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Modi meets leading American CEOs from key sectors

WASHINGTON, Sept 23: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his engagements in the US on Thursday by meeting with leading American CEOs from five different key sectors and highlighted the economic opportunities in India.

Modi, who arrived here on Wednesday on an official visit to the US during which he will hold the first face-to-face meeting with President Joe Biden and his deputy Kamala Harris, held one-on-one meetings with CEOs of Qualcomm, Adobe, First Solar, General Atomics and Blackstone here.

Two of them are Indian-Americans – Shantanu Narayen from Adobe and Vivek Lall from General Atomics. Three others are Cristiano E Amon from Qualcomm, Mark Widmar from First Solar, and Stephen A Schwarzman from Blackstone.

Ahead of his meeting with the business leaders, Modi had said he would interact with leading CEOs to highlight economic opportunities in India. While Narayen reflects the IT and digital priority that the Indian government is pushing for, Modi's meeting with Lall is significant as General Atomics is not only the pioneer in military drone technologies but also the world's top manufacturer of state-of-the-art military drones, which the US shares only with its key allies and partners.

India is in the process of procuring a significant number of drones for the three branches of its armed forces. It has also leased a few drones from General Atomics. Jakarta-born Lall, now based out of California, for over a decade has been instrumental in major bilateral defence deals worth around $18 billion, as India and the US take steps to forge a new relationship in which defence trade is a key pillar.

The meeting with chip giant Cristiano Amon assumes significance, given India's push for the 5G technology to be safe and secure. The San Diego-based company creates semiconductors, software, and services related to wireless technology.

A world leader in 3G, 4G, and next-generation wireless technology innovations for more than 30 years, Qualcomm is now pioneering its way to 5G with a new era of intelligent products that are revolutionising industries, including automotive, computing, and Internet of Things (IoT). India is looking for a major investment from Qualcomm.

As India is taking gigantic steps in the use of solar power to meet its energy needs, the meeting with Mark Widmar is important as First Solar is a leading global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar solutions, which use its advanced module and system technology. Early this summer, the Arizona-based company announced to add 3.3 GW of capacity in a new facility in India at an estimated cost of $684 million.

Stephen A. Schwarzman is Chairman, CEO and Co-Founder of Blackstone, one of the world's leading investment firms investing capital on behalf of pension funds, large institutions and individuals. In March this year, Blackstone announced that funds managed by Blackstone Real Estate have acquired Embassy Industrial Parks from Warburg Pincus and Embassy Group, in one of India's largest logistics transactions.

Washington visit occasion to strengthen Indo-US ties: Modi

NEW DELHI, Sept 22: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday emplaned for his visit to the United States that he described would be an “occasion to strengthen Indo-US ties”.

“At the invitation of Joe Biden, I am visiting the USA to continue our dialogue, and exchange views on areas of mutual interest. Also looking forward to meeting Vice President Kamala Harris to discuss global issues and explore ideas for cooperation between India and US,” Modi tweeted.

During his trip, Prime Minister Modi will visit both Washington and New York. In a statement just before leaving for the US, Modi said he will conclude his visit with an address at the United Nations General Assembly focusing on the pressing global challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to combat terrorism, climate change, and other important issues.

Modi will first attend a summit hosted by Biden on Covid-19 on Wednesday itself. This will be their first in-person meeting since Biden assumed office in January this year, although they have spoken thrice since November and participated in virtual summits.

Modi was supposed to travel to the UK for the G-7 summit where he could have met Biden, but had to cancel the trip due to the second Covid-19 wave across India.

Biden would then host Modi for their first in-person bilateral meeting at the White House on September 24.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the Afghanistan issue was also on the agenda of the Quad and bilateral between Modi and Biden, along with terrorism.

He said the meeting will discuss the “current regional security situation following recent developments in Afghanistan”, considering India’s stakes as a “neighbour and a longstanding and preferred development partner of the people of Afghanistan”.

