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Modi says BRICS, G-20 must lead fight against terrorism, strengthen global economy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that BRICS needed to show leadership on combating terrorism and strengthening the global economy and felt that the G-20 should collectively oppose terrorism funding, franchises, safe havens, support and sponsors.

Prime Minister  Narendra Modi at the informal meeting of leaders of the BRICS countries, on the sidelines of the 12th G-20 Summit, at Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the informal meeting of leaders of the BRICS countries, on the sidelines of the 12th G-20 Summit, at Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said BRICS needed to show leadership on combating terrorism and strengthening the global economy and felt that the G-20 should collectively oppose terrorism funding, franchises, safe havens, support and sponsors.
 
At an informal meeting of BRICS leaders, ahead of the G-20 Summit here, he also spoke about process of economic reforms in India, including the recent roll-out of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) across the country.
 
He said it was necessary for them to work together for sustained global economic recovery.
 
He advocated a collective voice against the practices of protectionism, especially in the spheres of trade and movement of knowledge and professionals. 
 
Mr. Modi He reiterated India's commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement in letter and spirit and described its implementation globally as essential to fighting climate change. 
 
He called for expeditious action to establish a BRICS rating agency and stated that cooperation on development of Africa should be a priority. He also called for greater people-to-people exchanges. 
 
The informal meeting of the leaders of the five BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- came in the run-up to the 9th BRICS Summit slated for September in Xiamen, China.
 
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Chinese President Xi Jinping said he looked forward to welcoming the BRICS leaders in Xiamen.
 
In their interventions, the leaders discussed preparations and priorities for the forthcoming Xiamen Summit. 
 
Mr. Modi appreciated the momentum in BRICS under the chairmanship of President Xi and extended full cooperation and best wishes for the Xiamen Summit. 
 
Concluding the meeting immediately after PM's remarks, President Xi appreciated India's strong resolve against terrorism and the momentum in BRICS introduced under India's Chairmanship and through the outcomes of the Goa Summit in 2016. 
 
He also appreciated India's success in economic and social development and wished India even bigger success. 
 
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Modi promises direct flights, OCI cards for Indian community in Israel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Indian community in Israel on Wednesday that Overseas Citizen of India cards would be given to them, even if they had done compulsory army service in the country, and that direct flights would soon be introduced between Tel Aviv and Mumbai and Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Indian community reception in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Indian community reception in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Indian community in Israel yesterday that Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards would be given to them, even if they had done compulsory army service in the country, and that direct flights would soon be introduced between Tel Aviv and Mumbai and Delhi.
 
Addressing members of the Indian community here this evening, Mr. Modi also said that an Indian Cultural Centre would be set up in Israel. 
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also present at the event. Mr. Modi had arrived here on July 4 on a three-day visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister.
 
Mr. Modi began his address by remarking that it had taken very long, all of 70 years since India attained independence, for this visit to take place. He thanked Mr. Netanyahu for the warm welcome and respect accorded to him throughout his visit.
 
He said that though diplomatic relations between the two countries are only 25 years old, ties between India and Israel go back several centuries. He said that he has been told that, in the 13th century, the Indian Sufi saint Baba Farid had come to Jerusalem, and meditated in a cave.
 
The Prime Minister described the relationship between India and Israel as one of traditions, culture, trust and friendship. He noted the similarity in festivals between India and Israel. In this context, he mentioned Holi and Purim; and Diwali and Hanukkah.
 
Mr. Modi was all praise for the technological progress achieved by Israel, and its long traditions of bravery and martyrdom. He recalled that Indian soldiers had played a key role in the liberation of Haifa during the first world war. He noted the great contributions of the Indian Jewish community, both in India and Israel.
 
The Prime Minister praised the spirit of innovation in Israel, and noted that Israel had made great progress in areas such as geo-thermal power, solar panels, agro-biotechnology and security.
 
He provided an overview of economic reforms undertaken in India in the recent past. He mentioned the roll-out of GST, auctioning of natural resources, insurance and banking sector reforms, and skill development, among others. He said the Government aims to double income of farmers by 2022. He said the partnership with Israel is key to ushering in the second green revolution in India. He said science, innovation and research would be the foundation of ties between India and Israel in the future.
 
He also recalled his meeting with Moshe Holtzberg, survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, earlier in the day.
 
 
Modi addresses Indian community in Israel
Mr. Netanyahu said, "Prime Minister, these are the Jews of India. They love India, they love Israel. They love our friendship. We are in a historic meeting, your visit, of two ancient peoples seizing the future.
 
"There was a time, a few decades ago and a few years ago, when this natural partnership was somehow frozen. There was a young woman, her name was Tzipora Meir, a young Jewish woman in Cochin. She wrote an essay 50 years ago, just before the Six-Day War, and the essay was the deep desire she had to see the partnership between India and Israel.
 
"She won a prize for that composition but it didn't happen. Tzipora Meir, like so many of you, came to Israel, built her home here, contributed to her life, maintained the love of Indian Jewish customs, prayers and continued to hope that one day Israel and India will form this partnership and this friendship.
 
"Tzipora and her husband Sasson, who are here - that day has come. That day is today," he said.
 
Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Modi and he had, at their bilateral talks earlier in the day, decided on a vast program to take their partnership and friendship to new heights. "But we always remember that there's a human bridge between us - you. We admire you, we respect you, we love you."
 
"Seventy years ago, our countries achieved independence. Israel achieved independence, India achieved independence and our countries rise and rise and rise and rise and now they meet.
 
"We have decided to cooperate in so many areas but there's one area that really guarantees the future, and Prime Minister Modi speaks of it all the time – it's the young people: the young people of India, the young people of Israel.
 
"So, Indian students are coming here, we're very flattered. Israeli young people are going there but there is something that we want to achieve: today when Israelis go to India, they go backpacking, they go on what is called, the 'Hummus Trail', there are signs in Hebrew, you hear Hebrew spoken, 'The Hummus Trail'. I want to see young Indians come here backpacking on the 'Curry Trail'. I don’t want many, just an equal proportion.
 
"We are building this future today between us, between our two great democracies, between our two ancient peoples, who believe in the future. It's a partnership made in heaven but it's happening right now here on earth today," he added.
 
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India, Russia lay foundation of future character of strategic partnership

India and Russia on Thursday agreed on several steps to lay the foundation of the future character of their strategic relationship, including in areas such as defence manufacturing, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 24, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 24, 2015.
India and Russia today agreed on several steps to lay the foundation of the future character of their strategic relationship, including in areas such as defence manufacturing, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.
 
"As I look to the future, I see Russia as a significant partner in India’s economic transformation and in shaping a balanced, stable, inclusive and a multi-polar world," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit at the Kremlin.
 
Mr. Modi first met Mr. Putin in the restricted format for some time before the two sides held delegation-level talks over a working lunch, official sources said. Mr. Putin had hosted Mr. Modi for a tete-e-tete at the Kremlin here yesterday evening.
 
"We have had excellent conversations over the past two days and very productive outcomes. It has deepened my conviction that this relationship truly meets the test of a special and privileged strategic partnership," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the Inter-Governmental Agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India signed today was the first project for a major defence platform under the Make in India mission. 
 
"It is rightly with our most important defence partner. We have made progress on a number of other defence proposals. These would boost defence manufacturing in India and India's defence readiness with next generation equipment," he said.
 
"The pace of our cooperation in nuclear energy is increasing. We are making progress on our plans for twelve Russian nuclear reactors at two sites. The agreement today will increase Indian manufacturing content in these reactors. It supports my mission of Make in India. I thank President Putin for his support," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, with one of the world’s largest reserves of hydrocarbons, Russia could be a critical source of energy security for India, especially because of their strategic partnership. 
 
"With President Putin's support, we are enlarging Indian investments in Russian hydrocarbon sector. 
 
"President Putin and I are moving creatively in expanding our economic relations. Following our last Summit, India has created a special notified zone to facilitate direct trade between the world’s largest uncut diamond exporter, Russia, and India, which processes 90% of the world’s uncut diamond," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the two sides were working on logistics, and their Green Corridor project had taken off. He said the International North South Transit Corridor through Iran would significantly reduce transportation time and cost.
 
"Third, we are moving forward on the India-Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement. This will also benefit us in Central Asia.
 
"Fourth, we are encouraging our private sector to connect with each other more. We have just had an excellent meeting of CEO Forum. The agreements and the announcements today give me confidence that we will see huge increase in investments and trade in both directions," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi began his statement by expressing his deepest condolences on the lives in the terrorist attack on a civilian Russian aircraft and in the downing of a military jet in Syria.
 
"In this moment of grief and challenge, we stand in solidarity with the people of Russia," he said.
 
He said Mr. Putin was the architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership and, in a changing world, his leadership had kept bilateral relations on a steady course of progress and growth.
 
"Mr. President, I have always had great respect and appreciation for our strategic partnership. It has been a source of strength and success for India in defence, development and diplomacy. And, there is genuine goodwill and mutual respect between our people.
 
"President Putin and I have a high degree of convergence in our positions on global issues and a strong commitment to deepen our international cooperation," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the two sides had strong collaboration in the United Nations. 
 
"Our membership of BRICS, East Asia Summit, G20 and now Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gives our partnership a global character. It is particularly important in the arc from Eurasia to Asia Pacific, including in Central Asia and Afghanistan. 
 
"We are one in our belief that the world must unite and take concerted action on combating terrorism, without distinction and discrimination between terrorist groups and target countries," he said.
 
He said both sides agreed that an early political settlement through dialogue in West Asia was essential for restoring stability and containing extremism in the region.
 
"Indeed, all nations must come together, with sensitivity to each other, to address the challenges of our times.
 
"I am very pleased to have deepened my association with President Putin. Together, we have also given new direction and added more momentum and content to our strategic partnership.
 
"Just as I have had the pleasure of visiting Russia twice this year, I look forward to welcoming President Putin in India next year for the BRICS Summit as well as the Annual Summit," he added.
 
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A joint statement issued by the two sides said Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin had held extensive and substantive discussions to review progress in bilateral relations since the last Annual Summit and their meeting on the margins of the BRICS Summit in Ufa in July 2015. 
 
"The interactions between the two Leaders were marked by deep warmth and mutual trust that characterize the special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India," it said.
 
The two sides signed several agreements in diverse fields of bilateral cooperation, including several commercial agreements between Russian and Indian companies.
 
The reconfirmed their commitment to realize the target set at the last annual summit to increase annual bilateral trade and investment.
 
Both sides reiterated their assessment that Mr. Modi's "Make in India” initiative provided a new and durable framework for engagement by Russian corporate entities in the fast growing Indian economy as well as noted the efforts made by the Indian Government to improve ease of doing business.
 
They welcomed recent announcement of several major bilateral investment proposals and called on companies in both countries to finalize new and ambitious investment proposals in promising sectors such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, chemical industry, mining, machine building, implementation of infrastructure projects, cooperation in railway sector, fertilizer production, automobiles and aircraft construction as well as collaborative ventures in modernizing each other's industrial facilities.
 
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar are among those who are part of Mr. Modi's delegation.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi, who arrived here yesterday on his first bilateral visit to Russia, visited the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) here, where officials briefed him on its functioning.
 
Mr. Modi also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here today.
 
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Not just paas-paas, but also saath-saath, Modi tells Bangladesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that, even as his two-day visit to Bangadesh was drawing to a close, the real journey was beginning only now and the world would see that the two countries were not just "paas-paas" (near to each other) but also "saath-saath" (together).

 
Journey for us has just begun, Modi tells Bangladesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that, even as his two-day visit to Bangadesh was drawing to a close, the real journey was beginning only now and the world would see that the two countries were not just "paas-paas" (near to each other) but also "saath-saath" (together).
 
Addressing a gathering comprising eminent Bangladeshis, including politicians, cultural figures, business persons, academicians and Dhaka University students, as well as members of the Indian community, he said the welcome accorded to him was, in effect, a welcome to 125 crore Indians.
 
He said he was especially happy that a Mukti Jodha President, in the presence of the Bangabandhu's daughter, had presented the Bangladesh Liberation War honour to former Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which he had the honour to receive on behalf of the veteran leader.
 
He said that as a young man, his first exposure to politics was in the form of a satyagrahi in support of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh. 
 
Mr Modi said the world rarely noticed developing countries. He said Bangladesh had had to often face natural disasters. But nevertheless, he said, Bangladesh had done unparalleled work in many fields. He said the work done by Bangladesh in the garment sector is well appreciated. He said that he was happy to hear this on a recent visit to China, for the fact that a developing country had achieved such a feat. He said that if Bangladesh prospers, India too would benefit. 
 
The Prime Minister said many states in India could learn from Bangladesh on several social indicators, such as infant mortality rate. He said when Bangladesh progresses, India feels proud, because Indian soldiers too have shed blood for the birth of the country.
 
Mr Modi congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her single-minded focus on economic development. He said a firm foundation is being laid for Bangladesh's economic progress. 
 
He said India and Bangladesh were both blessed to be young nations, with young dreams. He said a nation with such leadership and such strength, like Bangladesh, would progress inexorably. 
 
The Prime Minister said the era of expansionism in geopolitics had ended. He said the world now needs vikaswaad (development), not vistaarwaad (expansionism). 
 
Referring to the Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries, he described it as one which bonded hearts together. 
 
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Mr Modi said both India and Bangladesh wanted to establish the Buddhist circuit - and where there was Buddha, there could be no Yuddha (war). He quoted a newspaper editorial that said that the Land Boundary Agreement was equivalent to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said the world would have to acknowledge that they were people who find ways to move ahead. 
 
He said the younger generation deserved the chance to achieve its aspirations. He appreciated the contribution of the Dhaka University to Bangladesh. He said that India would work with Dhaka University on oceanography, to build the ocean economy. 
 
The Prime Minister said SAARC countries were keen to establish connectivity at the last SAARC summit - but then - not every country is Bangladesh. He said India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan had now decided to move ahead in this direction. He said the European Union had developed a lot because of better connectivity. He said today no country could work alone, as the whole world has become interdependent. He said India and Bangladesh had recognized this fact, and this was reflected in the 22 agreements that had been signed during his visit. He congratulated the farsighted leadership of Bangladesh for accomplishing this. 
 
