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Obama says ready to pass baton to 'most qualified' Hillary

PHILADELPHIA, July 28: Barack Obama today made a powerful endorsement of Hillary Clinton as the next US president, saying no one including himself was ever more qualified than his former secretary of state, as Democrats united against "homegrown demagogues" like Republican rival Donald Trump who sell "fear and cynicism".

The two-time president, also the first black to have occupied the top post, said he was "ready to pass the baton" to his rival in 2008 as he painted an optimistic picture of an "already great nation".

"I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman -- not me, not Bill (Clinton), nobody -- more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America," Obama said amid deafening cheers from thousands of delegates and guests packed into a sports arena here.

In his 45-minute fiery speech, the most high-profile in the ongoing Democratic national convention, Obama asked Americans to shun "cynicism and fear" being propagated by the 70-year-old reality TV star.

"And now I'm ready to pass the baton and do my part as a private citizen. So this year, in this election, I'm asking you to join me, to reject cynicism and reject fear and to summon what is best in us; to elect Hillary Clinton as the next president of the United States and show the world we still believe in the promise of this great nation," he said.

Obama, 54, said the November 8 presidential elections were a "fundamental choice" about what the country is and the very "meaning of our democracy", and "not just a choice between parties or policies; the usual debates between left and right."

He endorsed 68-year-old Clinton, who had served as the secretary of state under his presidency, for having a first- hand knowledge of the challenges that come with the job and contrasted it with the lack of experience of the Republican nominee - a non-politician.

"You know, nothing truly prepares you for the demands of the Oval Office. Until you've sat at that desk, you don't know what it's like to manage a global crisis, or send young people to war. But Hillary's been in the room; she's been part of those decisions.

"He (Trump) is not really a plans guy. Not really a facts guy, either. He calls himself a business guy, which is true, but I have to say, I know plenty of businessmen and women who've achieved success without leaving a trail of lawsuits, and unpaid workers, and people feeling like they got cheated," he said.

The third day of the convention also witnessed Vice President Joe Biden making an emotional valedictory speech and Clinton's running mate Virginia Senator Tim Kaine formally nominated as the vice presidential candidate.

Hillary Clinton makes history as first woman White House nominee

PHILADELPHIA, July 27: Breaking a historic barrier, Hillary Clinton triumphantly captured the Democratic nomination for president Tuesday night, the first woman ever to lead a major political party in the race for the White House.

Delegates erupted in cheers as Clinton’s primary rival, Bernie Sanders, helped make it official when the roll call got to his home state of Vermont — an important show of unity for a party trying to heal deep divisions.

“I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders declared, asking that it be by acclamation.

It was a striking parallel to the role Clinton played eight years ago when she stepped to the microphone on the convention floor in Denver in support of her former rival, Barack Obama.

This time, Clinton shattered the glass ceiling she couldn’t crack in 2008. And in November, she will take on Donald Trump, nominated last week at the Republican convention in Cleveland.

The second night of the Democratic convention featured former President Bill Clinton, who was taking the stage to deliver a personal validation for his wife. Former presidents often vouch for their potential successors, but never before has that candidate also been a spouse.

Tuesday night wasn’t all celebratory. Moments after Clinton claimed the nomination, a group of Sanders supporters left the convention and headed to a media tent to protest what they said was their being shut out of the party. Earlier, several hundred gathered at Philadelphia’s City Hall under a blazing sun chanting “Bernie or bust.”

Trump cheered the disruptions from the campaign trail. In North Carolina, he told a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that, “our politicians have totally failed you.”

Indeed, Clinton’s long political resume — secretary of state, senator, first lady — has sometimes seemed an odd fit for an electorate deeply frustrated with Washington and eager to rally around unconventional candidates like Trump and Sanders. Many voters have questions about her character and trustworthiness, suggesting her years in power give her the impression she can play by different rules.

Clinton’s campaign views the four-day convention as an opportunity to introduce her to voters anew. Tuesday night featured three hours of speakers who highlighted issues Clinton championed for years, including health care and advocacy for children and families.

Among those pledging support for the Democratic nominee were the “mothers of the movement” — several black women whose children were victims of gun violence. Clinton has met privately with the mothers and held events with them, and they’ve become an emotional force for her campaign.

“Hillary Clinton has the passion and understanding to support grieving mothers,” said Sybrina Fulton, whose son Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012. “She has the courage to lead the fight for commonsense gun legislation.”

Clinton aides believe a focus on policy is another way to rally Sanders’ supporters, especially those who have threatened to stay home or vote for Republican Trump. The “Fights Of Her Life” segments focusing on Clinton’s accomplishments were interspersed with videos featuring Trump’s comments opposing abortion and bemoaning that women’s pregnancies hurt businesses.

Clinton’s landmark achievement saturated the roll call with emotion and symbols of women’s long struggle to break through political barriers. Jerry Emmett, a 102-year-old woman born before women had the right to vote, cast the ballots for Arizona.

Martha McKenna, a Clinton delegate from Maryland, said the night felt like a celebration for Sanders’ campaign as well as Clinton’s. She added, “The idea that I’m going to be here when the first woman president is nominated is overwhelming.”

The Democratic convention drew the party’s biggest stars to sweltering Philadelphia for the week-long event. On Monday night, first lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned case for Clinton as the only candidate in the presidential race worthy of being a role model for the nation’s children. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will speak Wednesday, along with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s new running mate.

Bill Clinton had the spotlight Tuesday night. The former president has campaigned frequently for his wife during the White House race, but mostly in smaller cities and towns, part of an effort by the campaign to keep him in a more behind-the-scenes role.

During Hillary Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 2008, her husband angered some Democrats with dismissive comments about Obama. This year, he — and she — were criticized after he met privately with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in the middle of the FBI’s investigation into her email use at the State Department.

The roll call this year, when each state announced its delegate totals from the primary season, affirmed a nomination Clinton locked up weeks ago.

...I met a girl: Bill Clinton tells love story to make case for Hillary

PHILADELPHIA, July 27: There have been millions of words, decades of video and reams of commentary devoted to their story. It’s been dissected, defended and decried at kitchen tables and on cable news, in tabloids and classrooms.

But on Tuesday night, as millions of voters watched and with the political stakes as high as they’ve ever been, Bill Clinton tried to make sense of it all and make the case for his wife, the newly minted Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“In the spring of 1971, I met a girl,” he began.

The former president’s tenth address to a Democratic convention was by far his most personal, a 42-minute tour through wedding proposals and Halloween parties, the deaths of parents and movie marathons.

Perhaps their worst moments - the Monica Lewinsky scandal, impeachment and legal battles that followed - were conspicuously omitted.

Instead, Bill Clinton cast himself as a passenger in his wife’s life, reshaping the story of much of their decades in politics.

The goal was to make Clinton, perhaps the most famous female politician in the world, yet a public figure her aides claim remains unknown, relatable to voters.

He cast her as a liberal heroine of her own story, who fought for education reform, health care, civil rights, the disabled, 9/11 first responders and economically depressed rural areas.

“She’s the best darn change-maker I’ve ever met in my entire life,” he said. “This woman has never been satisfied with the status quo on anything. She always wants to move the ball forward. That is just who she is.”