During their meeting on September 23, Shringla said, the two leaders will review the “robust and multifaceted” India-US bilateral relationship. “They will also discuss how the comprehensive strategic global partnership between our two countries can be enriched further. The two leaders are expected to discuss how to bolster bilateral trade and investment ties, strengthen defence and security collaboration, boost strategic clean energy partnership, explore new avenues in emerging technologies, including through R&D, innovation, and industry linkages.”

Modi will also meet Vice-President Kamala Harris. This will be Modi’s first formal interaction with the first Indian-origin VP in the US administration.

“I am also looking forward to meeting Vice President Kamala Harris to explore opportunities for cooperation between our two nations particularly in the area of science and technology,” a statement from the Prime Minister’s office said before his departure.

According to Shringla, Modi and Harris are also likely to exchange views on bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest.

Harris had called up Modi in June this year for the supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

Modi will also participate in the first in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit along with President Biden, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.

“The Summit provides an opportunity to take stock of the outcomes of our Virtual Summit in March this year and identify priorities for future engagements based on our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific region,” the PMO said.

Earlier while announcing the Quad meeting, the Biden administration had mentioned elevating the Quad was a “priority”.

“Hosting the leaders of the Quad demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s priority of engaging in the Indo-Pacific, including through new multilateral configurations to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” a statement from the White House had said.

“The Quad Leaders will be focused on deepening our ties and advancing practical cooperation on areas such as combatting COVID-19, addressing the climate crisis, partnering on emerging technologies and cyberspace, and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific,” it said.

Along with the Quad meeting, Prime Minister Modi will also hold a bilateral meeting with Morrison and Suga.

Following his engagements in Washington, Prime Minister Modi will then travel to New York to address the ongoing 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24.

According to the release by the PMO, Modi’s speech at the UNGA will focus on the pressing global challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to combat terrorism, climate change, and other important issues.

During his visit, the prime minister will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and NSA Ajit Doval. Jaishankar is currently in New York, and recently met his counterparts from France, Australia, UK, Norway, and Iraq among others.

Prime Minister is also expected to meet some business CEOs during his visit, before returning back to India on September 25.

The PM will meet the Heads of Qualcomm, Adobe, First Solar, General Atomics, and Blackstone in Washington on September 23.

Modi last visited the US in September 2019, when then US President Donald Trump had addressed the Howdy Modi event – the Prime Minister’s “abki baar Trump sarkar” line had not gone down well with the Democratic party’s establishment.

Two years since, it will be an effort to reach out to the Democratic establishment, which has been quite vocal about the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

Biden to host Modi for bilateral dialogue on Sept 24

WASHINGTON, Sept 20: US president Joe Biden will host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a bilateral meet on September 24, the White House announced on Monday. This will be the first in-person bilateral meet between both the leaders after Biden was elected as the President of the United States.

“The President will participate in a bilateral meeting with His Excellency Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India,” the White House said in a release.

Modi and Biden will also participate in a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Australian PM Scott Morrison in the first-ever Quad leaders’ summit. A virtual meeting was held earlier this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic but this is the first time these leaders will meet in person.

Biden will also address the UN on September 21.

The Union ministry of external affairs earlier said that the Quad meeting will focus on deepening ties and advancing cooperation in areas such as combating the Covid-19 pandemic. It will also discuss countering Chinese aggression and promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific. Addressing climate change, partnering on areas related to cyberspace and technology will also be on agenda.

Rajnath Singh discusses Afghanistan, bilateral defence cooperation with US counterpart

NEW DELHI, Sept 20: Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Monday spoke to his US counterpart Lloyd Austin over the telephone with the discussion focusing on the situation unfolding in Afghanistan and issues connected to bilateral defence cooperation. The conversation came days ahead of the Quad Summit to be held in Washington on September 24.

“We discussed issues pertaining to bilateral defence cooperation & regional matters including the situation in Afghanistan. We agreed to continue the useful dialogue & look forward to strengthening the partnership further,” Singh wrote on Twitter.