Mr Modi said a satellite picture would reveal that the SAARC countries were still dark - had no access to electricity. He said if India Nepal Bhutan and Bangladesh worked together, this darkness would be dispelled. He said recently Bangladesh helped India transport equipment for a power plant in Tripura, and now Bangladesh was receiving 100 MW of power from that power plant. 
 
He spoke of shared potential in sectors such as solar energy and space. 
 
Mr Modi noted that Bangladesh had done a lot for women empowerment and that it was a matter of pride. He recalled billboards in Dhaka featuring the woman cricket player, Salma Khatun. He added that the rise of the Bangladesh cricket team reflects the potential of Bangladesh. He said that he was proud that he had come to walk together with this Bangladesh. 
 
The Prime Minister acknowledged that some tasks were still to be accomplished. He said he believed that panchhi (birds), pawan (wind), and paani (water) needed no visa - and therefore - the Teesta issue had to be solved with a human approach. 
 
Referring to unfortunate incidents on the border, he said it was the responsibility of both sides to ensure that a solution is found. He said illegal human trafficking and fake currency were issues which Bangladesh had expressed an intention to resolve. 
 
Mr Modi called for reform of the United Nations. He said India still had not got a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. He said this was a country which never fought to gain land. He said 75,000 Indian soldiers had sacrificed their lives for others in the First World War, and 90,000 in the Second World War. He referred to India's role in peacekeeping operations across the world. He said Indian soldiers had fought alongside Mukti Jodhas as well, for Bangladesh. Yet India had still not got a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. 
 
Referring to the Pakistani prisoners of war after the 1971 war, he said India released 90,000 soldiers, because it was only interested in the welfare and progress of Bangladesh. He said this incident, in itself should have been enough to convince the world that India should get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. 
 
Mr Modi said that on the first day itself, his Government had invited SAARC leaders, indicating its intention to progress together with SAARC.  
 
He said he was happy that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had declared zero tolerance for terrorism. He said terrorism was the  enemy of humanity, and therefore all humanitarian forces had to unite to fight it. 
 
Mr Modi said his vision and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision matched perfectly - that of development. 
 
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India, Mongolia agree to upgrade ties to Strategic Partnership, renew friendship treaty

India and Mongolia on Sunday decided to upgrade their relationship to a "Strategic Partnership", in a reflection of their commitment to further deepen their ties, and also agreed to renew their Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation.

 
Modi meets his Mongoolian counterpart Chimed Saikhanbileg in Ulaanbaatar
 
 
India and Mongolia today decided to upgrade their relationship to a "Strategic Partnership", in a reflection of their commitment to further deepen their ties, and also agreed to renew their Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation.
 
"So, at a significant milestone in our relationship, we are starting a new era in our partnership," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with his Mongolian counterpart Chimed Saikhanbileg in Ulaanbaatar after the two leaders met for bilateral talks.
 
"We will take our economic partnership to a new level," he said, announcing a $ 1 billion line of credit to support expansion of Mongolia's economic capacity and infrastructure.
 
Mr Modi said Mongolia was an integral part of India's Act East Policy and that the destinies of the two countries were closely linked with the future of the Asia Pacific Region.
 
"We can work together to help advance peace, stability and prosperity in this region. So, I am also here in commitment to our shared responsibility to our region," he said.
 
"I was very pleased with my discussions with Prime Minister today. We have strong convergence of views on bilateral relations and our regional and international partnership," he said.
 
Mr Modi said the agreements signed by the two countries -- covering economic relations, development partnership, defence and security, and people-to-people contacts -- spoke to the depth of the relationship.
 
Mr Modi reached Ulaanbaatar yesterday evening from Shanghai on the second leg of a six-day three-nation tour that had earlier taken him to China and will later take him to South Korea.
 
This is the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia. "It is a special privilege to come on the occasion of two important milestones that unite us – 25 years of democracy in Mongolia and 60 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries," he said.
 
Mr Modi began the day with a visit to the historic Gandan Monastery, where he handed over a sapling of the Mahabodhi Tree as a token of friendship from the people of India.
 
"I am here in respect and appreciation for our timeless kinship. You have called us your spiritual neighbour and third neighbour. We will always fulfil the responsibility that comes with this honour," he said.
 
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Stressing that supporting development of human resources is the best way to secure a nation's development, he reiterated India's commitment to continue its efforts in Mongolia. India will increase the ITEC training slots for Mongolia from 150 to 200. It will also establish an India-Mongolia Joint School, he said.
 
Apart from addressing the Mongolian Parliament later in the day, Mr Modi will lay the foundation stone for the expansion and upgrading of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Center of Excellence for Information and Communication Technology. He will also visit the National Cancer Centre to gift Bhabhatron II. It is a state-of-the-art nuclear medicine cancer therapy machine, developed and manufactured in India. 
 
Mr Modi said India attached high priority to security cooperation between the two countries. "We will continue to participate in each other's defence exercises. The agreements today will deepen our cooperation in border security and cyber security. Cooperation between National Security Councils will provide a strategic framework for cooperation. We have also agreed that India will help establish a cyber security centre in Mongolia’s defence and security establishment," he said.
 
Describing bilateral trade and investment relations as modest, he said both sides recognized that there are physical limitations. 
 
"But, we agreed that economic growth in our two countries is opening up new opportunities. There is huge potential in civil nuclear sector, mining, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and dairy. We should also explore the possibilities of using digital technology to expand our economic relations," he said.
 
Mr Modi conveyed to Mr Saikhanbileg that India greatly valued their international partnership, which is based on their friendship, shared spiritual heritage and democratic values. These also provide solid foundation for their cooperation in their region, he said.
 
He also expressed India's sincere appreciation for Mongolia's strong support for India's permanent membership of United Nations Security Council. 
 
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Modi reaches Xian at start of China visit, will have summit meeting with Xi Jinping

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Xian, the home town of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in China on Thursday morning at the start of a six-day three-nation tour that will also take him to Mongolia and South Korea.

 
Modi reaches Xian at start of China visit
 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Xian, the home town of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in China this morning at the start of a six-day three-nation tour that will also take him to Mongolia and South Korea.
 
Mr Modi was greeted on arival at the Xian Xiangyang International Airport by senior Chinese and Indian officials as well as groups of small children and traditional dancers, who staged a performance to welcome him.
 
This is Mr Modi's fist visit to China as Prime Minister though he has been there earlier as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
 
The Prime Minister will have his summit meeting with President Xi this afternoon and will also visit some places associated with Chinese history and civilisation before travelling to Beijing late in the evening today.
 
In Beijing, he will be formally welcomed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang tomorrow. The two leaders will hold talks tomorrow and later witness the signing of a number of agreements between the two sides, which is expected to be attended by Chief Ministers and Mayors, both Indian and Chinese.
 
There will also be some cultural evens, including a Yoga-Tai Chi joint event at the Temple of Heaven.
 
Mr Modi will then travel to Shanghai, where will interact with CEOs of Chinese companies and address a business gathering. Some business agreements are expected to be signed during the trip.
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He will also visit the Fudan University and inaugurate a Centre for Gandhian Studies there.
 
During the visit, Mr Modi will deliver one public address at the Tsinghua University in Beijing and address a community function in Shanghai.
 
Briefing journalists about the visit here on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar had said that the two sides would discuss a full range of political issues during the visit, including bilateral ties, regional issues and multilateral issues. Economic issues, including those related to trade, investment and collaboration on infrastructure projects, will also come up for discussion.
 
The talks are also expected to cover people-to-people contact related issues such as tourism, travel and local level contacts, he said.
 
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Modi invites German companies to take advantage of "historic opportunity" in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invited German companies to take advantage of the "historic opportunity" presented for them by his Government's Make in India campaign and said he was committed to creating and improving the business environment in India.

 
Modi invites German investment, assures all support
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited German companies to take advantage of the "historic opportunity" presented for them by his Government's Make in India campaign and said he was committed to creating and improving the business environment in India.
 
"I can assure you that once you decide to be in India, we are confident to make you comfortable," he said in his address at the Indo-German Business Summit in Hannover today, which was jointly inaugurated by him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
 
Earlier, the two leaders had jointly opened the India Pavilion at Hannover Messe, at which India is the partner country this year. They also walked around the pavilion and met the various participants there. Ms Merkel had hosted a working dinner for him last night, over which they had a "very good interaction".
 
In his address, Mr Modi dwelt at length on the direction and the steps being taken by his Government for the development of India.
 
He said the visitors to the fair could see for themselves the winds of change blowing in India.
 
"We are very keen to develop the sectors where you are strong. We need your involvement. The scope and potential, the breadth and length of infrastructure and related developments is very huge in India," he said.
 
He went on to give the examples of some of the programmes, such as the plan to build 50 millin houses by 2022 and to develop smart cities and mega industrial corridors.
 
"For this purpose, we have refined our FDI Policy in construction. We have also come up with a regulatory framework for this sector," he said.
 
He said the Government had targeted 175 giga watt of renewable energy in the next few years. In addition to generation, the issues of transmission and distribution of electricity are equally important, he said.
 
He said plans had been drawn up to modernize the Railway systems, including signals, and railway stations. He said metro rail networks were planned in 50 cities and high speed trains in various corridors. Similar plans are being drawn up for highways, he said.
 
He said new ports were being built and old ones modernized through the ambitious Sagarmala scheme. He said similar focus was being given for upgrading existing airports and putting up regional airports to enhance connectivity to places of economic and tourist importance.
 
"In financial services too, we are moving towards a more inclusive and faster delivery of financial products including bank loans and insurance. For this purpose, we opened 140 million bank accounts; increased FDI in insurance upto 49% and have set up MUDRA Bank. 
 
"We also announced innovative schemes for insurance and pension to enhance social security for our citizens. 
 
"We also want to promote manufacturing in a big way particularly to create jobs for our youth," he said.
 
He said Germany ranked eighth among foreign investor countries in India. About 600 Indo-German Joint ventures are presently operating in India. 
 
"The purpose of my being here and participating in the Hannover Fair is to highlight that there is more potential in Indo-German economic collaboration. Though we have a vibrant relationship, our economic partnership is not as much as both countries would like to have. The flow of investments from Germany is well below the potential and less than Indian investments in Germany. 
 
"Many more German companies have the possibility of investing in India to take advantage of India’s potentials. The potential lies in manufacturing as well as infrastructure and in skill development for that purpose. I know that the reason for this situation may not be from German side. It is from the Indian side also," he said.
 
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Mr Modi assured German companies that India was now a changed country. "Our regulatory regime is much more transparent, responsive and stable. We are taking a long-term and futuristic view on the issues. Lot of efforts have been made and are still underway to improve the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in the country," he said.
 
"Reducing the complicated procedures, making them available at one platform, preferably online, simplifying the forms and formats has been taken up on war footing. Definite mechanisms for hand holding have been set up in the form of hub and spoke. Invest India is the nodal agency for this purpose," he said.
 
"We do believe that FDI is important and it will not come in the country without a globally competitive business environment. Therefore, in this year's budget we have rationalized a number of issues which were bothering you," he sid.
 
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Mr Modi said that the Government had, in particular, removed lot of regressive taxation regimes. 
 
"In our very first Budget, we said we will not resort to retrospective taxation. And if such issues do arise, they will have to be reviewed at the highest level. We have taken bold steps of not dragging the litigation in a few cases where we felt that the steps of the previous government were not on right lines. 
 
"In this budget, we allowed Tax pass through for AIFs, rationalization of capital gains of REITs, modification in PE norms and deferring the implementation of GAAR for two years. We are constantly working to improve the business environment further," he said.
 
He said the Government was trying to introduce an element of transparency and predictability in taxation system. He said it had fast tracked approvals in industry and infrastructure. This includes environmental clearances, extending the industrial licences, delicencing of defence items, and simplification of cross-border trade. 
 
"Within a very short time, we introduced GST Bill in Parliament. Such measures have helped in building up an enhanced investor confidence. The sentiments for private investment and inflow of foreign investments are positive. FDI inflows have gone up by 36% during April-2014 and January-2015 against the same period in previous year," he said.
 
Mr Modi said India's growth rate was about 7%-plus. "Most of the international financial institutions including the World Bank, IMF, UNCTAD, OECD and others are predicting even faster growth and even better in the coming years. Moody’s have recently upgraded the rating of India as 'positive' on account of our concrete steps in various economic segments," he said.
 
He also spoke of his Government's efforts to encourage innovation, research & development and entrepreneurship in the country.
 
On infrastructure development, he outlined the steps taken, including an all-time high allocaiton for roads and railways.
 
In addition, we are setting up India Infrastructure Investment Fund. We have also allowed Tax free Bonds in the Infrastructure sector including roads and railways," he added.
 
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Modi reaches Hannover, invites German CEOs to invest in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Hannover in Germany on Sunday on the second leg of his three-nation tour and went straight into meetings with CEOs of major German companies to invite them to participate in his government's Make in India initiative.

 
Indian expats greet Modi at Maritim Grand Hotel in Hannover
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Hannover in Germany on Sunday on the second leg of his three-nation tour and went straight into meetings with CEOs of major German companies to invite them to participate in his government's Make in India initiative.
 
Mr Modi was received on arrival at the Langenhagen Airport in Hannover by Mr Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, and other senior officials from both countries.
 
Later, large numbers of members of the Indian community greeted Mr Modi on his arrval at the Maritim Grand Hotel in the city.
 
With business high on his agenda, Mr Modi went into the meeting with CEOs soon after his arrival. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was also present at the meeting.
 
"Business is 1st in order of priority. PM @narendramodi assisted by @CimGOI engages with German business leaders," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"Movers & shakers of German economy/industry meet with PM @narendramodi," he said.
 
"Thank you France! Substantial ground was covered during my visit. Thankful to French Govt & people. Will always cherish the enthusiasm," Mr Modi had said earlier on Twitter as he left France after a two-day visit during which he had held talks with French President Francois Hollande.
 
Mr Modi will leave from Germany on April 14 for a two-day visit to Canada on the third and final leg of his eight-day, three-nation tour.
 
