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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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William and I are on different paths: Prince Harry

File photo of Prince William (C), his wife Catherine, and Prince Harry.  (Xinhua/IANS)
File photo of Prince William (C), his wife Catherine, and Prince Harry. (Xinhua/IANS)
Prince Harry has admitted that he and Prince William were on "different paths", in the first public acceptance of a rift between the two brothers, a media report said on Monday.
 
In the comments made in an ITV  documentary which was broadcast on Sunday night, the Duke of Sussex acknowledged that there had been deepening tensions between himself and William, following months of speculation about the state of the brothers' relationship, The Daily Mail said in its report.
 
The hour-long documentary, "Harry & Meghan: An African Journey", followed the royal couple during their official tour of Africa last month.
 
Palace aides have repeatedly denied reports of a rift between the Sussexes and the Cambridges, who had once been championed as the royal family's "Fab Four".
 
But asked how much of the speculation was true, Harry pointedly refused to deny a falling out.
 
The 35-year-old initially laughed in response to the question, then added: "Part of this role, part of this job and this family being under the pressure it is under, inevitably stuff happens.
 
"But look, we are brothers, we will always be brothers. We are certainly on different paths at the moment but I will always be there for him and, as I know, he will always be there for me.
 
"We don't see as much as we used to because we are so busy but I love him dearly and the majority of stuff is created out of nothing. As brothers, you have good days, you have bad days."
 
In the documentary, Prince Harry alsoe also attacked the press over the public scrutiny that he and wife Meghan Markle have faced, The Daily Mail reported.
 
"I will not be bullied into playing a game that killed my mum."
 
The extraordinary attack against the media comes after he and Meghan launched legal action against several British newspapers.
 
Meghan also opened up in the documentary, saying she was "existing, not living" and also struggling with the pressures of royal life and media scrutiny.
 
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More control, less waiting -- top priorities for air passengers

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More personal control over their journey via smartphones and less waiting times for baggage collection and immigration/customs are some of the priorities identified by travellers in the 2019 Global Passenger Survey conducted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
 
The results of the survey, announced here on Wednesday, also showed that passengers wanted to be able to use biometric identification to speed up travel processes; to be able to track their baggage; and to have access to wi-fi on board aircraft.
 
Overall, the survey showed that passengers are looking to technology to improve their travel experience, a press release from IATA said.
 
The survey acts as the voice of the passenger, providing objective and in-depth insights into the preferences and behaviours of air travellers around the world, helping to guide industry initiatives. The focus of the survey was on processes and technology in the travel experience, not airline or airport service levels.
 
The release said passengers want to use their personal device to control more aspects of their travel journey from booking to arrival.  
 
An airline app was the preferred method of booking for passengers from one of the world’s largest aviation markets, with 24% of travellers from North Asia preferring this method. It was also the second most popular choice among passengers in the Middle East, favoured by 14% of travellers. Booking through an airline website, although less popular than in 2018, remains the method of choice for most travellers globally (39%). 
 
Using a smartphone was also identified by more than half of passengers (51%) as their preferred method of check-in. This was a 4% increase over 2018. 
 
Most passengers (72%) also wanted to be kept informed throughout their journey via travel notifications sent to their personal device. SMS remains the preferred notification option for 39% of passengers, but this trend has been decreasing since 2016. Conversely, preference for receiving information via a smartphone app has increased by 10% since 2016 and is now the method of choice for one third of passengers. 
 
The survey found that 83% of passengers want to receive information on the status of their flight and 45% would like information on their baggage. Passengers also asked for information to help them plan their passage through the airport with 45% wanting to know wait times at security and border control and 37% wanting to know wait times at customs. 
 
The survey found that 70% of passengers are willing to share additional personal information including their biometric identifiers to speed up processes at the airport. This increases in correlation with the number of flights taken per year. The highest support for this (76%) is among fliers who travel for business, more than 10 times per year. 
 
In addition, 46% of passengers would prefer to use biometric identification instead of a paper passport for their journey and 30% would opt to use a biometric token to board the plane. These findings lend strong support to IATA’s One ID project which aims to create a paperless airport experience for passengers where they can move from curb to gate using a single biometric travel token such as a face, fingerprint or iris scan. 
 
“Passengers are willing to share more personal information if it removes the hassle from their travel experience. But it’s clear that concerns over data privacy remain. While the majority of passengers want to use biometric identification instead of a paper passport, 53% of those that did not, said they were concerned about the security of their data. Passengers need to be confident that their data is safe,” said Alexandre de Juniac, IATA's Director General and CEO.
 
Securing data is paramount for One ID. IATA is working on a trust framework that ensures that:
--Stakeholders have access to passenger data on an authorized, need-to-know basis only 
--There are exception processes in place for those who do not want to share their biometric data and 
--Privacy and data regulations are adhered to. 
 
Over half of passengers (53%) said that they would be more likely to check their bag if they were able to track it throughout the journey. And 46% said that they want to be able to track their bag and have it delivered directly to an off-airport location if that service were available. 
 
Airlines and airports are working together to improve baggage information reliability by tracking baggage at major touchpoints such as loading and unloading (the implementation of IATA Resolution 753). And the 75th IATA AGM unanimously resolved to support the global deployment of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for baggage tracking. RFID read rates are 99.98% accurate which is significantly better than that of bar codes. 
 