He never once mentioned GOP nominee Donald Trump by name, dismissing Republican attacks on Clinton as “made up” and a “cartoon alternative.” Rather, Bill Clinton focused nearly exclusively on his wife’s achievements and how she’d influenced him.

“I have lived a long full blessed life. It really took off when I met and fell in love with that girl in the spring of 1971,” he said.

But it wasn’t only Clinton who broke a glass ceiling on Tuesday when she became the first female nominee of a major party. Should she win on election day, her husband will step into a singular role in American history: first gentleman.

The potential new title is perhaps the strangest twist in a political career known for its second acts. After health scares and political missteps, the Comeback Kid, as he was known in his first presidential race, could come back to Washington one last time.

In 2012, he acted as a powerful validator for President Barack Obama, electrifying the room as the party’s “explainer-in-chief.”

But, said Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, “This is different.”

“This is more personal,” said Podesta, who recalled riding to the convention hall with Bill Clinton as he touched up his 2004 convention address. “This is more about her.”

Bill Clinton felt pressure to perform for his wife and make up for his own missteps during her second presidential campaign.

Nearly 70, he’s also a bit frailer, a touch shakier, though aides and friends say his famous memory remains sharp. Some say his administration’s legacy has been repudiated by his own party, which shifted left during Obama’s time in office.

“God bless him, Bill even looks old now,” said Republican strategist Alex Castellanos. “He’s not the once and future king, he’s the once and past king.”

But no one doubts that Bill Clinton still wants to be at the centre of the action. While aides have said he will not get a cabinet post or a seat in the Situation Room should his wife win, Clinton has made clear that her closest adviser will remain involved with her administration, saying he’d likely have a role in managing the nation’s economy.

They remain a “two for one” package, as Bill Clinton famously said during his first presidential race. But on Tuesday night, he hinted, just barely, that Clinton perhaps is finally getting her part of the deal.

“I married my best friend,” he said. “And I really hoped that she choosing me and rejecting my own advice to pursue her own career was a decision she’d never regret.”

Hillary Clinton picks Kaine as running mate

WASHINGTON, July 24: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has picked Senator Tim Kaine, a strong supporter of India-US ties, as her running mate, her campaign announced on Friday.

Kaine, 58, is a first-time senator from Virginia, a swing state that can potentially vote Democratic or Republican and will thus play a critical role in determing the outcome of the presidential election.

The line-up for the 2016 presidential race is now complete — Clinton and Kaine on the Democratic ticket facing Republican Donald Trump and his VP pick Mike Pence.

Clinton announced her pick in a tweet late on Friday evening: “I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others. -H”
The letter “H” meant Clinton signed off on this tweet personally.

Though called boring compared to some of the others on Clinton’s shortlist, Kaine is a popular senator of a crucial state, and, as was pointed out by the nominee, he has never lost an election.

He is a deeply religious Roman Catholic and is personally against abortion and capital punishment but did not allow that to influence his actions and decisions as an elected official.

He is a lawyer by training — he went to Harvard, as did President Barack Obama — and was elected mayor of Richmond, deputy governor and governor of Virginia and to the senate.

Described as a centrist, Kaine has had public disagreements with Obama on foreign policy issues and makes some in the party uncomfortable with his support for trade deals.

Kaine visited India in October 2014 — Delhi and Mumbai — as chairman of the senate’s foreign relations sub-committee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs.

Just weeks before in June, Kaine joined three other senators — Democrat Mark Warner, Republicans John Cornyn and Jim Risch — to move a resolution highlighting India-US ties.

The resolution,which passed, also called for inviting newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just a few days in office then, to address the US Congress at the earliest.

“This resolution sends a strong signal about the importance of the US-India Strategic Partnership and the bipartisan support the relationship enjoys on Capitol Hill,” Kaine said in a statement.

Modi finally addressed the US Congress on his fourth visit here as prime minister in June 2016, but the 2014 call by the bipartisan group of senators was significant given the context.

Trump accepts Republican Presidential nomination

CLEVELAND, July 22: A fractious Republican convention wrapped up Thursday with Donald Trump accepting the party’s White House nomination. Here are some key moments from the four-day gathering in Cleveland.

When the convention was gavelled in on Monday, it didn’t take long for tensions over Donald Trump’s nomination to bubble over.

What should have been a routine floor vote on arcane party rules erupted into a public revolt by anti-Trump Republicans.

Having lost the primary and several behind-the-scenes battles the “Never Trump” movement showed it was not going to roll over and die -- even if it meant a damaging public brawl.

“We deserve to be heard, this is the people’s convention!” said Diana Shores, a delegate from Virginia, while pro-Trump delegates tried to drown out the rebels with shouts of “Shame! Shame!”

Melania Trump’s debut in the political big league Monday was a speech full of earnest warmth, except the words weren’t entirely hers.

It transpired that Trump’s third wife, an ex-model, had included sections from a speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2008.

The Trump campaign’s ham-fisted response -- denying allegations of plagiarism, dismissing them as a media-generated controversy, then tacit admission, then having a speechwriter own up -- only fuelled the scandal and made Team Trump look inept.

Trump’s kids had less problematic appearances. A string of sons and daughters gave the convention a family feel -- with the tycoon’s favourite daughter Ivanka proving a powerful surrogate on the final night when she painted him as a compassionate champion of women’s rights.

When Texas Senator Ted Cruz walked onto the convention stage at prime time Wednesday, Team Trump had some hope that a unifying endorsement might be in the offing.

Fat chance. Cruz, popular on the right of the party, not only declined to endorse but actively encouraged his conservative backers not to vote for the mogul. “Vote your conscience,” he said.

The Trump campaign described it as no big deal and “classless”, whatever the political fallout, it is already clear that Trump’s running mate was collateral damage.

Mike Pence’s speech accepting the vice presidential nomination took place outside primetime because Cruz ran well over his allotted speaking time and thoroughly eclipsed Pence’s moment in the sun.

If Republicans in Cleveland agree on nothing else, it was that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is bad.

Speakers lined up to denounce Clinton for the deaths of their loved ones and for putting national security at risk. On Tuesday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor, went as far as convening a mock trial, seeking to convict the former first lady and secretary of state.

“Is she guilty, or not guilty?” he asked half a dozen times to the assembled delegates. The response: “Guilty!”

Adding to the raised-pitchforks tone, Republicans unleashed full-throated chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Thursday night, an unsmiling Donald Trump struck a martial tone in accepting the Republican presidential nomination, vowing to restore security to an America he sees as surrounded by danger.

“I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon, and I mean very soon, come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored,” he promised.

For one hour and 17 minutes, candidate Trump reasserted many of the nationalistic themes of his campaign, often shouting his lines to the roar of a packed convention hall.

It was the most important speech of his political career and he delivered it almost exactly as it played across a teleprompter, rarely ad-libbing.

At 11.34 pm, he concluded with a “God bless you, and good night. I love you,” and 125,000 red, white and blue balloons floated down onto the stage. Outside a burst of fireworks marked the end of the Republican jamboree.

