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Swaraj hits out at Pakistan, says it is only recognised as an exporter of terror

 
Swaraj hits out at Pakistan at UNGA
External Affairs Sushma Swaraj hit out hard at Pakistan today, asking its leaders if they had ever wondered why India is a recognised IT superpower in the world while their country is recognised only as the pre-eminent export factory for terror.
 
"There is only one reason. India has risen despite the principle destination of Pakistan’s nefarious export of terrorism. There have been many governments under many parties during 70 years of India’s freedom for we have been a sustained democracy," she said in her statement in the General Debate of the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) here.
 
"Every government has done its bit for India’s development. We have marched ahead consistently without pause creating IIMs, IITs, AIIMS and in the fields of education, health, space and across the range of human welfare. We established scientific and technical institutions which are the pride of the world. But what has Pakistan offered to the world and indeed to its own people apart from terrorism? We produced scholars, doctors, engineers. They have produced terrorists and terrorist camps. Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hijbul Mujahideen, Haqqani Network. We produce scholars, doctors, engineers, scientists. What did you make Pakistan? You created terrorists and Jihadis. And you know, doctors save people from death; terrorists send them to death. Your terrorist organisations are not only attacking India but are also affecting our two neighbours, Afghanistan and Bangladesh," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said it might be a first in the history of the UNGA that a country had asked for a right of reply and had to answer to three countries.
 
"Does this fact not depict the reality of their actions? If Pakistan had spent on its development what it has spent on developing terror, both Pakistan and the world would be safer and better off today," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said terrorism was at the very top of the problems for which the UN is searching for solutions.
 
"We have been the oldest victims of this terrible and even traumatic terrorism. When we began articulating about this menace, many of the world’s big powers dismissed this as a law and order issue. Now they know better. The question is: what do we do about it?
 
"We must all introspect and ask ourselves whether our talk is anywhere close to the action we take. We all in bilateral and multilateral discussions condemn this evil, and piously resolve to fight it in all our declaratory statements. The truth is that these have become rituals. The fact is that when we are required to fight and destroy this enemy, the self-interest of some leads them towards duplicity.
 
"This has been going on for years. Although India proposed a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) as early as in 1996, yet two decades later the United Nations has not been able to agree upon a definition of terrorism. If we cannot agree to define our enemy, how can we fight together? If we continue to differentiate between good terrorists and bad terrorists, how can we fight together? If even the United Nations Security Council cannot agree on the listing of terrorists, how can we fight together?
 
"Through you, with utmost sincerity, I would like to request this august assembly to stop seeing this evil with self-defeating and indeed meaningless nuance. Evil is evil. Let us accept that terrorism is an existentialist danger to humankind. There is absolutely no justification for this barbaric violence. Let us display our new commitment by reaching agreement on the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism this year itself," she added.
 
Ms. Swaraj said that, while India was completely engaged in fighting poverty, Paksitan seemed only engaged in fighting India.
 
"On Thursday, from this dais, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi wasted rather too much of his speech in making accusations against us. He accused India of State-sponsored terrorism, and of violating human rights. Those listening had only one observation: 'Look who’s talking!' 
 
"A country that has been the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity became a champion of hypocrisy by preaching about humanity and Human Rights from this podium.
 
"Pakistan’s Prime Minister claimed that his nation’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had bequeathed a foreign policy based on peace and friendship. I would like to remind him that while it remains open to question whether Jinnah Sahab actually advocated such principles, what is beyond doubt is that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, from the moment he took his oath of office, offered the hand of peace and friendship. Pakistan’s Prime Minister must answer why his nation spurned this offer.
 
"Prime Minister Abbasi has recalled old resolutions that have been long overtaken by events. But his memory has conveniently failed him where it matters. He has forgotten that under the Shimla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration India and Pakistan resolved that they would settle all outstanding issues bilaterally. The reality is that Pakistan’s politicians remember everything, manipulate memory into a convenience. They are masters at 'forgetting' facts that destroy their version.
 
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"Pakistan’s current Prime Minister spoke of a 'Comprehensive Dialogue' between our two countries. I would like to remind him that on 9 December 2015, when I was in Islamabad for the Heart of Asia conference, a decision was made by his leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, then still Prime Minister, that dialogue between us should be renewed and named it a 'Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue'. The word 'bilateral' was used consciously to remove any confusion or doubt about the fact that the proposed talks would be between our two nations and only between our two nations, without any third-party present. And he must answer why that proposal withered, because Pakistan is responsible for the aborting of that peace process," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj began by saying that the contemporary world is trapped in a deluge of troubles of which the most dangerous is the relentless rise of violence.
 
"Terrorism, and the ideas that engineer this evil, are spreading at the pace of a conflagration. Climate change stares us in the face, and threatens us with its dimension. There is a growing question mark over maritime security. For a mix of reasons, provocative and inflammatory, people are leaving the psychological, cultural and economic comfort of their traditional home space to seek refuge on distant shores causing global anxiety. A large part of the globe’s population is still tortured by hunger and poverty. The young are beginning to lose hope as they confront unemployment. Women, victims of historic discrimination, are demanding what they must get: gender empowerment. Nuclear proliferation is back in the zone of dangerous headlines. Cyber security has become a source of deep insecurity," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said India had displayed the courage and leadership to take tough decisions which have launched the interlinked process of sustainable development. "The complete eradication of poverty is the most important priority of the present government," she said.
 
"There are two ways of addressing the curse of poverty. The traditional method is through incremental levels of aid and hand-holding. But our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen the more radical route, through economic empowerment. The poor are not helpless; we have merely denied them opportunity. We are eliminating poverty by investing in the poor. We are turning them from job-seekers into job-providers.
 
"All our economic programmes have a principal purpose, the empowerment of the poor: Jan Dhan, Mudra, Ujjwala, Skill India, Digital India, Clean India, Start-Up India, Stand-Up India," she said, going on to provide details of the core programmes.
 
She said demonetisation was a courageous decision to challenge one of the by-products of corruption, the "black money" that disappeared from circulation. "
 
Today, India has passed the Goods and Services Tax legislation, through which there is one-tax across the country, without the untidy and punishing system of multiple taxes under differing categories in different parts of the country. Our 'Save the girl, Educate the girl' campaign is reducing gender inequality. Our Clean India programme is generating what can only be described as a revolutionary change in social attitudes and habits. 
 
"I would like to note, at this point, that nations with rising capabilities will be able to generate such change, but the developed world must become an active partner in helping those vulnerable countries which are still mired in stagnant poverty reach SDG horizon within 2030. That is why the principle of Global Partnership was included in SDGs. I am happy to report that India has started, this year, the India-UN Development Partnership Fund," she said.
 
About climate change, she said India had already said that it was deeply committed to the Paris Accord. 
 
"We have just witnessed hurricanes, earthquakes, rains that inundate, storms which terrify. This is not a mere coincidence. Nature sent its warning to the world even before the world’s leadership gathered in New York at the United Nations through Harvey. Once our gathering began an earthquake struck Mexico and a hurricane landed in Dominica. We must understand this requires more serious action than talk. The developed world must listen more carefully than others, because it has more capacities than others. It must help the less fortunate through technology transfer and Green Climate Financing - that is the only way to save future generations," she said.
 
"We are discussing turbulence and change across the world, but the one organisation created to address world affairs is beset by its own problems. It seems to believe that it can afford not to change from the precepts and perceptions that determined its birth. On 18 September, there was a meeting here on UN reform. I participated. I witnessed an evident desire for change, to do something. But I do want to remind you that at the 2005 World Summit there was a consensus that the early reform of the Security Council is an essential element of our overall effort to reform the United Nations.
 
"Efforts at text-based negotiations on the reform and expansion of the Security Council were initiated in the last session and more than 160 nations had expressed support for this effort. If we are serious, then the least we can do is produce one text that can be the basis for negotiation. I hope that under your enlightened leadership, Mr President, this will become a priority. If that happens it will be a significant achievement.
 
"We also have high expectations from the new Secretary General of the United Nations. If he wants to reform the peace and security architecture, he will also need to address reforms related to peacekeeping that have been urged for long. Without improvements in UN Peacekeeping this goal can’t be achieved. 
 
"There is no shortage of issues; there is even less shortage of problems which should be recognised from this podium. But time is not always on the side of those who would like to raise issues and problems in the interests of a better, more peaceful and progressive future. The issues you have chosen are relevant to the UN Charter as well as to the ancient traditions of my land.
 
"My country's culture and thought has been shaped by a history and philosophy that believes in peace as humankind's only rational and practical objective. We truly believe that the world is one family and we hope that every member of this family deserves that elixir of life, happiness. Let me end by reciting a verse that is a synthesis of thought:
 
"May all be happy;
May all be healthy;
May all see what is good;
May all be free from suffering," she added.
 
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Rahul Gandhi says divisive forces ruining India's reputation

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday that India's most important asset was the peaceful co-existence of its 1.3 billion people but this was now being challenged by forces in the country that are dividing its people.

 
India's reputation being ruined by divisive forces: Rahul Gandhi
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday that India's most important asset was the peaceful co-existence of its 1.3 billion people but this was now being challenged by forces in the country that are dividing its people.
 
"It is very dangerous for the country and it ruins our reputation abroad," he said in his address to the Indian  National Overseas Congress at the Marriott Marquis at Times Square here, in remarks that were seen as a veiled criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
 
"India has always shown the world  how to live in harmony. For thousands of years India has had a reputation of peace and harmony. This is being challenged," he said.
 
"Many, many people in the Democratic party and the Republican party asked me what is going on in your country?  We always believed that your country worked together, we always believed your country was peaceful. What is going on in your country?" he said.
 
"And that is something we have to fight. India’s reputation in the world is very important. The world is transforming and people are looking towards us. China is rising, we have a relationship with the Unites States . Many countries in a violent world are looking to India and saying maybe, India has the answer to the 21st century. Maybe India has the answer for peaceful coexistence in the 21st century. So, we cannot afford to lose our most powerful asset. Our most important asset is that 1.3 billion people lived happily, non-violently,  peacefully and the world respected us for that . This is something that as Congress people every single one of us has to defend. 
 
"India is a country that belongs to all its people. Doesn't matter who they are  I can see my Sikh brothers, people from different states. India does not belong to any one of you. India belongs to this entire room and India belongs to every single one of us and that is what the Congress party is," he said.
 
Among those present at the event was former Telecom Commission Chairman Sam Pitroda, who helped usher in the telecom revolution in India in the 1980s, and former Union Minister Milind Deora.
 
The event was one of Mr. Gandhi's last engagements during a tour of the United States during which he, among others, addressed students and faculty members at University of California, Berkeley and Princeton University, New Jersey and interacted with think tanks, policy makers, political leaders and journalists.
 
At the Times Square event, Mr. Gandhi spoke about the difficulties then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had to face in introducing computers in a big way in India in those years.
 
"Ideas take time to travel into India. But, when an idea is good, India understands it very quickly, and uses it and shows the world how it can be used," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi told the gathering, consisting mainly of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and persons of Indian origin (PIOs), that the original Congress movement was an NRI movement, pointing out that leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehtra, Bhimrao Ambedkar, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were all NRIs.
 
"Every single one of them went to the outside world, saw the outside world, returned back to India and used some the ideas they got and transformed India. I’ll go even further, the biggest success in India, our friends in BJP said nothing happened, but one of the biggest successes in India, the milk that most of India drinks, it was a man called Mr. (Verghese) Kurien, he was an NRI. He came from the United States and he transformed India. Sam is another example. There are thousands of examples that we have not recognised. So before I even get into the depth of my speech, I want to tell you that I went from San Fransisco to Los Angeles to Washington to New York, I addressed people in Berkeley,in Princeton, and wherever I went, you made me feel poud to be an Indian," he said.
 