The survey indicated that 80% of passengers want to wait no longer than three minutes to drop off a bag. This increased to 10 minutes for queuing at immigration/customs for 79% of travellers. And only 2% would accept a waiting time longer than 20 minutes. Passengers (74%) also want to wait no longer than 10 minutes for baggage delivery. And almost none wants to wait longer than 20 minutes.  The survey also found that for nearly three quarters (74%) of passengers, speed was the main benefit of using automated immigration gates/kiosks. A similar number (72%) gave the overall experience of automated immigration processing a thumbs up. 
 
Passengers want onboard wi-fi. Some 53% of surveyed passengers found wi-fi important to have. The importance is the highest in Africa (71%), Latin America (68%) and the Middle East (67%) and the lowest in Europe (44%) and North America (49%). 
 
With availability of wi-fi connectivity continuing to have a direct impact on the overall travel experience, adopting the latest onboard wi-fi technology continues to be an effective way for airlines to distinguish their product offering. 
 
Passengers once again identified airport security screening process and border control as two of their biggest pain points when travelling. Having to remove personal items was identified as a pain point by the most travelers (60%), closely followed by the removal of laptops and large electronic devices (48%) and variations in screening processes at different airports (41%). 
 
To improve the boarding experience, the top three suggestions from passengers are:
--More efficient queuing at the boarding gate (60%),
--Not needing to get a bus to the aircraft (51%) and 
--More bin space for cabin luggage (46%). 
 
To improve the connection experience, the top three desires from travellers are not having to go through security at the transfer airport (60%), not having to pick up and reclaim their bag at the transfer airport (59%) and not having to pass immigration at the transfer airport (55%).  
 
The release said that many of the identified demands of passengers are covered by the NEXTT (New Experience in Travel and Technologies) initiative. This is a joint IATA and ACI (Airports Council International) effort to develop a common vision to enhance the on-ground transport experience, guide industry investments and help governments improve the regulatory framework. The goal of NEXTT is finding ways to integrate systems and improve operations in the most secure, effective and sustainable manner for the benefit of passengers and the industry. 
 
“Passengers have told us that they are looking to technology to improve their travel experience. That is what we are trying to deliver in cooperation with airports. Through our NEXTT initiative with ACI we aim to deliver a seamless curb-to-gate experience for passengers. But the industry can’t achieve this alone. Government support is essential to create the correct regulatory environment so the industry can fully transform,” said Nick Careen, IATA Senior Vice President Airport Passenger Cargo & Security.
 
The 2019 survey results were based on 10,877 responses from passengers across 166 countries.
 
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Maldives resorts secure top positions In Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2019

An aerial view of the Naladhu Private Island Maldives.
An aerial view of the Naladhu Private Island Maldives.
Resorts in the Maldives have secured the top 10 positions in Top 30 Resorts in The Indian Ocean: Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2019. 
 
The resorts were ranked as follows: 1. Naladhu Private Island Maldives;  2. Velaa Private Island; 3. Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives; 4. Anantara Veli Maldives Resort; 5. Cheval Blanc Randheli; 6. Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas; 7. Soneva Fushi; 8. Niyama Private Islands Maldives; 9. Joali; 10. One&Only Reethi Rah.
 
A press release from the state-owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation said the Naladhu Private Island Maldives also secured the 9th position in The Best Resorts in the World.
 
“With only 19 expansive guest quarters in South Malé Atoll, this intimate resort provides a level of privacy and personal attention impressive even in the Maldives. Weathered-wood accommodations come with a private garden and an infinity pool, high-ceilinged interiors decorated in cane and tropical hues, and an open-air bathroom with L’Occitane products and a sea-facing tub for two. The Living Room’s dining spaces range from tables set around the all-glass wine cellar to cushioned Indian daybeds under the stars, and a fleet of dhonis adds onboard private dinners. Dedicated butlers, or VGCs (very good chaps), exceed expectations with quiet, smiling service. With a location only a 30 minute speedboat ride from Malé’s international airport, Naladhu represents the Maldives’ most convenient exclusive destination yet," reads the description of the resort in the Condé Nast Traveler website. 
 
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Indian-American Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, Michael Kramer chosen for Nobel Prize in Economics

Abhijit Banerjee(Photo:MIT)
Abhijit Banerjee(Photo:MIT)
India-born Abhijit Banerjee, his French-American wife Esther Duflo, both working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Michael Kremer of Harvard University -- were today named the joint winners of the Nobel Prize for Economics 2019.
 
"The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019 was awarded jointly to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer 'for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty',"  an announcement by the Nobel Foundation said in Stockholm, Sweden.
 
The awardees were chosen by the The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which is responsible for selecting the Laureates.
 
"The research conducted by this year’s Laureates has considerably improved our ability to fight global poverty. In just two decades, their new experiment-based approach has transformed development economics, which is now a flourishing field of research," a press release from the academy said.
 
"Despite recent dramatic improvements, one of humanity’s most urgent issues is the reduction of global poverty, in all its forms. More than 700 million people still subsist on extremely low incomes. Every year, around five million children under the age of five still die of diseases that could often have been prevented or cured with inexpensive treatments. Half of the world’s children still leave school without basic literacy and numeracy skills.
 
Esther Duflo(Photo:MIT)
Esther Duflo(Photo:MIT)
"This year’s Laureates have introduced a new approach to obtaining reliable answers about the best ways to fight global poverty. In brief, it involves dividing this issue into smaller, more manageable, questions – for example, the most effective interventions for improving educational outcomes or child health. They have shown that these smaller, more precise, questions are often best answered via carefully designed experiments among the people who are most affected.
 