India is the partner country at the Hannover Messe, the Hannover Fair, this year and there is a large presence of Indian companies there this time.
 
India has taken about 7000 square metres of space at the fair, including a central pavilion of 1200 sq m and about 400 Indian companies are displaying their products and services at the event. About 120 Indian CEOs are expected to be present.
 
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Later today, Mr Modi will visit the City Hall and thereafter unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Hannover.
 
He will be present at the opening of the Hannover Fair this evening by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will later host a working dinner for him.
 
Tomorrow morning, Mr Modi and Ms Merkel will jointly inaugurate the Indian pavilion at the fair, after which they will walk about the Central Pavilion and then inaugurate and address an India-Germany Business Summit.
 
Later tomorrow, Mr Modi will leave for Berlin, where he will visit the Siemens Technical Academy, a leader in vocational education. Later, he will meet Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of Germany who is also the Minister of Economics and Energy. That will be followed by a community reception in the evening.
 
On April 14, Mr Modi will have a call on him by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Following this, there will be a ceremonial welcome by Chancellor Merkel at the Federal Chancellery. Ms Merkel will host a working lunch for him, over which they will have their talks, followed by their formal statements.
 
Before leaving for Ottawa, Mr Modi will visit a German railway station.
 
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US Court dismisses indictment against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade

In a major relief for Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest in New York in December 2013 sparked off a major row between India and the United States, a US Court on Wednesday dismissed the indictment against her on the ground of diplomatic immunity.

Devyani Khobragade
Devyani Khobragade
In a major relief for Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest here in December 2013 sparked off a major row between India and the United States, a US Court on Wednesday dismissed the indictment against her on the ground of diplomatic immunity.
 
"Khobragade's conditions of bail are terminated, and her bond is exonerated. It is ordered that any open arrest warrants based on this Indictment must be vacated. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this motion (Dkt. No. 15) and this case," Judge Shira A Sheindlin of the US District Court of Southern New York said.
 
Ms Khobragade, 39, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1999 batch, was the Deputy Consul General of India in New York when she was arrested on December 12, 2013 but the Government of India later, on January 8, 2014 transferred her to the Permanent Mission of India (PMI) to the United Nations here to enable her to get full diplomatic immunity. She later flew back to India after being accorded full diplomatic immunity.
 
She had been indicted by a jury on January 9, 2014 on charges of visa fraud and making false statements related to the salary paid by her to her India-based domestic help, Sangeeta Richard, also an Indian.
 
She was, among other things, accused of paying her help much less than promised to her and of filing false documents showing that she was being paid the minimum wages due to her under US laws.
 
According to Indian officials, Ms Khobragade was arrested in front of her daughter while dropping her off at school, handcuffed, strip-searched and held in a cell with hardened criminals.
 
The court noted that Ms Khobragade had, from October 26, 2012 to January 8, 2014 served in a position that cloaked her with consular immunity pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. 
 
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Ms Khobragade had contended that she additionally obtained diplomatic immunity on August 26, 2013 by virtue of another appointment as Special Adviser to the United Nations, and that such immunity continued through at least December 31, 2013.
 
The US Government denied that Ms Khobragade ever had diplomatic immunity as a Special Adviser, and alternately argued that any period 
of diplomatic immunity ended well before December 2013.
 
The US Government had also questioned her entitlement to bring her motion for dismissal of the indictment against her in light of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which "bars a defendant from invoking the authority of this Court while simultaneously evading it." 
 
The Court pointed out in this regard that it had expressly modified Ms 
Khobragade's conditions of bail to permit her return to India, she could not be  deemed to have evaded the authority of the Court.
 
The court noted that there was no dispute that Ms Khobragade's position as a Deputy Consul  General at the Indian consulate rendered her a consular officer within the terms of the VCCR. The court also said it was undisputed that she acquired full diplomatic immunity at 5:47 PM on January 8, 2014, and did not lose that immunity until her departure from the country on the evening of January 9, 2014.20 
 
On January 9, immediately following the return of the Indictment, Ms Khobragade appeared before the court through counsel and moved to dismiss the case.
 
The prosecution argued that the indictment should not be dismissed because she did not have diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest and had no immunity at the present time.
 
In support, the US Government submitted a declaration from Mr Steven Kerr, Attorney-Advisor in the Office ofthe Legal Advisor of the United States Department of State. Mr Kerr concluded that "Dr. Khobragade did not enjoy immunity from arrest or detention at the time of her arrest in this case, and she does not presently enjoy immunity from prosecution for the crimes 
charged in the Indictment."
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The court held that, even assuming Mr Kerr's conclusions to be correct, the case must be dismissed based on Ms Khobragade's conceded immunity on January 9,2014. 
 
"The fact that Khobragade lost full diplomatic immunity when she left the country does not cure the lack of jurisdiction when she was indicted. Courts in civil cases have dismissed claims against individuals who had diplomatic immunity at an earlier stage of proceedings, even if they no longer possessed immunity at the time dismissal was sought. These courts reasoned that the lack of jurisdiction at the time of the relevant procedural acts, such as service of process, rendered those acts void. Because Khobragade moved to dismiss on January 9,2014, the motion must be decided in reference to her diplomatic status on that date. 
 
"Similarly, Khobragade's status at the time of her arrest is not determinative. The State Department has explained that 'criminal immunity precludes the exercise of jurisdiction by the courts over an individual whether the incident occurred prior to or during the period in which such immunity exists.'
 
"Furthermore, several courts have held that diplomatic immunity acquired during the pendency of proceedings destroys jurisdiction even if the suit was validly commenced before immunity applied," the court said.
 
The court noted that the precedent cited by it involved civil claims rather than criminal charges. "However, the Government has not cited any criminal case in which immunity was acquired after arrest, and the Court is not aware of any such case," it said, adding that the precedent was persuasive, given that the standard for dismissing criminal and civil cases based on diplomatic immunity is the same.
 
"Furthermore, because diplomatic immunity is a jurisdictional bar, it is logical to dismiss proceedings the moment immunity is acquired. Even if Khobragade had no immunity at the time of her arrest and has none now, her acquisition of immunity during the pendency of proceedings mandates dismissal.
 
"The Court has no occasion to decide whether the acts charged in the 
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Indictment constitute 'official acts' that would be protected by residual immunity. However, if the acts charged in the Indictment were not 'performed in the exercise of official functions', then there is currently no bar to a new indictment against Khobragade," it said.
 
The Court said that Ms Khobragade had conceded that "[t]he prosecution is clearly legally able to seek a new indictment at this time or at some point in the future now that [she] no longer possesses diplomatic status and immunity ...."
 
"However, the Government may not proceed on an Indictment obtained when Khobragade was immune from the jurisdiction of the Court," it said.
 
The arrest of Ms Khobragade had evoked strong reactions in India, including a slew of measures by the Government reducing the privileges enjoyed by US diplomats in the country.
 
Among other things, the Government asked the US mission to return the identity cards issued to all its consular officers posted in India, to review the immunity and benefits enjoyed them.
 
The Government also asked the Delhi Police to remove all traffic barricades near the US Embassy in Chanakyapuri in Delhi.
 
It is also learnt to have asked the US mission to provide it with details of visas, salaries and so on of all teachers at US schools to ascertain whether all Indian laws were being followed in their cases.
 
The Government also withdrew all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the Embassy as part of measures aimed at ensuring reciprocity in matters of diplomatic immunity.
 
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India to achieve double-digit growth in five years: Mukherjee

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that it was entirely possible that India would break into double-digit growth within the next five years.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US INDIA CEOs Forum Meeting in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010. Also seen is Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US INDIA CEOs Forum Meeting in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010. Also seen is Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that he is optimistic about India's long-run growth prospects and that it was entirely within the realm of the possible that the country would break into double-digit growth within the next five years.


Addressing the India-US CEO Forum in Washington on Tuesday, Mr Mukherjee said the recovery from the global economic crisis for India seemed to be on a surer footing.


"The Indian economy has done exceedingly well in these difficult times through a combination of careful policymaking, dynamic industrial leadership and luck. Last quarter our GDP grew at 8.6% and this year my Ministry has predicated a growth rate of 8.5%," he said.


"I notice that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has recently challenged our prediction. For once, however, I am not going to argue with the IMF. The IMF believes that the Indian economy will grow by 8.8%!" he remarked.


The India-US CEO Forum was reconstituted last year with 12 CEOs from India and the United States nominated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama, repectively.


This was the second meeting of the Forum, the first having been held in November last year on the sidelines of Dr Singh's visit to Washington. It is co-chaired by Mr Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons and Dave Cote, CEO of Honeywell Corporation.


Yesterday's meeting was attended by eight CEOs from each side. There was very high level government participation from both sides reflecting the importance attached by both Governments.


Apart from Mr Mukherjee, those attending the meeting from India included Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. From the US side, there were six Secretary-level representatives, who included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg.


Mr Mukherjee told the Forum that India today saved and invested around 34 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and this was still rising. He said India's growth was coming not just from Government action but from a variety of sectors and stakeholders from all over the economy, including the private corporate sector. "To me, this multiple source growth is a sign of robustness," he said.


He said a significant part of India’s growth impulse was from the rural sector which had been prioritized in the country's developmental plans for inclusive growth. He said the focus was on innovation with a broader outreach at the grassroots level and engaging medium-sized companies in the US and India in the development process.


The Finance Minister said India offered investment opportunities in excess of $ 850 billion over the next five years. In the infrastructure sector, it envisaged investment at $ 1 trillion between 2012-13 and 2016-17, with a potential funding gap of 25-30% bridged through innovative modes of financing, he said.


He said efforts were being made to make the Government more efficient, transparent, and in step with the modern world. He metioned the draft Direct Tax Code in this context. He said he was committed to bring down the public debt as a percentage of GDP from the current level of around 75% to below 68% in three years.


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010.

"India’s fiscal health is good now and this new target will make it even better. It will also make more room for private sector borrowing and investment. Our ultimate aim is to make India a vibrant economy that attracts global capital and trade," he said.


Mr Mukherjee said the relationship with the US was one of the most important bilateral relationships for India today.


"As India pursues its developmental goals, we would like to work with the US – especially where our priorities converge, to realize outcomes that are to the mutual benefit of our peoples. We have a unique advantage which is the existence of strongest possible people-to-people linkages that any bilateral strategic partnership could wish for. We have, in our Strategic Dialogue, innovation as the principle that should guide our work ahead," he said.


He said the CEOs Forum had established itself as a bridge between the private sectors and the Governments of India and the US.


"With your leadership and vision, you have created synergies that are invaluable. The initiative to take this strong economic partnership to a new level of innovation and sustained growth is indeed welcome," he said.


"I am sure that the dynamism and energy of our private sectors and the public-private partnerships that we envision will help to take our cooperation and achievement to unprecedented heights," he said.


Mr Mukherjee said the trust that India had built up through its 100% compliance record in the safeguarding of imported technology should help it to increase its bilateral high technology trade.


"I am aware that this is presently under discussion and I would only underline that India has a record of being a trusted a customer. I am sure that our Governments should be able to work together to create the conditions for a win-win situation in advance technology trade between our two countries," he sad.


He noted the two countries had launched the Financial and Economic Partnership when Secretary Geithner visited Delhi in April this year to strengthen engagement in economic, financial and investment related issues.


He said the two countries were currently negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty and were committed to take further initiatives that would contribute to creating a more conducive environment for investment flows. He said the economic Ministries of the two countries had taken steps to gradually liberalize policies.


"I am aware that as captains of industry you will have a major focus on profits. I am sure you are equally aware that, as a politician, I have to keep a watch on votes. But, at the same time, all of us must have ambitions that go beyond these. Our ultimate aim has to be the well-being of human beings. We have to strive for inclusiveness not only in our individual nations and corporations but in the world and across nations. We live today in a world where all our fates are tied together. For that reason, if for no other, we have to strive together to create a better world.

"Our ambitions must go beyond the economy. India’s founding fathers had a vision very similar to what the founding fathers of the United States had. India is today a secular, democratic nation and, as a political leader of India, I am proud of that.

"To hold on to these ideals and to run to a growing robust economy means having to face lots of challenges. We must collectively rise to those challenges.

"I know that this sounds as if I am trying to reach for the stars. I want to assure you that that is exactly what I am doing. Together we must try to reach for the stars," Mr Mukherjee added.


Ms Clinton said that, as both Mr Obama and Dr Singh had said numerous times in the last 16 months, the increased cooperation between the US and India was the cornerstone of the 21st century Strategic Partnership between the two countries.


She said Mr Obama and Dr Singh had reinvigorated the CEOs Forum last year based on the idea that Washington and Delhi needed to catch up to the business and innovation cooperation that is already happening in New York and Mumbai.


She quoted a recent report which said Indian investment in the US grew by an estimated 60 per cent in 2009, to over $7 billion. That same report indicated that trade in goods between the two countries tripled between 2004 and 2008, and that since 2004 Indian acquisitions in the United States had supported approximately 40,000 jobs in the US, with manufacturing exports to India linked to another 96,000 jobs. "That’s great progress and it’s a solid base on which to build," she said.


"But I think that we are just getting started in exploring all of the ways to improve opportunities for trade and investment and foster the kind of inclusive growth that lifts people out of poverty and strengthens our democracies. We want to turn recommendations for improving access to education into reality. We want to lay the groundwork for future cooperation to fight climate change, develop clean energy solutions, and so much more," she said.


Noting that President Obama was due to visit India in early November, she said a lot of hard work was needed to translate a lot of the ideas that had been discussed into accomplishments and realities for that visit.


An official press release said the CEOs had met in a smaller format before interacting with the Government representatives.


They presented recommendations to both Governments in four core areas - Infrastructure; Clean Energy; Education and Health/Biotechnology. The Forum also discussed impediments and some breakthrough long-term ideas, it said.


According to the release, the recommendations included some interesting and ambitious ideas such as creation of an Infrastructure Debt Fund of $10 billion for development of infrastructure in India, collaboration under the National Solar Mission of India, a long-term initiative on diabetes research and treatment, linkages between educational institutions and joint research in clean energy, including bio-fuels.


