faceoff in mid-June.

Residents of villages in the remote districts of Kinnaur as well as Lahaul and Spiti have reported spotting Chinese helicopters and increased road-building and construction activities across the border.

“Though we have been seeing construction activities for the past year, there has been a marked acceleration in the past four months,” said a government official who didn’t wish to be named.

Chinese constructions could be seen from Shaktot village, about 5km from the Indian border point of Kaurik, which is the last village situated beyond Sumdoh. China has an airfield at Lupsuk, which is nearly 190km from Kaurik.

Kinnaur shares a 140km border with China, while 80km lies in Lahaul and Spiti district.

“We have stepped up vigilance along the China border in Himachal,” said a security officer.

The paramilitary ITBP guards the Chinese border and it has 20 outposts, including the high-security camp at Kaurik in Himachal.

The standoff has affected the annual cross-border trade, which begins in the last week of June and ends in November, through traditional mountain trails and passes.

The local administration has approved trade permits to 52 applicants this year, but is yet to give them permission for go to China. “There is no clarity when it will start,” said Hishey Negi, president of the Kinnaur India-China trade association.

For ages merchants have been crossing the Shipki La, a mountain pass at an altitude of 18,599 feet, to trade with Tibet. It is through this pass that Sutlej enters India from Tibet.

The route was closed after the India-China war in 1962 and reopened when the two countries signed a trade protocol in 1994.

Besides, there are several mountain passes, including Lepcha La, Rang La, and Ranisha Dob Rang.

But, between the passes, there are transit routes that villagers use to cross over and meet relatives across the border.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi elected Pak’s new prime minister

ISLAMABAD, Aug 1: Pakistan’s Parliament elected former petroleum minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as prime minister on Tuesday, days after three-time premier Nawaz Sharif was ousted by the Supreme Court.

Abbasi, from the ruling PML-N party, got 221 votes in the 342-member National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq announced. He will be sworn in later on Tuesday.

After announcing the results amid sloganeering, Sadiq asked Abbasi to take the seat of the prime minister and address the House.

The voting was done with four corners being designated for four candidates, where supporters of each candidate recorded their vote.

Abbasi, a leading businessman and founder of the airblue private airline, will serve as a placeholder prime minister till Sharif’s brother, Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif, is elected to the National Assembly and can become the premier.

After the voting and counting process, many PML-N members of the National Assembly entered the House with posters of Sharif. The Speaker objected to this and asked them to put away placards and posters.

Abbasi will be sworn-in in later at a special ceremony at the President’s House, where President Mamnoon Hussain will administer the oath to him.

Sharif resigned on Friday, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled he was not honest because he had concealed assets — specifically a monthly salary owed to him by his son’s Dubai-based company. Sharif has said he never received any of that money.

The PML-N party has said it will file a petition in the Supreme Court next week, seeking a review of its verdict.

Putin expels 755 American diplomats

MOSCOW, July 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday said that 755 US diplomats must leave his country, after Moscow announced it would expel American staff in retaliation for tough new sanctions from Washington.

The Russian foreign ministry had earlier demanded that the US cut its diplomatic presence in Russia by September to 455 -- the same number Moscow has in the US.

"More than a thousand people were working and are still working" at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television. "755 people must stop their activities in Russia."

Putin added that an upturn in Russia's relations with Washington could not be expected "any time soon".

"We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better," he said.

"But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it's not for any time soon."

On Thursday, the US Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and for its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.

The law now goes to President Donald Trump who had made an improvement in ties with Russia a plank of his election campaign.

Moscow on Friday ordered the US to slash its number of diplomats in Russia to 455 and froze two embassy compounds - a Moscow summer house and a storage facility in the city - from August 1.

In December, the then US president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow for espionage.

Pakistan to elect new prime minister on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD, July 30: Pakistan’s Parliament will meet on Tuesday to elect a new prime minister after the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif.

The confirmation from Parliament came after President Mamnoon Hussain convened a special session following Sharif’s decision to put forward his ally and longtime loyalist Shahid Khaqan Abbasi as interim leader and named his brother Shahbaz, 65, as long-term successor.

The opposition is expected to name a candidate to challenge Abbasi in a vote in Parliament, but Sharif’s PML-N holds a majority with 188 seats in the 342-member Parliament, and the former petroleum and natural resources minister is expected to win, barring any defections from party ranks.