Republican Party formally nominates Donald Trump

CLEVELAND, July 20: United for a night, Republicans nominated Donald Trump Tuesday as their presidential standard-bearer, capping the billionaire businessman’s stunning takeover of the GOP and propelling him into a November faceoff with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump’s campaign hoped the formal nomination would both end the discord surging through the Republican Party and overshadow the convention’s chaotic kickoff, including a plagiarism charge involving Melania Trump’s address on opening night.

“United we stand, divided we fall,” said Johnny McMahan, a Trump delegate from Arkansas.
There were flurries of dissent on the convention floor as states that Trump did not win recorded their votes, but he far outdistanced his primary rivals.

Trump was put over the top by his home state of New York. Four of his children joined the state’s delegation on the convention floor for the historic moment and appeared overwhelmed with emotion.

“Congratulations, Dad, we love you,” declared Donald Trump Jr.

Some delegates emphasized the need for a televised display of party unity after the deeply divisive GOP primary. But Colorado’s Kendal Unruh, a leader of the anti-Trump forces, called the convention a “sham” and warned party leaders that their efforts to silence opposition would keep some Republicans on the sidelines in the fall campaign against Clinton.

This week’s four-day convention is Trump’s highest-profile opportunity to convince voters that he’s better suited for the presidency than Clinton, who will be officially nominated at next week’s Democratic gathering. But the rocky start raises fresh questions about his oversight of his campaign, which gives voters a window into how a candidate might handle the pressures of the presidency.

The plagiarism accusations center on Monday night’s speech by Trump’s wife. Two passages from Mrs. Trump’s address — each 30 words or longer — matched a 2008 Democratic convention address by Michelle Obama nearly word-for-word.

Trump’s campaign managed only to keep the controversy alive on Day 2 of the convention by insisting there was no evidence of plagiarism, while offering no explanation for how the strikingly similar passages wound up in Mrs. Trump’s address. The matter consumed news coverage from Cleveland, obscuring Mrs. Trump’s broader effort to show her husband’s softer side.

Clinton pounced on the tumult, saying the Republican gathering had so far been “surreal,” comparing it to the classic fantasy film “Wizard of Oz.”

“When you pull back the curtain, it was just Donald Trump with nothing to offer to the American people,” Clinton said during a speech in Las Vegas.

Top Trump adviser Paul Manafort said the matter had been “totally blown out of proportion.”

“They’re not even sentences. They’re literally phrases. I was impressed somebody did their homework to think that that could be possibly done,” Manafort said.

Conventions are massive organizational undertakings, with thousands of attendees to manage and dozens of speakers to oversee. But the weeklong gathering pales in comparison to the scope of a president’s responsibilities as head of the U.S. government.

Republican leaders hoping to leave Cleveland with a strong show of party unity also found themselves answering unwelcome questions. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said he “probably” would have fired his own speechwriters under similar circumstances and acknowledged the matter was a distraction.

It was unclear whether the controversy would have any bearing on how voters view Trump. The businessman has survived numerous politically perilous moments that might have doomed other candidates.

Manafort, a longtime Republican operative, has emerged as a controversial and pivotal figure in Trump’s Cleveland operations. He led efforts to successfully tamp down a rebellion on the convention floor Monday, though the campaign still had to contend with angry outbursts from anti-Trump delegates.

The campaign chairman also upended Republicans’ unity message by slamming Ohio Governor John Kasich in his home state. He called Kasich “petulant” and “embarrassing” for not endorsing Trump or attending the convention, drawing quick condemnation from other GOP leaders worried about angering the popular governor of one of the most important election states.

Following the roll call vote, a parade of Trump’s former campaign rivals, Republican leaders who are lukewarm about his nomination and more family members are scheduled to take center stage. Republicans will be closely watching House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has endorsed Trump despite disagreeing with him on numerous issues.

Tiffany Trump, the candidate’s 22-year-old daughter from his marriage to Marla Maples, and Donald Trump Jr., his eldest son and an executive vice president at The Trump Organization, were scheduled to speak. Both were expected to highlight a more personal side of their father than is often seen in public.

Speaking to reporters on the convention floor ahead of the evening festivities, Trump Jr. said he was proud of Mrs. Trump’s speech, but said he imagined there were people “who should have cleaned it up better.”

Mrs. Trump was widely praised for her success in doing just that, despite the plagiarism charges. She spoke of her husband’s “simple goodness” and his loyalty and love of family — while noting the “drama” that comes with Trump in politics.

 

Bernie Sanders endorses Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON, July 12: Bernie Sanders ended his insurgent campaign on Tuesday and endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, appearing jointly with her at a rally in New Hampshire, which gave him his first primary win.

“This campaign is about the needs of the American people and addressing the very serious crises that we face,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that...Hillary Clinton is far and away the best candidate to do that.

“I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.”

With Clinton smiling and nodding beside him, Sanders listed his reasons for endorsing her — that read much like his own agenda which, in his words, was now adopted by her.

Clinton has indeed adopted some of Sanders’s pet campaign promises, such as raising minimum wages to $15 an hour and making community college tuition-free.

She needs Sanders, but she needs his supporters more to, among other things, dispel an enduring perception of her lack of support among young Democrats and independents.

Clinton will also need his list of donors, who kept him afloat financially against the former secretary of state’s formidable fund-raising machine through small contributions.

“People should not underestimate me,” Sanders had said when he launched his campaign in April 2015, and soon proceeded to prove wrong anyone who still did.

He drew large crowds to his rallies, filling large stadiums and sporting arenas with mostly young, educated white men and women fired up by his “Feel the Berne” campaign slogan.

Sanders raised more than $200 million through small contributions, averaging $27 a piece, and went on to win 22 primaries and caucuses, collecting close to 1,900 delegates.

In the end, Clinton out-raised him, and beat him to the Democratic party threshold of 2,383 delegates by collecting 2,807 delegates when the nominating contests ended in June.

Member blocking India’s NSG bid should be held accountable: US diplomat

In this file photo, foreign secretary S Jaishankar can be seen receiving Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) membership papers from France ambassador-designate Alexandre Ziegler, Netherlands ambassador Alphonsus Stoelinga and Luxembourg's Charge d Affaires Laure Huberty in New Delhi.NEW DELHI, June 30: Almost a week after India failed to get entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) due to a China-led opposition, a US diplomat said on Wednesday that just one country can break consensus in the atomic trading bloc and insisted that such a member should be held accountable.

Tom Shannon, US under secretary for political affairs, also said the United States was committed to ensuring India's entry into the 48-member club of countries controlling access to sensitive nuclear technology and expressed "regret" that Washington was unsuccessful in pushing India’s bid in an NSG plenary in Seoul last week.

"We understand that in a consensus-based organisation, one country can break consensus. But in order to do so it must be (held) accountable, not isolated.

"I think what we need to do going forward is, for both of us India and the US, sit down and take a call what happened in the Seoul, take a close look at the diplomatic process which is significant and see what more we can do and how we can ensure that next time we are successful," he said in an interaction with diplomats and officer trainees of the Indian Foreign Service in New Delhi.

Despite the support of the US and a host of other countries, India failed to make the NSG cut last week, with China blocking New Delhi’s bid on the ground that it is not a signatory of a non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

The NSG, set up in response to India’s first nuclear test in 1974, aims to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. On May 12, India formally applied for a membership.

