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India, Pakistan will sort out all differences soon: Trump

BIARRITZ, Aug 26: US. President Donald Trump has said Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. Speaking to newsmen after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of G-7 summit here, Trump said “India and Pakistan will sort out all differences soon.”

President Trump said “We spoke last night about Kashmir, Prime Minister (Modi) really feels h e has it under control. They speak with Pakistan and I’m sure that they will be able to do something that will be very good.”

Modi and Trump discussed various issues including Kashmir. Modi told Trump Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and the US President expressed confidence that both the countries will sort it out themselves.

Modi said “we don’t want to bother any third country on Kashmir.”

In 45-minute long meeting with Trump, who had offered to mediate on the Kashmir issue, Modi said: “India and Pakistan were together before 1947 and I am confident that we can discuss and solve our problems together.”

Modi, recalling his telephonic conversation with Imran Khan, said “I told him that both our countries have to fight against poverty, illiteracy, backwardness and both should work for the betterment of our people.”

Trump said “We are talking about trade, we are talking about military and many different things. We had some great discussions, we were together last night for dinner and I learned a lot about India.”

Joking with Modi, Trum said: “He (Modi) actually speaks very good English, he just doesn’t want to talk”.

“The bilateral meet between Modi and Donald Trump was mainly about trade. Trump said India had become a major importer of energy,” according to Vijay Gokhale, Foreign Secretary.

Following the bilateral meeting, Modi tweeted, “Excellent meeting with Donald Trump. We had useful discussions on bilateral matters. We agreed to address trade issues for mutual benefit soon. Looking forward to expand cooperation as large democracies for the benefit of our citizens and global peace and prosperity”.

The two leaders also focused on trade and ways to broaden the Indo-US strategic partnership.

“President Trump reaffirmed the need for dialogue between India and Pakistan to reduce tensions and acknowledged India’s role as a critical partner in Afghanistan,” said a statement from the US Embassy in India.

'Howdy, Modi!' event at Houston sold out

By Deepak Arora

HOUSTON, Aug 23: In an unprecedented gathering of Indian-Americans in the United States,
over 50,000 attendees have registered in the past three weeks for a sold-out “Howdy, Modi” community summit featuring India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 22 at the NRG Stadium.

With that milestone, the live audience will be the largest for an Indian Prime Minister in North America and the largest for a foreign leader visiting the United States other than the Pope.

The Indian Prime Minister will be visiting the US next month to give an annual speech at the General Assembly prior to which he will travel to Houston to meet the leading business, political and community leaders of Texas and the large Indian-American community based here.

Attendees will celebrate a vibrant India and a strong U.S.-India relationship based on mutual respect and strong commercial and diplomatic ties. The summit, with the theme of “Shared Dreams, Bright Futures” will highlight the contributions of Indian-Americans in enriching the American life for the last seven decades as well as the key role they have played in strengthening relations between the two nations. This contribution spans across diverse fields of technology, education, medicine, energy, oil and gas, chemicals and pipelines and others.

The “Howdy Modi” summit has been organized with the support of more than 1,000 volunteers and 650 Texas based Welcome Partner organizations, an extraordinary feat by the Indian-American community of coming together to celebrate and strengthen the ties between the two nations.

“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Indian-Americans in Texas, and as co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, I welcome Prime Minister Modi to Houston,” said U.S. Senator John Cornyn. “India continues to be key security and economic partner of the United States, and I look forward to seeing that relationship strengthen with his visit to Texas.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner added: “I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to Houston, home to one of the biggest and most vibrant Indian communities in the U.S. I know how much his visit means to not only the Indian diaspora in our city but throughout the region. This historic visit will strengthen the already robust bonds between Houston and India on trade, culture, and tourism – all of which benefit every Houstonian.”

The event is symbolic of the growing relations between India and Houston as reflected in its trade figures. In 2019 (to date), India is Houston’s fourth-largest trading partner, just behind Brazil, China, and Mexico.

Further, from 2009 to 2018, trade between Houston and India averaged $4.8 billion annually and was valued at $7.2 billion in 2018. There are more than 130,000 individuals of Indian origin in the Houston area, according to the American Community Survey in 2017.

“The Indian-American community has reached a tipping point,” said Durga Agrawal, President and CEO of Piping Technology & Products Inc and the founding President of Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston.

“The Indian-Americans today are not just educated, wealthy, and powerful individuals, but a public service-driven community that is giving back to America, our adopted country, while keeping close ties with our homeland, India; serving both and contributing to both."