Sharif said the plan is for Abbasi to stay in power until Shahbaz, who is the chief minister of the vast Punjab province, wins a by-election to the national assembly and becomes eligible to be prime minister.

A quick handover could ease political upheaval sparked by the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday to disqualify Sharif for not declaring a source of income.

The court also ordered a criminal investigation into him and his family.

Abbasi on Sunday vowed to continue Sharif’s work.

“I hope that God will help me in furthering Nawaz Sharif’s policies,” Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad, adding to speculation that Sharif will continue to run the show behind the scenes.

The turmoil and the premature end to Sharif’s third stint in power has also raised questions about Pakistan’s democracy as no prime minister has completed a full term in power since 1947.

Meanwhile, Nawaz his wife Kulsum Nawaz, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and his son-in-law Captain Safdar vacated the Prime Minister’s House on Sunday and departed for Murree. Former finance minister Ishaq Dar met the PM House’s staff before he too left for Murree.

Chinese daily accuses US of trying to escalate Sikkim standoff

BEIJING, July 26: A Chinese daily today accused the US and other countries of trying to escalate the Sino-India standoff to replicate the "South China Sea trick" and seek strategic benefits.

"More than five weeks into the border standoff between China and India, some countries other than the two directly involved are trying to step in," an op-ed article in the state-run Global Times said, directly mentioning the US and Australia.

The article titled 'Instigating Sino-India confrontation won't benefit US' referred to commentaries in the US media calling on Washington to provide to support India to "deter and counter" China and rally the world against Beijing.

It also took exception to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's call for resolving the Doklam issue peacefully, saying "Bishop intends to blur the nature of the face-off and shows disguised support for India."

The article said "so far, the Donald Trump administration has paid little attention to the US-India ties, and their divergences over issues like trade and immigration remain".

"The Americans may think they can copy their South China Sea trick. But what did the US get from the maritime disputes? Likewise, Washington won't get any benefits from the escalation of the Sino-India confrontation. China won't give up safeguarding its territory because of US interference," it said.

26 Afghan soldiers killed in Taliban attack on Kandahar base

KANDAHAR, July 26: At least 26 Afghan soldiers have been killed and 13 wounded in a Taliban attack on a military base in Kandahar province, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, the latest blow to struggling security forces.

The militants "attacked an army camp in Karzali area of Khakrez district of Kandahar last night," MoD spokesman General Dawlat Waziri said.

Afghan soldiers "bravely resisted", he said, killing more than 80 insurgents.

Residents in the area described an hours-long attack launched by a 30-strong convoy carrying "hundreds" of Taliban who assaulted the base from multiple directions.

Air support was called in, several residents said, though that was not immediately confirmed by officials. The insurgents claimed the attack via their Twitter account.

The resurgent Taliban have been ramping up their campaign against beleaguered government forces, underscoring rising insecurity in the war-torn country throughout the warmer weather fighting season.

Afghan security forces, beset by killings, desertions and non-existent "ghost soldiers" on the payroll, have been struggling to beat back insurgents since US-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in December 2014.

Masood Azhar will be listed as terrorist under relevant UN sanction rules: MEA

NEW DELHI, July 20: The Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday said that the United States (US) and other countries have requested to list Maulana Masood Azhar as a terrorist under relevant United Nation (UN) sanctions committee.

“US has made a request along with other countries for Maulana Masood Azhar to be listed under the relevant UN sanctions committee because terrorism are being emanating from this particular source like we saw in the case of Syed Salahuddin. It’s a global concern. It contributes the global menace of terrorism very largely and substantially,” MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay told media on Thursday.

Masood Azhar is the founder and leader of the UN-designated terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which active mainly in the Pakistani administered Azad Kashmir.

Pakistani authorities took him into ‘protective custody’ after last year terror attack in Pathankot, Punjab which was widely reported as an “arrest”. However, he was seen free in April 2016.

India has listed Masood Azhar as one of its most wanted terrorists due to his history of militant activities.

Modi targets Pakistan at G20 summit, equates LeT, JeM terror groups to Islamic State and al-Qaeda

HAMBURG, July 7: Naming Pakistan-based terror groups LeT and JeM, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said some countries were using terror as a tool to achieve political objectives and pressed for “deterrent” action collectively by the G-20 members against such nations.