"In the mid-1990s, Michael Kremer and his colleagues demonstrated how powerful this approach can be, using field experiments to test a range of interventions that could improve school results in western Kenya.
 
"Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, often with Michael Kremer, soon performed similar studies of other issues and in other countries. Their experimental research methods now entirely dominate development economics," the release said.
 
"The Laureates’ research findings – and those of the researchers following in their footsteps – have dramatically improved our ability to fight poverty in practice. As a direct result of one of their studies, more than five million Indian children have benefitted from effective programmes of remedial tutoring in schools. Another example is the heavy subsidies for preventive healthcare that have been introduced in many countries.
 
Michael Kremer(Photo:Harvard University)
Michael Kremer(Photo:Harvard University)
"These are just two examples of how this new research has already helped to alleviate global poverty. It also has great potential to further improve the lives of the worst-off people around the world," it said.
 
Banerjee, 58, who was born in Mumbai, India, did his B.Sc. from the University of Calcutta in 1981, M. A. from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and then completed his Ph. D. at Harvard in 1988. He is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT, Cambridge in the United States.
 
Duflo, born 1972 in Paris, has a Ph. D. from MIT, and is currently the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics at MIT.
 
Kremer, born 1964, completed his Ph.D. in 1992 from Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. He is the Gates Professor of Developing Societies at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA.
 
The three economists will share the prize amount of 9 million Swedish krona equally among themselves
 
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India and Comoros sign MoUs on defence cooperation, health, culture and arts

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Seeking to expand bilateral relations in various fields, India and Comoros today signed six MoUs including one on defence cooperation.
 
Indian Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, who is on a visit to this country, and Comoros President Azali Assoumani witnessed the signing of the MoUs.
 
The other MoUs sought to cement cooperation in the fields of health and medicine, arts and culture and tele-education (e-Vidya Bharati) and telemedicine (e-Arogya Bharati).
 
MoUs on exemption of visa for diplomatic and official passport holders for short visits and protocol on the foreign office consultation were also signed.
 
On the second day of his tour to the African nations of Comoros and Sierra Leone, the Vice-President held extensive talks with Assoumani on a host of issues of common interest to both countries and sought to deepen bilateral relations.
 
During the delegation-level talks, Naidu asserted that the recent decision in regard to the reorganization of the Jammu and Kashmir state was purely an internal matter of India and does not change any external border. The decision was made to focus on accelerating the development of Jammu and Kashmir, he added.
 
Pointing out that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India, he said the decision was approved by two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha and four-fifths in the Lok Sabha.
 
India always believed in maintaining peaceful and friendly relations with all its neighbours, but unfortunately, one of them was aiding, abetting and funding terrorism.
 
In his remarks, Assoumani said, “on Jammu and Kashmir, we fully trust India because you are the inheritors of the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi.”
 
In an extraordinary gesture of friendship, the Comorian President conferred the ‘Order of the Green Crescent’, the highest civilian honour of the Union of Comoros, on the Vice President.
 
Accepting the honour, Naidu said, “thank you for the unexpected honour you have bestowed upon me. I accept it with utmost humility on behalf of the 1.3 billion Indians. 
 
“I truly believe it is an honour that you have accorded to India. I am touched by your extraordinary gesture as a symbol of India-Comoros friendship. A common vision unites us, a common ocean joins us-it is an ocean of friendship and a vision of growing together,” he added.
 
Earlier, during the delegation-level talks, the Vice-President called for enhancing defence ties in the maritime domain between India and the island nation of Comoros as part of collaborative security architecture in the Indian Ocean. “As Indian Ocean countries, our maritime security is interlinked,” he added. 
 
He also thanked the President for his country's support in the fight against terrorism as well as for reforms in the UN Security Council, including its continued support to India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.
 
Naidu also announced that India will be gifting medicines and medical equipment worth $ 1 million, $ 1 million for transport vehicles, $ 2 million for procurement of high-speed interceptor boats and 1000 MT of rice.
 
He announced a line of credit of $ 41.6 million for setting up an 18MW power plant in Moroni and a vocational training centre.
 
During the delegation-level talks, Naidu was accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, Ramvichar Netam, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and senior officials.
 
Yesterday, on his arrival in Comoros, Naidu declared that India accorded the highest priority to deepening its engagements with African nations.
 
He asserted that the Indian government considered Africa as a ‘focus continent’, as evidenced by 32 outgoing visits at the levels of President, Vice President and the Prime Minister during the last five years. India has also decided to open 18 new embassies in Africa.
 
Naidu was accorded military honours and warmly received by President Assoumani on his arrival in the Comorian capital.
 
In his first engagement, the Vice-President addresses the Indian diaspora and urged them to join in scripting new India’s growth story, along with three other D`s--Democracy, Demand and Demographic Dividend.
 
While lauding the Indians based in Comoros for sharing their prosperity with Comorian brothers and sisters, he asked them to make Comoros more prosperous and also contribute to India’s growth. “Help create a more prosperous, harmonious, sustainable planet,” he added.
 
He said he was happy to note that despite being only about 250 in number, the Indian diaspora has made significant contribution in various fields, including social and economic sectors.
 