Mr Mukherjee announced that, to follow up on the ideas, a committee headed by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission would be formed in India to carry forward the ideas with implementable action plans.


CEOs from both sides and representatives of the two Governments agreed that there was tremendous potential and synergy in the economic partnership between India and the US. The visit of President Obama to India later this year would provide an opportunity to intensify the economic engagement and translate some of these ideas into deliverables, they felt.


Mr Mukherjee also had a separate meeting with Mr Geithner when they discussed bilateral issues and the outlook for the global economy. They also discussed the euro-zone crisis and how this would impact on the global economy. They discussed issues relating to fiscal consolidation and Mr Mukherjee suggested that fiscal exits could be staggered and be country specific, depending on market conditions in each country.


Mr Sharma met Mr Kirk separately and discussed issues relating to India-US trade relations. Mr Ahluwalia had a meeting with US Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack to discuss progress in India-US Agriculture cooperation, the release added.


Photos: Courtesy: Website of Embassy of India, Washington


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PM: India ready to walk extra mile, Pakistan must act against terror

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism and offered to walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in bilateral ties if it cooperated with India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the Majlis Al Shura in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 01, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the Majlis Al Shura in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 01, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism to realise the vision of peace and prosperity in South Asia and offered to walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in bilateral relations if it cooperated with India.

"India wishes to live in peace and friendship with its neighbours. I believe that all countries of South Asia should work to realize a common vision of peace and inclusive development for the region," Dr Singh said in his address to the Majlis-al-Shura in Riyadh today.

Dr Singh, who was on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, said India sought cooperative relations with Pakistan.

"Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognise that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole," he said.

"But to realise this vision, Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism. If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries," he said.

Pointing out that the interests of peoples and countries in the world were intertwined, Dr Singh said that, as two countries representing old civilizations, India and Saudi Arabia should work together to promote dialogue and peaceful co-existence among nations, religions and societies.

"We should work together as partners in shaping the global discourse on issues such as energy security, food security, climate change and terrorism. We should cooperate to deal with regional challenges such as maritime security, piracy, narcotics, human trafficking and other non-traditional threats to security," he said.

"Our two peoples are desirous of peace and goodwill. Together, India and Saudi Arabia can become a potent moral force for a better world and for a more secure future for our children," he said.

The Prime Minister said both India and Saudi Arabia were today threatened by extremism and violence. He stressed that the pursuit of terror in the name of religion or any other cause or grievance could not be acceptable to civilised societies.

"It has no sanction in any religion. History teaches us that the scourge of terrorism must be confronted with determination and united effort," he said.

He said that nowhere was this challenge greater than in Afghanistan. "The people of Afghanistan have suffered for far too long. They deserve an atmosphere of peace and the opportunity to pursue a life of dignity and hope," he said.

Dr Singh said the government of Afghanistan needed the support of the international community in restoring peace and development in the country. He said the international community should support all sections of Afghan society who wish to work towards the emergence of Afghanistan as a modern, stable and sovereign nation. No sanctuary should be given to those who promote terror, violence or instability in the country, he said.

Describing Saudi Arabia as the cradle of Islam, he said he was carrying a message of peace, brotherhood and friendship as well as the fraternal greetings of the people of India.

He said India regarded Saudi Arabia as a pillar of stability in the Gulf region and noted that, under King Abdullah, the kingdom had taken rapid strides towards modernisation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, at the Al Rawdah Palace at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on February 28, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, at the Al Rawdah Palace at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on February 28, 2010.

"As I stand before you, I am conscious of the wealth of history behind us, and the promise of a new partnership ahead of us," he remarked, as he traced the links between the two nations dating back to more than 5000 years ago, when ships made with teak from Kerala freely traversed the waters of the Indian Ocean and linked the people of Sindh, Gujarat and Malabar with the different ports of the Gulf and the Red Sea, going up to Basra and Alexandria.

He pointed out that, today, Islam was an integral part of India’s nationhood and ethos and of the rich tapestry of its culture.

"Our 160 million Muslims are contributing to our nation building efforts and have excelled in all walks of life. We are proud of our composite culture and of our tradition of different faiths and communities living together in harmony," he said.

Referring to King Saud's visit to India in 1955 and the visits by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Saudi Arabia in 1956 and by Indira Gandhi in 1982, Dr Singh said the tone for bilateral realtions in the 21t century was set by the landmark visit of King Abdullah to India in January, 2006.

He said the Delhi Declaration that he signed with King Abdullah on that occasion enshrined the shared vision of the two countries for a new relationship, in which they pledged to work not just for the development and prosperity of their peoples but for the security and peace of the region as a whole.

He told the gathering that his dialogue with King Abdullah in Riyadh yesterday and his meetings with other Saudi leaders had led to the reaffirmation of the close bilateral ties and the common interests of the two countries.

"We have agreed to impart a strategic character to our relations, and have put in place a roadmap for bilateral economic, political and security related cooperation that will constitute the core of our relationship in the coming years," he said.

Dr Singh said India was in the midst of rapid socio-economic transformation, hoping to achieve a growth rate of about 7.5 per cent in the current financial year.

"In the next 25 years we aspire to growth rates of between 9 to 10 per cent annually. This will enable us to lift millions of our people out of poverty and to transform India into one of the largest economies of the world. India looks to the future with confidence and hope," he said.

Noting that Saudi Arabia itself was witnessing remarkable progress as it modernised and diversified its economy, he said there was vast potential for cooperation between the two countries based on their inherent strengths and complementarities.

He sought Saudi investment in a range of sectors from infrastructure and manufacturing to the services and hospitality sector. Equally, Indian industry is ready to take advantage of the many opportunities that are opening up in the IT, banking, telecommunications, pharmaceutical and hydrocarbon sectors in Saudi Arabia, he said.

The Prime Minister said the kingdom was one of India’s major trading partners, with bilateral trade touching $ 25 billion in 2008-09. He said the two countries were looking at ways and means of expanding their traditionally strong collaboration in the energy sector.

He also took note of the contribution of the 1.8 million strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia - the largest abroad. He also pointed out that as many as 165,000 Indian pilgrims perform the Haj annually, the second largest group from any single country, with a similar number performing the Umrah every year.

Dr Singh spoke of the need for more contacts among the parliamentarians, scholars, scientists and students of both countries to renew the intellectual bonds between India and West Asia.

He also felt there was scope for considerable expansion of bilateral interactions in the political, defence and security spheres.

"West Asia is a vital part of India’s extended neighbourhood. We have deep and intricate ties with the Gulf countries. We have a high stake in the peace and stability of the region. Neither the countries of the region nor the world can afford fresh turmoil. We sincerely hope that wisdom will prevail and that in the resolution of conflicts and differences, dialogue will triumph over confrontation," he said.

The Prime Minister said there was no issue more important for peace and stability in the region than the question of Palestine.

For far too long the brave people of Palestine have been denied their just, legitimate and inalienable rights, including most of all the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state," he said.

He paid a special tribute to King Abdullah for the initiatives he has taken to bring about a just settlement. "We applaud and support the Arab Peace Initiative," he said.

"I take this opportunity of reiterating the principled, strong and consistent support of the government and people of India for the struggle of the Palestinian people. India has been making a contribution to the development of the Palestinian economy and its human resources and we will continue to do so," he added.

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PM says India ready to take on global targets for emission cuts

India has said it is willing to sign on to a target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase if it is accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and other Heads of Commonwealth countries, during the CHOGM 2009, in Port of Spain on November 27, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and other Heads of Commonwealth countries, during the CHOGM 2009, in Port of Spain on November 27, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India is willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase but made it clear that this must be accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.

"We acknowledge the imperative of science but science must not trump equity. Climate Change action based on the perpetuation of poverty will simply not be sustainable," he said in his intervention on Climate Change at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) - 2009 at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Friday.

Speaking at a special session devoted to Climate Change, Dr Singh said India had repeatedly emphasised the need for the outcome at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen next month to be comprehensive, balanced and, above all, equitable.

He said it must be comprehensive in the sense that it must cover all the inter-related components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

He said this meant that a partial outcome must be resisted and that there must be balance and equal priority given to each of the four components.

"Mitigation is important but cannot take precedence over adaptation which, for many countries represented here, poses a greater challenge. And most important from our perspective, is the need to ensure an equitable outcome corresponding to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," he said.

Referring to the view expressed in some quarters that, given the limited amount of time available, it would be better to aim for a political outcome rather than a legally binding outcome, Dr Singh said the Copenhagen negotiating process must not be pre-empted.

"Whatever time is still available to us before the High Level Segment meets from December 16, should be used to achieve as much convergence as possible. If the consensus is that only a political document is feasible then we must make certain that the post-Copenhagen process continues to work on the Bali mandate and the UNFCCC continues to be the international template for global climate action. We must avoid any lowering of sights," he stressed.

The Prime Minister said the special session would enable CHOGM to send a powerful political message to Copenhagen so as to ensure an ambitious, substantive and equitable outcome.

He welcomed the participation of the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in the session, saying his perspective on the multi-lateral negotiations was particularly useful. He assured Mr Rasmussen that India would play a constructive and positive role and support all his efforts to secure a successful outcome at Copenhagen.

Similarly, he said French President Nicolas Sarkozy's presence at the deliberations added to their quality. "We have benefited from his insights and his wisdom and, in particular, his concern over the challenges posed to developing countries by Climate Change," he said.

He said UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon had played a key role in raising awareness of the dangers posed by Climate Change to humanity and had repeatedly stressed the need for urgency in our actions. "We agree with his assessment that the time for action is now," he said.

Dr Singh expressed India's complete solidarity with the sentiments expressed by several leaders from Small Island Developing States and from Africa, who, he said, were the least responsible for climate change and yet were the most vulnerable to its impact.

"Their very survival is at stake. We appreciate their concern because India, too, has extensive island territories and low lying coastal plains, which are vulnerable to sea-level rise ad extreme climatic events," he said.

He said India had modest resources at its disposal but was willing to share whatever it had to build adaptive capacity among the least developed countries and the Small Island Developing States.

The Prime Minister said that if the outcome at Copenhagen diminished rather than enhanced the implementation of the UNFCCC in respect of the specific components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, it would represent a serious setback, no matter how the result was characterised.

He emphasised that Climate Change was a challenge of global dimensions which deserved a global and a collaborative response. He said it was unfortunate that the global discourse on Climate Change had become enmeshed with arguments about maintaining economic competitiveness or level playing fields.

"Climate Change is becoming the pretext for pursuing protectionist policies under a green label. This would be contrary to the UNFCCC and a violation of the WTO as well. India and other developing countries will strongly resist this," he said.

He also said that the attempts by some countries to dispense with the Kyoto Protocol altogether had generated avoidable misgivings and had been strongly resisted by all developing countries without exception.

"We hope that a legally valid instrument to which we too are parties, will not be set aside in a cavalier manner. This will undermine credibility in any future legally binding instrument," he said.

Dr Singh told the meeting that India had adopted an ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change with 8 National Mission covering both mitigation and adaptation. He said India had not made their implementation conditional upon obtaining international support, but it could certainly do more if there were a supportive global regime.

"Each of the National Missions, including those on renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency and expanding forest cover, are platforms on which we would be happy to pursue cooperative partnership with sister Commonwealth countries," he said.

Dr Singh welcomed the proposal made by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the mobilisation of at least $ 100 billion by 2020 for supporting climate change action in developing countries. He also welcomed the priority he had given to the needs of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

"However, much of this finance is market-based and hence subject to market volatility and unpredictability. We can hardly plan long-term action on this basis. Furthermore, adaptation requirements do not lend themselves to market based finance," he added.

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India, US say perpetrators of 26/11 must be brought to justice

India and the United States have underscored the absolute imperative to bring to justice the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.

India and the United States have underscored the absolute imperative to bring to justice the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, which claimed more than 180 lives.

"On the eve of its first anniversary, President Obama reiterated the United States’s condemnation of the terrorist attack in Mumbai in November 2008," Mr Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a Joint Statement between them after their talks in the White House in Washington on Tuesday.

The two leaders recognised that the India-US partnership was indispensable for global peace and security and said that, in this context, the interests of both countries were best advanced through the values mirrored in their societies.

They acknowledged the common threat that international terrorism poses to regional and global security. They condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere.

The two leaders expressed their grave concern about the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremists emanating from India's neighborhood, whose impact is felt beyond the region. The two leaders agreed that resolute and credible steps must be taken to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that provide shelter to terrorists and their activities. These undermine security and stability in the region and around the world.

The statement said the two leaders vowed to redouble their efforts to deal effectively with terrorism, while protecting their countries’ common ideals and shared values and committed themselves to strengthening global consensus and legal regimes against terrorism. They decided on a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to expand collaboration on counterterrorism, information sharing, and capacity building.

The two leaders reiterated their shared interest in the stability, development and independence of Afghanistan and in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to the statement, President Obama appreciated India’s role in reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. The two leaders agreed to enhance their respective efforts in this direction.

The two leaders committed to continue pursuing mutually beneficial defence cooperation through the existing security dialogue, service-level exchanges, defence exercises and trade and technology transfer and collaboration. They recognised the scope for cooperation in the areas of non-traditional threats to security, peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster relief, and maritime security and protecting sea lanes of communication. They agreed to expedite necessary arrangements to facilitate these activities.

The two leaders agreed that strengthening high technology trade between their countries is in the spirit of their strategic dialogue and partnership. They reiterated their shared commitment to technology security and that it is in their mutual interest to invigorate this area of their partnership.

The statement said Dr Singh and Mr Obama had reaffirmed the global strategic partnership between their two countries and had launched a new phase in this partnership today.

They commended the deepening bilateral cooperation between the world's two largest democracies across a broad spectrum of human endeavours and recognised that the common ideals and complementary strengths of the two countries today provided a foundation for addressing the global challenges of the 21sr century.

Mr Obama stated that the US looked forward to a stable and prosperous India playing an increasingly important role in world affairs.

The joint statement also touched upon the cooperation between the two countries in areas such as energy security, food security, climate change, elimination of poverty, ensuring sustainable development and a clean energy future. They agreed to enter into a Green Partnership to address these global challenges.