Addressing the G20 summit in Hamburg, he equated Lashkar-e- Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohamamd to Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, saying their names might be different but their ideology was the same.

With leaders like US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping listening, Modi regretted that the international response to terrorism was weak and said more cooperation was needed to fight the menace.

The Indian prime minister presented an 11-point Action Agenda which included suggestions for exchange of lists of terrorists among G20 nations, easing and expediting of legal processes like extradition and concrete steps to choke funds and weapon supply to the terrorists.

“Some nations are using terrorism for achieving political goals,” Modi said in a clear reference to Pakistan.

He named LeT and JeM as terror operatives in the South Asia like Daesh (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in the Middle East and Boko Haram in Nigeria. “Their only ideology is to spread hatred and commit massacres,” he added.

Modi said the nations are less networked in dealing with the menace while the terrorists were better networked.

Modi, Xi chat at G20 amid border row

HAMBURG, July 7: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping discussed a “range of issues” during an informal gathering of BRICS leaders on the margins of the G20 Summit in Hamburg on Friday even as the Chinese leader called for the peaceful settlement of regional disputes.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted a photo of the two leaders smiling and shaking hands. He said Modi and Xi had a “conversation on a range of issues”.

The interaction, held against the backdrop of a tense standoff between Indian and Chinese forces in the Sikkim sector, came a day after China ruled out a formal bilateral meeting between the two leaders in Hamburg, with officials saying the “atmosphere is not right”.

Television reports said the discussion between Modi and Xi lasted about five minutes.

The Chinese president, who presided over the informal meeting, called on “the BRICS countries to push for peaceful settlement of regional conflicts and disputes”, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

During the meeting of the leaders of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) grouping, the two leaders praised the roles played by each other’s countries in the international arena.

In his address, Modi “appreciated momentum in BRICS under the chairmanship of President Xi and extended full cooperation and best wishes for the BRICS Xiamen Summit”, according to a statement from the external affairs ministry.

Concluding the meeting immediately after Modi’s remarks, Xi “appreciated India’s strong resolve against terrorism and the momentum in BRICS introduced under India’s chairmanship and through the outcomes of the Goa Summit in 2016”.

Xi also appreciated “India’s success in economic and social development and wished India even bigger success”.

Protests rock Hamburg ahead of G20 summit; Merkel seeks policy consensus

HAMBURG, July 6: German police clashed with protesters before a G20 summit in Hamburg on Thursday, tarnishing the outset of a meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel hopes will cement her role as a stateswoman as she seeks re-election in September.

Merkel, who is campaigning for a fourth term, can ill afford images of chaos and disharmony. The summit, which starts in full on Friday, is a chance for her to polish her diplomatic credentials but would be disastrous if marred by violence. She met U.S. President Donald Trump for an hour on Thursday evening, but less than an hour later police clashed with anti-capitalist demonstrators near the summit venue and fired water cannon at black-clad protesters after they threw bottles.

An eyewitness saw at least one protester with blood on his face being treated. "Welcome to Hell" was the protesters' greeting for Trump and other world leaders arriving for the two-day meeting.

Merkel has taken a high-risk gamble by choosing to hold the summit in the northern port city of Hamburg, partly to show the world that big protests are tolerated in a healthy democracy. Before meeting Trump, she struck a consensual tone, holding out hope for agreement on the divisive issue of climate policy and pledging to broker compromises. She pledged to represent German and European interests at the summit, but added "On the other hand, as hosts we - and I - will do all we can to find compromises."

Trump faces a testy confrontation at the summit with leaders of the other big Group of 20 economies after deciding last month to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate deal. Agreement could yet be found on climate, Merkel indicated. "There are various options, which can be discussed. We know that the United States have withdrawn. All others ... or as far as I know, many many others stand by this agreement," she said.

As the leaders began holding informal meetings, thousands of protesters from around Europe, who say the G20 has failed to solve many of the issues threatening world peace, poured into Hamburg to join the main demonstration. Police expected around 100,000 protesters in the port city, some 8,000 of whom are deemed by security forces to be ready to commit violence. Up to 20,000 police officers are on hand.