He also lauded them for keeping alive India’s cultural heritage and for enjoying a reputation of being a peace-loving community
 
Outlining the economic development and the social transformation taking place in India, Naidu said, despite the global slowdown, India continues to be one of the fastest-growing major economies and is poised to be a $ 5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
 
Referring to measures taken by the government to boost the economy, he said the recent steep slashing of corporate tax was expected to spur investments. “Doing business in India is not only lucrative to investors but is also becoming simpler. Our policy is now that of ‘Red Carpet’ and not ‘Red Tape’. Many archaic regulations are being dismantled and seamless processes are being introduced,” he said.
 
India’s trade with African nations registered a 12% increase from the previous year. “India is now the 5th largest investor in Africa with a cumulative investment of US $54 billion.” he added.
 
Paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th anniversary, the Vice President recalled that Gandhi Ji drew sustenance for his fight against discrimination and colonial domination, in Africa. “It was this soil of Africa which gave the nourishment and inspiration and made Mahatma Gandhi what he was. It was Africa that transformed his vision and gave greater clarity to his life’s mission,” he added.
 
He also invited the Indian diaspora to attend the next Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas of 2021.
 
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Boeing to invest in human spaceflight pioneer Virgin Galactic

View from space on Virgin Galactic's first spaceflight on December 13, 2018. Photo: Virgin Galactic
View from space on Virgin Galactic's first spaceflight on December 13, 2018. Photo: Virgin Galactic
Aerospace major Boeing is investing $20 million in Virgin Galactic, a vertically integrated human spaceflight company.
 
The companies will work together to broaden commercial space access and transform global travel technologies, a press release from Boeing said on Tuesday.
 
"Boeing's strategic investment facilitates our effort to drive the commercialization of space and broaden consumer access to safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible new forms of transportation," said Brian Schettler, senior managing director of Boeing HorizonX Ventures. "Our work with Virgin Galactic, and others, will help unlock the future of space travel and high-speed mobility."
 
To date, Virgin Galactic has invested $1 billion of capital to build reusable human spaceflight systems designed to enable significantly more people to experience and utilize space. In July, the company announced its intent to become a publicly-listed entity via a business combination with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. 
 
The Boeing investment will be in return for new shares in Virgin Galactic and is therefore contingent on the closing of that transaction, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, and any such investment will be in the post-business combination company, the release said.
 
This investment brings together two companies with extensive experience in the space industry. Virgin Galactic is a pioneer of commercial human space flight and is the first and only company to have put humans into space in a vehicle built for commercial service, having built and flown a Mach 3 passenger vehicle. Through its manufacturing and development capabilities, Virgin Galactic can design, build, test, and operate a fleet of advanced aerospace vehicles. Boeing has unsurpassed experience transporting people to orbit and building and operating large structures in that challenging environment. A part of every U.S. manned space program, Boeing serves as NASA's prime contractor for the International Space Station (ISS) and is preparing the new, reusable, Starliner space capsule for launch to the ISS.
 
"This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight program," said Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic. "Virgin Galactic and Boeing share a vision of opening access to the world and space, to more people, in safe and environmentally responsible ways."
 
Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Leanne Caret, said "the unique expertise of our companies stretches from points all around the world to the deepest reaches of space. Together we will change how people travel on Earth, and among the stars, for generations to come."
 
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, noted: "We are excited to partner with Boeing to develop something that can truly change how people move around the planet and connect with one another. As a Virgin company, our focus will be on a safe and unparalleled customer experience, with environmental responsibility to the fore."
 
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Rajnath Singh receives first Rafale fighter jet in France

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday received the first of the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft ordered by India from France at Merignac and said the strong cooperation between the two countries would continue to grow and contribute to global peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh preparing for a sortie in the first Rafale fighter aircraft that was handed over to India at a ceremony at Merignac in France on October 8, 2019.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh preparing for a sortie in the first Rafale fighter aircraft that was handed over to India at a ceremony at Merignac in France on October 8, 2019.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today received the first of the 36 Rafale fighter aircraft ordered by India from France at a handing-over ceremony at Merignac and said the strong cooperation between the two countries would continue to grow and contribute to global peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability.
 
Emphasising the government's focus on equipping the Indian Air Force with modern equipment and enhancing its capabilities, he said the new ew Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) would make India stronger and give a boost to its air dominance exponentially to ensure peace and security in the region.
 
He said the handing over of the first Rafale aircraft was a historic and landmark day for the Indian Armed Forces.
 
“In India, today is Dussehra, the festival where we celebrate victory over evil. It is also the 87th Indian Air Force Day. Therefore, today’s day becomes symbolic in so many ways," he said.
 
Rajnath Singh says the strong cooperation between India and France will continue to grow and contribute to global peace, prosperity and environmental sustainability. He also stressed the importance of the ceremony saying it signifies the depth of the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
The Defence Minister also said he was glad to know that a large number of Indian Air Force (IAF)  officers and airmen are being trained in France for flying, maintenance support and logistics for handling Rafale fighter aircraft and hoped the training in French facilities will help the crew in acquiring knowledge and professional expertise required for performing their task in India.
 
Rajnath Singh pointed out that the Rafale Project Monitoring Team (PMT) from India has been positioned in France since August 2017 to ensure smooth implementation of the project. He said he was happy that the delivery of Rafale aircraft is on schedule and will add to the strength of the IAF.
 
 “I look forward to flying in the Rafale aircraft. This will be a great honour and experience," he said, before going on a sortie in the fighter jet.
 
He also performed the ‘Shastra Puja’ on the aircraft on the auspicious occasion of Vijayadashami.
 