"Everywhere you look in this country, there is an Indian person working for America, working for India, living peacefully and building this country and our country. So I would like to start by telling you, that you are actually the backbone of our country. Some people view India as a geophraphical construct. They view India as a piece of land. I don’t view India as a piece of land. I view India as a set of ideas. So for me, anybody who has the ideas that make up India is an Indian.
 
"We have many religions in our country. We have many different languages in our country. Every single one of them lives happily together, and the reason they have been able to do so are the ideas of the Congress party. Sam Pitroda just said that the Congress is a hundred and thirty years old. Yes, it is true, the Congress organisation is more than a century old. But, the Congress idea in India is thousands of years old. We don’t represent an organisation, we represent a philosophy that is thousands and thousands of years old. I’ll tell you a little but about what this philosophy is. What did Gandhi actually fight for, what was our freedom movement about, what did Mr. Kurien do? What did Sam Pitroda do? What do thousands of NRIs do? They stand up for the truth. It doesn’t matter what is standing against them, when they believe in something and they are convinced that is the truth they stand up for it and pay the price for it. That is the Congress idea," he said.
 
"I had lots of conversations in my trip. I met lot of people from the administration, I met people from both democratic and republican parties, I met many friends, NRI friends.And I must tell you, I was very surprised because before I could even tell them what I was feeling, before I could even tell them what I was worried about, they told me exactly the same thing. And the single biggest thing most people told me, What has happened to the tolerance that used to prevail in India? What has happened to the harmony in India?" he said.
 
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Mr. Gandhi said the single biggest challenge India is facing today was of providing jobs to its youth.
 
"I’ll give it to you in numbers. 30,000 youngsters come into the job market every single day. Today, only 450 of them are getting a job. I’m not even talking about the unemployed.
 
"This is the biggest challenge in front of our country. And, this challenge is going to be addressed by building a unified approach by bringing people together.
 
"We discuss everything in India. There’s a divisive politics in India but the real challenge facing India is that 30,000 youngsters looking for a job and only 450 getting a job. You can imagine as this process continues what the result will be. India simply cannot give its youngsters a vision if it is unable to give them a job. 
 
"The Congress party has a vision to solve this problem. And I will tell you little bit about this vision. Currently, the entire focus is on 50 or 60 really large companies. We believe that if you are to create millions and millions of jobs in India, it has to be done by empowering small and medium businesses and entrepreneurs," he said.
 
He said the second major challenge was in the agricultural sector. "I’ll give you another number, 40% of India’s vegetables rot. Agriculture can simply not be ignored. There are people from Punjab here, you will understand exactly what I am saying.
 
"Agriculture is a strategic asset. We need to build agriculture, we need to develop a cold chain, we need to put food processing units close to farms, and we need to empower Indian agriculture. We need to empower our farmers," he said.
 
"Healthcare is going to transform. And I said this in my speech in Berkeley, today all the information in healthcare is in the doctors' memories. Tomorrow all that information is going to be in computers. India has the world’s second largest population. We do very large number of surgeries, heart surgeries, eye surgeries, we have a great understanding of how to do these things. There is a huge opportunity for India in healthcare and we can become the healthcare centre of the world but we have to plan for it today. And I am not talking about simply health tourism, I’m talking about about constructing whereby in the future large parts of medical processes are carried out in our country.
 
"I can give you a similar vision for the IITs. I went to Berkeley, I was in Princeton yesterday. US universities are networks, knowledge networks. Information travels within them, they are connected to businesses, they are connected to economy. Our IITs are tremendous institutions but they are not networks. If we connect  our IITs to our industries and businesses across the world, they will start to compete with the best businesses in the world. these are things that can be done.
 
"I want to go back to the beginning of my speech. You need to get involved. You have tremendous knowledge, You have tremendous understanding, you work in different fields. I invite you to come and work with the congress party and discuss the vision going forward. We want to take your help. Sam Pitroda single handedly transformed the telecom industry.  We don’t want one Sam Pitroda. We want atleast 10-15 Sam Pitrodas to transform India, Because there’s a lot of work to be done in India." he added.
 
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Rahul Gandhi says Congress did not create enough jobs, Modi failing, too

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday that the inability of the previous Congress-led UPA government to create enough jobs had enabled the BJP and its leader Narendra Modi to tap into the resentment among the youth and come to power at the Centre in India in 2014.

 
Jobs are among India's major challenges: Rahul Gandhi at Princeton
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday that the inability of the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to create enough jobs had enabled the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its leader Narendra Modi to tap into the resentment among the youth and come to power at the Centre in India in 2014.
 
Mr. Gandhi, who is on a tour of the United States, was interacting with a group of students and faculty members at the Centre for International Security Studies (CISS) at Princeton University, New Jersey. The interaction was coordinated by Professor Shivaji Sondhi of CISS.
 
Asked to explain the rise of politicians like Prime Minister Modi in India and President Donald Trump in the United States, he said, "The central reason why Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump rose is jobs. A large part of our populations don't have jobs and can't see a future for themselves. They have supported these leaders."
 
"Those who wanted jobs helped Mr. Modi reach where he is. The space for Mr. Modi was created because the Congress' record on this front was not good enough," he said.
 
"They were angry with us and all those people going to be angry with Mr. Modi also. There is anger building up in India. We can see it," he said, stressing that the Modi government, too, had not been able to deliver on its promise of creating jobs.
 
He said the challenge was to create jobs in a democratic society. "The Congress could not do it, and that is how Mr. Modi came. And he is also not able to create jobs. All the discussions are about economic growth, not jobs," he said.
 
Much of the interaction was centred around jobs and employment, which, Mr. Gandhi, said was one of the main challenges in India today.
 
"If you can't give jobs to the people, it is very difficult to give them a vision," he said, underlining the need for the Government to carry all sections of people and every individual along. 
 
"About 30,000 youngsters are coming into the job market every day. The government is able to provide about 400 new jobs a day. You can do the maths. That is the central problem," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said India had tremendous achievements to its credit in several spheres in the seven decades since independence, including in industry, agriculture, telecommunications, health, education and other sectors. But he felt that much more needed to be done. 
 
He said there was islands of excellence in a vast ocean of mediocrity in areas such as education and health and this needed to be addressed so that the benefits are more evenly spread across all states and between  urban and rural areas.
 
He pointed out that no other country had pulled out as many people out of poverty over the past few decades as India had.
 
Mr. Gandhi said democratic countries everywhere were struggling to create blue collar jobs and this was leading to disaffection, anger and churn in all of them.
 
He said the Modi Government's Make in India initiative was a good programme, but he like to see more emphasis on small and medium enterprises "because that is where the jobs are".
 
Mr. Gandhi also spoke about the need for making the process of making laws in India more transparent by empowering the Members of Parliament and Legislative Assemblies, on the one hand, and by involving experts and the common man, on the other. He said decentralisation and opening up access to such processes was important.
 
Asked about the Congress' vision for the coming years, he said the party was working on it with a bottom-up approach. He said the emphasis would be on creating more jobs and improving agriculture, education, health and such other sectors.
 
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He said non-resident Indians (NRIs) had, over the decades, played an important role whenever there were "major shifts" in India and urged the students to play their part in solving the country's problems.
 
Mr. Gandhi spoke about the competition for jobs between India and China and the scope for cooperation between the two Asian giants. He said India had always maintained a balance in its foreign policy and good relations with the United States, China, Russia, and other countries. "Our strategic partnership with the United States is important, but balance is also important," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said one of the biggest achievements of the Congress over the decades was in making every individual feel that he or she was a part of India, giving them a vision about their future. "If you keep people out of your vision, you are asking for trouble," he said.
 
He felt one of India's central challenges was the politics of polarisation practised by some parties, who pit one community against another. 
 
He said there were today millions of tribals and members of minority communities who do not feel a part of the government's vision for the country. "India's strength has traditionally always been its ability to embrace people and allow them to flourish," he said. 
 
He pointed out that India was located in a volatile neighbourhood and if it alienated its own people it would open up space for other people to come in. "Every single person has to feel a part of the vision," he said, adding that this was one of the main differences between the approach of his party and that of Mr. Modi and the BJP.
 
Asked to list out some good things that the Modi government had done, Mr. Gandhi mentioned the Make in India initiative. " It is a good idea, if implemented well. As a concept, it is powerful," he said, adding that he would implement it differently, with greater emphasis on helping India's small and medium enterprises to grow and become big.
 
He also said the Goods and Service Tax (GST) was a good move though his party had "slight differences" about the manner of its implementation. He said the Congress had been against the multiplicity of tax rates and would have liked a gradual introduction of the new system.
 
Overall, there was broad agreement between the main political parties on economic policies, he said.
 
''The problem is that, everywhere in India, there is concentration of power. Good governance is about resisting centralisation of power," he said.
 
Asked about his views on a Uniform Civil Code, he said, "I leave that idea to the courts of our country. I have faith in them."
 
Mr. Gandhi's interaction with students at Princeton came after an address to students and faculty of the University of California, Berkeley on September 11 and meetings with think tanks and policy makers in Washington.
 
He is slated to address a reception organized by the Indian Overseas Congress on Wednesday evening at Marriott Marquis Hotel, Times Square, here.
 
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India, US, Japan hold Trilateral Foreign Ministerial Meeting

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the India-US-Japan Foreign Ministerial Meeting in New York on September 18, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the India-US-Japan Foreign Ministerial Meeting in New York on September 18, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held a Ministerial Trilateral with the United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono here today at which they exchanged views on maritime security, connectivity and proliferation issues.
 
Ms. Swaraj is here to attend the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
 
A press release from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said the three Ministers emphasized the need for ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law and peaceful resolution of disputes.
 
On connectivity initiatives, the importance of basing them on universally recognized international norms, prudent financing and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity was underlined. 
 
On North Korea, Ms. Swaraj deplored its recent actions and stated that its proliferation linkages must be explored and those involved be held accountable. 
 
The three Ministers directed their senior officials to explore practical steps to enhance cooperation, the release added.
 
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Rahul Gandhi says "absolutely ready" to be Congress' PM candidate in 2019

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Monday that he was "absolutely ready" to be the party's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but made it clear that it was a decision that the party had to take and not him.

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi addressing students of the University of California, Berkeley in the United States on September 11, 2017.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi addressing students of the University of California, Berkeley in the United States on September 11, 2017.
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi said on Monday that he was "absolutely ready" to be the party's Prime Ministerial candidate in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections but made it clear that it was a decision that the party had to take and not him.
 
"I am absolutely ready to do that," he said in response to a question after addressing students of the University of California, Berkeley in the United States on "Reflections: India at 70".
 
This was the first time that Mr. Gandhi, who is widely tipped to succeed his mother Sonia Gandhi as the Congress President, has publicly affirmed his readiness to be his party's nominee for the top post.
 
"We have an organisational election process that decides that. And that process is currently ongoing. So we have an internal system where we elect certain delegates who make that decision. So for me to say that that decision is mine that wouldn't be very fair. That's a decision that the Congress Party has to make and that's a process that's currently going on right now," he said.
 
Both during his address and the  question-answer session that followed, Mr. Gandhi hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government for its policies and decisions, including on issues such as Jammu and Kashmir, demonetisation, jobs for the youth and uplift of the poorer and vulnerable sections.
 
He was asked about "dynasty politics" in the Congress and he pointed that it was a problem with all political parties and that it was "most of the country runs like". He cited the examples of the Samajwadi Party and former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, DMK leader M K Stalin, industrialists such as Mukesh Ambani and his children and Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan to make his point.
 