In October 2018, Dr. Agrawal donated money for the naming of a building at the University of Houston which is now called "Durga D. and Sushila Agrawal Engineering and Research building". The building cost over USD 51 million and helped boost the university’s engineering, research, and academic experience. As a result of the grant, the annual engineering research expenses will be increased by USD 36 million and will promote USD 612 million of economic activity in Houston.

"Houston is one of the most diverse cities in America and has many advantages including a central location and access to global trade routes, a trained and talented workforce, and a business-friendly regulatory environment, making this region an ideal partner for business and commerce. I'm personally proud of the vibrant and welcoming Indian community here, and the work they do to strengthen the ties between our two great countries. We are honored to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this historic event," said Bhavesh (Bob) Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell.

Texas India Forum has retained MELA Arts Connect from New York City to curate, produce and direct a cultural program for the event. The program will feature a mix of artists from Houston as well as elsewhere in Texas and the U.S. Notably, the program will not feature any performers from India. The organizing committee has insisted on showcasing the wealth of talent in the Indian-American community.

“The cultural program will provide a unique view on the Indian-American experience, and promises to show the diversity of our community while being an engaging and entertaining performance,” said Jugal Malani, chair of the “Howdy, Modi!” organizing committee.

“We want the entire city of Houston to enjoy the festivities and learn about both the growing TexasIndia relations and US-India relations,” he added.

Will discuss J&K issue with Modi, hints Trump

WASHINGTON, Aug 21: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday repeated his Kashmir mediation offer, saying he “will do the best I can, [to help] to mediate or do something”, even as more countries backed New Delhi’s stance on Wednesday that the issue was a bilateral one between India and Pakistan.

Trump indicated that he might discuss the issue when he would be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the weekend, on the sidelines of the upcoming G7 Summit in Biarritz, France.

The US President also sought to portray Kashmir issue as a result of differences between Hindus and Muslims. “You have the Hindus. And you have the Muslims [in that region]. I wouldn’t say they get along so great. That’s what you have right now,” the US President told reporters.

It’s a “complicated situation,” he added. “A lot has to do with religion.”

Trump’s comments came as France, one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, said that discussions on the Kashmir dispute must be held between India and Pakistan alone.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in a telephonic conversation with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Tuesday, “recalled France’s constant position on Kashmir” that it is up to the two countries, under the framework of their bilateral political dialogue, to resolve the dispute.

France also urged both sides to show restraint and abstain from any measure likely to aggravate tensions, a statement by its ministry said.

Tensions between India and Pakistan spiked after India nullified provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to withdraw Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. India has said the move is an internal matter while Pakistan on Tuesday said it would approach the International Court of Justice to challenge the move.

The government of Bangladesh on Wednesday also backed India, saying the Article 370 move was an internal issue of India. The statement came as Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar concluded his three-day visit to Dhaka.

“Bangladesh maintains that the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government is an internal issue of India.

Bangladesh has always advocated, as a matter of principle, that maintaining regional peace and stability as well as development should be a priority for all countries,” the statement
said.

Separately, Russia and India on Wednesday underlined support to each other on principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference of third parties.

“The longstanding position of both sides on importance of their bilateral consultations and mutual support for principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference of third parties was reiterated,” a statement by the external affairs ministry said on Wednesday.

The statement came following a meeting between national security adviser Ajit Doval and his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev. The reference of non-interference by third parties is seen as Russia’s support of India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir, though no third country was named in the MEA statement.

Trump says he had to ‘take China on’, regardless of short-term impact on US economy

WASHINGTON, Aug 21: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said short-term recession might simply be the cost of waging his much-needed trade war with China as Beijing had been “grifting off” America for decades.

“Whether it’s good or bad, the short term is irrelevant. We have to solve the problem with China because they’re taking out USD 500 billion a year plus. And that doesn’t include intellectual property theft and other things,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

“And also, national security, so I am doing this whether it’s good or bad for your statement about, Oh, will we fall into a recession for two months? The fact is, somebody had to take China on,” he said responding to a question on reports that the US is heading for a recession because of its trade war with China.

“My life would be a lot easier if I didn’t take China on. But I like doing it because I have to do it. And we’re getting great help. China’s had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years, and a lot of people saying the worst year they’ve had in 54 years,” he asserted.

“We’re doing very well with China, but somebody had to take China on. I read and I see so much and I read so much, and I’ll see the economists say, Oh, Give up! Give up on China! Give up! China’s been grifting off this country for 25 years, but longer than that,” he said.

Chinese economy is suffering due to the trade war which puts the US in a good negotiating position, he said.

“China wants to make a deal, and that’s good. But they have to make a deal that fair to us. You should be happy that I’m fighting this battle, because somebody has to do it. We couldn’t let this go. I don’t even think it’s sustainable to let go on what was happening,” he said.