Also, present on the occasion was French Minister of Armed Forces, Ms Florence Parly and Eric Trappier, Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Aviation, the manufacturers of the aircraft.
 
The Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for 36 Rafale aircraft procurement was signed between the Government of India and Government of France on 23 September, 2016.
 
Earlier, Rajnath Singh held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris before leaving for the ceremony at Merignac in Bordeaux.
 
The Indian Defence Minister had reached Paris on Monday on a two-day official visit.
 
During their talks, Rajnath Singh and Macron comprehensively discussed key aspects of the bilateral defence partnership and resolved to continue strengthening the ties between the two countries. 
 
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh calling on French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris on October 8, 2019
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh calling on French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris on October 8, 2019
“I thanked President Macron for his strong support to further intensifying our strategic partnership, especially in the defence sector, with India and for our ‘Make in India’ initiatives,"  Rajnath Singh said after the meeting. 
 
He also thanked the French President for the strong support by France to India's strategic interests and principles, including in fighting terrorism.
 
Earlier, Rajnath Singh, on his arrival in Paris, had tweeted that France is India’s important strategic partner and its special relationship with India goes far beyond the realm of formal ties.
 
The  Defence Minister also said that his visit to France is aimed at expanding the existing strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
He also expressed his deepest condolences, on behalf of the Indian Government and its people upon the demise of former French President Jacques Chirac, saying Chirac had played a decisive role in forging the India-France Strategic Partnership.
 
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Rajnath holds talks with Macron before receiving first Rafale aircraft

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday before participating in a ceremony at Merignac in Bordeaux when the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets ordered by India from France will be handed over.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh calling on French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris on October 8, 2019
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh calling on French President Emmanuel Macron, in Paris on October 8, 2019
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron here today before participating in a ceremony at Merignac in Bordeaux when the first of 36 Rafale fighter jets ordered by India from France will be handed over.
 
Rajnath Singh is also slated to perform "Shastra Puja" on the occasion  of Vijayadashami before flying a sortie in the Rafale aircraft.
 
The Indian Defence Minister had reached Paris on Monday on a two-day official visit.
 
During their talks, Rajnath Singh and Macron comprehensively discussed key aspects of the bilateral defence partnership and resolved to continue strengthening the ties between the two countries. 
 
“I thanked President Macron for his strong support to further intensifying our strategic partnership, especially in the defence sector, with India and for our ‘Make in India’ initiatives,"  Rajnath Singh said after the meeting. 
 
He also thanked the French President for the strong support by France to India's strategic interests and principles, including in fighting terrorism.
 
Earlier, Rajnath Singh, on his arrival in Paris, had tweeted that France is India’s important strategic partner and its special relationship with India goes far beyond the realm of formal ties.
 
The  Defence Minister also said that his visit to France is aimed at expanding the existing strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
He also expressed his deepest condolences, on behalf of the Indian Government and its people upon the demise of former French President Jacques Chirac, saying Chirac had played a decisive role in forging the India-France Strategic Partnership.
 
Rajnath Singh will be joined by French Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly at the handing over ceremony of the Rafale aircraft at Merignac.
 
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7 Indians, Pakistani killed in Dubai accident: Report

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Seven Indians and a Pakistani national were killed when the minibus they were travelling in collided with a lorry here on Monday, the media reported.
 
The accident occurred at 4.54 a.m. on Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Road in the direction of Sharjah, before the Mirdif City Centre Exit, when the 14-seater minibus collided with the lorry that was stationary on the side of the road, the Khaleej Times reported.
 
Brigadier Saif Muhair Al Mazroui, director of Dubai Police Traffic Department, said: "The minibus crashed into the back of a halted truck on the right road shoulder. The minibus was trapped under the truck."
 
The bodies of eight people -- seven passengers and the driver of the minibus -- were shifted to the mortuary in Rashid Hospital, social worker Nasir Vadanappalli told Gulf News. Six people were injured in the accident.
 
The bus was carrying 13 passengers and the driver.
 
"The police haven't still revealed the names and details of the victims, but according to them, there are Pakistanis and Indians involved in the accident. We hope all details will be revealed soon," said Vadanappalli.
 
He said that the eight dead included seven Indians and one Pakistani. Among the injured, only one is from Bangaldesh and the remaining are from India, according to the report.
 
Colonel Faisal Al Qasim, director of Security Media at Dubai Police, said investigations were being carried out to determine the exact cause of the accident.
 
IANS
 

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11 injured in Saudi Arabia train station blaze

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At least 11 people were injured in a fire on Sunday at the Haramain high-speed rail station in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, forcing the suspension of train services.
 
But as of early Monday morning, the blaze was brought under control by firefighters almost 10 hours later, reports Efe news.
 
Saudi Arabia Civil Defence and Makkah Province Emirate -- on their respective Twitter accounts -- said that firefighters were continuing to use assorted techniques to cool down the station.
 
There were no fatalities in the blaze, but train services has been suspended for the safety of the passengers, officials said.
 
The Jeddah Health Directorate reported on Twitter that 11 people had been injured, with eight of them remaining hospitalized and in "stable" condition, two having been released after being treated and one having left the hospital voluntarily.
 
The blaze started in the station's ceiling on Sunday, according to initial reports.
 
Videos of the fire circulated on Twitter, showing thick billows of smoke, the Al Arabiya newspaper reported.
 