On the Kashmir issue, he alleged that the Modi government had, by forging an alliance with the People's Democratic Party (PDP) of Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, opened up the space for the return of terrorism to the state.
 
Mr. Gandhi said that, in 2004, when the Congress-led UPA government began its first term, terrorism was rampant in Jammu and Kashmir but by 2013 it had been controlled.
 
"When we finished by 2013, we basically broke the back of terror. I hugged (then) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and told him it was one of his biggest achievements," he said.
 
“For nine years I worked behind the scenes with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and others on Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
 
He said the PDP was the instrument that brought Kashmiri youngsters into the political process. "The day Mr. Modi made an alliance between the BJP and the PDP, he destroyed the PDP as an instrument that could bring youngsters into the political system," he said.
 
"Today, in Jammu and Kashmir, the space has been opened for not only Pakistan but other players in the region and it is going to impose a massive strategic cost on India," he said.
 
"What amazed me was that nine years of work was destroyed in 30 days. It blew my mind. I was so sad," he said.
 
Among other issues, Mr. Gandhi spoke about how he was trying to ensure the older and younger leaders in the Congress worked together.
 
He also said that the Congress' policies and programmes were evolved through a bottom-up approach and not through a top-down vision. He said many of the UPA government's successful programmes, including the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, had evolved in this manner.
 
He said the party was not really bothered about being leftist or rightist in its approach but was only interested in doing what was right for the people and the country.
 
Mr. Gandhi said this approach had helped the country achieve its highest economic growth rate during the UPA's ten years in office. He said NREGA had transformed rural India and the Right to Information had proved to be an extremely powerful programme.
 
Asked about his image of being a "reluctant politician" and somebody who was not easily accessible, he said there was a "BJP machine", "about 1000 guys sitting on computers", who spread such reports about him every day.
 
"They basically tell you about me. They tell you that I am reluctant. They tell you that I am stupid. They tell you all these things. You have seen me now. You guys gotta make up your mind. You have to figure that out," he said.
 
"The operation is basically run by the gentleman who is running our country," he added.
 
 
BJP machine of 1000 people spreading stories about me: Rahul Gandhi
Asked how he planned to counter such perceptions, he said he planned to have more such conversations so that the people got a sense of what he was like. "That is the best way," he felt.
 
To a question about administrative reforms, Mr. Gandhi said even more important was political reform, and something that he determined to push ahead with if his party is voted to power.
 
He said one of the main problems in the country was that members of Parliament and the State Legislatures were not empowered enough to carry out their basic function -- lawmaking. He said they ended up worrying about issues like roads and such facilities in their constituencies when they should be actually focused on making laws. This function was now being performed by a small group of Ministers and people around them, he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi acknowledged that Mr. Modi was a very good communicator, "probably much better than me" and that he liked the concept of Make in India and Swachh Bharat. But he felt small and medium businesses needed to be given more space so that they can grow into global companies.
 
He also felt Mr. Modi does not converse with the people he works with, even members of Parliament from his own party or the Opposition.
 
He also listed the failures of the government on the foreign policy front, especially in the neighbourhood and in ties with countries such as Russia and Iran.
 
"Whereas, I completely agree with their positioning as far as the US is concerned. I think they are making India vulnerable because if you look at Nepal, the Chinese are in there..Burma, the Chinese are there..Sri Lanka, the Chinese are there and in Maldives too.
 
"In a lot of these places, these are tactical mistakes. Nepal was a tactical mistake.you know the blockade..you basically lost Nepal because you made a tactical mistake," he said.
 
"My agreement in the basic direction..I agree..friendship with US, close bond with US, but don't isolate India because it is dangerous," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi recalled that his great-grandfather, India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, had addressed the university way back in 1949.
 
He began by speaking about the successes of India over the past 70 years, as a democracy and in the area of economic development.
 
He said India's achievements had been significant -- increasing literacy, expanding healthcare and raising life expectancy, all within a generation. 
 
"Achieving self-sufficiency in food grains, averting famine, pushing huge advantage in science and technology, even being a front-runner in the field of computer technology," he said.
 
Mr. Gandhi said India had lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty over the decdes.
 
"For the first time in our history, India, if it is steered correctly and faithfully, has the opportunity to wipe out poverty. If India is able to lift another 350 million people out of poverty by 2030, it would be an achievement of which the human race can be proud of. Doing this would require us to grow by more than over 8 percent over the next 13 years. India has done it before and can do it again. But it is imperative that India sustain a high growth rate for an uninterrupted period of 10-15 years in order to do so," he said.
 
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He said the central challenge for India was jobs. "Roughly 12 million young people, 12 million, enter the Indian job market every year. Nearly 90% of them have a high school education or less. India is a democratic country and unlike China, it has to create jobs in a democratic environment. India does not have and nor does it want China's coercive instruments.  We cannot follow their model of massive factories controlled by fear. Jobs in India are going to come instead from small and medium-scale industries. India needs to turn a colossal number of small and medium businesses into international companies. Currently, all the attention in India is paid to the top 100 companies. Everything is geared towards them. Banking systems are monopolised by them, the doors of government are always open to them and laws are shaped by them . Meanwhile, entrepreneurs running small and medium businesses struggle to get bank loans. They have no protection and no support. Yet, these small and medium businesses are the bedrock of India and the world's innovation. Big businesses can easily manage the unpredictability of India. They are protected by their deep, deep pockets and connections. But the real innovative strength of India lies with the millions of small firms and young entrepreneurs that run them. And they are relying on us to build the financial, communication and political infrastructure that would allow them to turn their skills into global businesses," he said.
 
"India has triggered a massive process of human transformation. The nature of India's transformation has now reached a stage where it's moment is so powerful that our failure is no longer an option. Our success impacts the world, but should our country fail, it will shake the entire world. What India is trying to do is to connect 1.3 billion people into the global economy with minimum disruption possible in a peaceful and compassionate way. But don't be confused. If this process breaks down, the potential for violence is massive.
 
"I have given you the positives. But before I end I need to tell you what can go dangerously wrong. Our strength so far has been that we have done all this peacefully. What can destroy our momentum is the opposite energy:  hatred, anger and violence and the politics of polarization which has raised its ugly head in India today. Violence and hatred distract people from the task at hand. Liberal journalists being shot, people being lynched because they are Dalits, Muslims killed on suspicion of eating beef -  this is new in India and damages India very badly. The politics of hate divides and polarizes India, making millions of people feel that they have no future in their own country. In today's connected world, this is extremely dangerous. It isolates people and makes them vulnerable to radical ideas.
 
"Finally, listening to India is very important. She will give you all the answers that you seek. India's institutions have over 70 years built a profound understanding of our country. We have experts in every single field. Ignoring India's tremendous institutional knowledge and taking ad hoc decisions is reckless and dangerous. Decisions like demonetization, which removed 86% of cash from circulation overnight and was carried out unilaterally without asking the Chief Economic Advisor, the Cabinet or even Parliament, imposes a devastating cost in India. Currently we are not producing enough jobs. 30,000 new youngsters are joining the job market every single day and yet the government is only creating 500 jobs a day. And this doesn't include the massive pool of already unemployed youngsters. 
 
"The decline in economic growth today is worrying and its leading to an upsurge of anger in the country. The government's economic policies, demonetization and hastily-applied GST have caused tremendous damage. Millions of small businesses were simply wiped out as a result of demonetization. Farmers and manual labourers who use cash were hit extremely hard. Agriculture is in deep distress and farmer suicides have sky rocketed across the country. 
 
"Demonetization, a completely self-inflicted wound, caused approximately 2% loss in India's GDP. India cannot afford to grow and create jobs at the current rate. If we continue at the current rate, if India cannot give the millions of people entering the job market employment, anger will increase and it has the potential to derail what is being built so far. That will be catastrophic for India and the world beyond it," he added.
 
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Abducted Kerala priest Tom Uzhunnalil rescued from Yemen

Father Tom Uzhunnalil on his arrival in Muscat, Oman on September 12, 2017
Father Tom Uzhunnalil on his arrival in Muscat, Oman on September 12, 2017
A priest from Kerala, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Yemen in March 2016, has been rescued and the Government of Oman, in coordination with Yemeni groups, evacuated him to Muscat today, reports reaching here said.
 
The reports said the Government of Oman had played a role in securing the release of the priest.
 
"I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued," Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Sources close to the priest said that he would fly from Muscat to Kerala later in the day today.
 
Omani media reports said Fr. Uzhunnalil expressed his appreciation to Sultan Qaboos of Oman. He also thanked all his friends and relatives who prayed for his release.
 
In Abu Dhabi, UAE, Bishop Paul Hinder of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, confirmed that Fr. Uzhunnalil had been released today. "He is now in safe hands," a press release said.
 
Fr Uzhunnalil was abducted by terrorists who had attacked an old-age home run by the Missionaries of Charity, founded by the late Mother Teresa, in Aden in South Yemen.
 
Since then, the Government of India and the Vatican had been making efforts to secure his release.
 
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the news about the release of Fr. Uzhunnalil was heartening.
 
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India -Russia Business dialogue at Eastern Economic Forum “a promising beginning”, says Swaraj

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Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has described the first ever India-Russia Business Dialogue at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, as “the start of a new and promising beginning in expanding India’s economic ties with the Russian Far East.”
 
Addressing the meeting yesterday, the Minister said with the Russian Far East being one of the richest regions in the world and India among the fastest growing large economies of the world, there is a lot that could be done together.
 
“When other markets are closing we need to find new ones and create virtuous cycles of investment. Investment is in the ultimate analysis an act of faith,” she added.
 
"Politically, India has the best of relations with Russia. We have been partners for seven decades, and our friendship has expanded to almost all sectors of human activity," Ms. Swaraj said.
 
“India is not new to the Russian Far East. In 2001, during the tenure of the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ONGC took the bold decision to invest in the Sakhalin oilfield, not far from here. Till today, this is one of the most successful multi-billion dollar investments by India overseas,” she said.
 
Again, in the Sakha Republic, India is the dominant partner, responsible for the purchase of raw diamonds worth several billion dollars.
 
Today, the Russian Far East authorities are actively inviting Indian investments into their region. The areas identified as priority sectors such as machine industry, oil and gas, fisheries, agriculture, metals and mining, diamonds, timber, transport and logistics and tourism are all of interest to India, she pointed out.
 
The Ministry of Far East Development has taken several initiatives such as liberalization of the visa regime, the establishment of Special Economic Zones and land allocations.
 
“Last year, we made very significant investments in each other’s countries. India invested 5.5 billion US dollars in the oil sector in Russia. The largest Russian investment in India of 12.9 billion US dollars, which is also India’s largest FDI, was concluded last month in the oil sector between Rosneft and Essar,” the Minister said.
 
She listed five objectives to be achieved through the Dialogue. The first is to bridge the knowledge gap between the business communities. “We need to create a network of partnerships and better understand the laws and regulations in each other’s countries.”
 
The second point is to identify areas of common interest and potential, keeping in mind mutual strengths and complementarities. The third is to identify the actions the two governments should take to further facilitate investments and trade. “We are already working on initiatives such as the Green Corridor, the International North-South Transport Corridor and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement. The Russian government has eased visa policies for Indians in the Far East. We would welcome specific recommendations from the business communities. For example, connectivity is a challenge that needs to be addressed,” she said.
 
“Fourth, we should create success stories. An Indian company, KGK Diamonds, is setting up a processing facility in Vladivostok. Other projects are under discussion. I am confident that the Russian Government will assist Indian investors in the region,” the Minister said.
 