Trump alleged that China was stealing US intellectual property, ideas.

“That was incredible. They call it intellectual property theft. And they value it at USD 300 billion a year. Who knows how they value it? I know how to value dollars. I don’t know how to value intellectual property theft, but they have experts that say it’s at least USD 300 billion a year where they steal it,” he said.

Somebody had to do something with China, he said, adding that this should have been done by his predecessors.

“They all should have done it. Nobody did it. I’m doing it. So what do you say, Oh, my trade deals are causing it. My trade deals aren’t causing a problem. This is something that had to be done. The only difference is I’m doing it,” he said.

“I could be sitting here right now with a stock market that would be up 10,000 points higher, but I didn’t want to do it, but I think we have no choice to do it, and a lot of people that really know, people that love our country, they’re saying thank you very much for taking it off. And we’re winning because they’re having the worst year they’ve had in decades, and it’s only going to get worse,” Trump said.

China has lost USD two billion in the last month-and-a-half because companies are moving to non-tariff countries. They’ve lost almost two million jobs over a very short period of time, they’re going to lose a lot more jobs, he claimed.

“And if I didn’t help certain companies, American companies like Apple for a very short period of time I might help them. All they have to do is probably move from China because this would be very short term. If I didn’t help them,” he said.

“Here’s the thing: Somebody had to take on what China was doing to the United States economically. We’re winning big. I took it on. And it should have been done by previous presidents, but I took it on. And I’m happy to do it because it had to be done, and the smart people say, Thank you very much. And the dumb people have no idea. And then, you have the political people, and they go in it,” Trump said.

Trump suggests India must fight IS in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Aug 11: US President Donald Trump seemed to have suggested Wednesday, for the first time perhaps, that India and other countries such as Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Pakistan need to step up the “fight” against the Islamic State in Afghanistan.

“India is right there, they are not fighting it, we are fighting it,” Trump told reporters, answering a question about US plans to keep its troops in Afghanistan or withdraw them as regards the ongoing peace talks. “Pakistan is right next door. They are fighting it, very little, very, very little.”

“Not fair,” he added.

It could not ascertained if the US president has broached with India these new expectations because this marks a significant shift in American strategy, and his own 2017 South Asia Strategy, that envisaged a role for India only in reconstruction and development works in Afghanistan.

It was not expected to — nor does it want to — participate in combat operations, in counter-terrorism operations.

Though nearly decimated in Iraq and Syria, the IS has been gaining ground in Afghanistan where it killed 63 people in a suicide bombing just days ago.

The US president, who is keen to end the war, said the US has been fighting that war for a long time and it does not want to spend another 19 years — he may have meant 18, which the is the duration of us US troops presence there starting September 2001 — and other countries need to step up and contribute.

At a certain point point all of these other countries where ISIS (another name for IS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is there,” he said, “all these countries will have to fight them.”

And he went on to name them” Russia, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and, lastly, India. And went on to air his grievances with India and Pakistan briefly.

US ready to resume nuclear talks with North Korea

SEOUL, Aug 21: The United States is ready to restart nuclear negotiations with North Korea, a senior U.S. diplomat said Wednesday, a day after U.S. and South Korean militaries ended their regular drills that North Korea calls an invasion rehearsal.

During the 10-day US -South Korean training, largely computer-simulated war games, North Korea raised tensions with its own missile and other weapons tests. But North Korea’s typical harsh rhetoric over the drills focused on South Korea, not the United States, in a suggestion that it’s still interested in resuming nuclear talks with the U.S.

President Donald Trump said recently he received a “beautiful” three-page letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Trump said Kim wanted to meet again to restart the talks after the US -South Korean drills ended and that Kim offered him “a small apology” over the weapons tests.

On Wednesday, Trump’s top envoy on North Korea, Stephen Biegun, told reporters in Seoul that “we are prepared to engage as soon as we hear from our counterparts in North Korea.”

Biegun said that Trump assigned his team to restart working-level talks with North Korea, in line with what Trump and Kim agreed during their third summit in late June. “I am fully committed to this important mission and we will get this done,” Beigun said.

Beigun also denied media speculation that he may be appointed as the new U.S. ambassador in Russia. “I will remain focused on making progress on North Korea,” he said.

Beigun was in Seoul for talks with South Korea. His South Korean counterpart Lee Do-hoon said the two discussed how to quickly resume the nuclear negotiations and produce “substantial progress.”

US -led diplomacy on how to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons collapsed after Trump rejected Kim’s demand for sweeping sanctions relief in return for partial disarmament steps during their second summit in Vietnam in February. During their third meeting at the Korean border village of Panmunjom on June 30, the two leaders agreed to restart the talks but there has been no public meeting between the countries.

