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NASA missions catch first light from a gravitational-wave event

Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope imaged the kilonova produced by merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 (box) on Aug. 18, 2017, about 15 hours after gravitational waves and the gamma-ray burst were detected. The source was unexpectedly bright in ultraviolet light. It faded rapidly and was undetectable in UV when Swift looked again on Aug. 29. This false-color composite combines images taken through three ultraviolet filters. Inset: Magnified views of the galaxy.Credits: NASA/Swift
Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope imaged the kilonova produced by merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 (box) on Aug. 18, 2017, about 15 hours after gravitational waves and the gamma-ray burst were detected. The source was unexpectedly bright in ultraviolet light. It faded rapidly and was undetectable in UV when Swift looked again on Aug. 29. This false-color composite combines images taken through three ultraviolet filters. Inset: Magnified views of the galaxy.Credits: NASA/Swift
For the first time, scientists at US space agency NASA have detected light tied to a gravitational-wave event, thanks to two merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.
 
Shortly after 8:41 a.m. EDT on August 17, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst, a press release from the agency said today.
 
The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion. Shortly thereafter, the burst was detected as part of a follow-up analysis by ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) INTEGRAL satellite.
 
Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope imaged the kilonova produced by merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993 on August 18, 2017, about 15 hours after gravitational waves and the gamma-ray burst were detected. The source was unexpectedly bright in ultraviolet light. It faded rapidly and was undetectable in UV when Swift looked again on August 29. 
 
NASA's Swift, Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer missions, along with dozens of ground-based observatories, including the NASA-funded Pan-STARRS survey, later captured the fading glow of the blast's expanding debris.
 
"This is extremely exciting science," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. "Now, for the first time, we've seen light and gravitational waves produced by the same event. The detection of a gravitational-wave source’s light has revealed details of the event that cannot be determined from gravitational waves alone. The multiplier effect of study with many observatories is incredible."
 
"Neutron stars are the crushed, leftover cores of massive stars that previously exploded as supernovas long ago. The merging stars likely had masses between 10 and 60 percent greater than that of our Sun, but they were no wider than Washington, D.C. The pair whirled around each other hundreds of times a second, producing gravitational waves at the same frequency. As they drew closer and orbited faster, the stars eventually broke apart and merged, producing both a gamma-ray burst and a rarely seen flare-up called a 'kilonova'," the release said.
 
"This is the one we've all been waiting for," said David Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Laboratory at Caltech in Pasadena, California. "Neutron star mergers produce a wide variety of light because the objects form a maelstrom of hot debris when they collide. Merging black holes -- the types of events LIGO and its European counterpart, Virgo, have previously seen -- very likely consume any matter around them long before they crash, so we don't expect the same kind of light show."
 
"The favored explanation for short gamma-ray bursts is that they're caused by a jet of debris moving near the speed of light produced in the merger of neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole," said Eric Burns, a member of Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "LIGO tells us there was a merger of compact objects, and Fermi tells us there was a short gamma-ray burst. Together, we know that what we observed was the merging of two neutron stars, dramatically confirming the relationship."
 
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Within hours of the initial Fermi detection, LIGO and the Virgo detector at the European Gravitational Observatory near Pisa, Italy, greatly refined the event's position in the sky with additional analysis of gravitational wave data. Ground-based observatories then quickly located a new optical and infrared source -- the kilonova -- in NGC 4993.  
 
To Fermi, this appeared to be a typical short gamma-ray burst, but it occurred less than one-tenth as far away as any other short burst with a known distance, making it among the faintest known. Astronomers are still trying to figure out why this burst is so odd, and how this event relates to the more luminous gamma-ray bursts seen at much greater distances.
 
NASA’s Swift, Hubble and Spitzer missions followed the evolution of the kilonova to better understand the composition of this slower-moving material, while Chandra searched for X-rays associated with the remains of the ultra-fast jet.
 
When Swift turned to the galaxy shortly after Fermi’s gamma-ray burst detection, it found a bright and quickly fading ultraviolet (UV) source.
 