“Fifth, we should encourage more interactions between our regions. I would like to reiterate our invitation to regions and businesspersons of the Far East to visit India. The Russian Far East Investment and Export Agency has been in touch with Invest India.
 
“Greater trade, commerce, and investment with the Far East will help us in achieving the target of 30 billion US dollars that we have set for our bilateral trade by the year 2025,” she added.
 
“Sitting as we are at the beautiful campus of the Far East Federal University, I am happy to announce that India will provide an annual grant of 10,000 US dollars to fund the study of Indology at the Centre for Regional and International Studies in this University,” Ms Swaraj said.
 
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“This will contribute to building greater awareness about India and more exchanges. I also call upon the business community to also contribute to this endeavour. I am also happy to announce that our Consulate will also shift into a new building for which the necessary processing is being done on the Russian side,” she added.
 
Describing India as one of the most dynamic economies of the world that is firmly embarked on a strong growth trajectory, she said ambitious policy measures such as the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax have made doing business in India easier.
 
“Under our flagship programmes of Make in India and Start-up India, we have made concerted efforts to attract technology, investments and best practices from across the world. Our programmes directed at the social sector such as those for skilling our youth and providing housing for all and massive infrastructure programmes in roads, ports, metros, railways, energy, food processing, education, innovation are opening up unparalleled opportunities and creating the impulse for rapid growth. There has been no better time to engage with India,” she added.
 
Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka, Moscow City Government Minister Sergei Cheryomin,  Indian Ambassador Pankaj Saran and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) President Pankaj Patel were present at the function along with business leaders from India and Russia.
 
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PM's gift to Myanmar State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today presented Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi a special reproduction of the original research proposal that she had submitted for a fellowship at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study at Shimla in May 1986.
 
The research proposal was titled "The Growth and Development of Burmese and Indian Intellectual Traditions Under Colonialism: A Comparative Study."
 
In the proposal she had stated, “Burmese literature under the influence of western colonial rule developed two main characteristics: first, a simplified, modern written idiom and second, literary movements strongly allied to social and political aspirations.  The proposed study would concentrate on the second aspect and draw comparisons with the Indian situation.
 
“The early Burmese nationalist movements were closely linked to those of  India with which Burma shared a common colonial government until 1937 and during the 1920s, such political concepts as Swaraj, Swadeshi and Satyagraha captured the interest of many Burmese leaders,” she added.
 
“However, as the thirties progressed, popular nationalist movements in Burma began to acquire a character increasingly distinct from those of India.
 
"This divergence was in part the result of the fact that the Burmese did not wholly understand nor accept the philosophy behind Indian political strategy due to the differences in the intellectual traditions of the two countries,” she said.
 
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India, Japan agree to strengthen defence, security cooperation

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Defence Minister Arun Jaitley  and his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera held the annual Defence Ministerial Meeting between the two countries here yesterday and agreed on ways of strengthening defence and security  cooperation under the framework of the Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership here yesterday.
 
A joint press statement issued by the two countries said the two Ministers expressed satisfaction at the continued deepening and diversification of bilateral defence cooperation since the signing of the bilateral Memorandum on Defence Co-operation and Exchanges in September 2014 and the two Defence Framework agreements signed in December 2015.
 
The Ministers exchanged views on the current security situation in the Indo-Pacific region, it said.
 
"They condemned in the strongest terms North Korea’s nuclear test of 03 September 2017, which  is in violation of its international obligations and commitments, including under relevant UNSC resolutions and called upon DPRK to cease such action which adversely impacts peace and stability of the region and beyond," it said.
 
The Ministers noted that regular interactions at all levels, in particular the establishment of Staff Talks at the level of the three Services, have enhanced mutual understanding, it said.
 
The Ministers underlined their intention to explore opportunities for enhancing exchanges and decided to promote cooperation in various areas, the statement said.
 
According to it, the Japanese Defence Minister will visit India in 2018 for the Annual Defence Ministerial Meeting as part of the institutionalised dialogue and visits.
 
The Ministers welcomed the visit by the Chief of Naval Staff, Indian Navy to Japan in 2016 and the visit by the Chief of the Staff, Air Self Defence Force and Chief of Staff, Ground Self-Defence Force to India in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and both sides agreed to organise the first visit of Japanese Chief of Staff, Joint Staff Japan Self Defence Forces to India in the first half of 2018.
 
The 6th Defence Vice Minister/ Secretary level Defence Policy Dialogue and the 5th Vice Minister / Secretary level “2 +2” dialogue will be held in India in 2018.
 
On exchanges between the Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) and the Indian Army, the Ministers welcomed the progress in the Army to Army Staff talks in November 2016 and agreed to develop active exchanges in the fields of PKO, Counter-Terrorism and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), as key areas of common interest for the two countries.
 
The statement said JGSDF would invite Indian Armed Forces personnel to participate in the humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) exercise conducted by JGSDF as observers.
 
In the context of enhanced co-operation between the two ground forces the Ministers decided to explore a joint field exercise in the field of counter-terrorism between the Indian Army and the JGSDF in 2018.
 
On exchanges between Japan Maritime Self Defence Force (JMSDF) and the Indian Navy, the Ministers expressed satisfaction at the success of Japan-India-US Trilateral Maritime Exercise Malabar 2017 in July 2017 and confirmed their intention to further deepen and advance the objectives of this exercise. 
 
Mr. Onodera expressed his intention to have state-of-the-art Japanese assets including P-1 to participate in the Malabar 2018. Mr. Jaitley welcomed this proposal.
 
The Ministers noted the importance of bilateral training interactions between Indian Navy and JMSDF. The two sides will consider inclusion of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) training to expand cooperation. In addition, the Ministers agreed to pursue exchanges and training by ASW aviation units such as P-3C. The Japanese side proposed to invite Indian Navy personnel to mine-countermeasures training held by JMSDF.
 
On exchanges between Japan Air Self Defence Force (JASDF) and Indian Air Force (IAF), the Ministers welcomed the participation of Vice Chief of Staff, JASDF in “Aero India-2017” in February 2017. They also welcomed the visit of IAF helicopter crews to JASDF’s Air Rescue Squadron in Hyakuri, expanding bilateral air-to-air exchanges in the domains of aviation safety and air crew exchanges.
 
The Ministers expressed their intention to seek further opportunities to enhance cooperation by enabling visits of their aircraft to each other’s air bases.
 
On Education and Research exchanges, the Ministers appreciated personnel exchanges between the two sides by means of representation at defence educational and research institutions. They expressed satisfaction over successful bilateral exchanges in UN Peace Keeping involving the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping of India and the Japan Peacekeeping Training and Research Centre.
 
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Referring to cooperation in Defence Equipment and Technology, the Ministers endorsed the importance of enhancing interaction between governments and defence industries of the two countries to encourage equipment collaboration including defence and dual-use technologies. 
 
They commended the progress made in discussions to identify specific areas of collaboration in the field of defence equipment and technology cooperation including in the framework of the Joint Working Group on Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation. They noted the effort made by both countries regarding the cooperation on US-2 amphibious aircraft.
 
They welcomed the constructive engagement between Acquisition, Technology and Logistic Agency (ATLA) and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and agreed to commence the technical discussions for research collaboration in the areas of Unmanned Ground Vehicles and Robotics.
 
The Ministers commended the conduct of the first-ever meeting on defence industry cooperation held by ATLA and Department of Defence Production (DDP) in Tokyo, which witnessed significant participation of government entities and companies of both countries. They expressed their expectation that this meeting will lead both countries to future defence equipment and technology cooperation and enhance interaction between governments and industries of both countries. 
 
Mr. Jaitley briefed the Japanese side about recent policy reforms in the defence manufacturing sectors in India which offer opportunities for foreign industries to play an active role, the release added.
 
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Modi visits Ananda Temple at Bagan in Myanmar

 
Modi visits Ananda Temple in Bagan, Myanmar
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today visited the Ananda Temple at Bagan in Myanmar on the second day of his three-day visit to this country.
 
This is a Buddhist temple built in the early 12th century. It is the second largest temple in the entire Bagan region.
 
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has carried out structural conservation and chemical preservation work of this temple. Restoration work is being carried out after the damage sustained during the earthquake last year.
 
The Prime Minister was shown a photo exhibit depicting the ongoing restoration work at the temple. He offered prayers and made a "parikrama" of the temple, during which ASI representatives explained the restoration process.
 
Mr Modi signed the visitors' book at the temple and unveiled a plaque signifying the contribution of India, in the restoration of the Ananda Temple.
 
The ASI has undertaken several major conservation works across various countries of Asia. Besides the Ananda Temple, these include the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Ta Prohm Temple in Cambodia, the Vat Phou Temple in Laos, and the My Son Temple in Vietnam.
 
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Modi reaches Myanmar from China on second leg of two-nation tour

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed by Myanmar President U. Htin Kyaw, at a ceremonial reception, in Nay Pyi Taw, on September 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being welcomed by Myanmar President U. Htin Kyaw, at a ceremonial reception, in Nay Pyi Taw, on September 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here today on the second leg of a five-day visit that had earlier taken him to Xiamen in China, where he had attended the 9th BRICS Summit.
 
Mr. Modi was greeted by senior Myanmarese and Indian officials on his arrival at the Nay Pyi Taw International Airport.
 
Later, he was welcomed by Myanmar President Htin Kyaw at a ceremonial reception here. He also inspected a guard of honour at the reception. Mr. Modi later met Mr. Htin Kyaw, who hosted an official banquet for him.
 
Mr. Modi had earlier visited Myanmar in November 2014 for the ASEAN India Summit, but this is his first bilateral visit to this country.
 
During the visit, he will hold discussions with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on matters of mutual interest here tomorrow, followed by the signing and exchange of agreements and a joint media interaction.
 
Apart from his engagements in this capital city, he will visit Yangon and Bagan.
 
"We have had some outstanding interaction with the Government of Myanmar since the new government came into office in April last year. The President Htin Kyaw had visited India in August 2016 on a state visit. State Councilor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had visited in October last year. These are all incoming visit and we welcome them greatly," Ms. Sripriya Ranganathan, Joint Secretary, Bangladesh & Myanmar in the MEA, had told journalists here last week, ahead of Mr. Modi's visit.
 
"We have also had number of occasions for interaction between the Prime Minister, the External Affairs Minister and the Myanmar leadership on the margins of various other multilateral meetings to which both have been present," she said.
 
"We regard this visit as an important visit but one in the series of an ongoing interaction which we hope will continue in the future," she said.
 
 The Prime Minister will then proceed to Bagan, a heritage city where India is involved in some development cooperation projects. He will see the work being carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India on the Aananda Temple.
 
He will then travel to Yangon where he will visit the Shwedagon Pagoda and  pay tribute to General Aung San at the Martyr’s Mausoleum. He will also visit a very famous Hindu temple and pay tribute to the shrine of Bahadur Shah Zafar. After that, he will fly back to Delhi in the afternoon of September 7.
 
The two sides are expected to sign agreements in areas such as maritime cooperation, health, development cooperation, culture and capacity building.
 
During the visit, the two sides will review the progress on projects agreed upon earlier, including the Kaladan project, the Trilateral Highway and the Myanmar Institute of Information Technology. They will also discuss projects which the new government in Myanmar has on its priority list and in which they would like to partner with India.
 
"We will be guided by the government of Myanmar in terms of the choice of projects. The stated priorities of this government are infrastructure, power and energy and we believe these could be the areas where there is a great deal that Indian agencies can bring to the table. We will also continue our fairly robust training and capacity building program and we believe that in the course of this visit few more strands of this program would emerge," Ms. Ranganathan said.
 