The two leaders reaffirmed their intention to promote the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. Recognizing their special role in promoting a successful and substantive outcome at the UNFCCC 15th Conference of Parties at Copenhagen in December, 2009, they reaffirmed their intention to work together bilaterally and with all other countries for an agreed outcome at that meeting.

The two leaders also affirmed that the Copenhagen outcome must be comprehensive and cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, and in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, it should reflect emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. There should be full transparency through appropriate processes as to the implementation of aforesaid mitigation actions. The outcome should further reflect the need for substantially scaled-up financial resources to support mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, in particular, for the poorest and most vulnerable. It should also include measures for promoting technology development, dissemination and transfer and capacity building, including consideration of a centre or a network of centres to support and stimulate climate innovation. India and the United States, consistent with their national circumstances, resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change. They resolved to stand by these commitments.

They agreed to collaborate in the application of their space technology and related scientific capabilities in outer space and for development purposes, including in the field of agriculture.

The two leaders reiterated their intention to realize the full potential of the India-U.S. Agreement for Cooperation concerning the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy through the implementation of its provisions. They agreed to expedite U.S. firms' participation in the implementation of this agreement.

The Joint Statement also talked about stimulating the global economic revival, and announced their intention to develop a Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment. This Framework is expected to foster an environment conducive to technological innovation and collaboration, promote inclusive growth and job creation, and support opportunities for increased trade and investment - including for small and medium-sized enterprises. They agreed to launch the U.S.-India Financial and Economic Partnership to strengthen engagement on economic, financial, and investment-related issues.

The two leaders welcomed the progress achieved in the discussions on a Bilateral Investment Treaty and pledged to take further initiatives that would contribute to creating a more conducive environment for investment flows.

They recognized the contribution of the business and industrial sectors of both countries in this regard and called upon the India-U.S. CEOs Forum to identify new directions in the India-U.S. economic relationship.

Other areas covered by the statement included cooperation in the fields of education and health.

Overall, the two leaders recognised that the India-US relationship was important for managing the challenges the world will face in the 21st centry and underscored the compelling need to put in place global institutions which are both inclusive and effective to meet present and future challenges.

They welcomed the emergence of the G-20 as a premier forum to deal with international economic issues. The two leaders recognized the scope for their countries to increase cooperation in peacekeeping, development and the promotion of essential human freedoms. They committed themselves to achieving genuine reform of the United Nations including in its Security Council in a manner that reflects the contemporary realities of the 21st century and thereby enhances its ability to carry out its mandate as a representative, credible and effective forum for meeting the challenges of the new century.

Earlier, addressing a joint press conference at the White House after their talks, Mr Obama said Pakistan had an enormously important role in the security of South Asia region by making sure that the extremist organisations that often operate out of its territories are dealt with effectively.

"And we've seen some progress.  The work that the Pakistan military is doing in the Swat Valley in west -- in south Waziristan all indicates the degree to which they are beginning to recognize that extremism, even if initially directed to the outside, can ultimately also have an adverse impact on their security internally," Mr Obama said.

Dr Singh said he and President Obama had a very useful and productive exchange of views relating to security, peace and counter-terrorism. He said he was very satisfied with the outcome of their discussions.

He also said that, as far as the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement was concerned, Mr Obama had re-affirmed that it was the common resolve of the two governments to operationalise the deal as early as possible.

"There are a few 'i's' and 't's' which have to be crossed -- and I am confident and I have the assurance of the President that that process can be completed without much further loss of time," he said.

Mr Obama said that it was obvious that there were historic conflicts between India and Pakistan but it was not the place of the US to try to, from outside, resolve all those conflicts. On the other hand, the US wanted to be encouraging of ways in which both India and Pakistan could feel secure, and focus on the development of their own countries and their own people, he said.

"With respect to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan's military, I think that there have probably been times in the past in which we were so single-mindedly focused just on military assistance in Pakistan that we didn't think more broadly about how to encourage and develop the kinds of civil society in Pakistan that would make a difference in the lives of people day to day," he remarked.

He hoped that, over time, there would be further clarity and further cooperation between all the parties and all peoples of goodwill in the region to eradicate terrorist activity, to eradicate the kind of violent extremist activity that has been seen in Pakistan. "I think that will benefit the peoples of Pakistan and India and the world community as well," he said.

In his opening remarks at the joint press conference, Mr Obama said the fact that Dr Singh's was the first official state visit of his presidency reflected America's admiration for the Prime Minister's leadersip, the deep bonds between the peoples of the two countries and the historic opportunity they had to strengthen and broaden the partnership between the two nations.

"India today is a rising and responsible global power.  In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region.  And the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia.

"Beyond Asia, as the world's largest multiethnic democracy, as one of the world's fastest-growing economies, and as a member of the G20, India will play a pivotal role in meeting the major challenges we face today.  And this includes my top economic priority, creating good jobs with good wages for the American people," he said.

Mr Obama said he believed the relationship between the US and India would be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century and Dr Singh's visit underscored the strengthening of that partnership, which he hoped would continue throughout his presidency. "That's why I've made it a priority to broaden the cooperation between our nations," he remarked.

He said his administration's commitment to India could be seen in the new strategic dialogue between the two countries, which addresses the full range of challenges and opportunities before them.

"And our commitment to India can be seen in my personal partnership with Prime Minister Singh.  We've worked together on economic matters at our G20 summits in London and Pittsburgh, as well as L'Aquila.  I consider him a wise leader who has helped unleash India's extraordinary economic growth.  He is a man of honesty and integrity.  I respect him and I trust him, and I have happily accepted his gracious invitation to visit India next year," he said.

The US President said the two sides had agreed to strengthen the economic recovery and expand trade and investment so that they could create jobs for both their peoples.

He noted that Indian investment in America was creating and sustaining jobs across the US. The US is India's largest trading and investment partner and there is significant balance in their trading relationships, he said. He said that, to sustain this momentum, the two sides were creating new initiatives to promote trade, investment and technology cooperation, especially among their small and medium-sized businesses.

He said he had reaffirmed to Dr Singh his administration's commitment to fully implement the nuclear deal, which would increase American exports and create jobs in both countries.

They agreed to move forward with their commitments at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh to pursue balanced growth while ensuring that emerging economies like India have a greater voice in shaping the international financial architecture.

He said they had made progress in confronting climate change and commended the Prime Minister for India's leadership in areas like green buildings and energy efficiency. He said the two sides had , agreed to a series of important new efforts:  a clean energy initiative that will create jobs and improve people's access to cleaner, more affordable energy; a green partnership to reduce poverty through sustainable and equitable development; and an historic effort to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

"With just two weeks until the beginning of Copenhagen, it's also essential that all countries do what is necessary to reach a strong operational agreement that will confront the threat of climate change while serving as a stepping-stone to a legally binding treaty," he said.

Mr Obama said he and Dr Singh had reaffirmed that an agreement in Copenhagen should be comprehensive and cover all the issues under negotiation. 

"We resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change.  We agreed to stand by these commitments with full transparency through appropriate processes as to their implementation.  All this builds on the progress that we made in Beijing, and it takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen," he said.

The US President said he and Dr Singh had also agreed to deepen their cooperation against transnational threats. "The American people join our Indian friends in remembering the horrific attacks in Mumbai one year ago this week.  To prevent future attacks, we agreed that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies will work even closer, including sharing more information.  We discussed my review of our policy in Afghanistan, and I thanked Prime Minister Singh for India's substantial contributions to the Afghan people," he said.

Mr Obama welcomed Dr Singh's support for the non-proliferation agenda that he had laid out in Prague, and looked forward to India's participation in the nuclear security summit next year, as well as India's participation as a full partner in the shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

"Now, part of that vision is working together to ensure that all nations, including Iran and South -- North Korea, live up to their international obligations," he said.

Mr Obama said the two sides agreed to expand the educational exchanges that will fuel their knowledge-based economies. 

They decided to "dramatically" expand the Fulbright-Nehru program that brings students and scholars from both countries together, especially in science and technology. 

They also decided to increase ties and exchanges between their universities and community colleges as part of "a new Obama-Singh -- or Singh-Obama" -- 21st Century Knowledge Initiative.
"We think it's appropriately named," he quipped.

Mr Obama said that, to advance their historic food security initiative, American and Indian researches would collaborate to improve agricultural output and reduce hunger -- not only in India, where enormous strides have been made, but around the world. "India has much to teach the developing world in terms of achieving food sufficiency," he remarked.

He said American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention would partner with their Indian counterparts to create a new disease detection centre in India to combat infectious diseases and promote global health.

"This is the concrete progress made today across a whole range of issues to create jobs, opportunity and security for our people.  As a result, I believe the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger -- a reminder that it will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.

President and Ms Michelle Obama later hosted Dr Singh and Ms Gursharan Kaur at the first state dinner of his presidency. "It will be another opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister and the people of India, as India assumes its rightful place as a global leader in this century, that you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America," he added.

Dr Singh said that when India and the US met, it was a moment to celebrate the values of democracy, pluralism, liberty and freedom. "Today we have done that and much more," he observed.

He said the two leaders had, in their discussions, reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral relationship between the two countries and decided on future steps to enhance their strategic partnership.

"We have agreed to further intensify our trade, investment, and economic cooperation in a way that creates jobs and prosperity in both our two countries and stimulates global economic recovery," he said.

Dr Singh expressed admiration for the leadership that President Obama had provided to stimulate and guide the G-20 process. He said they had decided to give a fresh impetus to collaboration in the fields of education, agriculture and health. He said the two countries would deepen their ongoing cooperation in frontier areas of science and technology, nuclear power and space. "This will open new opportunities for our universities and laboratories, and create human capital to meet the global needs of the future," he said.

The Prime Minister said he and Mr Obama had had a very constructive exchange of views on strategic issues. "Our defence cooperation is progressing well.  We agreed on the early and full implementation of our Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.  Our strategic partnership should facilitate transfer of high technologies to India.  The lifting of U.S. export controls on high technology exports to India will open vast opportunities for giant research and development efforts.  It will enable U.S. industry to benefit from the rapid economic and technological transformation that is now underway in our country," he said.

Referring to the Copenhagen meeting on Climate Change in December, he said he and Mr Obama had agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome, which would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology.  "We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end bilaterally and with all other countries," he said.

Dr Singh said India welcomed President Obama's commitment to a major programme for promotion of renewable energy. He drew Mr Obama's attention to India's own ambitious national action plan on climate change, which has eight national missions covering both mitigation and adaptation.

"Just as we partnered each other in the shaping of the knowledge economy, we have the opportunity today to become partners in developing the green economy of the future.  I underlined India's desire to benefit from clean and energy-efficient technologies from the United States.  Our partnership will contribute to global efforts to combat climate change and achieve energy security," he said.

Dr Singh said the two leaders had a detailed discussion on important regional and global issues. 
"We agreed that the Indo-U.S. partnership was important for addressing the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world that we live in.  The global economic crisis has brought home the fact that our prosperity is interlinked," he said.

"Our dialogue covered the need to have an open and inclusive architecture in the Asia Pacific regions.  It is important for the international community to sustain its engagement in Afghanistan, to help its emergence as a modern state," he said.

"The focus -- the forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world and have to be defeated.  President Obama and I have decided to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counterterrorism," he said.

Dr Singh said India welcomed the renewed international interest in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, pointing out that India had been a consistent advocate of a world free of nuclear weapons.  He said India would work with the United States and other countries for the success of the nuclear security summit, which President Obama is hosting next April.

"In our discussions today, there was a meeting of minds on the future direction of our relations.  I was deeply impressed by President Obama's strong commitment to the India-U.S. strategic partnership and by the breadth of his vision for global peace and prosperity," he said.

Dr Singh said he had invited President Obama to visit India. "A very warm welcome awaits him, his gracious wife and his two daughters," he added.

In reply to a question, Mr Obama said he thought the US and India were natural allies, not just around counter-terrorism issues but on a whole host of issues.

"As we discussed earlier, we're the world's two largest democracies.  We have a range of shared values and ideals.  We're both entrepreneurial societies.  We're both multiethnic societies.  We are societies that believe in human rights and core freedoms that are enshrined in our founding documents.

"And one of the things that I think makes us such strong allies is the people-to-people contact.  It's one thing for leaders to have exchanges like this one, and that's very important, obviously.  But the incredible contributions that Indian Americans have made to the growth of our country and the degree to which they are woven into the very fabric of our society, the fact that very few Indians don't have some family member somewhere who has a connection to the United States -- that kind of exchange strengthens and deepens the bonds between our two countries in a profound way.

"Now, with respect to security issues in the region, the Prime Minister and I -- Prime Minister Singh and I had extensive discussions about that.  I think we both recognize that our core goal is to achieve peace and security for all peoples in the region, not just one country or the other.  And one of the things I admire most about Prime Minister Singh is that I think at his core he is a man of peace," he added.

Photos: Courtesy: Press Information Bureau

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India ready to do more for Sri Lankan Tamils: Mukherjee

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday India was willing to provide even more assistance for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said India was willing to provide even more assistance for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka, over and above the assistance of Rs 500 crore announced by it earlier.

"India is doing and will continue to do whatever it can to assist Sri Lanka in this critical phase of its history," Mr Mukherjee said in the 4th Lakshman Kadirgamar Lecture in Colombo on the theme, "Economics as driving force of International Relations".

India is helping the Sri Lankan government in various ways in rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils after the Sri Lankan army decimated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"The effective elimination of terrorism and secessionism from Sri Lanka offers you such an opportunity; an opportunity to shape history; an opportunity to permanently change the complexion of the relationship between the majority community and the minorities; an opportunity to address the legitimate grievances of all communities; and an opportunity to bring permanent peace and stability to this nation," he said.

"These are sine qua non for building the Sri Lanka of the future – a future in which all communities will live side by side and enjoy the same rights and privileges and get the same opportunities," he said.

Mr Mukherjee said that it was natural that, after freeing the Tamils from terrorist forces, it was natural that the first and primary focus of the Government of Sri Lanka had been to ensure the immediate welfare and safety of its citizens.