Many experts say North Korea’s recent weapons tests were mainly aimed at applying pressure on the United States ahead of a possible resumption of talks, while registering its protest against the military drills. Most of the weapons tested were short-range missiles and rockets that experts said could target South Korea, not the mainland US.

White House calls out China’s bullying tactics in South China Sea

WASHINGTON, Aug 20: The White House on Tuesday accused China of “bullying tactics” in the increasingly tense waters of the South China Sea and said it would resist Beijing on the dispute.

“China’s recent escalation of efforts to intimidate others out of developing resources in the South China Sea is disturbing,” President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton tweeted.

“The United States stands firmly with those who oppose coercive behavior and bullying tactics which threaten regional peace and security.”

US conducts first missile test after exiting cold war era INF treaty

WASHINGTON, Aug 20: The United States has announced it conducted its first test of an intermediate range missile after it pulled out earlier this month of a cold-war era treaty that had banned them by firing a ground-based cruise missile from an island in California on Sunday.

The “conventionally-configured” (not nuclear-tipped) missile “exited its ground mobile launcher and accurately impacted its target after more than 500 kilometers of flight,” the US department of defense said in a statement Monday, adding, “data collected and lessons learned” will inform the development of future intermediate-range capabilities.

The United States announced the expiry of the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty on August 2 accusing Russia of violating it by testing and deploying missiles banned by it. The pact was signed in 1987 by the United States and then Soviet Union and it required the US and Russia (erstwhile Soviet Union) to stop producing and give up their ground-based nuclear and conventional missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. The two sides destroyed about 2,700 such missiles by 1991.

The United States wants any future arms control agreement or pact to also include China, which, a senior US military leader told lawmakers at a hearing, has “already the largest and most diverse missile force in the world, with an inventory of more than 2,000 ballistic and cruise missiles”, 95% of which would be in violation of the INF.

The end of the treaty has sparked widespread fear of a resumption of cold-war era arms race, compounded by expectations that the United States is willing to also kill the New START (New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), signed by the United States and Russia in 2010, which prevents the two countries from deploying more than 1,550 nuclear warheads or 700 launchers.

The United States plans a robust resumption of tests and deployments of these missiles post-INF. Initial research and development efforts will be “focused on mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems”, US defense secretary Mark Esper said in a statement on August 2. “Now that we have withdrawn, the Department of Defense will fully pursue the development of these ground-launched conventional missiles as a prudent response to Russia’s actions and as part of the Joint Force’s broader portfolio of conventional strike options.”

The United States, he added “will work closely with our allies as we move forward in implementing the National Defense Strategy, protecting our national defense and building partner capacity”.

The Pentagon head went on to suggest, talking to reporters a few days later, that he would like to deploy ground-based missiles in Asia “sooner than later”, perhaps “months”.

China reacted angrily, as anticipated and a Chinese arms control official warned of “countermeasures if the US deploys intermediate-range ground-based missiles in this part of the world”.

Pompeo says China should respect Hong Kong protesters’ rights

WASHINGTON, Aug 20: Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called on China to respect Hong Kong demonstrators’ rights and to fulfill its pledge to uphold one country with two systems of government.

“President Trump captured this, I think, perfectly across the weekend when he said we support democracy, we support liberty,” Pompeo said in an interview Tuesday with “CBS This Morning.” “We very much want to make sure that those folks that have the desire in their hearts to protest -- to speak out on behalf of their own freedom, their own liberty, to do so.”

Pompeo said the protests, which have been ongoing for more than two months, should be conducted peacefully. “And the Chinese government should respect their right to speak out in a way that they’re speaking,’ he said.

The pro-democracy protesters came out in force on Sunday in a largely calm gathering that contrasted with violent clashes with police in previous weeks. Demonstrators oppose Beijing’s attempts to tighten control over the city.

Pompeo echoed President Donald Trump, connecting the demonstrations to the trade dispute between the U.S. and China.

‘China needs to fulfill its promises,” he said. “One of the challenges in the trade deal is you have to make sure that China actually lives up to the commitments that it would make. In Hong Kong, this Chinese government made a promise that it has a central understanding that there’d be one country, two systems and they need to live up to that promise.’

Pompeo also said the U.S. is concerned with North Korea’s recent missile tests and wishes they would be halted. He still said he hopes negotiations will resume with Pyongyang.

‘We haven’t gotten back to the table as quickly as we would have hoped,’ he said.

India-US friendship flourished into strategic partnership in 2 decades: Mike Pompeo

WASHINGTON, Aug 15: The friendship between India and the US has flourished into a strategic partnership in the last two decades and the two countries now cooperate on many important issues from defence and counter-terrorism to freedom of navigation, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.