"Myanmar is a neighbor, it is a friendly neighbor, it is a neighbor with which we share 1600km long boundary. We have had traditional ties of kinship which link the people who have been living along this long border. We have four states which actually share the border with Myanmar.
 
"Our bilateral trade is currently in the region of about 2.2 billion USD and there is reasonable balance of trade. We have invested about 750 million USD in Myanmar by the way of both public and private sector investment. Four Indian banks have recently established presence in Myanmar, State Bank of India, United Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and Exim Bank and we believe through the good offices of these banks also the kind of trade and commercial relations will really receive a boost," she said.
 
"Our overall development cooperation program with Myanmar is actually quite sizeable. We have commitment of 1.75 billion USD of which the bulk of it is by way of grants and aid. We also find that Myanmar is very very important partner for us in both our Act East policy and Neighborhood First policy. 
 
"ASEAN being area of focus India’s cooperation agenda, we find that Myanmar is a very natural partner. It is our gateway to the ASEAN and we treat it as such. We are also working very closely with Myanmar within the framework of BIMSTEC to which we are attaching a great deal of importance. Our joint focus is on enhancing connectivity, trade, energy and people to contacts. So on the whole we see this as being very very important visit and one  which will provide yet another opportunity for the Indian and Myanmar leadership to build on the rapport that they have already developed and take the relationship forward," Ms. Ranganathan added.
 
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"I am looking forward to meeting President U Htin Kyaw as also Her Excellency Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of President's Office. I have had the opportunity for discussions with both dignitaries during their visits to India in 2016," Mr. Modi had said on Twitter ahead of his departure from Delhi.
 
"During the visit, we will review developments in our bilateral relations, especially the extensive programme of development cooperation and socio-economic assistance that India is undertaking in Myanmar, and explore new areas in which we can work together.
 
"We will also look at strengthening our existing cooperation on security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, skill development, infrastructure and energy, and culture," he had said.
 
"I also look forward to paying a visit to the famed heritage city of Bagan, where the Archaeological Survey of India has done stellar work on renovating the Ananda Temple, and where it will be undertaking further restoration work on a number of pagodas and murals that were damaged in last year's earthquake.
 
"I will end my visit in Yangon, where I look forward to visiting various historical spots that symbolise the shared heritage of India and Myanmar.
 
"I am also keen to meet and interact with the Indian-origin community of Myanmar, whose history goes back more than a century," he added.
 
"I am confident that the visit will open a bright new chapter in India-Myanmar relations and will help in charting a roadmap for closer cooperation between our Governments, our business communities and at the people to people level," he added.
 
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Implement 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Modi tells BRICS countries

 
Modi addresses Dialogue of Emerging Markets and Developed Countries
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called upon the BRICS countries to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and build broader partnerships.
 
In his intervention at the BRICS Emerging Markets and Developing Countries Dialogue, Mr. Modi said two years since the adoption of UN’s 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the imperative of collaborative action to achieve the goals is even stronger.
 
He said that, in July, India completed its first voluntary national review of SDGs. “The bedrock of our development agenda lies in the notion of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas', that is ‘Collective Effort, Inclusive Growth’.
 
“We have mapped each of the SDGs to our own development programmes and schemes, both at the federal and state level. Our Parliament too has taken the initiative to organize Parliamentary debates on SDGs,” Mr Modi said.
“Our programmes are geared to accomplish these priority goals in a time-bound manner. To cite just one example, our three-pronged approach of providing a bank account to the unbanked, providing a biometric identity to all, and using innovative mobile governance solutions, has enabled Direct Benefit Transfers to almost 360 million people for the first time,” he added.
 
“We would like to see such domestic efforts buttressed by strong international partnerships. And, for this, we stand ready to do our part,” the Prime Minister pointed out.
 
“India has a long tradition of partnerships with fellow developing countries while pursuing our own aspirations for growth. At every step, we have shared our experience and resources across a range of sectors: from strengthening democratic institutions to deploying high-tech solutions for the public good,” he added.
 
“Earlier this year, we launched the South Asia Satellite to benefit willing regional partners in meeting their developmental goals in education, healthcare, communication, and disaster management.
  
“For over half a century, India’s flagship initiative – Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, ITEC - has offered training and skill development to 161 partner countries from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Caribbean and Pacific Island states.
 
“From Africa alone, over the last decade, over 25,000 students have trained in India on ITEC scholarships. At the Third India-Africa Forum Summit in 2015, with the participation of all 54 African countries, we decided to double the number of ITEC scholarships to 50,000 over a period of only 5 years,” Mr Modi said.
 
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"The 'Solar Mamas' of Africa, trained in India, are lighting up thousands of homes across the African continent. Our growing engagement with Africa has led to the African Development Bank holding its Annual Meeting outside Africa for the first time, in India earlier this year.
 
“Our development partnerships projects are providing water, electricity, roads, healthcare, telemedicine, and basic infrastructure to people in dozens of countries across the world.
 
“And, in all of this, our 'no strings attached' model of cooperation is driven purely by the requirements and priorities of our partner countries,” he added.
 
At the outset, Mr Modi thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping for hosting the dialogue. He also noted that the countries present at the meeting together represent almost half of the humanity. "Whatever we do, will impact the world substantially," he said.
 
He urged BRICS, the five member group comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, to adopt a proactive approach, policies, and action, on ten Noble Commitments:
 
The first commitment is in creating a safer world by organized and coordinated action on at least three issues-- Counter Terrorism, Cyber Security and Disaster Management
 
The second is in creating a greener world by taking concerted action on countering climate change, through initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance.
 
The third commitment is towards creating an enabled world by sharing and deploying suitable technologies to enhance efficiency, economy and effectiveness.
  
The fourth is creating an inclusive world by economic mainstreaming of the people by including them in the banking and financial system.
 
The fifth is in creating a digital world by bridging the digital divide within and outside the economies.
 
The sixth is in creating a skilled world by giving future-ready skills to millions of the youth.
 
The seventh is in creating a healthier world by cooperating in research and development to eradicate diseases and enabling affordable healthcare for all.
 
The eighth is in creating an equitable world by providing equality of opportunity to all, particularly through gender equality.
 
The ninth is in creating a connected world by enabling a free flow of goods, persons and services and the tenth in creating a harmonious world by promoting ideologies, practices, and heritage that are centred on peaceful coexistence and living in harmony with nature.
 
“Through these agenda points and action on them, we will be contributing directly to the welfare of the Global Community in addition to the welfare of our own people. And in this, India stands ready as a willing and committed partner to enhance cooperation and support each other’s national efforts. I look forward to our progress together on this path.
 
“I commend President Xi for ably steering the BRICS Chairmanship for the year 2017, and for his warm welcome and hospitality in this beautiful city of Xiamen. I also welcome President Zuma and commit India’s full support for Johannesburg Summit next year,” he added.
 
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Modi: BRICS must work for stability, sustainable development, prosperity in next decade


 
Modi addresses plenary session of BRICS Summit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that, while BRICS had acquired credibility, wielded influence and spurred growth in the last decade, its leadership would be crucial in driving transformation towards stability, sustainable development and prosperity in the next decade.
 
"If we as BRICS can set the agenda in these areas, the world will call this its Golden Decade," he said in his intervention at the plenary session of the 9th BRICS Summit at Xiamen in China.
 
Apart from Mr. Modi, the summit was attended by Presidents Xi Jinping of China, the host, Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Michel Temer of Brazil and Vladimir Putin of Russia.
 
This year's summit was on the theme "BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”. 
 
Mr. Modi said that, after more than a decade of existence, BRICS had developed a robust framework for cooperation.
 
"We contribute stability and growth in a world drifting towards uncertainty. While trade and economy have been the foundation of our cooperation, our endeavours today touch diverse areas of technology, tradition, culture, agriculture, environment, energy, sports, and ICT. The New Development Bank has started disbursing loans in pursuit of its mandate to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development in BRICS countries. At the same time, our Central Banks have taken steps to make the Contingent Reserve Arrangement fully operational. These are milestones of progress we can build upon," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, looking ahead, it was important that their people remained at the centre of their journey.
 
"I am happy to note that China has taken forward the people-to-people thrust of our exchanges from last year. Such inter-mingling will consolidate our links and deepen our understanding," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said India's own "far-reaching journey of transformation" gave pride of place to its people. He said his government was in mission-mode to eradicate poverty; to ensure health, sanitation, skills, food security, gender equality, energy, education and innovation. 
 
He said national programmes of Clean Ganga, Renewable Energy, Digital India, Smart Cities, Housing for All and Skill India were laying the basis for clean, green and inclusive development. They are also tapping the creative energy of the country's 800 million youth. "Our women’s empowerment programmes are productivity multipliers that mainstream women in nation building. We have also stepped up the fight against black money and corruption," he said.
 
"Moving forward, using the springboard of our national experiences, BRICS countries can deepen partnership for win-win results. Some thoughts come to mind for upgrading mutual cooperation. First, last year we discussed pooling our efforts to create a BRICS rating agency. An Expert Group has since been studying the viability of such an agency. I would urge that the roadmap for its creation should be finalized at the earliest.
 
"Second, our Central Banks must further strengthen their capabilities and promote co-operation between the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and the IMF. Third, affordable, reliable, and sustainable access to energy is crucial for the development of our nations. Climate resilient development calls upon us to utilise all available resource streams. Renewable energy is particularly important on multiple counts. Recognizing this, India, together with France, launched a major international initiative - the International Solar Alliance (ISA) - in November 2015. It will bring together a coalition of 121 countries for mutual gains through enhanced solar energy utilisation. BRICS countries can work closely with ISA to strengthen the solar energy agenda. Our five countries have complementary skills and strengths to promote use of renewable and solar energy. The NDB can also establish an effective link with ISA to support such cooperation. We would wish to see more clean energy funding, particularly in solar energy, from the NDB.
 
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"Fourth, we are nations with large youth populations. We need to mainstream our youth in our joint initiatives as far as possible. Scaled up cooperation in skill development and exchange of best practices will be a valuable instrument. Fifth, at the Goa Summit last year we had exchanged thoughts on smart-cities, urbanization, and disaster-management in the context of cooperation between our cities. We need to further accelerate this track. 
 
"Sixth, Technology and innovation are the foundations of the next generation of global growth and transformation. India has also found that technology and digital resources are powerful tools in fighting poverty and corruption. A strong BRICS partnership on innovation and digital economy can help spur growth, promote transparency and support the Sustainable Development Goals," he said, suggesting that they consider a collaborative pilot project under the BRICS framework, including private entrepreneurship.
 
He also said India would be happy to work towards more focused capacity building engagement between BRICS and African countries in areas of skills, health, infrastructure, manufacturing and connectivity.
 
Later, speaking at the Dialogue with BRICS Businss Council, Mr. Modi said its work played a vital role in giving practical shape to the vision of BRICS partnership.
 
"The partnerships you have forged and the networks you have created are energizing the economic growth stories in each BRICS country. At this meeting last year in Goa, there was a suggestion on closer cooperation between the NDB and BRICS Business Council. I am happy to note that you are entering into an MOU with the NDB," he said.
 
Mr. Modi told the  council that India was changing fast into one of the most open economies in the world today.
 
"Foreign Direct Investment inflows are at an all-time high, rising by 40 per cent. India has moved up in the World Bank Index of Ease of Doing Business. Similarly, we have moved up 32 spots in last two years in the Global Competitiveness Index. The Goods and Services Tax that was introduced in July is India’s biggest economic reform measure ever. In one stroke, a unified market of 1.3 billion people has been created. Programmes like Digital India, Start Up India and Make in India are changing the economic landscape of the country. They are assisting India turn into a knowledge based, skill supported and technology driven society," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said he was happy to note that the BRICS Business Council also had matching priorities of trade and investment facilitation, promoting skills development, infrastructure development, SME Development, e-commerce and digital economy.
 