India already enjoys most of the benefits of membership under a 2008 exemption to NSG rules granted to support its nuclear cooperation deal with Washington, even though it has developed atomic weapons and never signed the NPT, the main global arms control pact.

As the opposition led by China refused to adjust rules that require New Delhi to first sign the arms agreement, India said, in an unusually sharp but veiled reference to China, that one country persistently created “procedural hurdles”.

Describing India a responsible and important player in the sphere of nuclear non-proliferation, Shannon said, "We are committed to having India join the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We believe that through the kind of work we have done, the civil nuclear agreement, the way India conducted itself, it is worthy of this."

Shannon, who met foreign secretary S Jaishankar earlier in the day, said India's recent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) highlighted that the country was a "responsible and important player in the road to non- proliferation."

"We regret, in Seoul we and India, were unable to open space necessary to allow India to move into the NSG at this moment," he said.

Shannon, who called India an "anchor of stability" in the Asia Pacific region, said what China was doing in South China Sea was "madness".

Shannon said managing the rise of China was a major challenge and that the US wanted to work with India to have a strong and comprehensive presence in the Indian Ocean.

Shannon reiterated the India-US civil nuclear cooperation was a very important symbol of friendship between the two countries.

"Just a few weeks ago, President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi welcomed the start of preparatory work on a site in Andhra Pradesh for six AP 1000 reactors to be built by an American company.

"This is expected to provide jobs in both countries and bring clean, reliable electricity that will help meet India s growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels," he said.

The US official pointed out that 130,000 Indians were studying in his country and more than a million Americans visited India last year.

As for bilateral trade ties, Shannon said “US and Indian business leaders and young entrepreneurs have shown their own ambitions to work together”.

Trump's rhetoric is xenophobic, not populist: Obama

OTTAWA, June 30: US President Barack Obama is tired of hearing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump described as a populist.

The Democratic leader, who has made no secret of his dislike for the wealthy businessman's rhetoric, closed a news conference in Canada on June 29 with a long riff on what makes a leader qualified for the ‘populist’ mantra.

Trump did not meet the criteria, Obama said, without mentioning the Republican by name. ‘Somebody ... who has never shown any regard for workers, has never fought on behalf of social justice issues or making sure that poor kids are getting a decent shot at life or have health care,’ does not meet the definition, Obama said.

"They don't suddenly become a populist because they say something controversial in order to win votes. That's not the measure of populism. That's nativism, or xenophobia. Or worse. Or it's just cynicism," he said.

Trump won enough grassroots support among Republicans to make him the party's presumptive presidential nominee with a pledge to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the United States and to build a wall on the US border with Mexico, and a series of other inflammatory remarks.

Obama has sharply criticised Trump for such rhetoric. He plans to campaign with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, next week. The president's latest criticism of Trump could foreshadow Obama's strategy to help Clinton on the campaign trail.

He made a point of saying US Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Clinton's opponent in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, genuinely deserved the title of populist.

Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist and generated huge support from young people across the United States in his campaign.

Clinton needs those supporters now, and Obama, who won the White House in 2008 and 2012 with a similar coalition, will try to help deliver them for her.

Obama, who leaves office in January, made his comments yesterday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto looking on.

"Sorry," Obama said after his more-than-six-minute monologue. "It's the prerogative of an outgoing president to go on an occasional rant,” he quipped.

‘Istanbul attack hallmarks of IS’ depravity’: CIA warns of similar attacks in US

WASHINGTON, June 30: The Islamic State terror group may carry out a terror attack similar to the one at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, CIA director John Brennan has said.

The despicable attack at Istanbul’s international airport that killed dozens and injured several certainly bears the “hallmarks” of the Islamic State’s depravity, Brennan said in Washington on Wednesday.

“We’ve seen ISIL (Islamic State) carry out and incite an array of terrorist attacks in the region, directly, indirectly and I would be surprised that ISIL is not considering carrying out these attacks in the near abroad as well as the far abroad,” he said.

“And the United States, as we well know, is leading the coalition to try to destroy as much of this poison, inside of Syria and Iraq, as possible. So it would be surprising to me that ISIL is not trying to hit us, both in the region as well as in our homeland,” Brennan said while to replying to a question at the Council on Foreign Relations, a top American think-tank.

“I think what you see in the propagation of their material, they have a magazine, Dabiq, that goes out that says exactly that. It exhorts individuals to do it.”

“So if anybody here believes that, you know, the US homeland is hermetically sealed and that Daesh or ISIL would not consider that, I think I would guard against that,” he added.

Brennan said global instability is one of the defining issues of the time, and its implications are hard to overstate.

“As instability spreads, extremists and terrorists are finding sanctuary in ungoverned spaces. Energy supplies are being disrupted. Political reform is suffering as too many governments opt for authoritarian measures at the expense of democratic principles and respect for human rights,” the CIA official said.

As many as 42 people were killed and hundreds wounded yesterday after suicide attackers armed with guns and bombs attacked Istanbul’s busy Ataturk Airport, apparently targeting Turkey’s crucial tourism industry. The government blamed the attack on Islamic State extremists but there was no immediate confirmation from the group.

US will work to get India in NSG: Richard Verma

NEW DELHI, June 27: The US is “disappointed” that India was not admitted to NSG during its recent plenary in Seoul, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma said on Sunday but asserted that it will continue to work with all the members of 48-nation grouping on India’s accession in the months ahead.

Referring to Indo-US civil nuclear cooperation, he said the two sides have moved forward on a 15-year project to build six Westinghouse reactors producing power for some 60 million people. “This is a deal that had been pending for 10 years, and we were pleased to see it move even closer to fruition.”

Addressing the Atlantic Council US-India Trade Initiative workshop, Verma talked about the US’ strong support for India’s role in global institutions, like having a seat on a reformed UN security council. “We continued to welcome India’s interest in APEC, and we strongly affirmed our support for India’s accession into the multi-lateral export control regimes,” he added.

“With regard to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), six years ago, President (Barack) Obama first expressed his support for India’s membership in the NSG. Since that time, we have worked closely with our Indian counterparts and NSG members to help advance India’s case for membership. India has a strong record, and deserves to be included in the NSG.

“That is why the Administration, including senior White House and State Department officials, made a concerted effort to secure India’s membership in the recent NSG plenary session held in Seoul. We were disappointed India was not admitted during this recent session, but we will continue to work constructively with India and all the NSG members on India’s accession in the months ahead,” the top US envoy said.

India faced stiff opposition from China and a few other countries and the fact that it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was used for foiling India’s bid at the Seoul meeting despite the US’ strong backing.

Verma also said that the US’ designation of India as a Major Defence Partner will bring the militaries, industries, and defence ministries of the two countries even closer in the years ahead.

In climate and clean energy, US has launched several new clean energy financing programmes to support India’s 175 GW target for renewable power, he said noting that both Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were committed to full implementation of the historic Paris climate agreement.

“We are in this with India for the long-term in bringing clean reliable power to the 300 million Indians who lack it and simultaneously battling to keep the earth’s temperatures from rising to dangerous levels,” he added.