Greeting the people of India on the eve of the country’s 73rd Independence Day, Pompeo said the shared democratic values of the two nations, strong people-to-people ties and commitment to economic growth had further cemented the relationship.

“Over the past two decades, our friendship has flourished into a strategic partnership and we now cooperate on a range of important issues, from defence and counter-terrorism, to freedom of navigation and cutting-edge science, including in space,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“As I said during my recent visit to India, the United States and India are great democracies, global powers, and good friends. I wish the people of India a joyful Independence Day,” he said.

During his visit to India in June, Pompeo also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi who outlined his vision for the Indo-US strategic partnership in the new tenure of his government.

The prime minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defence, counter-terrorism and people- to-people contacts.

Pompeo expressed the US government’s continued interest in building stronger relations with India and working together to realise the shared vision and goals.

India, China no longer developing nation, won’t let them take benefits: Trump

WASHINGTON, Aug 14: President Donald Trump has said India and China have “grown” up, and they are no longer “growing nations” that have enjoyed “tremendous advantages” at the cost of “mature nations” like the United States in the context of trade and other bilateral and multilateral relations, and he will not allow that to continue.

Without naming the two countries, Trump went on to cite “victories” scored by the US on his watch in trade fights at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the pulling out of the Paris Accord on climate change as proof of an attitude change effected by his America to stop countries for “screwing” it any longer.

“Certain countries -- like China, India, many countries,” Trump said at an event in Pennsylvania on American energy and manufacturing on Monday, “were viewed … as ‘they’re growing’. Right? They’re ‘growing nations’. We’re a ‘mature nation’. They’re growing. These are ‘growing nations’”.

“Well, they’ve grown,” Trump added. “And they had tremendous advantages. But we’re not letting that happen anymore, okay?” He may have been referring to certain concessions and preferential treatment “growing”, “developing” and “emerging” nations are know to receive under some arrangements.

Trump ended duty-free preferential trade benefits for India — under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) — in July after failing to extract concessions on market access in dairy and medical devices sectors, has threatened “reciprocal” higher tariffs at other times and his administration is understood to be planning more punitive measures in pursuit of a lengthening list of US grievances.

Trump ran for the White House on the promise of ending unequal trade and other pacts the United States had signed up for under past presidents — and he has been critical of both Republican and Democrats — with an “America First” vision, and has steadily ended American participation in them or renegotiated them after assuming office. Such as the Paris Accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Pulling out of the Paris Accord in 2017, the American president had wrongly alleged India and China were to receive billions of dollars in help under the agreement for mitigating their green house emissions while the United States would have had to throttle its own industries with crippling environmental regulations.

The Pairs Accord, the president said, would have taken away American wealth. “It wasn’t for us; it was good for others. It wasn’t for us. We had to pay money to other countries that are very substantial countries.” He did not name these “substantial countries” but he likely had India in mind, and some others.

“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries,” Trump had said in a speech in June 2017, announcing his decision to pull the US out of the Accord. And he had blasted the pact for allowing both India and China to continue to use coal for their power plants while the US was required to go off it completely.

Trump has since then rolled back Obama-era environmental regulations that he believed were holding back American manufacturing and energy production and levied higher tariffs on China, India and other trading partners he believes have been “screwing us for years”.

US calls China a ‘thuggish regime’ as Hong Kong feud escalates

WASHINGTON, Aug 9: The US State Department’s spokeswoman called China a “thuggish regime” for releasing personal information on an American diplomat who met with opposition protesters in Hong Kong, escalating a war of words over protests that have wracked the territory.

“I don’t think that leaking an American diplomat’s private information -- pictures, names of their children -- I don’t think that that’s a formal protest, that is what a thuggish regime would do,” Morgan Ortagus said at a State Department briefing on Thursday. “That’s not how a responsible nation would behave.”

Asked if she was directly calling China a “thuggish regime,” she responded, “Yeah.”

Ortagus was referring to Julie Eadeh, a political counselor at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper, which is linked to China’s Communist Party, published a photo of Eadeh meeting with opposition leaders in Hong Kong, along with two other photographs of her. One showed her holding up an image of a child and the other showed her in a helmet and flak jacket.

Zhao Lijian, China’s deputy ambassador in Islamabad, Pakistan, linked to a series of photos and tweeted: “Embarrassing! The black hand was caught red-handed!’ He also called Eadeh “a subversion expert at the State Department.”

Earlier Thursday, the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong said it had formally protested to the U.S. over Eadeh’s meetings. China’s foreign ministry has previously said the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong was “the creation of the U.S.”