"Many productive recommendations have come out of your deliberations. Your work towards establishment of a BRICS Rating Agency, energy cooperation, green finance, and digital economy is particularly noteworthy. Let me conclude by saying that as Governments, we will offer full support to your endeavours. And we also count on the BRICS Business Council to take us closer to our common objective of improving business and investment cooperation," he added.
 
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BRICS voices concern about violence by terror groups such as LeT, JeM

Leaders of the five BRICS nations Monday expressed concern about the security situation in the region and violence caused byterror groups, including the Pakistan-based LeT and JeM, and asserted that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the BRICS Family Photograph with other Leaders, at the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on September 4, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the BRICS Family Photograph with other Leaders, at the 9th BRICS Summit, in Xiamen, China on September 4, 2017.
Leaders of the five BRICS nations today expressed concern about the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/Daish, Al-Qaida and its affiliates, including the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaishe-e-Mohammed (JeM), and asserted that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable.
 
In the BRICS Leaders Xiamen Declaration issued after their ninth Summit here, the leaders also named such Al-Qaida affiliates as Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Haqqani network, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.
 
The summit was attended by President Michel Temer of Brazil, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, President Xi Jinping of China, the host, and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.
 
This year's summit was on the theme "BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future”. The Xiamen Declaration was adopted by consensus.
 
"We deplore all terrorist attacks worldwide, including attacks in BRICS countries, and condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism. We reaffirm that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable," the declaration said.
 
"Recalling the primary leading role and responsibility of states in preventing and countering terrorism, we stress the necessity to develop international cooperation, in accordance with the principles of international law, including that of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs," it said.
 
The leaders reaffirmed their solidarity and resolve in the fight against terrorism, said they valued the 2nd BRICS Counter-Terrorism Working Group Meeting held in Beijing on 18 May 2017, and agreed to strengthen their cooperation.
 
They called upon all nations to adopt a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, which should include countering radicalization, recruitment, movement of terrorists including Foreign Terrorist Fighters, blocking sources of financing terrorism including, for instance, through organized crime by means of money-laundering, supply of weapons, drug trafficking and other criminal activities, dismantling terrorist bases, and countering misuse of the Internet including social media by terrorist entities through misuse of the latest Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). 
 
"We are committed to prevent and counter the growing spread of terrorist narratives, and to tackle all sources, techniques and channels of terrorist financing. We call for swift and effective implementation of relevant UNSC Resolutions and the FATF International Standards worldwide. We seek to intensify our cooperation in FATF and FATF-style regional bodies (FSRBs). We recall the responsibility of all States to prevent financing of terrorist networks and terrorist actions from their territories," the declaration said.
 
"We call upon the international community to establish a genuinely broad international counter-terrorism coalition and support the UN’s central coordinating role in this regard. We stress that the fight against terrorism must be conducted in accordance with international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, international refugee and humanitarian law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. We reaffirm our commitment on increasing the effectiveness of the UN counter-terrorism framework, including in the areas of cooperation and coordination among the relevant UN entities, designation of terrorists and terrorist groups and technical assistance to Members States. We call for expeditious finalization and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) by the United Nations General Assembly," it said.
 
The leaders also strongly condemned terrorist attacks in Afghanistan resulting in the death of innocent Afghan nationals. "There is a need for immediate cessation of violence. We reaffirm our support to the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve 'Afghan-led and Afghan-owned' peace and national reconciliation, to the ongoing international efforts, including the Moscow Format of consultations on Afghanistan and 'Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process', as well as multimodal connectivity projects to promote peace and stability, to the fight against terrorism and drug-threat, and to the national reconstruction efforts by Afghanistan. We support the efforts of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in fighting terrorist organizations," they said.
 
The declaration said that the five countries had come together 10 years ago on the basis of their desire for peace, security, development and cooperation.
 
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"BRICS countries have since traversed a remarkable journey together on their respective development paths tailored to their national circumstances, devoted to growing their economies and improving people’s livelihoods. Our committed and concerted efforts have generated a momentum of all-dimensional and multi-layered cooperation fostered by the previous Leaders’ Summits. Upholding development and multilateralism, we are working together for a more just, equitable, fair, democratic and representative international political and economic order," it said.
 
The group said it drew satisfaction from the many fruitful results of their cooperation, including the establishment of the New Development Bank (NDB) and the  Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA), formulation of the Strategy for BRICS Economic Partnership, stronger political and security cooperation and deeper traditional ties of friendship among their peoples.
 
"Believing in the broad development prospects of our countries and the vast potential of our cooperation, we have full confidence in the future of BRICS. We commit to further strengthen our cooperation," it said.
 
The five countries said they would energize their practical cooperation to boost their development.
 
"We shall also strive towards broad partnerships with EMDCs, and in this context, we will pursue equal-footed and flexible practices and initiatives for dialogue and cooperation with non-BRICS countries, including through BRICS Plus cooperation," it said.
 
They also affirmed their commitment to fully implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 
 
The declaration also talked about  cooperation in the areas of energy, climate change, agriculture, space and disaster management, 
 
The five countries reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen cooperation with Africa and help the continent address illegal wildlife trade, promote employment, food security, infrastructure development and industrialization including through connectivity and developmental initiatives and projects. 
 
They also agreed to support the efforts to enhance BRICS anti-corruption cooperation.
 
They agreed to further strengthen exchanges and cooperation in ensuring full employment, promoting decent work, advancing poverty alleviation and reduction through skills development and achieving universal and sustainable social security systems.
 
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"We recall that development and security are closely interlinked, mutually reinforcing and key to attaining sustainable peace. We reiterate our view that the establishment of sustainable peace requires a comprehensive, concerted and determined approach, based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equity and cooperation, that addresses the causes of conflicts, including their political, economic and social dimensions. We condemn unilateral military interventions, economic sanctions and arbitrary use of unilateral coercive measures in violation of international law and universally recognized norms of international relations. We emphasize that no country should enhance its security at the expense of the security of others," the declaration said.
 
The five countries reaffirmed the need for a comprehensive reform of the UN,  including its Security Council, to make it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges. 
 
"China and Russia reiterate the importance they attach to the status and role of Brazil, India and South Africa in international affairs and support their aspiration to play a greater role in the UN," it said.
 
The declaration also referred to the crisis in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation in Iraq and the diplmatic crisis in the Gulf.
 
The five countries strongly deplored the nuclear test conducted by North Korea and expressed deep concern over the ongoing tension and prolonged nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and emphasize that it should only be settled through peaceful means and direct dialogue of all the parties concerned.
 
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Modi reaches Xiamen in China for 9th BRICS Summit

 
Modi arrives in Xiamen for 9th BRICS Summit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here late this evening to attend the 9th BRICS Summit that will be held here on September 4-5.
 
Mr. Modi was received on arrival at the Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport by senior Chinese and Indian officials.
 
Later, on his arrival at his hotel, Mr. Modi was greeted by members of the Indian community.
 
"Reached Xiamen for BRICS Summit. Looking forward to the Summit deliberations.  Glad to see the Indian community welcoming so warmly," Mr. Modi said on Twitter after his arrival.
 
The theme of this year's BRICS Summit is "Stronger Partnership for a Better Future". BRICS brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
 
 
"India had the privilege of hosting the previous Summit in Goa in October last year. I look forward to building upon the results and outcomes of the Goa Summit. I also look forward to productive discussions and positive outcomes that will support the agenda of a stronger BRICS partnership under the chairmanship of China," Mr. Modi said on Twitter on Saturday, ahead of the visit.
 
"We will also interact with the BRICS Business Council represented by captains of industry from all five countries.
 
"In addition, I look forward to engaging with leaders of nine other countries, including BRICS partners, in an Emerging Markets and Developing Countries Dialogue, hosted by President Xi Jinping on 5 September.
 
"I will have the opportunity to meet leaders bilaterally on the sidelines of the Summit," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said India attached high importance to the role of BRICS that has begun a second decade of its partnership for progress and peace. BRICS has important contributions to make in addressing global challenges and upholding world peace and security, he said.
 
Mr. Modi will leave in the afternoon of September 5 for the second leg of his tour to Myanmar.
 
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Primary responsibility on littoral states to maintain peace, security in Indian Ocean Region: Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the inaugural session of the Indian Ocean Conference in Colombo on August 31, 2017
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the inaugural session of the Indian Ocean Conference in Colombo on August 31, 2017
India considers it imperative that those who live in the Indian Ocean Region bear the primary responsibility for peace, stability and prosperity in the area, according to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
 
Addressing the 2nd Indian Ocean Conference here yesterday, Ms Swaraj said the Indian Ocean had today become one of the busiest and most critical maritime transportation links in the world.
 
“Almost a hundred thousand ships a year pass through these waters, carrying about half of the world’s container shipments, one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the oil shipments. The fact that three-quarters of this traffic is headed for destinations beyond the region underlines the fact that the Indian Ocean is of vital importance well beyond the shores of the littoral states,” she added.
 
The economies of many of the littoral countries depend heavily on the ports, the shipping, and most importantly, the vast natural resources that enrich these waters with an abundance of marine life, Ms. Swaraj said.
 
“For India, of course, the Indian Ocean is of vital importance - we have an extensive coastline of 7,500 km and several hundred islands between Lakshadweep in the west and the Andaman and Nicobar islands in the east. Our southernmost tip is just 90 nautical miles from Indonesia. Our Exclusive Economic Zone is 2.4 million square kilometres and 90% of our trade by volume and almost all of our oil imports come through the sea,” Ms Swaraj said.
 
“Clearly, it is but natural that India’s role as the key pivot in the Indian Ocean region is a given, not only geographically but by virtue of a shared historical and cultural heritage that binds us all across these waters,” she added.
 
“Our vision for the Indian Ocean Region, therefore, is to preserve its organic unity while advancing cooperation. We will use our capabilities for the collective well being, and the mutual benefit of our maritime neighbours and island states in building their capabilities.
 
“As we envisage the Indian Ocean as an engine for growth and prosperity in our region and beyond, it is of utmost importance that these waters remain safe and secure. We consider it an imperative that those who live in this region bear the primary responsibility for the peace, stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean,” she added.
 
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi introducing the concept of SAGAR – "Security and Growth for All in the Region” in March 2015, she said it has distinct but inter-related elements that underscore India’s engagement in the Indian Ocean.
 
“These are enhancing capacities to safeguard land and maritime territories & interests; deepening economic and security cooperation in the littoral; promoting collective action to deal with natural disasters and maritime threats like piracy, terrorism and emergent non-state actors,” she said.
 
It also involves working towards sustainable regional development through enhanced collaboration and, engaging with countries beyond Indian shores with the aim of building greater trust and promoting respect for maritime rules, norms and peaceful resolution of disputes, she added.
 
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“The principles enshrined in SAGAR provide us with a coherent framework to address some of the challenges relating to economic revival, connectivity, security, culture and identity, and India’s own evolving approach to these issues.
 
“The challenge before us is to ensure intra-ocean trade and investment, and the sustainable harnessing of the wealth of the seas, including food, medicines and clean energy,” Ms Swaraj said.
 
A related aspect is the emergence of the ‘Blue Economy’ as a promising new pillar of prosperity in the region, with immense economic and employment potential.
 
“We are already engaging our neighbours in Blue Economy initiatives, particularly in the areas of marine biotechnology, exploration and sustainable exploitation of ocean mineral resources, sustainable fishing practices, and harnessing of ocean energy,” the Minister said.
 