Civil defence forces and helicopters were seen trying to put out the fire.
 
According to the Haramain high-speed railway's official Twitter page, the fire broke out at 12.35 p.m.
 
The Haramain high-speed railway, constructed by a Spanish consortium, covers the 450 km between Mecca and Medina, holy cities for Muslims.
 
Currently, the railway runs 35 commercial trains and a luxury train for the king, and it has a contract to operate and provide maintenance for the system for the next 12 years.
 
IANS
 

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6.4-magnitude earthquake rattles Philippines

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A 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck off Philippines' Davao Occidental province on Sunday, according to disaster management officials.
 
Previously, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said that the quake was at 6.1-magnitude, Xinhua news agency reported.
 
In the updated report, Phivolcs said that the offshore quake, which struck at 10.02 a.m., hit at a depth of 60 km, about 130 km of Jose Abad Santos town. There were no reported casualties or damages.
 
The quake, which was tectonic in origin, was also felt in the cities of Kidapawan, Davao, Sarangani, General Santos, Cagayan de Oro, Gingoog and Bislig on Mindanao island, the institute added.
 
IANS
 
 
 
 

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Threat of unleashing nuclear devastation is brinksmanship, not statesmanship: India

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Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s threat of unleashing nuclear devastation qualifies as brinksmanship, not statesmanship, according to Vidisha Maitra, First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the UN in New York.
 
Khan, in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly had raised the Kashmir issue, warning that if there was a face-off between two nuclear-armed neighbours, the consequences would be far beyond their borders.
 
Taking the floor to exercise India’s right of reply to the statement, Maitra said, “Every word spoken from the podium of this august Assembly, it is believed, carries the weight of history.
 
“Unfortunately, what we heard today from Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan was a callous portrayal of the world in binary terms. Us vs Them; Rich vs Poor; North vs South; Developed Vs Developing; Muslims vs Others. A script that fosters divisiveness at the United Nations. Attempts to sharpen differences and stir up hatred are, simply put, 'hate speech'.
 
“Rarely has the General Assembly witnessed such misuse, rather abuse, of an opportunity to reflect. Words matter in diplomacy. Invocation of phrases such as 'pogrom', 'bloodbath', 'racial superiority', 'pick up the gun' and 'fight to the end' reflect a medieval mindset and not a 21st century vision,” she said.
 
Prime Minister Khan’s threat of unleashing nuclear devastation qualifies as brinksmanship, not statesmanship, she added.
 
“Even coming from the leader of a country that has monopolized the entire value chain of the industry of terrorism, Prime Minister Khan’s justification of terrorism was brazen and incendiary.
 
“For someone who was once a cricketer and believed in the gentleman’s game, today’s speech bordered on crudeness of the variety that is reminiscent of the guns of Darra Adam Khel.
 
“Now that Prime Minister Imran Khan has invited UN Observers to Pakistan to verify that there are no militant organisations in Pakistan, the world will hold him to that promise,” Moitra said.
 
She also posed some questions that Pakistan could respond to as a precursor to the proposed verification.
 
“Can Pakistan confirm the fact that it is home to 130 UN-designated terrorists and 25 terrorist entities listed by the UN, as of today?
 
“Will Pakistan acknowledge that it is the only Government in the world that provides pension to an individual listed by the UN in the Al Qaeda and Da’esh Sanctions list!
 
“Can Pakistan explain why here in New York, its premier bank, the Habib Bank had to shut shop after it was fined millions of dollars over terror financing?
 
“Will Pakistan deny that the Financial Action Task Force has put the country on notice for its violations of more than 20 of the 27 key parameters?
 
“And would Prime Minister Khan deny to the city of New York that he was an open defender of Osama bin Laden?”
 
Having mainstreamed terrorism and hate speech, Pakistan is trying to play its wild card as the newfound champion of human rights, she said.
 
“This a country that has shrunk the size of its minority community from 23% in 1947 to 3% today and has subjected Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadiyas, Hindus, Shias, Pashtuns, Sindhis and Balochis to draconian blasphemy laws, systemic persecution, blatant abuse and forced conversions.
 
“Their newfound fascination for preaching human rights is akin to trophy hunting of the endangered mountain goat – markhor,” she added.
 
“Pogroms, Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi, are not a phenomenon of today’s vibrant democracies. We would request you to refresh your rather sketchy understanding of history.
 
“Do not forget the gruesome genocide perpetrated by Pakistan against its own people in 1971 and the role played by Lt. Gen A A K Niazi. A sordid fact that the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh reminded this Assembly about earlier this afternoon,” Maitra said.
 
Pakistan’s virulent reaction to the removal of an outdated and temporary provision that was hindering development and integration of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir stems from the fact that those who thrive on conflict never welcome the ray of peace, she said.
 
While Pakistan has ventured to upstream terrorism and downstream hate speech there, India is going ahead with mainstreaming development in Jammu and Kashmir.
 
The mainstreaming of Jammu & Kashmir, as well as Ladakh, in India’s thriving and vibrant democracy with a millennia-old heritage of diversity, pluralism and tolerance is well and truly underway. Irreversibly so.
 
Citizens of India do not need anyone else to speak on their behalf, least of all those who have built an industry of terrorism from the ideology of hate, she added.
 
NNN
 

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Sikh cop shot dead in US state of Texas

Sandeep Dhaliwal
Sandeep Dhaliwal
A Sikh police officer was shot dead in the US state of Texas during a mid-day traffic stop, authorities said.
 