Referring to the recent meetings between Obama and Modi, who was in the US earlier this month, he said they helped to institutionalize the bilateral cooperation and put it on a long-term footing for close collaboration in several key areas.

“In short, the Prime Minister’s visit marked a new level of strategic convergence and consolidation in our partnership,” he said.

 

Uneasy about Donald Trump, Apple hangs up on Republicans

WASHINGTON, June 20: Breaking a tradition of contributing towards presidential conventions of both parties, Apple will not support Republicans this time because of its unease with Donald Trump.

The Cupertino, California-based company has not officially announced its decision, but unidentified officials confirmed it to multiple US media outlets.

While Trump has attacked Apple for its production facilities in China, vowing to bring them back to the US, the company is more troubled by his racist and bigoted remarks.

It joins Hewlett-Packard, the other IT giant whose CEO Meg Whitman has compared Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, in refusing to support the Republican convention.

Apple’s help, as that of Microsoft and Google, which are all backing both conventions, may not amount to much in itself — Apple products worth $140,000 in 2008.

But the optics of it will be troubling for the Republican Party, which is struggling to come to grips with their nominee and his bitterly divisive remarks on race, religion and all in between.

Other companies that have decided to not sponsor the Republican convention include JP Morgan Chase and Ford Motors, according to a Bloomberg report.

It’s a standard practice for many US companies to contribute towards both conventions through resources and products, without seeming to be taking sides. But 2016 will be different.

Trump, who likes to flaunt his private sector experience and friends, and who is usually quick to respond to slights and put-downs, had not responded till late Sunday.

The real-estate magnate has been struggling lately with his own party’s continuing misgivings about him, alternating between seeking its help and claiming he will be fine by himself.

On Saturday, he sought help, telling supporters at a rally, “I’m raising a lot of money for the Republican Party, and a lot of beneficiaries, and I like doing it – but we have to have help”.

“You know, life is like a two-way street, right? It’s a two-way street. So that’s it. Otherwise, I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I’ll just keep funding my own campaign.”
His poll numbers, which he also likes to boast about on campaigns trail, have been tanking — un-favourability hit a record 70% high this week — adding to his woes.

A narrative is gaining ground that Trump has squandered away the advantage he had over Hillary Clinton, having wrapped up his nominating contests almost five weeks before her.

And now, Apple.

US should start thinking about racial profiling: Donald Trump

WASHINGTON, June 19: In another controversial remark, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Sunday said that the US should start thinking about racial profiling to prevent incidents like the mass shooting in Orlando.

Citing the example of Israel and other countries in this regard, 70-year-old Trump argued this is not the worst thing to do.

“Well I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country,” Trump told the CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ in an interview.

“Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully. And I hate the concept of profiling but we have to start using common sense and we have to use our heads,” he argued.

Trump’s comments come one week after 49 people were shot and killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest mass shooting in US history. Following the massacre, Trump renewed his calls for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US.

During the interview, Trump, said horrific incidents like Orlando shooting could be prevented if the Muslim community would report suspicious things.

“When you look at people within the Muslim community and where people are living and they don’t report, and a good example of that would be San Bernardino,” he said.

“I mean, they had bombs all over their apartment floor and people saw it and nobody reported them, and 14 people were killed, many injured,” he added.

Trump said Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, had red flags before the attack.
“You look at his past, I mean? I’ve never seen a past quite like that. You look at his record in school, you look at a lot of other things. There were a lot of red flags, this was not a very good young man,” he said.

Trump said he is working with the National Rifles Association (NRA) to develop a policy that people on no fly list would not be allowed to buy a gun.

“We understand there are problems with that because some people are on the terror watch list that shouldn’t be on. So I’m working with the NRA, we’re discussing it and again the NRA has the best interests of our country, it just has the absolute best interests of our country,” he said.

Obama meets Dalai Lama

Dalai LamaWASHINGTON, June 16: US President Barack Obama encouraged direct dialogue between the Dalai Lama and China to resolve differences when he met with the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader on Wednesday, the White House said.

Obama told the Dalai Lama the United States does not support independence for Tibet. It was the fourth time the president met at the White House with the Dalai Lama, who China calls a dangerous separatist.

The meeting came at a time of heightened tensions between the United States and China over Beijing's assertive pursuit of territorial claims in East Asia. Obama's fourth White House meeting with the Dalai Lama in the past eight years took place in the White House residence, instead of the Oval Office where the president normally meets world leaders.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the choice of the residence emphasized the "personal nature of their meeting." He said Obama had thanked the Dalai Lama for his condolences for the victims of Sunday's mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida.

Earnest added that Obama had in the past spoken of his "warm personal feelings" for the Dalai Lama, appreciation of his teachings, and belief "in preserving Tibet's unique religious, cultural and linguistic traditions." At the same time, Earnest said the US position of considering Tibet part of China had not changed.

China's Foreign Ministry said earlier it had lodged diplomatic representations with the United States over the planned meeting, saying it would damage Chinese-US ties.

China considers the Dalai Lama a dangerous separatist, and ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the meeting would encourage "separatist forces". He urged Washington to abide by its promises to recognize that Tibet is part of China and cease any support for Tibet independence.

A commentary on China's official news agency Xinhua accused Washington of breaking its promise not to support Tibet's independence by going ahead with the meeting. It said this had "seriously jeopardized China-U.S. relations, and deeply hurt the Chinese people's feelings." "Supporting Tibet's independence is a clear interference in China's internal affairs and is in gross violation of the norms of international relations. Playing the 'Tibet card' shows the US government is overdrawing its political credit and international prestige."

When Obama last met the Dalai Lama at the White House in 2014 he angered China by vowing "strong support" for Tibetans' human rights. The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, says he wants genuine autonomy for Tibet, not independence.

In an interview on Monday, the Dalai Lama said the disputes between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea should be resolved through dialogue. He said China faced no threat from other Asian countries and as a big and ancient nation should pursue reconciliation and friendship. "Long term, it's in China's own interests," he said. "Trust and friendship with neighboring countries is essential; including the United States also."

Cried to see Malia graduate at extraordinary time for women in US: Obama

WASHINGTON, June 15: President Barack Obama has said that he cried at the recent high school convocation ceremony of his elder daughter Malia, thinking about how she is graduating at this “extraordinary time” for women in America.

“Some of you may know that on Friday, my elder daughter Malia graduated from high school. And I sat in the back and wore dark glasses,” Obama told a gathering of women from across the county at the Women Summit held at the White House.

“And only cried once, but it was -- I made this weird sound because I was choking back -- and people looked at me, people sitting in front of us turned back. And then I suppressed it,” Obama said describing the incident.

“I was thinking about how she is graduating at this extraordinary time for women in America,” said the 54-year-old US President.

Malia Obama, 17, graduated from the prominent Sidwell Friends School in Washington DC last Friday, which was attended by the US President.

She has taken admission in the prominent Harvard University, which she would be joining next year after taking a year’s off from studies.

In an interaction with Oprah Winfrey, First Lady Michelle Obama recollected the childhood days of her two daughters Malia and Sasha, 15.

It would take another two years for Sasha to graduate from high school.

As a result, the First Family has decided to live in Washington DC after they leave the White House.