“In India, we are implementing targeted programmes for re-energising economic activity in our islands and our coastal areas. There is also a renewed focus on strengthening marine research, developing eco-friendly marine industrial technologies, promoting sustainable fisheries and, ensuring the protection of the maritime environment,” she said.
 
“We remain committed to extending port connectivity among the littoral states of the Indian Ocean and beyond. This is the objective behind the Sagarmala initiative, which aims to establish new ports and modernise old ones,” she added.
 
“We continue to work on a range of projects to improve maritime logistics in Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles. Our other initiatives include the Kaladan transport project leading to Sittwe port in Myanmar; the Trilateral Highway to Thailand; and, the Chabahar port project in Iran,” Ms Swaraj said.
 
The Minister pointed out that the Indian Ocean is prone to non-traditional security threats like piracy, smuggling, maritime terrorism, illegal fishing, and trafficking of humans and narcotics.
 
“We realize that to effectively combat transnational security challenges across the Indian Ocean, including those posed by non-state actors, it is important to develop a security architecture that strengthens the culture of cooperation and collective action.
 
“The success of maritime cooperative action against piracy in the Gulf of Aden is an example of the benefits of a cooperative approach which resulted in a dramatic decline in piracy incidents in the region,” she added.
 
“India is prepared to bear its share of responsibility in this regard. Our response to security challenges in the Indian Ocean will be based on our national capabilities, complemented by participation in relevant regional platforms,” Ms Swaraj said.
 
“We are a founding member of the Contact Group on Piracy and have actively participated in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and off the Horn of Africa; and, undertaken joint EEZ patrols off the waters of Maldives, Seychelles, and Mauritius,” she pointed out.
 
Referring to responding to humanitarian crises and natural disasters, she said in recent years, India has promptly responded to the humanitarian crisis, whether man-made or natural, in its neighbourhood. Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) form an important part of her outreach efforts.
 
Indian ships were involved in the safe evacuation of over 2,000 Indian expatriates and over 1,300 foreign nationals from Yemen in April 2015.
 
“We carried out rescue missions in Libya, Lebanon and Somalia. India has been the "first responder” to calls for assistance - providing relief supplies and medical assistance to flood ravaged peoples of Sri Lanka in June 2017 or to rescuing Bangladeshis swept off the coast due to cyclone Mora or to alleviating the acute drinking water crisis in Maldives in 2014 when we airlifted 1,000 tonnes of fresh water to Male. India also despatched cyclone relief materials to Fiji in February 2016,” she added.
 
The conference was attended by Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe,  Seychelles Vice President. Vincent Meriton and  Singapore Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, among others,
 
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Rajnath says India making efforts to reduce preventable deaths, losses in disaster situations

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Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said India was making concerted efforts to reduce preventable deaths and other losses in disaster situations.
 
“We are analysing the patterns of disaster mortality and taking focused steps,” Mr Rajnath Singh said here while delivering the Country Statement of India at the 9th meeting of Heads of Governments of Shanghai Cooperation Organization(SCO), dealing with the prevention and elimination of emergency situations.
 
“Our effective handling of two major cyclones -- Phailin and Hudhud -- in the recent past is the direct outcome of over a decade of policy initiatives, enhancement of early warning capabilities, advance preparation, training and capacity development,” the Minister said.
 
“In these two disasters, loss of lives was reduced to 45 persons compared to nearly 10,000 lives in the 1999 Odisha cyclone alone. In other words, in little over a decade, we have been able to reduce the loss of lives to less than 1% in comparison to that of the past,” he added.
 
The Minister pointed out that in addition to the reduction in cyclones-related mortality, urgent steps have been taken to reduce deaths related to extreme temperatures. 
 
“Working across the entire chain of stakeholders – meteorologists, disaster managers, public health officials, municipal bodies, construction site managers, water and power supply departments – we have improved heat wave early warning protocols and their application at the local level. This has helped us achieve a significant reduction in heat wave-related deaths: from more than 2,000 in 2015 to 250 in 2017,” he added.
 
“For low-frequency, high-impact events such as earthquakes, reducing mortality-risk would be a long-term endeavour; but we have already made the beginning. Among other things, we have made improvements in risk-resilience arrangements at the national and local levels to ensure a safer-built environment.
 
“Our National Disaster Management Plan launched in 2016 addresses these systemic issues. In addition to the National Plan, all our states and 90% of our districts have completed their disaster management plans,” Mr Rajnath Singh said.
 
“India believes that cooperation on prevention of disasters and emergencies within the SCO framework will give added impetus to our domestic efforts. At the same time, there are useful lessons from our work in India that other SCO member states can benefit from,” he added.
 
The Minister stated that within the overall framework of cooperation, he wanted to highlight three specific themes for your consideration.
 
First in the list is cooperation on reducing earthquake-related losses. Over the last twenty years, earthquakes have taken lives of more than 200,000 people, which accounts for two-thirds of disaster related mortality in SCO countries. He stressed the need to develop concrete cooperation activities to reduce the losses in future.
 
“In this regard, a joint Urban Earthquake Search and Rescue exercise will be very useful in improving our collective preparedness. When the Search and Rescue teams engage in a joint exercise, they not only build a common understanding of internationally recognised procedures to coordinate in emergencies, they also build personal acquaintances and friendships that come in handy when they have to respond together.
 
“India offers to host a joint exercise on Urban Earthquake Search and Rescue in 2019,” he said. In addition, a meeting of technical experts can be organised to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences on earthquake-resistant building construction, model building codes and standard processes for ensuring compliance. This can help address the medium and long term issues for reducing earthquake losses, he said.
 
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“Secondly, we can work on regional cooperation for making our infrastructure disaster-resilient. Over the coming decades, investment in infrastructure in the SCO countries will be the driver of sustainable development. It is important to ensure that this infrastructure is resilient to the impact of disasters.
 
“Within the SCO framework we should exchange knowledge, experience and expertise on making infrastructure resilient through a better understanding of risks, standards of design, and stronger technical capacities,” the Minister said.
 
“Finally, we need cooperation in the area of early warning systems for extreme weather events. The SCO member states may have very different climate and weather systems but the underlying processes for forecasting adverse weather events, anticipating their impacts and issuing early warnings remain the same.
 
“A technical meeting of representatives of our meteorological services will be a very beneficial first step to foster collaboration in this area. The meeting can be structured around specific components of a comprehensive end-to-end severe weather early warning system. In this regard, India offers to host a meeting of the meteorological services of SCO countries in early 2019,” he added.
 
The Minister said over the period 1996 to 2015, the SCO countries have lost 300,000 lives to natural disasters. The economic losses from disasters are also extremely high and cascading. Natural events like earthquakes, floods, storms, landslides, epidemics etc are the major killers.
 
“The frequency and intensity of hydro-meteorological hazards are likely to rise in view of the climate change. If we do not make our communities, our capital assets, our economic activities resilient, disaster losses will continue to rise. For us in SCO nations, mitigating these risks is central to ensuring that our economic growth, our human development is sustainable,” he pointed out.
 
In an interconnected world, risk reduction is no longer merely a local activity. Actions in one part of the world affect risks in other parts of the world. Even when there is no obvious link between disasters in two distant geographies, underlying challenges in preventing disasters are common across the world. “Therefore, we must continually learn from each other, innovate, and push the envelope so that we can build a safer world for ourselves and for the generations to come,” he added.
 
“Nearly 40% of humanity lives in our countries. We represent some of the fastest growing economies. If we are able to prevent and reduce the impact of disasters and emergencies, it will have huge global benefits as well. None of the global targets on reducing disasters losses – whether they are enshrined in the Sendai Framework or Sustainable Development Goals – can be met by 2030, unless they are achieved by the SCO countries. International cooperation in this area is therefore important for all of us.
 
"On its part, India has invested heavily in developing international collaborative initiatives including the Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean Rim Countries, deployed our National Disaster Response Force in other affected countries for response operations, hosted joint bilateral exercises with SAARC and BIMSTEC countries and the Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction.
 
"In May this year, we launched the South Asia Geostationary Communication Satellite that will improve communication, weather forecasting, etc. among the South Asian countries," he added.
 
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Trump warns Pakistan on terror support, seeks bigger role for India in Afghanistan

 
Trump unveils new strategy in Afghanistan, South Asia
United States President Donald Trump said on Monday his government would change its approach and manner of dealing with Pakistan -- which he accused of giving safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror -- and further develop its strategic partnership with India -- a key security and economic partner of the US.
 
"The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.  And that could happen," he said in a televised address to American troops from Fort Myer at Arlington in Virginia in which outlined his new strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.
 
"We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.  Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.  It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.
 
Mr. Trump noted that, in the past, Pakistan had been a valued partner of the United States and their militaries had worked together against common enemies. He also said that the Pakistani people had suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism and the US recognsed those contributions and sacrifices.
 
"But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people.  We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.  But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.  No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials.  It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. 
 
"Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India -- the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.  We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.  We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region," he said.
 
Mr. Trump began by paying tributes to the contribution and sacrifices of US soldiers and underlined the need to heal divisions at home. "The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home.  We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other."
 
"Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name that, when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.
 
"Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11th -- and nobody can ever forget that -- have not been repeated on our shores.     
 
"But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight:  that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.  Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history -- 17 years.
 
"I share the American people’s frustration.  I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations," he said.
 
Mr. Trump said that, shortly after his inauguration, he had directed the US Secretary of Defence and his national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.
 
"My original instinct was to pull out -- and, historically, I like following my instincts.  But all my life I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you're President of the United States.  So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.  After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy.  I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.
 
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"First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.  The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory.  They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.
 
"Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable.  9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.  A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.
 
"And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.  As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies.  Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS.  The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks.  We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.
 
"Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.  Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world," he said.
 
Mr. Trump said that it could not be denied that his administration had inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but it did not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions.  "When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into:  big and intricate problems.  But, one way or another, these problems will be solved -- I'm a problem solver -- and, in the end, we will win," he said.
 
"We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now -- the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal.
 
"We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children.  You saw it for yourself.  Horrible.  
 
"As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.
 
"Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.  They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and -- that's right -- losers.  Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily," he said.
 
Mr. Trump said that, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, America's interests were clear. "We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter," he said.
 
"But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history.  As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:
 
"A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.  I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options.  We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.
 
"Conditions on the ground -- not arbitrary timetables -- will guide our strategy from now on.  America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.  I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.
 
"Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power -- diplomatic, economic, and military -- toward a successful outcome. 
 
"Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.  America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.  
 
"Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace.  We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society.  We are not nation-building again.  We are killing terrorists," he said.
 
Mr. Trump said his administration would ensure that American troops have the necessary tools and rules of engagement "to make this strategy work, and work effectively and work quickly."
 
"I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.  Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles.  They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. 
 
"That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.  These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms.  Retribution will be fast and powerful.
 
"As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq.  
 
"Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard.  We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror.  When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.   
 
"Our troops will fight to win.  We will fight to win.  From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge. 
 
"We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own.  We are confident they will.  Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so.
 
"In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces.  As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.  
 
"Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us.  The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do.  Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.  We want them to succeed. 
 
"But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image.  Those days are now over.  Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.  We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives.  This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward.  
 
"Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.  But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.
 
"America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress.  However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check.  The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.  The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results.  Our patience is not unlimited.  We will keep our eyes wide open. 
 
"In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests.  In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat.  Terrorists take heed:  America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat.
 
"Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military.  And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.
 