"We did not expect a kilonova to produce bright UV emission," said Goddard’s S. Bradley Cenko, principal investigator for Swift. "We think this was produced by the short-lived disk of debris that powered the gamma-ray burst."
 
Over time, material hurled out by the jet slows and widens as it sweeps up and heats interstellar material, producing so-called afterglow emission that includes X-rays. 
 
But the spacecraft saw no X-rays -- a surprise for an event that produced higher-energy gamma rays.
 
"NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory clearly detected X-rays nine days after the source was discovered. Scientists think the delay was a result of our viewing angle, and it took time for the jet directed toward Earth to expand into our line of sight," the release said.
 
"The kilonova associated with GW170817 (box) was observed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Hubble detected optical and infrared light from the hot expanding debris. The merging neutron stars produced gravitational waves and launched jets that produced a gamma-ray burst. Nine days later, Chandra detected the X-ray afterglow emitted by the jet directed toward Earth after it had spread into our line of sight," it said.
 
"The detection of X-rays demonstrates that neutron star mergers can form powerful jets streaming out at near light speed," said Goddard's Eleonora Troja, who led one of the Chandra teams and found the X-ray emission. "We had to wait for nine days to detect it because we viewed it from the side, unlike anything we had seen before."
 
On August 22, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope began imaging the kilonova and capturing its near-infrared spectrum, which revealed the motion and chemical composition of the expanding debris.
 
"The spectrum looked exactly like how theoretical physicists had predicted the outcome of the merger of two neutron stars would appear," said Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, who led one of the proposals for Hubble spectral observations. "It tied this object to the gravitational wave source beyond all reasonable doubt."
 
Astronomers think a kilonova's visible and infrared light primarily arises through heating from the decay of radioactive elements formed in the neutron-rich debris. Crashing neutron stars may be the universe's dominant source for many of the heaviest elements, including platinum and gold.
 
Because of its Earth-trailing orbit, Spitzer was uniquely situated to observe the kilonova long after the Sun moved too close to the galaxy for other telescopes to see it. Spitzer's Sept. 30 observation captured the longest-wavelength infrared light from the kilonova, which unveils the quantity of heavy elements forged.
 
"Spitzer was the last to join the party, but it will have the final word on how much gold was forged," says Mansi Kasliwal, Caltech assistant professor and principal investigator of the Spitzer observing program. 
 
Numerous scientific papers describing and interpreting these observations have been published in Science, Nature, Physical Review Letters and The Astrophysical Journal.
 
Gravitational waves were directly detected for the first time in 2015 by LIGO, whose architects were awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery.
 
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Jaitley says slowdown effect of demonetisation, GST has played itself out

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the Indian economy is poised for strong, sustainable and balanced growth backed by the Government's strong focus on implementing structural reforms and that there is clear evidence now that the slowdown effect of demonetisation and Goods and Service Tax (GST) has more or less played itself out. 
 
Speaking at a seminar organised by FICCI on "India Opportunity" here on Thursday, he said the implementation of the GST from July 1, 2017 and its gradual complete transition, follow-up to demonetisation and enactment of other structural reforms by the Government would take the economy towards a higher growth trajectory.
 
Mr. Jaitley stated that foreign direct investment (FDI) flows to India had increased in 2016-17 over 2015-16, indicating improved global confidence in the Indian economy. 
 
He also spoke about the interface between the global and the Indian economy; national investments and the Infrastructure Fund; and reform initiatives of the Government of India, especially to improve Ease of Doing Business. 
 
Mr. Jaitley spoke about the "bold reforms" carried out in India, which now have created opportunities in infrastructure assets resolution under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) process and in financial sector. 
 
The Finance Minister is currently on a week-long visit to the United States to attend the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and other associated meetings. 
 
He is accompanied by Dr. Urjit Patel, Governor, Reserve Bank of India (RBI); Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg and other officials. 
 
On the sidelines of the World Bank and IMF meetings, Mr. Jaitley held bilateral meetings with the US Treasury Secretary and the US Commerce Secretary here and discussed how economic cooperation between the two countries, in particular, how bilateral trade and investment, could be improved.
 