“Malia and Sasha were little itty-bitties when we came into office. I mean, it still moves me to tears to think about the first day I put them in the car with their Secret Service agents to go to their first day of school,” 52-year-old Michelle said.

“And I saw them leaving and I thought, what on Earth am I doing to these babies? So I knew right then and there my first job was to make sure they were going to be whole and normal and cared for in the midst of all this craziness,” Michelle said amidst applause from the audience.

“And then I started to understand that if I was going to protect them, I had to, number one, protect myself and protect my time,” she said and then recollected the graduation ceremony of Malia.

“We just went to Malia’s high school graduation and we were watching Sasha move her way through high school. I am very proud of those two and how they have managed this situation and how they have continued to be themselves, regular little girls just trying to figure it out,” she said.

“As all mothers do, you breathe that sigh of relief that you didn’t mess up your kids. Every day I cross my fingers and hope that I’m doing right by them, and I’m providing them with a good foundation so that they can be great people,” she added.

50 killed, 53 wounded in worst mass shooting in US history

FLORIDA, June 12: At least 50 people were killed and 53 wounded in the worst mass shooting in US history when a lone man armed with an assault rifle and a handgun opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, late Saturday.

The authorities have described the incident as a likely terrorist attack.

The shooter, who was later killed in a gunfight with police SWAT teams, was identified by officials as 29-year-old Omar Saddiqui Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent residing at St. Lucie County in Florida. He was a trained security guard.

President Barack Obama called the shootings “an act of terror and an act of hate”, and said the FBI was investigating it as an act of terror. He also renewed his call for reconsidering the country’s gun laws.

While there is still no official word on the shooter’s motives, Congressman Adam Schiff – the senior-most Democrat in the House of Representatives’ permanent select committee on intelligence – told CNN that local law enforcement officials believe Mateen had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

Mateen also reportedly called 911 – the US emergency number – and claimed allegiance to the terror organisation. The attacker mentioned Boston marathon bombers Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, media reports said, adding that he was understood to be on the FBI’s watchlist as an Islamic State sympathiser.

However, when asked earlier at a news briefing if the gunman had links to jihadist terror groups, FBI assistant agent-in-charge of the area Ron Hopper said, “At this time, we’re looking at all angles… we do have suggestions that this individual may have leanings towards that, that particular ideology. But we can’t say definitively right now, so we’re still running everything around.”

If confirmed as a terror attack, this will be the deadliest incident of the kind to occur on the US mainland since September 11, 2001. This would also be the second terror attack since then, the first being the December 2, 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, California, when a married couple of Pakistani descent gunned down 14 people before being killed in a firefight with law enforcement officers.

Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump, who called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the US after the San Bernardino attack, was more restrained this time.

“Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded,” he said in a tweet. But he may ratchet up the rhetoric if a link to Islamic terrorism was indeed established.

Witnesses told local media outlets they first heard gunshots around 2 am, even as the nightclub – Pulse Orlando – was about to close. Some of them recalled hearing 40 shots or more.

Local police said the shooting started in the nightclub and continued outside when an officer in uniform doing extra duty engaged the gunman. Then Mateen went back into the club and took hostages.

At about 3am, the club posted a message on its Facebook page: “Everyone get out of pulse and keep running.”

The New York Times cited Christopher Hansen, a witness, as telling a local TV station: “Cops were saying, ‘Go, go, clear the area … You don’t know who’s what and who’s where’.”

Police SWAT teams stormed the club after a controlled explosion, at around 5.00am. They found the gunman, who was wearing an explosive device, lying dead inside.

Obama is ‘fired up’ for Clinton as Democrats seek to unify party

WASHINGTON, June 10: US President Barack Obama formally endorsed Hillary Clinton’s White House bid on Thursday and called for Democrats to unite behind her after a protracted battle with Bernie Sanders for the party nomination.

US senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts also backed Clinton on Thursday, telling MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was “a genuine threat to the country.”

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, said it “means the world” to her that Obama had her back in a bruising campaign for the Nov. 8 election.

Clinton also said she had the “highest regard” for Warren, a fiery critic of Wall Street, and was “really pleased to have her good ideas and support.”

Vice-president Joe Biden also waded into the campaign on Thursday. “Whoever the next president is, and God willing in my view it will be Secretary Clinton,” Biden said in a speech at the American Constitution Society in Washington.

The Obama endorsement increases pressure on Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, to bow out of the race and lend his support to Clinton so that the party can focus on defeating Trump.

“It is absolutely a joy and an honor that President Obama and I over the years have gone from fierce competitors to true friends,” Clinton told Reuters in an interview.

After an unexpectedly tough battle against Sanders’ challenge from the left, former first lady Clinton made history when she reached the number of delegates needed to win the party nomination this week. That made her the first woman to lead a major US party as its White House candidate.

Obama, who enjoys rising approval ratings as he nears the end of eight years in office, will appear with Clinton on the campaign trail next week in Wisconsin.

The two were opponents in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary race, which Obama won, but they buried their rivalry and she served as his secretary of state for four years. Clinton is the 2016 candidate who the White House believes will best safeguard Obama’s legacy.

“I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office,” Obama said of Clinton in a video. “I’m with her. I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there and campaign for Hillary.”

US indispensable partner; terror is incubated in India’s neighbourhood: Modi

WASHINGTON, June 8: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday pushed for deeper ties with the US, describing it as an “indispensable partner”, even as he called for isolating countries that harbour and sponsor terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Islamic State.

During his address to a joint sitting of the US Congress, Modi made no mention of Pakistan but it was clear who he was referring to. While specifically naming Pakistan-based LeT, Modi said the policy to counter terror must delink religion from the menace and make no distinction between “good” and “bad” terrorists.

Modi addressed members of the House of Representatives and the Senate a day after his meeting with President Barack Obama, who backed India’s candidature for the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group. The two sides also agreed on the building of six nuclear reactors in India and measures to ratify the Paris climate accord.

“In every sector of India’s forward march, I see the US as an indispensable partner,” said Modi, whose remarks were repeatedly applauded by the lawmakers.

“Many of you also believe that a stronger and prosperous India is in America’s strategic interest. Let us work together to convert shared ideals into practical cooperation.”

The Prime Minister described terrorism as the biggest threat “not just in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in South Asia, and globally”.

“In the territory stretching from west of India’s border to Africa, it may go by different names, from Laskhar-e-Taiba, to Taliban to ISIS. But its philosophy is common: of hate, murder and violence,” said Modi, who was clad in a white kurta-pyjama and grey waistcoat with a handkerchief in the colours of the national flag tucked in his pocket.

Though the shadow of terrorism is spreading across the world, “it is incubated in India’s neighbourhood”, he said

Without naming Pakistan, he commended members of the US Congress for sending a clear message to “those who preach and practice terrorism for political gains”.

“Refusing to reward them is the first step towards holding them accountable for their actions,” he added.

His remarks were an apparent reference to the blocking of a US subsidy for the sale of eight F-16s to Pakistan by American lawmakers. Several leading lawmakers have recently questioned Pakistan’s role in the war on terror and accused it of duplicity.