As summit host, Merkel must seek consensus among the G20 leaders not only on the divisive issue of climate policy but also on trade - an area fraught with risk as Trump pursues his 'America First' agenda.

Merkel earlier said she was committed to an open international trading system, despite fears of U.S. protectionism under the Trump administration. "We're united in our will to strengthen multilateral relations at the G20 summit ... We need an open society, especially open trade flows," Merkel said in Berlin. She and Trump discussed G20 themes, North Korea, the Middle East, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, a German government spokesman said. Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan is among other leaders Merkel was to meet.

Trump, who earlier in Poland called again on NATO partners to spend more on defence and said he would confront the threat from North Korea, is also due to hold his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit. Their meeting, scheduled for Friday, will be closely watched at a time when mutual ties remain strained by U.S. allegations of Russian election hacking, Syria, Ukraine and a U.S. row over Trump associates' links to Moscow.

India, Israel elevate their ties to strategic partnership

JERUSALEM, July 5: India and Israel elevated their ties to a strategic partnership as India identified Israel as a major development and technological partner after Prime Minister Narendra Modi finished official discussions with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu here.

A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said, "This historic first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel solidified the enduring friendship between their peoples and raised the bilateral relationship to that of a strategic partnership." But the discussions, according to sources went much beyond the official. Both men obviously found a personal connect — Modi invited Netanyahu and his family to India. Abandoning diplomatic niceties, Netanyahu jumped in with "I accept."

Netanyahu started by saying " This is a marriage made in heaven, but we are implementing it here on earth." In recent months, India and China have both come in for similar praise from Israel's leaders.

The important takeaways from Modi's visit so far are— apart from the historic significance of a first visit to Israel by an Indian PM, the two countries have broad based their relationship, moving beyond defence and security, which is an ongoing relationship anyway. "They visualised the two countries will become close partners in development, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, defence and security."

"It is in this context that we felt it was important to have a separately designated strategic partnership on agriculture and water," said foreign secretary S Jaishankar, briefing journalists afterwards. The joint statement said it would focus on water conservation, waste water treatment and its reuse for agriculture, desalination, water utility reforms, and cleaning of the Ganga etc. Similar cooperation in post-harvest technical knowhow and market linkages etc would be seen in the agriculture sector. Jaishankar said, this partnership would feed into India's national goal of doubling farmer incomes by 2022.

In his remarks, PM said, for the second time, "India admires the success of your people in overcoming adversity to advance, innovate and flourish against all odds." Netanyahu said he and Modi had given 6 months to their bureaucracies to draw up plans.

On terrorism, the two countries spoke the same language. Modi said, ""India has suffered first hand the violence and hatred spread by terror, so has Israel. PM Netanyahu and I have agreed to do much more together to protect our strategic interests and also cooperate to fight growing radicalization."

Defence and security is never far from the surface in the India-Israel dynamic — the joint statement reflected a new paradigm in defence relationship. The countries agreed that "future developments in this sphere should focus on joint development of defence products, including transfer of technology from Israel," encompassing not only "make in India" but a new concept of "make with India".

Cyber security will find a bigger space in the bilateral relationship as India and Israel work on combating cyber threats. The two countries signed three agreements on space cooperation that includes cooperation in the areas of "Atomic Clocks; GEO-LEO Optical Link; Academic collaboration and Electric propulsion for small satellites."

The business and economic relationship will get fresh energy when both sides sit down for the first CEOs Forum, with 16 companies on either side, where water, pharma and defence industries will find pre-eminence. A coordinating group will go into collaboration possibilities and easing of government barriers to partnership, "without falling into silos."

A one-plus-two meeting between Modi and Netanyahu this morning focused on defence and security, counter terror cooperation and global and regional security assessments, said Jaishankar. The Indian side briefed Israelis about the regulatory changes in India, as well as security challenges that India was looking at.

India and Israel will also explore cooperating in third countries particularly in Africa, said Netanyahu. There is a plan to increase the number of Indian students in Israel — already India is the source of the largest number of post-doc students here.

Jaishankar hinted at the possibility of more civilian flights between India and Israel, which he said would increase. Air India was supposed to start flights to Israel but they appear to have run into the unfortunate fact that while Air India would be able to take a shorter route to Israel, Israeli carriers would have to take the longer route around Saudi Arabia.

 
Cosmetic Dentist New Delhi India

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