He also highlighted the contribution skilled Indian professionals have made to the US economy, and that this must be suitably appreciated by the US side. He made a strong case for reforms in H1B/L1 visa processes and social security contribution so that high calibre Indian professionals serving American interest are not unfairly deprived of their well-earned money. 
 
Mr. Jaitley also participated in the G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors (FMCBG) Meeting in Washington. The discussion focused on the agenda items pertaining to Global Economy and Framework for Growth, Compact with Africa and International Financial Architecture. 
 
As co-chair of G-20 Framework Working Group (FWG), India made the lead intervention during the Second Round of the Session on ‘’Global Economy and Framework for Growth’, which discussed the IMF’s G-20 Report on ‘Strong, Sustainable, and Balanced Growth(SSBG)’. 
 
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Mr. Jaitley said the report was a useful starting point for studying present challenges facing the global economy and in formulating the G-20's response to them. He said it was important to understand the global spillovers of domestic policy actions of individual member countries, especially on matters related to trade and financial regulation.
 
He suggested that the subsequent versions of the IMF SSBG Report can consider examining the possible analytical tools that can be used for examining policy spillovers. However, he noted that, for this to be possible, a more detailed understanding of the underlying methodologies must be provided to members. In addition, clear descriptions of the policy scenario in each country, the availability of policy space, key challenges and recommended actions may also be shared. This would allow for improved identification of challenges which are relevant to all members, as well as policies that can be undertaken in a coordinated manner.
 
The G-20 Session on Compact with Africa discussed the update received on the progress on Compact with Africa and work of the Africa Advisory Group. The session on International Financial Architecture (IFA) discussed issues related to monitoring capital flows, strengthening global financial safety nets and enhancing the capacity of multilateral development banks (MDBs) for mobilizing finance for infrastructure investment.
 
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Prabhu kickstarts “Make in India: Sweden 2017” in Stockholm

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In the run-up to ‘Make in India: Sweden 2017’ from October 12-13 that aims to enhance Indo-Swedish cooperation and explore new areas of partnership, Minister of Commerce & Industry Suresh Prabhu held a bilateral meeting with Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Löfven in Stockholm on Wednesday.  
 
An official press release said the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening of the India-Swedish economic relationship and explored new avenues of collaboration.
 
“I am excited that almost all top Swedish companies are present in India. Sweden is an old and trusted friend who came to invest in India when it was a tough time to do business, now it is the time of business oriented structural reforms and time is ripe for these partnerships,” Mr Prabhu said.
 
It was acknowledged that companies from both sides have immensely benefitted since the Swedish Prime Minister’s last visit to India during the Make in India Week 2016 in Mumbai. 
 
Mr Löfven said, “I remember my last trip to India during the Make in India Week 2016, and am proud of the relationship, and how both sides have benefited so much. I look forward to intensely working with you. We are dedicated to making the relationship develop further.”
 
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who was also present at the meeting, invited Swedish companies to visit India and assured them of the requisite support. “Maharashtra hosts more than 80 Swedish companies which have added great value to the economy. There are huge business opportunities in Maharashtra in Smart Cities. We look forward to collaborate with technology providers into solid and liquid waste management,” he added.
 
Mr Prabhu also met the Co-Chair India-Sweden Business Leaders’ Round Table (ISBLRT) and Chairman, SEB Marcus Wallenberg and President SAAB, Hakan Buskhe. He acknowledged the importance of the partnership with Saab, a pioneer Swedish company in the Indian market.
 
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Saab expressed interest in introducing full scope for development of industrial systems, from design and engineering to production. The importance of technological cooperation was highlighted with focus on creation of high-technology zones close to forward going universities.
 
The importance of fostering an EU-India Free Trade Agreement was discussed, given its potential to open borders and enable products to compete. It was agreed that higher economic integration and interdependencies will help resolve global political issues.
 
The main highlight of the day was the second edition of the India-Sweden Business Leaders’ Roundtable (ISBLRT) which focused on cooperation between the two countries, progress update of four joint working groups (Digitization, Smart Cities, Defence and Security and Skill Development) and the work plan for the year to come.
 