Ortagus’ accusation is “defamation and slander” and reflects a “bandit logic,” the Office of the Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong said in a statement on Friday. The comments “expose the U.S.’s hegemonic thinking,” which China strongly resents and resolutely opposes, it said.

Protests have continued in Hong Kong for nine weeks, first over a since-suspended bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, and later expanding to calls for greater democracy. Ortagus called the meeting with protesters a routine part of any American diplomat’s job.

Criticism of Hong Kong’s crackdown on protests by U.S. officials has escalated, although President Donald Trump has tended to dismiss the issue in his comments.

“Something is probably happening with Hong Kong, because when you look at, you know, what’s going on, they’ve had riots for a long period of time,” Trump told reporters last week, saying the issue was “between Hong Kong and China.”

10 killed in Ohio in second mass shooting in 24 hours

DAYTON, Aug 4: Nine people were killed in a mass shooting early Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, police said, adding that the assailant was shot dead by responding officers.

The incident occurred shortly after 1:00 am in the popular bar and nightlife Oregon district of the city, Police Lieutenant Colonel Matt Carper said.

“We had one shooter that we are aware of and multiple victims,” he told reporters. “The shooter is deceased, from gunshot wounds from the responding officers,” he said, adding no police were injured.

“We have nine victims deceased ... and we have approximately 16 more victims hospitalized right now in unknown conditions.” The suspect had opened fire on the street firing “a long gun with multiple rounds.”

Police were working to identify the shooter and the FBI were on scene to provide any necessary assistance, he said.

Carper said Oregon was “a very safe part of downtown” Dayton and very popular with visitors.

“Fortunately we had multiple officers in the immediate vicinity when this incident started so there was a very short timeline of violence, for that we’ve very fortunate.

“It’s a very tragic incident and we’re doing everything we can to investigate it and try to identify the motivation behind this,” said Carper.

“We’re still interviewing obviously a lot of witnesses as well as officers to determine if anyone else was involved,” he said.

20 killed in suspected ‘hate crime’ mass shooting at Texas Walmart store

EL PASO, Aug 4: A gunman armed with an assault rifle killed 20 people Saturday when he opened fire on shoppers at a packed Walmart store in the latest mass shooting in the United States.

As residents of the southern border town of El Paso in Texas tried to absorb the full horror of what is being treated as a potential “hate crime,” fresh calls rang out to end the nationwide “epidemic” of gun violence.

It was the second fatal shooting in less than a week at a Walmart store in the US and comes after a mass shooting in California last weekend.

One suspect was taken into custody while authorities were studying an extremist manifesto purportedly written by the gunman.

Footage shot on camera phones appeared to show multiple bodies lying on the ground in the store’s parking lot while El Paso authorities made a desperate appeal for blood donations.

Other footage showed terrified shoppers running out of the store as gunfire echoed.

“Twenty innocent people from El Paso have lost their lives,” Texas Governor Greg Abbott told a press conference.

Donald Trump says China is paying US ‘tens of billions of dollars’

WASHINGTON, Aug 3: President Donald Trump said “things are going along very well with China,” and repeated his contention that Beijing is paying the US “Tens of Billions of Dollars” after successive rounds of import tariffs.

This was “made possible by Chinese government’s monetary devaluations and their pumping in massive amounts of cash to keep their system going,” Trump said in a pair of tweets early Saturday.

The president also reiterated his view that the American consumer had “paid nothing” and suggested there had been “no inflation” as a result of the US tariff regime.

In an earlier tweet, Trump wrote that countries were “coming to us wanting to negotiate REAL trade deals” and “don’t want to be targeted for Tariffs by the US.”

India, US agree to work closely on defence policy

WASHINGTON, Aug 3: India and the US on Friday took stock of ongoing cooperation in recent years in defence trade, technology, procurement, industry, R&D and mil-to-mil engagement at a meeting of the Defence Policy Group, an apex official-level mechanism for the defence ministries of the two countries.

The Indian embassy said in a statement that the two sides “underlined the importance of collaboration between the defence industry and start-ups in the two countries and agreed to pursue a policy environment conducive to this”. The delegations were led by Indian Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy John Rood.

Though there was no mention of an agreement that has been long under negotiation and has been flagged for conclusion several times before, the embassy said the two sides “recognised the benefit of the enabling defence agreements concluded by the two sides and appreciated India’s designation as a Major Defence Partner of the US”.

It was referring to the General Security of Military Information Agreement, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement, and Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement, which were signed by the two countries in 2002, 2016 and 2018 respectively.

There were expectations ahead of the DPG meeting that the two sides could finalize and sign the fourth and the final arrangement, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation, at the meet. It might be signed at the next meeting of the political leadership of the two countries. The US holds these agreements critical to increasing interoperability between its military with India’s and sharing of information and sensitive technology.