"Thousands of Tamils have come out of the conflict zone traumatized by the conflict and harbouring deep concern and fear of what the future holds for them. These citizens need reassurance. They yearn to return to their homes and resume their livelihood. Several thousand Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have indeed been resettled recently and we welcome this development. However, many more await their turn for resettlement in camps. We are confident that their speedy return is receiving the highest consideration of the Government," he said

"India has not hesitated to come to Sri Lanka’s assistance at this crucial juncture. This is only natural," he said.

The Finance Minister said India was moving from purely relief efforts to a broader rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. Its assistance had so far covered humanitarian supplies such as food, medicines and other essential supplies. It set up an emergency field hospital and four Indian de-mining teams are presently working in Northern Sri Lanka. Three more are on their way.

He said India was also sending additional shelter material and providing assistance to revive agriculture and livelihood in the North. He said both sides were also discussing assistance in reconstruction of critical civil infrastructure in Sri Lanka, including railways. They were now discussing larger projects for the population in key cities who were traumatised by the conflict.

Mr Mukherjee said they had, at the same time, not lost sight of the urgent requirements in the Eastern Province as well as of the Indian origin Tamils in up-country areas.

The lecture series is held in memory of former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who served under then President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Mr Kadirgamar was assassinated, allegedly by an LTTE sniper, in August, 2005.

Mr Mukherjee recalled the vision which Mr Kadirgamar had, both for close fraternal relations between India and Sri Lanka and for the future of Sri Lanka itself.

"It was he who dreamt of a world in which India and Sri Lanka would work together to build on our shared geography, history and culture in a relationship defined in his eloquent words by 'irreversible excellence'. It was also Lakshman who believed that Sri Lanka should remain united, and that its people should live together in an atmosphere of confidence and trust," he said.

He pointed out that Mr Kadirgamar believed that durable peace in Sri Lanka should be based on a constitutional arrangement acceptable to all communities in the nation based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

He recalled that the late Foreign Minister had said that it was important for all communities of Sri Lanka to realise that a political settlement was not a zero-sum game. It need not and should not come at the cost of another, he said.

He said Mr Kadirgamar's vision also drew upon the experience of the working of the Indian model. He believed that the Indian experiment with democracy was relevant in that India had chosen a democratic system which was designed to preserve the unity and integrity of the country without allowing for its disintegration.

The Finance Minister said there were many things in common between the two nations in terms of history, culture, philosophy and customs.

He said economics and international relations had a two-way relationship. "The economic strength of a country furthers international relations and vice-versa, creating a virtuous circle of growth and empowerment. The relationship has not changed though the (global economic and financial) crisis has brought in lessons that are likely to redefine the link in the interest of promoting global stability, he said.

According to him, the present crisis would be another watershed in the evolution of economics and is expected to bring about radical retooling of the theory.

He said there was a need for "visible hand" of oversight and regulation, without compromising market efficiency. Macro-prudential norms that aim at avoiding systemic risk through a watchful eye on asset price bubbles and imbalances, together with early warning indicators would be the key to this effort, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said developing countries are more vulnerable to crisis, as they have fewer cushions against shocks.

According to him, to resuscitate growth in the developing countries, the lost export demand had to be replaced by expanding other components of domestic demand.

"The best option is to expand investment. An obvious area where additional investment is required is infrastructure, including energy, transport and other public services. These investments can be made ahead of requirements and therefore are an ideal form of countercyclical activity," he observed.

He listed the various steps the Indian government had taken to cope with the crisis. He said the Indian economy had shown remarkable resilience to the crisis because the financial system had no exposure to the toxic assets.

He said the Indian growth was largely domestic economy driven, with merchandise exports accounting for only about 15 per cent of GDP.

"The extent of globalization however has increased over the years, which has been responsible for the setback that the economy received due to external shocks. The crisis hit the Indian economy initially through slowdown and reversal of capital flows, which impacted the stock market and the exchange rates. Thereafter, especially after the Lehman crisis, the real economy was affected through slowdown in exports, reduced investment activity and general risk aversion," he said.

He said that economic growth was expected to be in the range of 6-7 per cent in 2009-10, despite the setback due to the poor monsoon. The effort now was to bring the economy back on the growth path of 9 per cent per annum.

Mr Mukherjee expressed satisfaction that the Sri Lankan economy had also exhibited considerable resilience in the first few months of 2009 despite shocks from the global recession and the resultant slowdown in domestic economic activity.

He said the world economy was showing signs of recovery and global output was expected to expand by 3.1 per cent in 2010.

"The risks however, remain and the recovery would be razor edge walk, especially because signs of asset price bubble and heightened carry trade activity are re-emerging," he said.

"Against this backdrop of our shared inheritance lie the sobering realities of the current economic crisis. Global economic and financial slowdown has put the spotlight squarely on Asia as a region which can lead the global economic revival. Developing countries were in no way responsible for the crisis but have been the hardest hit. India has also been affected but fortunately not as bad as some others," he said.

The Finance Minister said India and Sri Lanka could show the way for Asia by cooperating even more with each other, building on the success of their Free Trade Agreement (FTA). He noted that the two sides had already initialed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) last year.

"I can assure you one thing – at a time when global players are investing in India to leverage their synergies with us, including in services, CEPA can only be a win-win situation for both India and Sri Lanka," he stressed.

"There are, however, hopeful signs that the future is closer to us than we think," he remarked, pointing to the fact that one of Sri Lanka’s largest companies, Brandix, has started a fully integrated textile city in Vishakapatnam.

He said Sri Lankan Airlines is already the largest foreign airline in India. Colombo Port and Colombo Dockyard feed on substantial Indian business. Many other Sri Lankan companies have realized the potential India offers. Many Indian corporations are also investing in Sri Lanka, the most prominent being Tata, Ceat, Indian Oil, Airtel, Ultratech and NTPC. Indian banks and an insurance company operate in Sri Lanka as well, he said.

He also said the two countries were looking at power-grid interconnectivity. There are more than 100 flights a week between the two countries. India already accounts for the largest number of tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka.

"Our development partnership has expanded to include several projects which India is taking up in Southern Sri Lanka including the Southern Railway corridor. Trade, connectivity, tourism and exchange of information and ideas are the key to greater economic engagement, he said.

"The future of peace, security and development of our region has to be fortified through common economic prosperity. We are already engaged in this process through SAARC, which has moved from a declaratory to an implementation stage. The challenge today is to build inter-dependencies which not only integrate our region but also create a strong interest in each other’s stability and prosperity. Critical to this is connectivity of goods, people and ideas. India and Sri Lanka have the will and determination to take a leadership role in this quest," he added.

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Obama to host first state dinner for Manmohan Singh

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will pay an official state visit to the United States on November 24, the first state visit to be hosted by President Barack Obama, the White House announced on Friday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will pay an official state visit to the United States on November 24, the first state visit to be hosted by President Barack Obama, the White House announced here on Friday.

"This visit will be the first state visit of the administration and will highlight the strong and growing strategic partnership between the United States and India, and the friendship between the American and Indian people," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibb said.

Mr Gibb said the two leaders were expcted to discuss a range of global, regional, and bilateral issues of shared interest and common concern.

"The two leaders will also likely discuss the strategic dialogue that was launched in July and review progress made in the dialogue," the statement said.

President Obama and Mrs Michelle Obama will also host Dr Singh and Mrs Gursharan Kaur for an official state dinner on the night of November 24.

"President Obama looks forward to welcoming Prime Minister Singh to Washington and working with him to strengthen and enhance their partnership for the benefit of the people of both nations, and the world," Mr Gibb added.

The invitation from Mr Obama to visit the United States was hand-delivered to Dr Singh by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Delhi in July.

The United States and India have come closer to each other in recent years and the two countries signed a landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement in July, 2005 during the tenure of President George W Bush.

Since then, the relationship has strengthened further and Mr Obama has said that India was a "major foreign policy priority" for the United States. He has promised to take the nuclear deal forward and said that he sees India as a "critical partner" on issues from climate change to combating terrorism.

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Obama unveils strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan

President Obama unveiled his much-awaited new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan with the "clear and focused goal" of destroying the terrorist group Al Qaeda in both countries and prevent their return in the near future on Friday.

US President Barack Obama today unveiled his much-awaited new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan with the "clear and focused goal" of destroying the terrorist group Al Qaeda in both countries and prevent their return to either country in the near future.

In a sombre speech at the White House, Mr Obama said the "comprehensive and new strategy" marked the conclusion of a careful policy review that he had ordered as soon as he took office in January this year.

He spoke about the perilous position faced by the US in Afghanistan and the threat that would arise should safe havens for the al Qaeda in Pakistan go unchallenged or should the Kabul government fall to the Taliban again. He also stressed that 2008 was the deadliest year so far in the war against terror.

"The situation is increasingly perilous," Mr Obama said. "The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked."

The US President said intelligence reports had warned that the al Qaeda, said to be responsible for the 9/11 attacks, was planning more attacks on the US from safe havens in the mountainous border regions of Pakistan.

"For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world. But this is not simply an American problem. The safety of the world is at stake," he said.

"Many people in the United States -- and many in partner countries that have sacrificed so much -- have a simple question: What is our purpose in Afghanistan? After so many years, they ask, why do our men and women still fight and die there? And they deserve a straightforward answer," Mr Obama said.

"So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just," he explained.

The President there was a need for a comprehensive strategy in the two countries, including a "standing, trilateral dialogue among the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan."

Expressing his profound respect for the Pakistani people and their history, Mr Obama pledged that the US would do all it could to help Pakistan fight against the terrorists who have so often attempted to destablilise the country, and had killed so many people, including former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Similarly, he expressed his admiration for the people of Afghanistan and went on to describe the shift coming on the ground in that country.

"Our troops have fought bravely against a ruthless enemy. Our civilians have made great sacrifices. Our allies have borne a heavy burden. Afghans have suffered and sacrificed for their future. But for six years, Afghanistan has been denied the resources that it demands because of the war in Iraq. Now, we must make a commitment that can accomplish our goals.

"I've already ordered the deployment of 17,000 troops that had been requested by General McKiernan for many months. These soldiers and Marines will take the fight to the Taliban in the south and the east, and give us a greater capacity to partner with Afghan security forces and to go after insurgents along the border. This push will also help provide security in advance of the important presidential elections in Afghanistan in August," he said.

Mr Obama said the US would simultaneously strengthen the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari in Pakistan where he said the al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups had become a "cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within."

He said Washington would step up military assistance to Islamabad to help it fight the al Qaeda and give it more economic assistance in coordination with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

He said the assistance given to Pakistan for years had yielded only "mixed results."

"We will not provide a blank check. Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and other violent extremists within its borders," he said.

Mr Obama said the US would shift the emphasis of its mission in Afghanistan to training and increasing the size of the Afghan security forces so that they could eventually take the lead in securing their country.

"That's how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security, and how we will ultimately be able to bring our own troops home.

"For three years, our commanders have been clear about the resources they need for training. And those resources have been denied because of the war in Iraq. Now, that will change. The additional troops that we deployed have already increased our training capacity. And later this spring we will deploy approximately 4,000 U.S. troops to train Afghan security forces. For the first time, this will truly resource our effort to train and support the Afghan army and police. Every American unit in Afghanistan will be partnered with an Afghan unit, and we will seek additional trainers from our NATO allies to ensure that every Afghan unit has a coalition partner. We will accelerate our efforts to build an Afghan army of 134,000 and a police force of 82,000 so that we can meet these goals by 2011 -- and increases in Afghan forces may very well be needed as our plans to turn over security responsibility to the Afghans go forward," he said.

Mr Obama said this push must be combined with a dramatic increase in America's civilian effort.

"Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people. The economy is undercut by a booming narcotics trade that encourages criminality and funds the insurgency. The people of Afghanistan seek the promise of a better future. Yet once again, we've seen the hope of a new day darkened by violence and uncertainty.

"So to advance security, opportunity and justice -- not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces -- we need agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers. That's how we can help the Afghan government serve its people and develop an economy that isn't dominated by illicit drugs. And that's why I'm ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground. That's also why we must seek civilian support from our partners and allies, from the United Nations and international aid organizations -- an effort that Secretary Clinton will carry forward next week in The Hague," he said.

Pointing out that at a time of a global economic crisis, the President said it was tempting to believe that the US could shortchange this civilian effort. But he The President emphasised that US efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan would fail if it did not invest in the future of the two countries.

He said there would be a new regime of accountability in the execution of this war, beginning with contractors, and stretching to demanding clearly understood goals:

"There is an uncompromising core of the Taliban. They must be met with force, and they must be defeated. But there are also those who've taken up arms because of coercion, or simply for a price. These Afghans must have the option to choose a different course. And that's why we will work with local leaders, the Afghan government, and international partners to have a reconciliation process in every province. As their ranks dwindle, an enemy that has nothing to offer the Afghan people but terror and repression must be further isolated. And we will continue to support the basic human rights of all Afghans -- including women and girls.

"Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course. Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress and hold ourselves accountable. We’ll consistently assess our efforts to train Afghan security forces and our progress in combating insurgents. We will measure the growth of Afghanistan’s economy, and its illicit narcotics production. And we will review whether we are using the right tools and tactics to make progress towards accomplishing our goals," he said.

Mr Obama said that the US would form a contact group on Afghanistan, involving countries that had a stake in the security of the region, including Iran, Russia, India and China.

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Magnitude 6.2 earthquake jolts Myanmar on Thursday night

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, jolted Myanmar late last night, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The  quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 18.4°N and longitude  94.0°E  in the Bago region of Myanmar, occurred at 2356 hours IST yesterday at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Rahul Gandhi says lack of jobs, rise of hatred are main threats facing India

Reaching out to the Indian diaspora, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday said there were two clear threats facing the country -- the Government's inability to provide jobs to the people and a rise in the forces of hatred and division -- and said this was not a fight that could be won without them.

 
Lack of jobs, rising hatred are biggest threats facing India: Rahul Gandhi
Reaching out to the Indian diaspora across the world, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday said there were two clear threats facing the country -- the Government's inability to provide jobs to the people and a rise in the forces of hatred and division -- and said this was not a fight that could be won without them.
 