The Indian security establishment is concerned about terrorist activity in Afghanistan spilling over into the country via Pakistan after the Taliban takeover.

US President Joe Biden is hosting the Quad summit at the White House on September 24 Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Japan’s Yoshihide Suga and Australia’s Scott Morrison.

The discussion between Singh and Austin on the Afghanistan situation also came days after India and Australia insisted Afghanistan’s soil must not become a safe haven for terrorists or be used for attacks on other nations during the inaugural India-Australia 2+2 dialogue of defence and foreign ministers that concluded on September 11.

India and Australia also called for steps to ensure an inclusive governing structure in Kabul and the safe departure of people wishing to leave the war-torn country.

US Marks 20 Years Of 9/11 Attack, Tributes Pour

NEW YORK, Sept 11: America marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11 Saturday with solemn ceremonies given added poignancy by the recent chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and return to power of the Taliban.

Heart-wrenching commemorations will unfold at each of the three sites where 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers -- mostly from Saudi Arabia -- crashed packed airliners, striking the cultural, financial and political hearts of the United States and changing the world forever.

The memorials come with US troops finally gone from Afghanistan, but national discord -- and for President Joe Biden, political peril -- are overshadowing any sense of closure.

In a video posted on the eve of the anniversary, Biden urged Americans to show unity, "our greatest strength."

"To me, that's the central lesson of September 11th. It's that at our most vulnerable, in the push and pull of all that makes us human, in the battle for the soul of America, unity is our greatest strength," Biden said in a six- minute message from the White House.

At New York's Ground Zero, where two pools of water now stand where the Twin Towers used to, relatives read out the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed, in a four-hour-long service starting at 8:30 am (1230 GMT).

Six moments of silence was observed, corresponding with the times the two World Trade Center towers were struck, and fell, and the moments the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed.

Monica Iken-Murphy, who lost her 37-year-old husband Michael Iken in the World Trade Center, says this will be a "heightened" anniversary for many Americans.

But for her, as for many other survivors, the pain has never wavered.

"I feel like it just happened," she said.

A whole generation has grown up since the morning of September 11, 2001.

In the interim, Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden has been hunted down and killed. A towering new sky scraper has risen over Manhattan, replacing the Twin Towers. And less than two weeks ago, the last US soldiers flew from Kabul airport, ending the so-called "forever war."

But the Taliban who once sheltered bin Laden are back ruling Afghanistan, the mighty US military humiliated. In Guantanamo Bay, accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men continue to await trial, nine years after charges were filed.

Even the full story of how the attack came to happen remains secret. Only last week did Biden order the release of classified documents from the FBI investigation over the next six months.

At Ground Zero, 2,753 people, from all over the world, were killed in the initial explosions, jumped to their deaths, or simply vanished in the inferno of the collapsing towers.

At the Pentagon, an airliner tore a fiery hole in the side of the superpower's military nerve center, killing 184 people in the plane and on the ground.

And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the third wave of hijackers crashed into a field after passengers fought back, sending United 93 down before reaching its intended target -- likely the US Capitol building in Washington.

Biden and First Lady Jill Biden stopped at each of these places on Saturday to "honor and memorialize the lives lost."

In his video address Friday night, Biden urged Americans to come together as they reflect on the tragedy.

"Unity doesn't mean we have to believe the same thing, but we must have a fundamental respect and faith in each other and in this nation," Biden said.

The president had planned for this to be a pivotal day in his nearly eight-month-old presidency.

However, instead of presiding over a moment of unity, Biden will traverse a country angry about the messy Kabul evacuation, which included 13 US soldiers killed by a suicide bomber, and stung by the broader realization of failure and defeat.

For the relatives of victims, the anniversary, as always, is about keeping the memory of their loved ones alive.

"It's like Pearl Harbor," said Frank Siller, whose firefighter brother Stephen died at the World Trade Center.