Modi said the fight against terrorism must be based on a policy “that isolates those who harbour, support and sponsor terrorists; that does not distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists; and that delinks religion from terrorism”.

“Also, for us to succeed, those who believe in humanity must come together to fight for it as one, and speak against this menace in one voice. Terrorism must be delegitimised,” he said.

Terrorism, he said, has to be fought at many levels and the traditional tools of military, intelligence or diplomacy will not be able to win this fight, he said while calling for deeper security cooperation with the US.

Both nations stand to “gain in great measure” while advancing their relationship, Modi said.
“As the US businesses search for new areas of economic growth, markets for their goods, a pool of skilled resources, and global locations to produce and manufacture, India could be their ideal partner,” he said.

India’s strong economy and growth rate of 7.6% per annum is creating new opportunities for mutual prosperity, while transformative American technologies in India and growing investment by Indian companies in the US have a positive impact on the lives of the people, he added.

“Today, for their global research and development centres, India is the destination of choice for the US companies. Looking eastward from India, across the Pacific, the innovation strength of our two countries comes together in California,” Modi said.

Obama supports India’s NSG Membership

WASHINGTON, June 7: US President Barack Obama today supported India’s candidature for membership of the elite Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) as he discussed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi ways to take the bilateral ties to new heights.

Addressing the media jointly with Modi after over hour-long talks at the White House, Obama said it was natural for India and the US, two biggest democracies, to “deepen and broaden” partnership.

Modi said the two leaders discussed a wide range of issues, particularly ways to take the bilateral economic ties to new heights.

The other issues discussed by them included terrorism, clean energy, climate change, regional security and cyber security.

During his remarks to the media, Obama said they discussed progress made in the Civil Nuclear agreement.

“I indicated support to India being a part of NSG,” the US President said amidst opposition by China to such a move.

Obama underlined that India needs technology which is critical for its progress and prosperity.

Modi later said, “I am thankful for the help and support that my friend President Obama has extended with regard to membership in MTCR and NSG.”

Obama said non-proliferation of nuclear material and technology was also discussed. “I also mentioned the Prime Minister’s very effective participation in the Nuclear Security Summit,” he said.

Traditional security challenges as well as new challenges, like cyber security, were discussed during the talks, the US President said.

While informing that they also discussed “important regional issues”, he said the US and India have “shared vision of peace and development” and that “complex issues” should be resolved diplomatically.

Modi said India and the US, the two biggest democracies, have worked shoulder-to-shoulder in meeting the challenges that face, not only the two countries, but the entire world.

“Over the last two years, India and the US have been cooperating on global issues like climate change, nuclear security, terrorism…I feel proud, not just as friends but as two countries, on this and we will continue to work shoulder-to-shoulder,” he said.

“The more we work together in new areas, the better it is for the benefit of the world as well as our two countries, which our dream,” the Prime Minister said.

Obama, who received Modi with a warm embrace, said it was his “great pleasure to welcome back my friend Prime Minister Modi to the Oval Office.”

The President said Modi’s leadership generates “new excitement”, not only among the Indian Americans but also among Americans.

After his seventh meeting with Obama since 2014, Modi said India and the US are working as friends and partners in leading the world, and to protect the legacy that “we both are proud of”.

At the outset, Obama recollected his visit to India in January last year as Chief Guest for the Republic Day celebrations and “the incredible hospitality” he received.

“I still have fond memories of being honored by the PM’s invitation to participate in the Republic Day parade in India,” he said.

“As world’s two largest democracies and with strong bonds between peoples and businesses, scientific and educational communities, it is natural that the US and India deepen and broaden our partnership across the whole range of issues,” the President said.

Referring to the Climate Change summit in Paris in December last year, he said the joining of forces between India and US helped forge the historical agreement to effectively deal with climate change.

“We discussed how we can, as quickly as possible bring the Paris agreement into force, how we can make sure that, how climate financing that is necessary for India to embark on the bold vision for solar energy and clean energy that PM Modi has laid out, can be accomplished,” Obama said.

Modi said the US is “well aware” of the talent of India, a country which is “young” with 800 million people below 35 years of age. “Our youth power can work with the United States to achieve new heights,” he said.

The Prime Minister said India today is the fastest growing economy of the world and that the two countries should cooperate more in new areas.

He said he and Obama would meet in September on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit (in China). Till that time, he hoped, they would be able to make progress in a number of areas, including the “dream of climate justice”.

US-based Westinghouse to build 6 nuclear power plants in India

WASHINGTON, June 7: The Nuclear Power Corporation of India and US firm Westinghouse have agreed to begin engineering and site design work immediately for six nuclear power plant reactors in India and conclude contractual arrangements by June 2017, the White House said on Tuesday.

Culminating a decade of partnership on civil nuclear issues, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama during their White House meeting "welcomed" the start of preparatory work on site in India for six reactors to be built by Westinghouse, officials here said.

The two leaders also noted the intention of India and the US Export-Import Bank to work together toward a competitive financing package for the project, the White House said.

Once completed, the project would be among the largest of its kind, fulfilling the promise of the US-India civil nuclear agreement and demonstrating a shared commitment to meet India's growing energy needs while reducing reliance on fossil fuels.

Obama and Modi also welcomed the announcement by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Westinghouse that engineering and site design work will begin immediately and the two sides will work toward finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017, the White House said.

These reactors would bring clean energy to India and generate thousands of jobs in the US, Brian Deese, Senior Advisor to the US President, told reporters in a conference call.

The White House said the steps that the two governments have taken in the last two years through the US-India Contact Group, including by addressing the nuclear liability issue, inter alia, through India's ratification of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, have laid a strong foundation for a long-term partnership between US and Indian companies for building nuclear power plants in India.

India clears final hurdle to join missile control group, can buy high-end tech

NEW DELHI, June 7: The members of the Missile Technology Control Regime, a key anti-proliferation grouping, have agreed to admit India, diplomats said, in a win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Diplomats with direct knowledge of the matter said a deadline for members of the 34-nation group to object to India’s admission had expired on Monday without any of them raising objections.

Under this so-called ‘silent procedure’, India’s admission follows automatically, diplomats from four MTCR member nations told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Admission to the MTCR would open the way for India to buy high-end missile technology, also making more realistic its aspiration to buy state-of-the-art surveillance drones such as the US Predator, made by General Atomics.

India also makes a supersonic cruise missile, the Brahmos, in a joint venture with Russia that both countries hope to sell to third countries - a development that would make India a significant arms exporter for the first time.

Membership of the MTCR would require India to comply with rules - such as a maximum missile range of 300 km - that seek to prevent arms races from developing.

Italy had earlier objected to admitting India but, after an unrelated bilateral dispute was resolved, did not object this time within a 10-day deadline after the group’s chair, the Netherlands, wrote to members suggesting India be welcomed.

An Italian marine, held for four years at the country’s embassy in New Delhi over the killing of two Indian fishermen in an anti-piracy operation in 2012, was recently allowed to return home.

No formal meeting is required for India to complete its entry into the missile control group, which was set up in 1987 to limit the spread of unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

The MTCR is one of four international non-proliferation regimes that India - which in recent decades has gone from being a non-aligned outsider to a rising nuclear-weapons power - has been excluded from.