Sandeep Dhaliwal, 42, was the Harris County Sheriff's first-ever Sikh Deputy and had been pushing for a historic expansion of religious rights in the department, reports The Houston Chronicle newspaper.
 
Dhaliwal pulled over a vehicle around 12.45 p.m. on Friday in the 14800 block of Willancy Court in the Cypress area, Harris County Sheriff's Office Maj. Mike Lee told reporters here.
 
According to Lee, dashcam video showed that Dhaliwal and the suspect, Robert Solis, 47, still in his car, having a conversation with no sign of confrontation.
 
A few seconds after Dhaliwal returned to his squad car, the suspect ran up and shot him in the head multiple times, Lee said. Dhaliwal was airlifted to the hospital, where he died.
 
Solis was charged late Friday with capital murder in the case, The Houston Chronicle reported.
 
A woman who was outside gardening heard the shot and saw Solis run to a getaway car.
 
Lee said the suspect then went to a store nearby. After a brief search, authorities detained Solis, who has a criminal record that includes convictions for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping and driving while intoxicated.
 
Dhaliwal was the county's first Sikh deputy when he joined the force 10 years ago, and became a national figure after convincing the department to allow him to wear religious attire and grow a beard while on patrol.
 
"He was a hero, a trailblazer," Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said of Dhaliwal, who he considered a close friend. "There are no words to speak to how heartbroken we are, how devastated."
 
Dhaliwal, a father of three young children, began his career in law enforcement out of a desire to serve after then-Sheriff Adrian Garcia reached out to strengthen the department's relationship with the Sikh community after deputies botched a domestic violence call at a Sikh family's home.
 
He was also very active at his Gurudwara, and his house of worship held a special ceremony after he became a Deputy.
 
"He was very, very, very important," community member Sampuran Singh said. "He was always willing to do what the community needed him to do."
 
IANS
 

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Modi outlines India's rapid development agenda at UNGA

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday presented before the world India's rapid strides towards bringing development to its 1.3 billion people and said that it was ready to share its experience with other developing countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York on September 27, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the 74th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), in New York on September 27, 2019. (Photo: IANS)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday presented before the world India's rapid strides towards bringing development to its 1.3 billion people -- from toilets in every home, potable water in every tap, building rural roads, bank accounts for every citizen to health insurance and housing for its people -- and said that it was ready to share its experience with other developing countries.
 
Addressing the 74th UN General Assembly here on Friday, Modi emphasised that he had been voted back to power by an overwhelming mandate in which 600 million people had voted, the largest such election anywhere in the world, to stress the massive mandate he had got, thus conveying that his every move had the backing of the people.
 
Modi detailed the development works his government has brought about since 2014, when he was first voted to power, -- from Swachh Bharat, building 11 crore toilets, free healthcare for 50 crore people, the Jan Dhan Yojana for linking people to bank accounts, Digital India, to bringing potable water to the people -- to tell the world about the inclusiveness of his governance.
 
Though he did not mention Kashmir in his speech, the import of his address was clear -- that his every move was aimed to bring governance to every citizen, something that Jammu and Kashmir was deprived of due to Article 370. The Prime Minister emphasised that he had got people's overwhelming mandate to go forward.
 
"At a time when the entire world is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the world's biggest elections took place with 600 million people, the most number of people in the world, voting for me and my government. And due to that, I am again here in front of you. But the message behind this victory is more significant," Modi said, as he outlined the development and welfare programmes his government has been pushing.
 
He said that Digital India has helped establish peoples' rights and remove corruption, saving to the tune of $20 billion, which is "a message of hope for the world."
 
Modi said that India has decided to rid itself of single-use plastic in the next five years and bring potable water to 15 crore households, besides building roads in the far-flung villages.
 
By 2022, when the country celebrates 75 years of its Independence, India would build two crore more houses, he said, adding that by 2025, India would rid itself of tuberculosis.
 
Modi said that all the work is being done through peoples' participation -- "jan bhagidari se jan kalyan".
 
"And this is not just for India, but for the world -- 'Jan Kalyan se Jag Kalyan'," he said, outlining India's vision of its leadership role for developing countries.
 
"The progress is for everyone," he said, adding that in his interactions with other developing countries, he had heard how they faced challenges in the path of their development.
 
"When I listen to their problems and get to learn from them, my resolve gets strengthened. As I go forward to bring about development for my country, it should be able to help other countries as well," he said.
 
Highlighting India's message of inclusiveness, Modi quoted Tamil poet Kaniyan Pungundranar of 3,000 years ago and said, "We belong to all places and we belong to everyone."
 
"The sense of belonging beyond borders is unique to India," he said.
 
On the issue of climate change facing the world, Modi said India has raised its target for renewable energy to 450 GW, as he invited other countries to join the global disaster infrastructure fund.
 
Highlighting India's participation in bringing peace to the world, he said that in UN peacekeeping missions, India has made the biggest sacrifice.
 
He then briefly, but effectively, touched on the issue of terrorism -- obliquely targeting Pakistan.
 
Modi said that India has given the world the message of peace, "Buddha", and not war, "yuddh", and that is why its voice carries seriousness when it alerts the world against terrorism, and anger too -- in a reference to the terrorism wrought in India by Pakistan-backed elements.
 
The Prime Minister also said that a "world divided on the issue of terror" harms the very principles on which the UN was created.
 
He called for the world to unite against terror for the sake of humanity.
 