"India today is free but once again it is under threat," he said at a convention of the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) in Manama, Bahrain on his first visit abroad after taking over as president of the 132-year-old party that steered India's freedom struggle.
 
"There are two clear threats facing our country today. The first is our government’s inability to provide jobs for our people. Our main competitor, China. produces 50,000 jobs every 24 hours. India currently produces 400 jobs in the same amount of time. It’s an important figure. So I will put it another way. What China does in two days takes India one year to do. These are not my figures. These are figures of the Govt of India. These are figures stated by a Minister in our Parliament.
 
"Job creation in India is at an 8-year low. New investments are the lowest they have been in 13 years; bank credit growth has sunk to a 63 year low," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that, to make matters worse, many in the Indian diaspora had lost hard-earned money because of arbitrary decisions like demonetization, which had landed a crippling blow to India’s overall economic growth.
 
"The fact is that India can simply not afford this. We are the second most populous country in the world. Every day 30,000 new youngsters come into India’s job market. Not providing education and jobs to these youngsters is a recipe for disaster. The government's failure to create jobs is resulting in tremendous anger and unrest in India. The youth are asking a very simple question. What are we to do in our future? This anger is visible in the streets and is rising rapidly," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said the tragedy  was that, instead of focusing the attention of the people on what is critical - the removal of poverty, job creation and the building of a world class education system - there was instead  instead a rise in the forces of hatred and division. 
 
"Instead of accepting that we are struggling to create jobs, instead of uniting people together, all communities and religions to face the challenge, the government is busy converting the fear being generated in our jobless youth into hatred between communities.
 
"Tragically the conversation in our country today is not about jobs, healthcare or education. Today the only thing India talks about is what you are allowed to eat, who is allowed to protest, and what we can say or rather what we cannot say. Activists and journalists are threatened; they are shot dead for expressing their views. People are killed because of their religious beliefs. Dalits are beaten into submission. Judges investigating sensitive cases die under mysterious circumstances. And through all this, the government has nothing to say," he said.
 
"India has been taken off its path of progress. Indians – at home and abroad are shocked to see this ugly effort which seeks to deviate us from our ancient philosophy and from the path our country has followed for thousands of years," he said.
 
"This is not a fight that can be won without you. It is a fight to return us to our beloved ideals. You, your openness, your skills, your talent, your tolerance, your patriotism is what India needs today. You have shown us and the world how you  have built the countries you have journeyed to. You have lived with people of different nationalities; different religions, different philosophies and you have done so both by learning from them and by teaching them about our great Indian traditions and heritage," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi began by saying that he was in Bahrain to tell overseas Indians and persons of Indian origin what they meant to the country. "That you are important, to tell you that there is a serious problem at home, to tell you that you are a part of the solution. And that I am here to build a bridge between here, wherever you are in the world and home.
 
"I represent the Congress Party of India -a party that was born to bring the people of India together, to bring people of all communities, all religions together. This has been our mission from the beginning. And this is why all of us are in politics and this will be our mission till the end. 
 
"The Congress's vision is one that builds bridges and is compassionate - it is a tried and tested vision that has fought for India in its toughest moments. Ours, more than any other vision, because of the struggle and because of the victory in India's liberation, is a vision that has strong roots in the NRI community. People forget this. But our greatest leaders, whether it is Mahatma Gandhi ji, whether it is Jawaharlal Nehru ji, whether it is Mr. Ambedkar, all of them were once NRIs, all of them were once what you are," he said.
 
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"And a little over a hundred years ago, that great man Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa. He wasn’t alone. With him stood a close knit group of visionaries, each one a giant in his own right. And together they inspired the world and generations beyond their own. They helped build an Indian vision. It was not a vision for one community, for one caste, for one state. It was a vision for the entire country and it was a vision that was appreciated by every single person on the planet," he said.
 
"The most important thing about any human being is that he knows who he is and where he comes from. Where do you come from? You come from those brave, visionary men and women who delivered India its freedom. The very idea of challenging the British, who ruled India for centuries came from people like Mahatma Gandhi, came from people like Ambedkar ji. These were all NRIs. They were people who like you were open to the outside world. Like you, all of them had lived abroad and seen the shortcomings of their oppressors. They lived abroad and worked and studied and watched. And when the time was right and their country needed them, they returned to fight for the nation they loved," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said India today had the largest diaspora of any country in the world, with more than 16 million people of Indian origin living abroad.
 
"The countries of the Gulf region are among India’s most important trading partners. The largest numbers of Indian expats live here. India is also the largest remittance-receiving country in the world. You send almost $70 billion, that is, 3.5% of India’s GDP.
 
"You are responsible for creating massive wealth globally and for giving back more than three times your fair share to India each year. Here in the Gulf, NRIs send back more than half of the remittances that India gets from around the world.
 
"Many of you and your ancestors came to these foreign lands with nothing but dreams. You came empty handed. And out of those dreams you have built entire nations. All of you in this room are proof that India can bridge any gap that is put before it. And no global vision for India can be built without you. It is impossible, let me state from this stage, that it is impossible to build a global vision for India in the 21st century without our brothers and sisters who live abroad. 
 
"Together, we must steer India back to its original strengths. We need to make India the centrepiece of ahimsa, of non violence, of compassion. We need to bring our conversation back from violence and hatred to one of progress, jobs and love between our people. And we cannot do that at home without our largest skill base on the planet – all you people in this room.
 
"I have not come here to tell you anything really. No. I’ve come here to ask for your help. I’ve come here to ask you for your skills, for your guidance, and for your understanding. We need you to help us fight these forces of anger and hatred. We need you just as we needed you and our ancestors needed you in 1947 to protect the idea of India that we so dearly love and cherish," he added.
 
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Gadkari to inaugurate ASEAN India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore on Saturday

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Mr Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation has arrived here to inaugurate the ASEAN India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas tomorrow.
 
Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated every year to strengthen the engagement of the overseas Indian community with the Government, reconnect them with their roots and celebrate their achievements and contributions.
 
Mr Gadkari will attend the session on ASEAN India Economic Partnership at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
 
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US suspends security assistance to Pakistan until it acts against terrorist groups

Days after US President Donald Trump hit out at Pakistan, accusing it of giving "lies and deceit" in return for the billions of dollars in aid that the US gave it over the last 15 years and providing safe havens to terrorists, his Administration has confirmed that it is suspending security assistance to Pakistan until it took decisive action against terrorist groups.

File photo of United States President Donald Trump
File photo of United States President Donald Trump
Just days after United States President Donald Trump hit out at Pakistan, accusing it of giving "lies and deceit" in return for the billions of dollars in aid that the US gave it over the last fifteen years and providing safe havens to terrorists, his Administration has confirmed that it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan until its government took decisive action against terrorist groups.
 
However, administration officials made it clear that the freeze was temporary and could be lifted if Pakistan changed its behaviour.
 
"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," Mr. Trump had said in his first tweet of the New Year on micro-blogging site Twitter on January 1.
 
"They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" he had said in his rather harshly worded post.
 
The tweet was seen as the strongest warning yet from Washington to Islamabad on the issue of support for terrorist groups operating from its soil.
 
The latest announcement on the freeze on nearly all security aid to Pakistan is a clear signal of Washington's growing impatience with Islamabad's reluctance to crack down on terrorist groups operating from its soil.
 
Though the administration did not provide any numbers, various sources have indicated that the decision could affect about $ 1.3 billion in annual aid to Pakistan. Ties between Washington and Islamabad have mostly been downhill since Mr. Trump took over as President a year ago, though Pakistan's role as a safe haven for terrorist and extremist groups has soured relations between the two countries since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and elsewhere.
 
According to the sources, the suspension would include about $ 1.1 billion in Coalition Support Funds, which the Pentagon provides to help defray the costs of counterterrorism operations in Pakistan. The US also will not deliver military equipment to the country. It had earlier held up $255 million in State Department military financing.
 
"As you recall, a few months ago we announced the suspension of $255 million in the Foreign Military Assistance. That’s basically the money that we would provide to Pakistan; Pakistan then, in return, uses that money to buy equipment, military equipment, from the United States. That was all suspended. That was announced back in August," US Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said at her press briefing  here on Thursday.
 
"Today we can confirm that we are suspending ... security assistance, security assistance only, to Pakistan at this time until the Pakistani Government takes decisive action against groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network," Ms. Nauert said.
 
"We consider them to be destabilizing the region and also targeting U.S. personnel. The United States will suspend that kind of security assistance to Pakistan," she said.
 
Asked about the amounts involved, Ms. Nauert said, "So we are still working through some of those dollar numbers right now."
 
"The President announced his South Asia policy in August of 2017. You all remember that. He made it clear that no partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It has been more than four months since the President’s speech, and despite a sustained high-level engagement by this administration with the Government of Pakistan, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network continue to find sanctuary inside Pakistan as they plot to destabilize Afghanistan and also attack U.S. and allied personnel.
 
"Pakistan has greatly suffered from terrorism, and the security services have been effective in combatting the groups that target Pakistani interests such as al-Qaida, ISIS, and the Pakistani Taliban.
 
"We have now worked closely with Pakistan against these groups. Now, just as we have made Pakistan’s enemies our own, we need Pakistan to deny safe haven to or lawfully detain those terrorists and militants who threaten U.S. interests. The United States stands ready to work with Pakistan in combatting all terrorists without distinction, and we hope to be able to renew and deepen our bilateral security relationship when Pakistan demonstrates its willingness to aggressively confront the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other terrorist and militant groups that operate from within its country.
 
"So we will not be delivering military equipment or transfer security-related funds to Pakistan unless it is required by law...There may be some exemptions that are made on a case-by-base basis if they’re determined to be critical to national security interests," she said.
 
Asked for details about the kind of military equipment that the U.S. would not be providing to Pakistan, Ms. Nauert said that that was solely under the Department of Defense.
 
To a question about whether any of the recent attacks in Afghanistan, some of which had resulted in the deaths of Americans, had been attributed to groups harboured by Pakistan, she said, "Yeah. I mean, that is certainly a fair question. And some of that would be under intelligence, which I wouldn’t be able to get into, and some of what would be probably still under investigation by the Department of Defense."
 
Asked how the evaluation was reached and what was the failure of Pakistan that had caused the decision, she said, "Well, this is something that should not come as a surprise to Pakistan because the President, Secretary Tillerson, and Secretary Mattis have all had conversations with Pakistani officials alerting them to our concerns that Pakistan has not done enough to detain, to take care of – and when I say 'take care of', I mean round up – terrorist and militant groups operating from within Pakistan. We’ve had a series of discussions with Pakistan about that, telling Pakistan that they need to take more decisive action."
 
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"Now, the money that has been suspended at this time does not mean that it will be suspended forever. Pakistan has the ability to get this money back, if you will, in the future, but they have to take decisive action. They have to take decisive steps. People have long asked, why don’t you do more about Pakistan, and I think this sort of answers that question. Obviously, Pakistan is important, an important relationship to the United States, because together we can work hard to combat terrorism. Perhaps no other country has suffered more from terrorism than Pakistan and many other countries in that part of the region. They understand that, but still they aren’t taking the steps that they need to take in order to fight terrorism," Ms. Nauert said.
 
Ms. Nauert said the United States had been very clear with Pakistan about what it needed to do in this regard.
 
"We’ve long had conversations with Pakistan about what they need to do and how they need to do more to help in the fight against terrorism, so I think this was no surprise," she said.
 
"This President rolled out this strategy, the South Asia strategy, back in August, making it clear in some pretty tough words – remember a lot – some folks had criticized us for being blunt with Pakistan. Some people had criticized us for not being blunt enough with Pakistan in the past. So I think this administration has spoken very clearly in terms of what it is asking Pakistan to do," she said.
 
When reminded that after the August speech Mr. Trump had tweeted his thanks to Pakistan for its cooperation on many fronts and that Secretaries Tillerson and Mattis both had had successful visits to that country and asked what had changed in the last week, Ms. Nauert said, "I don’t know that anything necessarily changed. With a lot of countries around the world, we have complex relationships. We talk about it in the sense of a marriage. Some days you have better days than others."
 
"They have certainly been helpful in some instances. You all know that. The Coleman family – assisted with bringing home the American family. He was Canadian, she’s American, but the family from Pakistan. And we appreciated their help on that. But again, there are concrete steps that Pakistan needs to take," she added.
 
Asked whether the U.S. was also looking at cross-border terrorism towars India and Pakistan's failure to bring those responsible for the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai to book, Ms. Nauert said, "Well, we have certainly expressed our concern about the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks being let out of house arrest in Pakistan. To my knowledge, that has nothing to do with that. There is a $10 million reward out for, I think, information leading to his rearrest, the person who is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks who was let go in Pakistan.
 
"So we’ve been very clear about our displeasure with that individual being let go, and that’s why we like to remind people that there is a $10 million Rewards for Justice program out for him," she said.
 
Asked if the fact that the administration was willing to make exceptions could mean that it might not actually withhold any significant amount of money from Pakistan, Ms. Nauert said, "Well, I think when we talk about how some of this is dependent on the national security situation, some of that is just going to be evolving over time, and determining – because you have to be fluid in any kind of environment where you’re going after terrorists, in a counterterrorism environment. So some of that is just going to have to be fluid."
 
But she felt it was unfair to jump to the conclusion that money would not be suspended. "We are announcing today that that money will be suspended, but naturally, any administration in this kind of environment would need to have some flexibility, and I think it’s just that kind of flexibility that is built in," she added.
 
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'No more': Trump accuses Pakistan of giving lies, deceit in return for billions in aid

United States President Donald Trump on Monday hit out at Pakistan, accusing it of giving "lies and deceit" in return for the billions of dollars in aid that the US gave it over the last fifteen years and providing safe havens to terrorists.

File photo of United States President Donald Trump
File photo of United States President Donald Trump
United States President Donald Trump today hit out at Pakistan, accusing it of giving "lies and deceit" in return for the billions of dollars in aid that the US gave it over the last fifteen years and providing safe havens to terrorists.
 