Trump offers to mediate on Kashmir again

WASHINGTON, Aug 1: US President Donald Trump reiterated his offer Thursday to mediate the Kashmir issue, seemingly unaware of India’s rejection of his earlier bid, saying that if “they” — both India and Pakistan presumably; or only India, it was not clear — asked, he would “certainly intervene”.

The president also seemed to be doubling down on a part of the earlier offer in which he had claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to mediate in a recent conversation, which had been forcefully and swiftly dismissed by India.

“If they wanted somebody to intervene or to help them,” Trump said in response to question from a reporter at the White House about his earlier offer to mediate the Kashmir issue, “and I spoke to Pakistan about that … I spoke frankly with India about it… if they wanted me to I would certainly intervene”.

The “they” here could be both India and Pakistan or just India, which has historically opposed third-party mediation unlike Pakistan, which has been calling for it forever. And Trump first made the offer, with the claim about Modi, on June 22 in response to a public appeal from the visiting Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan in joint remarks at the White House.

“I was with Prime Minister Modi two weeks ago, and we talked about this subject,” Trump had said. “And he actually said, ‘Would you like to be a mediator or arbitrator?’ I said, ‘Where?’ He said, ‘Kashmir.’

“If you want me to mediate or arbitrate, I would be willing to do that,” he said.

India denied Modi had ever asked Trump to mediate and reiterated known Indian position that all issues with Pakistan can only be resolved bilaterally and after Pakistan stops supporting terrorism.

The state department followed up, and reiterated old US position, and one very different from Trump, that India and Pakistan should resolve their differences bilaterally and that the United States stands ready to assist.

With that, both sides decided to move on. A senior state department official took pretty much the same line at briefing for reporters Wednesday on Khan’s recent visit. “The US ability to encourage a constructive dialogue between India and Pakistan whether on Kashmir or other bilateral issues will be a function of Pakistan taking sustained and irreversible steps against militants and terrorists on its territory,” the official said.

But it seems President Trump did not get an update on his offer, and was still waiting for response. When asked by a reporter Thursday, Trump replied with question: “Have they accepted the offer or not?”

When told they had not, he said, “Well it’s really up to Prime Minister Modi.”

Trump spoke about his meeting with Khan then and said he believed the Pakistani and Indian leaders are “fantastic people” and “would imagine they can get along very well.”

And then went on to renew his offer and reiterate his conversation “frankly with India about it.”

A response was awaited from the White House to a request for why had the president repeated the offer despite India’s rejection of his previous offer, and if he did not indeed know of the Indian response.

India, US to ink two key defence pacts this week

NEW DELHI, Aug 1: India and the United States are likely to finalise two critical agreements, the Industrial Security Annexure (ISA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) – the second is a so-called foundational military agreement — in the coming bilateral Defence Planning Group (DPG) dialogue in Washington this week.

Defence secretary Sanjay Mitra is leading India’s delegation, a senior official aware of the details said on condition of anonymity. He will be meeting the US under secretary of defence for policy John Rood. The DPG has been revived after a gap of four years. The decision to revive it was taken at the last 2+2 dialogue between India and the US last year in which their defence and foreign ministers participated.

BECA will allow India to use US geospatial maps to achieve pinpoint military accuracy of automated hardware systems and weapons such as cruise and ballistic missiles, even drones. India is considering buying 30 High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones from the United States. BECA is an important enabler of unmanned aerial vehicles from the US, such as the Predator-B, that use spatial data for accurate strikes on enemy targets.

The other agreement, ISA, is an annexure to the General Security Of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) and will enable the US government and US defence companies to share classified information with Indian private defence manufacturers. India and the US signed the GSOMIA 17 years ago. It allowed the sharing of classified information from the US government and American defence manufacturers with the Indian government and government-owned defence firms. Once the ISA is signed, the US will be able to share technology with Indian private companies.

The United States has already shared the draft agreements of both ISA and BECA with India. Although India initially had reservations on geospatial mapping on grounds of national security, the Narendra Modi government has made up its mind to sign BECA, provided its concerns are addressed.

India is already a signatory to the remaining two foundational military agreements, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA). The former allows the US to transfer communication equipment to India that facilitate secure transmission of data and real-time information between the armed forces of the two countries. It was finalised during last year’s 2 + 2 talks in Washington.

India and the US singed LEMOA -- it allows Indian and American defence forces to use each other’s facilities and establishes procedures of easier access to supplies and services required by them -- in 2016. While India and US forces have always used each other’s facilities on a case-by-case basis, LEMOA gives blanket approval for use of facilities and also makes the accounting easier for both countries.