New Delhi has also applied to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-nation club that governs trade in commercial nuclear technology and was originally set up in response to India’s first atomic weapons test in 1974.

Joining the NSG will be much more difficult because China is a member and has backed the membership aspirations of Pakistan, its ally and India’s arch-rival.

Still, the breakthrough on the MTCR will be welcomed in the US Congress, which Modi will address on Wednesday. Congress ratified a civilian nuclear agreement with India in 2008 that seeks to build commercial ties, while at the same time binding New Delhi into the global security order.

China raises the stakes at Shangri-La Dialogue

By Daniel Twining

WASHINGTON, June 5: One country is militarizing the South China Sea and destabilizing the peace of Asia. One country is creating wedges between regional powers to prevent cooperation in resolving Southeast Asian maritime disputes. One country is isolating itself by seeding regional conflict that could undercut Asia's economic miracle.

Indo-Pacific powers concerned about its armed revisionism in maritime Asia would identify this country as China. But in the eyes of Admiral Sun Jianguo of China's Central Military Commission, who on Sunday represented his country in Singapore as a keynote speaker at this year's Shangri-La Dialogue, that dangerous nation is in fact the United States.

In the Chinese narrative, it is America's military alliances and presence in the region that contribute to instability in Asia. According to Admiral Sun, the U.S. has decided to "sabotage [China's] path of peace for selfish gains," has pursued a "zero-sum mentality" rather than embracing "win-win cooperation," has offered support through alliances that have "enabled small countries to make trouble against big countries," and has single-handedly "militarized" the South China Sea in ways that have sown discord among otherwise harmonious Asian nations.

By contrast, the admiral called for a new model for Asian security that excludes the U.S. -- which might indeed promote peace in the region, albeit at the price of accepting a hierarchical regional order in which lesser powers defer to China's wishes and subordinate their sovereign rights as part of a new Sinosphere.

Contrasting perspectives

During the dialogue, organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and held annually at Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter offered a very different perspective on Asia's future, focused on inclusiveness. He spoke of a "principled security network" that included all regional states, working with the U.S. and each other to safeguard freedom of the regional commons, the territorial integrity of member states, and the peaceful resolution of disputes according to international law. He argued that China was building a "Great Wall of self-isolation" by threatening Asia's rule-based order in ways that were eroding, not improving, its strategic position.

John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, reasserted America's historic commitment to an open economic and political order in Asia, in an attempt to reassure Asian allies troubled by both China's revanchism and U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's protectionism. Senator Lindsey Graham spoke of how Bashar al-Assad's crossing of President Barack Obama's "red line" in Syria, followed by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, had eroded U.S. deterrence powers, underscoring the importance of responding to China's attempts to redraw Asia's maritime map.

Asian anxiety is a product not only of Chinese revisionism but of questions about the future of America's commitment to remain the region's security guarantor. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell argued that the most critical variable for Asia's future is not the growth of Chinese power but the extent to which America will sustain its regional leadership. As long as U.S. engagement is assured, the strategic problems of Chinese expansionism, North Korea's missile and nuclear threat, and contested maritime commons can be managed through old and new networks of security providers, encompassing friendly powers from India in the south to Japan in the east. If America was to withdraw from the region, all bets would be off, he said.

Gen Nakatani, Japan's Defense Minister, meanwhile warned the Shangri-La gathering of "unilateral and coercive claims and actions" that undermine the region's maritime order and threaten to "tear apart" hitherto peaceful relations among Asian nations. Vietnam's Deputy Defense Minister, Senior Lt. General Nguyen Chi Vinh, warned that China's "unilateralism and coercion" would, if not addressed, "lead to armed crisis."

India's Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikar, emphasized that India's maritime interests stretched from Suez to the shores of the Pacific. He pointed out that more than half of India's trade moves through the South China Sea and warned that Asia's shared prosperity was in danger from aggressive behavior in the contested waters. He staked out India's determination to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight to protect "seamless connectivity" across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Under hard questioning from representatives of many Asia-Pacific nations about China's unilateral claims to control of nearly all the South China Sea, China's Admiral Sun fell back on Beijing's historic "Nine Dash Line" claims to the region, including those he insisted the international community had recognized in 1949 when the Chinese Communist Party took power. A retired Indian official pointed out that if such historical claims were the basis of maritime rights today, India could stake out a "Fifty Dash Line" stretching from the Red Sea to the Strait of Malacca, reflecting the maritime expanse controlled by the British Raj in the heyday of empire.

As the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague prepares to rule in a case brought by the Philippines about China's violation of international maritime law, Chinese officials are engaged in a preemptive campaign to discredit the tribunal's competence and jurisdiction. They have organized a rogues' gallery of landlocked autocracies like Sudan and Belarus to support China's position in the event of a ruling against it. Many Asia-Pacific nations fear that China's rejection of an international legal judgment against it will only widen the fault lines in maritime Asia, requiring the U.S. and its partners to adopt a more robust position against China's claims.

This eventuality raises the risk that, despite China's protestations, the U.S. is doing not too much to challenge revisionism in the South China Sea, but rather too little. Infrequent freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) by the U.S. Navy have invoked "innocent passage" when entering the territorial limits of China's artificial islets, in some ways recognizing rather than undercutting Beijing's position. U.S. military allies like Japan and Australia, and great powers like India, have been reluctant to conduct their own FONOPs, despite their rhetorical and in some cases operational support for U.S. forces.

Should China continue its strategy to assert sovereign control over a waterway through which one-third of all international trade flows, concerned Asia-Pacific powers may well have to signal more clearly to Beijing that a number of Chinese interests will be put at risk. A spat over a few rocks and reefs may strengthen President Xi Jinping's nationalistic claim to be restoring China's historical rights over Asian waterways, reinforcing Communist Party rule at home. But if this behavior should jeopardize other Chinese equities -- for instance in Taiwan, Tibet, or in the realm of international finance -- China's leadership may understand that the game is not worth the candle. Until then, representatives from Asia-Pacific nations leave the Shangri-La Dialogue less reassured than worried about the further deterioration of regional peace, and less inclined to embrace China than to work with America to balance against it.

@ Daniel Twining is a director at the German Marshall Fund; he previously served as an official in the George W. Bush administration and as an advisor to Republican Senator John McCain.

We’re electing a President, not a dictator: Hillary Clinton

WASHINGTON, June 4: Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton said her rival and Republican Party’s presumptive presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to be a “dictator”.

“We are trying to elect a president, not a dictator,” she said at a campaign rally in San Bernardino, California on Friday, ahead of the crucial California Democratic primary slated for June 7.

According to sources, after day of ripping into Trump over his comments on immigration and his repeated insistence that an Indiana-born judge would not treat him fairly because of his Mexican heritage, the comment was Clinton’s starkest yet, Politico reported.

In the rally, Clinton let loose on Trump, questioning not only his qualifications, but his sincerity.

“I don’t understand Donald Trump running a whole campaign based on nothing but denigrating immigrants,” she said, pointing out that Trump, whose mother was Scottish and whose wife is Slovenian, has family that came over to the US from abroad.

“Is this nothing but a political stunt?” she added.

 

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