"In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed.  We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for," he added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Nepal

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.5 on the Richter scale, shook Nepal this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 29.2°N and longitude 81.1°E, occurred at 0620 hours IST at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Indian Embassy in Mexico organises conference on investment opportunities in India

Vivek Abraham, Assistant Vice-President of Invest India, speaking at a conference on
Vivek Abraham, Assistant Vice-President of Invest India, speaking at a conference on "New Opportunities: Mexico-India Business Relationship" organized by the Indian Embassy in Mexico and the Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism (CONCANACO) in that country jointly organized a conference, in Mexico City on August 16, 2017.
The Indian Embassy in Mexico and the Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism (CONCANACO) in that country jointly organized a conference on "New Opportunities: Mexico-India Business Relationship" in Mexico City on August 16.
 
The conference was attended by more than 200 delegates, including presidents, vice-presidents and other representatives of the affiliated units of CANACO as well as other businessmen and entrepreneurs interested in investing in India or doing business with it, a press release from the Indian Embassy said.
 
The event was also a joint celebration of the centenary of CONCANACO and the 70 years of Independence of India.
 
The release said the conference focused on the relevance of diversifying the trade partners for Mexico. This was emphasized by Mr. Muktesh Pardeshi, Ambassador of India to Mexico.
 
Invest India, the official investment promotion and facilitation agency of the Government of India, also participated in the event to highlight the investment opportunities available in India.
 
Mr. Vivek Abraham, Assistant Vice-President of Invest India spoke on the theme of investing in India, in general, and Make in India, in particular.
 
India and Mexico have enjoyed good bilateral trade and economic relations in recent years. In fiscal year 2016-17, total trade between India and Mexico was about $ 6.92 billion compared with $ 5.50 billion during the same period (April - March) in the fiscal year 2015-16.
 
In 2015-16, India was the 13th largest trading partner for Mexico, while in a year it advanced two places to become its 11th largest partner, the release said.
 
 Entrepreneurs from both nations have found reciprocal and significant investment opportunities. Grupo Bimbo recently acquired a significant stake in an Indian company and Mahindra & Mahindra and Spark Minda Group have invested in Mexico this year.
 
CONCANACO is a public-interest business institution founded in 1917. Currently, it has a presence in over 600 cities in Mexico, representing about 700,000 organized trade companies, services and tourism. It is made up of 255 chambers in the country.
 
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US designates Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

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The United States Department of State today designated Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)—also known as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen—as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224. 
 
"These designations seek to deny HM the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks," a press release from the Department of State said.
 
"Among other consequences, all of HM’s property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group," it said.
 
"Formed in 1989, HM is one of the largest and oldest militant groups operating in Kashmir. Hizbul Mujahideen is led by Specially Designated Global Terrorist Mohammad Yusuf Shah, also known as Syed Salahuddin. Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014, explosives attack in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which injured 17 people," the release said.
 
"Today’s action notifies the U.S. public and the international community that HM is a terrorist organization. Terrorism designations expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments," it added.
 
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BIMSTEC natural platform for countries in the region: Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Kathmandu on August 11, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Kathmandu on August 11, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) was a natural platform for the countries of the region, with their shared histories, values and ways of life, to build a common future.
 
Addressing the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting here, she said, “We are meeting in a landmark year when BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is observing its 20th anniversary. It brings together like-minded countries with a common commitment to the prosperity of its people representing one-fifth of world humanity. BIMSTEC is also one of the fastest growing regions in the world.”
 
It enjoys the unique strengths of connecting South and South-East Asia. It links the ecologies of the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, she said.
 
“For India, BIMSTEC is a natural choice to fulfil our key foreign policy priorities of 'Neighbourhood First' and 'Act East,” Ms Swaraj noted.
 
“We were honoured to host the BIMSTEC Leaders Retreat, during the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa in October 2016. At the Retreat, our leaders pledged to make BIMSTEC stronger, more effective and result oriented. They also agreed on an action agenda to achieve greater connectivity, trade, people-to-people contacts, and sustainable use of resources,” she said.
 
Ms Swaraj said she was happy to note the progress made in the priority areas of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Transport & Communication, Tourism and Environment & Disaster Management, where India is the lead country.
 
Peace and security are essential for development to take place. The First Meeting of BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs in New Delhi in March adopted a holistic approach to tackle traditional and non-traditional security challenges, that threaten the region, she said.
 
“We worked out collective strategies to counter the scourge of terrorism, violent extremism & transnational crimes, as also to strengthen our maritime and cyber security cooperation. Specific follow-up measures in these areas are now under progress,” she said.
 
“Our region is vulnerable to a variety of disasters due to its geo-climatic conditions. To build regional capacities, India is hosting the first BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise in October 2017. This will help us develop quicker, coordinated and comprehensive responses to disasters, and provide timely relief and rehabilitation,” the Minister said.
 
She said intra-regional tourism got a boost with the launch of the BIMSTEC Network of Tour Operators recently in New Delhi. This first-of-its kind platform has brought industry and stakeholders from across the region together.
 
Promotion of intra-BIMSTEC tourist circuits, joint marketing strategies, and BIMSTEC specific tourism products, notably the Buddhist circuit, would allow tourists to experience our rich and shared civilizational heritage, she said, adding that India has also further liberalized its tourist e-visa visa norms, which makes it easier for foreign tourists to visit its neighbouring countries when they are on a trip to India.
 
The Minister said enhanced connectivity is vital to achieving their common goals of growth, employment & prosperity. "To achieve smoother cross-border flows of trade and people, we need to put in place the enabling soft infrastructure such as the Framework Agreement on Transit, Trans-shipment and movement of Vehicular Traffic; & the Agreement on Coastal Shipping, at the earliest,"she said.
 
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"Energy is considered the engine of economic development. Our region is blessed with abundant energy resources. I am happy to note, that cross-border exchange of power between India, Nepal, Bhutan & Bangladesh is on a rapid upswing. The BIMSTEC MOU on Grid Interconnection, which has been finalized, would further facilitate regional energy trade. In India, a massive programme to harness renewable energy is transforming our energy landscape. Let us build a strong renewable energy partnership to tackle climate change together, for a greener world tomorrow," he said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said BIMSTEC has a combined GDP of over $ 2.85 trillion but there remained an immense unfulfilled potential for deeper economic integration. 
 
"Along with the work on BIMSTEC FTA, the BIMSTEC Trade Facilitation Agreement and the BIMSTEC Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters would fasten trade and must be concluded at the earliest.
 
“In the area of public health, I am happy to inform of a unique initiative - the BIMSTEC Telemedicine Network that was launched recently by one of our premier medical institutes JIPMER. The Network brings together ten top hospitals and medical institutes in the region to provide cutting edge telemedicine services. The BIMSTEC Task Force on Traditional Medicine would be meeting in India in October 2017 to strengthen the role of traditional medicine in holistic health care,” she added.
 
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Fire breaks out in 86-storeyed building in Dubai, no injuries reported

 
Fire breaks out in Dubai residential tower
A fire broke out in the 86-storeyed Torch Tower at Dubai Marina here, one of the tallest residential buildings in the world, on Thursday night, but no one was reported injured and the flames have been brought under control, official sources said.
 
"Dubai Civil Defence announces that the fire at the Torch Tower has been brought under control. Cooling operations are underway," the official Dubai Media Office said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"No injuries have been reported so far in the Torch Tower fire incident," it said.
 
Firefighting squads from four Civil Defence Stations were deployed to bring the fire under control and ensure the safety of the building's residents, they said.
 
The sources said Civil Defence personnel had successfully evacuated the building. Both the Commander-in-Chief of Dubai Police and the Director General of Civil Defence were at the scene to oversee the firefighting and rescue efforts.
 
The authorities were working on providing shelter for those affected by the blaze at another building, Princess Tower.
 
Witnesses said they saw plumes of smoke rising into the skies and pieces of debris falling to the ground below.
 
A local media reported quoted a Dubai Police spokesperson as saying that the fire broke out on the ninth floor of the building and spread to four more floors above.
 
The building, which rises to 337 metres and has 676 apartments, was hit by a fire in 2015, too.
 
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Boeing delivers first 737 MAX 8 to flydubai

Aircraft manufacturer Boeing has delivered to low-cost carrier flydubai its first 737 Max 8, making the Middle East airline the first in the region to operate Boeing's newest single-aisle airplane.
 
The delivery is the first of 75 737 Max airplanes the airline will be adding to their all-Boeing fleet of Next-Generation 737s, a press release from Boeing said.
 
"We are delighted to receive our first Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft from our order made at the Dubai Airshow in 2013," said Ghaith Al Ghaith, Chief Executive Officer, flydubai. 
 
"This marked the largest single-aisle Boeing aircraft order placed in the Middle East. With this new chapter, we are looking forward to continuing our work with Boeing as we benefit from increased efficiency and are able to offer an enhanced customer experience," he said.
 
flydubai currently operates a fleet of 58 Next-Generation 737-800s and has built a network of more than 95 destinations in 44 countries, from Russia in the north, Czech Republic in the west, Thailand in the east and Tanzania in the south.
 
"flydubai's growth in just nine years has been remarkable and Boeing is honored to have been part of this journey," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister. "This delivery marks another significant milestone in our partnership. We are confident that the market-leading efficiency and reliability of the 737 Max will play a key role in flydubai's continued success and complement its current Boeing fleet."
 
According to the release, the 737 Max family has been designed to offer customers exceptional performance, flexibility and efficiency, with lower per-seat costs and an extended range that will open up new destinations in the single-aisle market.
 
"As the first Max customer in the region, we look forward to the further fuel and operating efficiencies that this aircraft will bring to our young modern fleet," said Ken Gile, Chief Operating Officer, flydubai. "Our flight crew share our excitement in operating one of the most highly anticipated commercial aircraft to enter service on our network."
 
The release said the 737 Max incorporates the latest technology CFM International LEAP-1B engines, Advanced Technology winglets, Boeing Sky Interior, large flight deck displays, and other improvements to deliver the highest efficiency, reliability and passenger comfort in the single-aisle market. 
 
The 737 Max is the fastest-selling airplane in Boeing history, accumulating more than 3,800 orders to date from 89 customers worldwide, the release added.
 
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10 Indians among 11 killed in fire at Najran in Saudi Arabia

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Eleven migrant workers, including ten from India,  died of asphyxiation when a fire engulfed the  windowless house they were staying in Najran in southern Saudi Arabia in the early hours of Wednesday.
 
“Firefighters put out the blaze in an old house lacking windows for ventilation. Eleven people died of asphyxiation, and six others were injured,” local media reports quoted Najran Civil Defense spokesman Capt. Abdullah Al-Farie as saying.
 
“We received information regarding the fire through a security patrol around 4 A.M. and rushed to the spot,” he said.
 
The reports said the victims were all from India and Bangladesh and were working for a construction company. They were fast asleep when the fire broke out.
 
At least six others, including four Indians, suffered injuries in the blaze, the reports said.
 
Nine of the Indians who died in the incident had been identified. Four of them were from Uttar Pradesh, three from Kerala and one each from Tamil Nadu and Bihar, they said.
 
The Consul General of India in Jeddah, Mr. Mohammad Noor Rahman Sheikh, has despatched a team of officials to Najran to assist the victims.
 
"I am aware of the fire tragedy in Najran in which we have lost 10 Indian nationals and six injured are in the hospital," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
She said this in response to a message from a woman who said the husband of her household help had died in the fire and sought her help to bring his body back to India.
 
"I have spoken to Consul General Jeddah. Najran is 900 kms from Jeddah. Our staff is rushing by the first flight available. Our Consul General is in touch with the Governor of Najran. He is updating me on regular basis," she added.
 
Prince Jalawi Bin Abdulaziz, Emir of Najran, has ordered a probe into the fire by a team consisting of officials from Civil Defense, Najran Municipality, Ministry of Labour and Social Development.
 
According to the reports, the fire was caused by an electrical short-circuit in an old air-conditioning unit in the house.
 
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