Modi said: "India has given the world not war (yuddh) but Buddha or peace, the message of peace. And that is why we have the seriousness when we raise our voice against terror, and anger too," changing the decibel of his tone to emphasise the point.
 
"We agree that terrorism is not just a challenge for one country, but for the entire world... It's the biggest challenge for humanity.
 
"A world divided on the issue of terror harms those very principles on which the UN was created. For the sake of humanity, the world must unite and come together against terrorism," he said.
 
Modi also called for new focus on multilateralism, and on the UN, saying that in view of the changes that are happening around the globe, "a disunited world is not in anyone's benefit".
 
He said that countries cannot afford to remain within their borders any longer.
 
"And in this, we have to give new focus to multilateralism, and to the UN," he said.
 
The Prime Minister then cited Swami Vivekananda's famous speech on religious harmony delivered in Chicago in 1893.
 
"India gives the same message of harmony and peace, and not dissension," he said.
 
IANS
 

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Modi urges world to unite on terror at UNGA

Raising his voice strongly against terror, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that India is a country which has given the world 'Buddha' and not "yudh" (war), and that is why when it raises its voice against terror, it not only has seriousness, but also anger.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Raising his voice strongly against terror, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that India is a country which has given the world 'Buddha' and not "yudh" (war), and that is why when it raises its voice against terror, it not only has seriousness, but also anger.
 
Addressing the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) here, the Prime Minister also urged the world to unite against terror.
 
"We believe that terrorism is not a challenge for any one country, but for all the countries and the mankind as a whole. So for the sake of mankind, the world has to unite against terror," Modi said.
 
He also said that the world should not see terror in different terms.
 
IANS
 

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India, Caribbean Community boost ties

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said India and the CARICOM, a group of 15 members of the Caribbean Community, will seek to energise their ties as the two sides held their first-ever Leaders Meeting on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly here.
 
The CARICOM countries cover a total area of over 177,000 square miles, with a total population among the 15 countries at over 18 million.
 
Addressing the India-Caricom Leaders' Meeting, Modi thanked the nations for accepting India's invite for the meeting. He said India, like the Caricom, countries is fighting against poverty and climate-related issues.
 
He said India seeks to energise ties with the Caricom, with both sides focused on inclusive development for their people.
 
Modi held talks with 14 leaders of the Caricom group. The meeting was attended by the heads of governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, the Vice President of Suriname, and Foreign Ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Haiti and Guyana.
 
Allen Chastenet, Prime Minister of St Lucia and current Chairman of CARICOM co-chaired the meeting. The meeting was attended by the Heads of Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Vice President of Suriname, and Foreign Ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Haiti and Guyana.
 
Modi announced a $14 million grant for community development projects in the CARICOM and another $150 million Line of Credit for solar, renewable energy and climate- change related projects.
 
He also announced the setting up of the Regional Center for Excellence in Information Technology in Georgetown, Guyana and the Regional Vocational Training Center in Belize by upgrading the existing India-funded centers in these countries.
 
The Indian side also expressed support to specialized capacity building courses, training and deputation of Indian experts based on the needs and requirements of the CARICOM countries. He invited a Parliamentary delegation from CARICOM to visit India in the near future, a MEA statement said.
 
It was the first-ever meeting of Modi with CARICOM leaders in a regional format and highlighted the steadily intensifying and deepening relations between India and partner countries of the Caribbean, not only in the bilateral, but also in the regional context.
 
Modi reiterated India's firm commitment to strengthen its political, economic and cultural engagement with CARICOM. He recalled the presence of more than a million-strong Indian diaspora as a vibrant and enduring link of friendship with the Caribbean.
 
The meeting deliberated on the strengthening the political and institutional dialogue processes, boosting economic cooperation, increasing trade and investment and fostering greater and more robust people- to- people relations.
 
Modi also laid emphasis on partnering with CARICOM countries in capacity building, development assistance and cooperation in disaster management and resilience, MEA statement said.
 
He invited CARICOM countries to join the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure. PM expressed his condolences on the destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian in the region and the worst hit island of Bahamas to which India has provided immediate financial assistance of USD 1 million.
 
CARICOM leaders welcomed the initiatives proposed by Modi to strengthen engagement and cooperation between the two sides and reassured full support from their respective governments.
 
It was decided to set up a Joint Task Force to expeditiously look into possible areas of cooperation and identify the way forward, the statement said.
 
The Caribbean Community (Caricom) and India reaffirmed their decades-old ties with the accreditation of a new envoy to CARICOM, K. J Srinivasa earlier this month.
 
The Caribbean Community has a large population of Indian-origin people,
 
IANS
 

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Choksi will be extradited after he exhausts appeals: Antigua PM

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Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said that Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam accused Mehul Choksi, who has fled to Antigua, would be extradited to India after he exhausts his appeals.
 
"We are a country of laws, the matter is before the judiciary," Browne told India's state-run DD News.
 
"He (Choksi) has several appeals, and until he exhausts his appeals there is nothing we can do," said the Antigua PM, describing Choksi as a crook.
 
"He brings no value to Antigua Barbuda," said the prime minister.
 
He also said that Indian officials are free to investigate him.
 
Choksi and his nephew Nirav Modi, who both fled the country a year ago, are key accused in Rs 13,500 crore PNB fraud case.
 
Choksi was granted citizenship of Antigua and Barbuda earlier this year.
 
IANS
 

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