"The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," Mr. Trump said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" he said in a rather harshly worded post.
 
The tweet was seen as the strongest warning yet from Washington to Islamabad on the issue of support for terrorist groups operating from its soil.
 
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said on Twitter that his country would respond soon to Mr. Trump's remarks.
 
"We will respond to President Trump's tweet shortly inshallah...Will let the world know the truth..difference between facts & fiction..," he said.
 
In a televised address to American troops on August 22, during which he unveiled his new South Asia Policy, Mr. Trump had said that his government would change its approach and manner of dealing with Pakistan -- which he accused of giving safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror -- and further develop its strategic partnership with India -- a key security and economic partner of the US.
 
"The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen," he had said then.
 
"We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists," he had said.
 
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Mr. Trump had noted that, in the past, Pakistan had been a valued partner of the United States and their militaries had worked together against common enemies. He also said that the Pakistani people had suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism and the US recognsed those contributions and sacrifices.
 
"But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. 
 
"Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India -- the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.  We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region," he had said on that day.
 
 On December 29, the New York Times said the Trump administration was strongly considering whether to hold $ 255 million in aid that it has delayed sending to Pakistan to convey its dissatisfaction with Islamabad's "broader intransigence" towards confronting terrorist networks that operate from within that country.
 
The report said the internal debate in the administration was a test of  whether President Trump would deliver on his threat to punish Islamabad for failing to cooperate on counterterrorism operations. 
 
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Kulbhushan Jadhav meets wife, mother from behind glass screen at Pakistan Foreign Office

Former Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was been sentenced to death in Pakistan in an espionage case, met his wife and mother for about 40 minutes, separated by a glass screen, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad on Monday.

 
Kulbhushan Jadhav's wife, mother meet him in Islamabad
Former Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was been sentenced to death in Pakistan in an espionage case, met his wife and mother for about 40 minutes, separated by a glass screen, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here today.
 
Jadhav's mother Avanti and wife Chetankul had arrived here by a commercial flight this morning and had stopped for some time at the Indian High Commission here before reaching the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 
The two women were accompanied by Indian Deputy High Commissioner J P Singh and three officials from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs but they were not allowed to meet Jadhav, media reports said.
 
"The diplomat was present during the meeting and he could see Commander Jadhav. He was not allowed to speak or listen to the conversation of Commander Jadhav with his wife and mother," Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Mohammad Faisal told journalists after the meeting.
 
He said Pakistan wanted Jadhav's wife and mother to be present at the media briefing and speak to journalists, including those from India.
 
"We had formally proposed this to India. This was done in the spirit that Pakistan has nothing to hide and like all of you seeks answers to many questions that remain unanswered. However, the Indian side requested that they wanted to avoid media interaction. Hence, I speak today without the presence of the mother and wife in due deference to the Indian request," he said.
 
Jadhav was awarded the death sentence on April 10 this year by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Pakistan, which tried him under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) for his alleged involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against that country, drawing sharp reactions from India.
 
Two weeks after Jadhav was sentenced to death, India had sought visas for his parents to visit Pakistan and meet him. 
 
Pakistan has accused Jadhav of being an agent of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and claimed that he was arrested on March 3, 2016 through a counter intelligence operation from Mashkel, Balochistan.
 
"He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organize espionage / sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi," a press release from Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had said at that time.
 
India had then warned Pakistan that, if the sentence were carried out, the Government and people of India would regard it as a case of premeditated murder.
 
"Shri Jadhav was kidnapped last year from Iran and his subsequent presence in Pakistan has never been explained credibly. The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, has repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities.
 
"The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Shri Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our High Commission was not even informed that Shri Jadhav was being brought to trial. Senior Pakistani figures have themselves cast doubt about the adequacy of evidence. The claim in the ISPR release that Shri Jadhav was provided with a defending officer during the so-called trial is clearly absurd in the circumstances.
 
"If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the Government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder," India had said.
 
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India had moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in The Netherlands against the verdict and, on May 18 this year, the world court asked Pakistan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Jadhav was not executed, pending the final decision in the proceedings intiated by India in the matter.
 
The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, had repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities, India has said.
 
India has also said that the proceedings that led to the sentence against Mr. Jadhav were farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It said its High Commission had not even been informed that Mr. Jadhav was being brought to trial.
 
In its plea before the ICJ, India said it was not informed of Mr. Jadhav’s detention until long after his arrest and that Pakistan failed to inform the accused of his rights. It further alleges that, in violation of the Vienna Convention, the authorities of Pakistan are denying India its right of consular access to Mr. Jadhav, despite its repeated requests. 
 
India also pointed out that it learned about the death sentence against Mr. Jadhav from a press release. 
 
At the press briefing, Dr. Faisal repeated the charges against Jadhav and claimed that the former Naval officer had saidthat he had been tasked by India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to plan, coordinate and organize espionage, terrorism and sabotage to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan.
 
"In his mercy petition to the Chief of Army Staff on compassionate grounds, in June 2017, he again admitted his involvement in espionage, terrorist and subversive activities against Pakistan and expressed remorse at the resultant loss of precious innocent lives and damage to property. He has admitted of involvement in the assassination of SSP Aslam Chaudhry in Karachi. He has also confessed to targeting various workers of FWO, who were conducting different construction activities, in Balochistan and many IED attacks which were carried out in Quetta, Turbat and other cities, especially in Balochistan. He supported TTP and other groups, especially in the attacks on the Mehran Naval Base, various Radar installations and the Sui gas pipeline. All these were directly sponsored by RAW. Let us be very clear that Commander Jadhav is the face of Indian terrorism, especially in Pakistan. 
 
"India was provided with a copy of the passport that was in the possession of Commander Jadhav, when he was apprehended. The passport bears a Muslim name, Hussein Mubarak Patel which clearly is not Commander Jadhav. India has been unable and unwilling to provide an explanation abouthow and why an authentic Indian passport was used on a false ID, not once but at least 17 times, as Commander Jadhav travelled in and out of India. Indian silence is telling," Dr. Faisal said.
 
He said that, upon completion of investigations and the trial, Pakistan offered to India that the wife of Commander Jadhav may visit to meet him. "We received an Indian request that the mother of Commander Jadhav may also be permitted to meet him and a diplomat of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad to accompany the ladies. The request was considered in Pakistan and it was granted," he said.
 
"To reiterate, let me be very clear that Pakistan permitted the request by India purely on humanitarian grounds," he said.
 
"The visit was allowed in line with Islamic practices and teachings. Islam is the religion of peace and advocates mercy. It is a gesture of good faith and compassion. Commander Jadhav's actions at Indian behest have deprived many mothers of their sons and daughters. Pakistan upholds the Islamic morals and values which teach mercy, grace and compassion for all. 
 
"One good deed should beget another. Such decisions should serve as templates for others to follow, including in Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir where innocent blood continues to be spilled," Dr. Faisal added.
 
Media reports said Jadhav's wife and mother were due to catch a flight back to India this evening.
 
The Pakistan Foreign Office also released a pre-recorded video message in which Jadhav thanked the Pakistan Government for arranging the meeting. He said the Paksitani authorities had treated him in a dignified, respectful and professional manner, for which he is thankful.
 
Local media reports also said that Jadhav again confessed to working for RAW and that he had been arested in Balochistan while attempting to infiltrate into Pakistan from Iran.
 
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Boeing, flydubai finalize order for 175 737 MAX airplanes

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Aircraft manufacturers Boeing said on Thursday that Dubai-based airline flydubai had finalized the purchase of 175 737 MAX airplanes in the largest single-aisle jet order in Middle East history.
 
The deal – which includes options for an additional 50 jets – is valued at $27 billion at current list prices, a press release from Boeing said.
 
Announced as a commitment at the 2017 Dubai Airshow, the deal allows flydubai to take advantage of the 737 MAX family's flexibility and commonality, while using the unique size and range of the MAX 8, MAX 9 and MAX 10 to suit its growing network.
 
"I am delighted that we end 2017 with today's announcement representing the next chapter in flydubai's success story," said Ghaith Al Ghaith, CEO, flydubai. "This is our largest order in our eight-year history and our third order with Boeing whose aircraft have given us the ability to carry 44 million passengers since we began operations. With up to 296 aircraft on order, we have become one of the world's top ten airlines in terms of order backlog and we look forward to continuing to enhance the connectivity of Dubai's aviation hub."
 
flydubai, an all-Boeing operator, first ordered the 737 MAX in 2013 with a purchase of 75 jets. The carrier has taken delivery of five MAX airplanes from that order. 
 
"We are excited to finalize this landmark agreement with our partners at flydubai and we thank them for placing their trust in the 737 MAX family," said Ihssane Mounir, senior vice president, Global Sales & Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "As one of the first operators of the 737 MAX 8, their order for more models -- including the recently launched MAX 10 -- is a vote of confidence in the MAX family's exceptional fuel efficiency, reliability and flexibility. We look forward to hundreds of MAX airplanes supporting flydubai's continued success."
 
The 737 MAX has racked up 640 net orders this year and more than 4,200 orders since the program launched, making the MAX the best-selling airplane in Boeing history, the release said.
 
The MAX family of airplanes offers seating for about 130 to just over 200 passengers with a range of 3,200 to 3,800 nautical miles. All of the jets use the latest technology CFM International LEAP-1B engines, Advanced Technology winglets and other improvements to deliver the highest efficiency, reliability and passenger comfort in the single-aisle market, the release added.
 
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India seeks sustainable development while preserving nature, cultural heritage: Sharma

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Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge) and Environment, Forest & Climate Change Mahesh Sharma has stated that India was seeking sustainable development while preserving its nature and cultural heritage.
 
Dr Sharma was speaking at the 2nd UN World Tourism Organization/UNESCO World Conference on Tourism and Culture, with focus on sustainable development in  Muscat, Omann.
 
He had led the Indian delegation to the conference on December 11-12.
 
The conference had on its agenda themes such as culture and tourism as a factor of peace and prosperity; tourism development and protection of cultural heritage; culture and tourism and urban development and creativity; and exploring cultural land escapes in tourism. The conference also finalized the 2030 Agenda.
 
During his visit to Muscat, Dr Sharma also held bilateral discussions on cooperation between India and Oman in the fields of culture and tourism. He met Minister of Tourism of Oman, Ahmed Bin Naseer Bin Hamad al-Mehrzi and discussed cooperation in the field of tourism, including the early conclusion of the MoU on cooperation in tourism between the two countries.
 
There is a huge potential for expanding tourism exchange between the two countries. People of Oman, due to their familiarity with India, visit India, including for medical treatment, he said.
 
The Minister met with Minister of Heritage and Culture of Oman Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq Al Said and discussed with him the ways for expanding cultural exchanges between the two countries.
 
He also had a brief interaction with Deputy Prime Minister for Council of Ministers of Oman, Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said with focus on expanding the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
On the sidelines of the conference, he held a bilateral meeting with Minister for Culture and Tourism of Turkey, wherein the two sides agreed to institute a joint committee to explore areas for mutual cooperation in fields of culture and tourism between India and Turkey.
 
There is a large Indian community in Oman, numbering around 0.8 million. The Minister addressed a gathering of Indian community at a reception hosted on  December 12 at the Embassy in Muscat in his honour by Indian Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey.
 
He invited them to utilize the opportunities offered by the fast-growing economy of India for investments and participate wholeheartedly in flagship projects of the Government like ‘Make in India’, Clean India, Digital India and Skill India.
 
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INSV Tarini leaves Lyttelton for Port Stanley as part of global circumnavigation bid

Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini, with an all-women crew, left Lyttelton port in New Zealand this morning for Port Stanley in  the Falklands as part of its maiden voyage to circumnavigate the globe.
 
The vessel had reached Lyttelton on November 29 from Fremantle port in Australia at the end of the second leg of its journey.
 
 The historic circumnavigation attempt by an all-women crew is being led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, and the crew comprises Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal, P Swathi, and Lieutenants S Vijaya Devi, B Aishwarya and Payal Gupta. 
 
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had flagged-off INSV Tarini from Goa on September 10. It has covered 7800 nautical miles from Goa, crossing the Equator on September 25 and Cape Leeuwin on November 9.
 
The crew of INSV Tarini was officially welcomed to Lyttelton by Mr Andrew Turner, Deputy Mayor of Christchurch on November 29. They wre also welcomed in the traditional Maori culture by members of the community.
 
Mr. Duncan Webb, the Member of Parliament from Christchurch Central, also visited the vessel to welcome the crew. The crew had several engagements during its stay in Lyttelton, including a call on the Mayor of City of Christchurch, Ms Lianne Dalziel. 
 
The National Council of Women of New Zealand also hosted the crew for an interaction.
 
INSV Tarini crew had an opportunity to interact with a wide range of stakeholders during a reception hosted by the Indian High Commission on November 30, which was attended by about 100 distinguished guests, including members of Parliament, state officials, businessmen, academicians, leaders from Indian community and mediapersons.
 
 INSV Tarini was open to visitors at Lyttelton Port of Christchurch (LPC) on December 3. Nearly 200 visitors, from all walks of life, visited the vessel and interacted with the crew. 
 
The crew was also welcomed by the city of Christchurch during the traditional festive march, known as the 'Santa Parade'. More than 200 school children attended a presentation and interaction session with the crew at Prebbleton School on December 5.
 
The crew also visited the Naval Point Yacht Club, Canterbury and Ara Institute, NZ where a presentation on 'Navika Sagar Parikrama' was given to the audience. The crew visited the traditional Maori cultural centre, 'Rehua Marae' during the port stay. The crew also had a trip to a few tourist places near Christchurch, including Hanmer hot springs and the French harbour, Akaroa.
 
The visit of INSV Tarini to Lyttelton was covered widely in New Zealand print and electronic media, and ethnic media.
 
The indigenously-built INSV Tarini is a 56-foot sailing vessel, which was inducted in the Indian Navy earlier this year. It showcases the ‘Make in India’ initiative on the International forum.
 
The vessel will return to Goa in April 2018, on completion of the voyage. The expedition is being covered in five legs, with stop-overs at four ports: Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), and Cape Town (South Africa). 
 
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