In the DPG, the two sides are likely to decide on the “future roadmap” for “joint advanced exercises” between India and the US, a second senior official who did not want to be named said. In addition, the DPG will also look at the prospect of technological cooperation in building military hardware under Make in India, the second official added. “Exercises between the two sides will become complicated in scale and scope with the militaries preparing for future scenarios.”

Experts said the two pacts are crucial for the defence cooperation between the two countries. “Sealing ISA and BECA is very significant. ISA will mean that the last hurdle to sharing critical technology with the private sector will go. It will be much easier to achieve Make in India,” said admiral Shekhar Sinha (retd), who advises the government on issues of security policy. “Similarly, BECA is also critical for more cooperation between US and India. I had expected these would be signed much earlier. With these two agreements in place the private sector is likely to play a bigger role in defence manufacturing and that will free up much needed resources for the government to concentrate on issues like health, water, etc,” he added.

Trump says US to hit $300 billion worth of Chinese goods with 10% tariff

WASHINGTON, Aug 1: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would impose an additional 10% tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese imports starting Sept. 1, as talks aimed to ease tensions between the world’s two largest economies continue.

“Trade talks are continuing, and during the talks the US will start, on September 1, putting a small additional Tariff of 10% on the remaining 300 Billion Dollars of goods and products coming from China into our Country. This does not include the 250 Billion Dollars already Tariffed at 25%,” Trump tweeted.

India registers strong protest over US military sale worth $125 million for Pakistan’s F-16s

NEW DELHI, Aug 1: India has registered a strong protest over the US approving a proposed military sale worth $125 million for Pakistan’s F-16 combat jet fleet, calling in the American envoy in New Delhi to convey its “grave concern”.

Days after the meeting between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump, the Pentagon announced on July 26 that the state department had approved the proposed deal for “24/7 end-use monitoring” of the F-16s.

“We have taken up the matter with the US ambassador in Delhi, as well as with the US government in Washington through our ambassador. We have expressed grave concern over US military assistance to Pakistan,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told a regular news briefing on Thursday.

People familiar with developments said the US envoy was called in to the external affairs ministry for lodging a strong protest.

In response, Kumar said, the US side had informed India the “proposed sale does not indicate any change in the US policy of maintaining a freeze in military assistance to Pakistan”.

“The US has publicly stated the proposed sale is intended to enable the US to continue technical and logistics support services to assist in the oversight of the operations of F-16 aircraft in Pakistan’s inventory,” he said.

Trump snapped military and security aid for Pakistan in January last year after accusing Islamabad of resorting to “lies and deceit” in return for billions of dollars of assistance over the past two decades.

However, the warmth displayed by Trump during his first meeting with Khan last month and the US reliance on Pakistan’s support for pushing forward talks with the Afghan Taliban had led observers to conclude that Washington might resume military aid for Islamabad.

The Pentagon statement announcing the proposed sale had said it was cleared after Pakistan requested a “continuation of technical support services; US Government and contractor technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics support to assist in the oversight” of the F-16s. It had added that the proposed sale “will not alter the basic military balance in the region”.

Highly gratified by cooperation from ‘great friend’ India on Iran: US

WASHINGTON, Aug 1: The United States is “highly gratified by co-operation from a great friend and partner like India” on the Iranian oil sanctions, the White House said on Wednesday as the Trump administration slapped sanctions against Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, ramping up its tension with Tehran.

“We have been highly gratified by cooperation from a great friend and partner like India, and even less well-aligned countries such as China, in making the rather obvious choice that the United States would be the business partner of choice, not Iran,” a senior official told reporters during a conference call after the Trump administration slapped sanctions against Zarif.

India, which has galloping energy needs, went out of its way to co-operate with the United States. India has brought down the import of oil from Iran, with which it has historic and cultural ties, to almost zero.

Referring to an open source information, the official said Iranian export of oil for July was at 1,00,000 barrels per day, which is down considerably from the previous historic low of 7,81,000.

The official credited the Trump administration for this and added that Iran has very little to offer in terms of being a trading partner.

“The United States just continues to be appreciative, particularly of India’s cooperation, and continues to be very mindful of India’s legitimate energy needs,” the senior official said responding to a question on reports about talks between India and Iran on oil trade through their own currencies.

“We are very happy as a major energy producer to contribute to what we see as an ample supply to the global market that can keep India amply supplied with energy,” said the official requesting anonymity.

A second senior administration official said that the US officials have been all over the world very carefully making sure that all of its partners and allies and companies around the world understand the consequences of violating the sanctions.

The United States has been very explicit about the need to ensure that the sanctionable activity has ceased. “We’re getting very important results there,” the second administration official said.

 

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