"People who weren't alive don't have the same feeling about it as those who were alive. But America has never forgotten about Pearl Harbour and America will never forget about 9/11."

In phone call, Joe Biden and Xi Jinping speak for first time in seven months

WASHINGTON, Sept 10: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning held a phone conversation with US President Joe Biden, ending a seven-month gap in direct communication between the leaders of the world’s two largest economies.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday morning held a phone conversation with his US counterpart, Joseph R. Biden,” China’s official news agency, Xinhua, said in a short statement.

“The two leaders held candid, in-depth and broad strategic communication and exchanges on bilateral relations and relevant issues of shared interest,” the Xinhua report added.

The White House, too, issued a statement confirming the Biden-Xi phone call, saying that the two leaders had “a broad, strategic discussion” intended to manage the increasing rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

The call between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping has taken place in the backdrop of rapid developments in Afghanistan where the Taliban group swept to power in mid-August. Earlier this week, the Taliban announced the formation of an interim government in Afghanistan.

The White House said that Joe Biden made it clear the discussion was “part of the United States’ ongoing effort to responsibly manage the competition” between the two countries.

“President Biden underscored the United States’ enduring interest in peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific and the world and the two leaders discussed the responsibility of both nations to ensure competition does not veer into conflict,” the White House statement said.

Since the Taliban group recaptured Kabul last month, Xi Jinping’s China has called on the global community to seek to guide the country’s new rulers, while Joe Biden’s US, which pulled all its troops out of Afghanistan on August 30, has raised concerns about the composition of the interim cabinet in Kabul.

48 Dead As Flash Floods Hit New York Area

NEW YORK, Sept 3: Flash flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida killed at least 48 people in the New York area overnight into Thursday, including several who perished in basements during the "historic" weather event officials blamed on climate change.

Record rainfall, which prompted an unprecedented flash flood emergency warning for New York City, turned streets into rivers and shut down subway services as water cascaded down platforms onto tracks.

"I'm 50 years old and I've never seen that much rain ever," said Metodija Mihajlov whose basement of his Manhattan restaurant was flooded with three inches of water.

"It was like living in the jungle, like tropical rain. Unbelievable. Everything is so strange this year," he said.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at LaGuardia and JFK airports, as well as at Newark, where video showed a terminal inundated by rainwater.

"We're all in this together. The nation is ready to help," President Joe Biden said ahead of a trip Friday to the southern state of Louisiana, where Ida earlier destroyed buildings and left more than a million homes without power.

Flooding closed major roads across New Jersey and New York boroughs including Manhattan, The Bronx and Queens, submerging cars and forcing the fire department to rescue hundreds of people.

At least 23 people died in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy told reporters.

"The majority of these deaths were individuals who got caught in their vehicles," he said.

A state trooper died in the neighboring state of Connecticut.

Thirteen died in New York City, including 11 who could not escape their basements, police said. The victims ranged from the ages of two to 86.

"Among the people MOST at risk during flash floods here are those living in off-the-books basement dwellings that don't meet the safety codes necessary to save lives," lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

"These are working class, immigrant, and low-income people & families," she added.

Three also died in the New York suburb of Westchester, while another four died in Montgomery County outside Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, a local official confirmed.

Ida blazed a trail of destruction north after slamming into Louisiana over the weekend, bringing severe flooding and tornadoes.

"We're enduring an historic weather event tonight with record-breaking rain across the city, brutal flooding and dangerous conditions on our roads," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said late Wednesday.

State emergencies were declared in New York and New Jersey while the National Weather Service issued its first-ever emergency flash flood warning for New York City, urging residents to move to higher ground.

"You do not know how deep the water is and it is too dangerous," the New York branch of the National Weather Service (NWS) said in a tweet.

The NWS recorded 3.15 inches (80 millimeters) of rain in Central Park in just an hour -- beating a record set just last month during Storm Henri.

The US Open was also halted as howling wind and rain blew under the corners of the Louis Armstrong Stadium roof.





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