Inaugurating the second edition of ISBLRT, Mr Löfven said, “I believe that Indo-Swedish cooperation would positively impact the global economy at large”. The Swedish Minister for Enterprise & Innovation Mikael Damberg highlighted the shared values for growth and cooperation between the two countries.
 
Mr Prabhu said, “I would like to invite ISBLRT members to share innovative ideas on sunrise sectors, India’s upcoming industrial policy and assure that ideas will be taken to logical conclusions.”
 
Earlier, the run-up events began with a meeting at India House hosted by the Indian Ambassador Monika Kapil Mohta, where Indian Government representatives and business delegates met to re-emphasize the objectives of the event and anticipated outcomes.
 
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U.S. Chamber appoints Nisha Desai Biswal as President of U.S.-India Business Council

File photo of Nisha Biswal
File photo of Nisha Biswal
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today announced that Ms. Nisha Desai Biswal, former Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in the U. S. Department of State from 2013-17, has been appointed President of the U.S.-India Business Council.
 
“We are thrilled to welcome Nisha Biswal to the U.S.-India Business Council and to the U.S. Chamber team,” said Mr. Myron Brilliant, U.S. Chamber executive vice president and head of International Affairs. “She is a driven, visionary leader who has a strong record of advancing United States business across the growth markets of Asia and throughout India. Under her strong leadership, we’re confident the U.S.-India Business Council will play a critical role growing commercial partnership, investment, and innovation across the world’s oldest and largest democracies.”
 
A press release from USIBC noted that, at the Department of State, Ms. Biswal oversaw the U.S.-India strategic partnership during a period of unprecedented cooperation, including launching the U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue. 
 
In recognition of her efforts, Ms. Biswal was awarded the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award by the President of India in January 2017. 
 
Ms. Biswal previously served as Assistant Administrator for Asia at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She also spent over ten years on Capitol Hill, serving as staff director on the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Representatives. ?
 
Most recently, she was a senior advisor with the Albright Stonebridge Group, where she helped expand the firm’s India and South Asia practice.
 
“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead the U.S.-India Business Council and to join the leadership of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during a period of historic opportunity for both countries,” said Ms. Biswal.
 
“As one of the most significant and fastest growing markets, India is an important economic partner for the United States. Likewise, Indian companies are investing in ever greater numbers here in the United States. I am proud to be part of an organization which will play such a critical role shaping U.S.-India relations, and I am thrilled at the chance to help our companies deliver a brighter, more prosperous future for the citizens of the United States and India.”
 
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Ms. Biswal has served on the board of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and is a current member of the U.S. Institute of Peace International Advisory Council and the Institute for Sustainable Communities Board of Directors.
 
“UPS applauds Nisha being named as the new president of the U.S.-India Business Council,” said Jim Barber, president of UPS International. “At this critical time, she will bring dynamic leadership and well-established economic expertise to the mission of improving the U.S.-India relationship.”
 
Biswal will join the U.S. Chamber beginning October 23, 2017.
 
Formed in 1975 at the request of the U.S. and Indian governments, the U.S.-India Business Council is the premier business advocacy organization, comprising 350 top-tier U.S. and Indian companies advancing U.S.-India commercial ties. USIBC is the largest bilateral trade association in the United States, with liaison presence in New York, Silicon Valley, and New Delhi.
 
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. Its International Affairs division includes more than 70 regional and policy experts and 25 country- and region-specific business councils and initiatives. The U.S. Chamber also works closely with 117 American Chambers of Commerce abroad.
 
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Education the fulcrum of Indian engagement with Ethiopia and Africa, says Kovind

File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind today said cooperation in education has been the fulcrum of Indian engagement with Ethiopia.
 
Addressing the academic and student community at Addis Ababa University, the oldest university in Ethiopia, Mr Kovind said when Ethiopia started its efforts to expand its education sector, Indian teachers were invited to teach in elementary and secondary schools.
 
Those early pioneers travelled to the remotest parts of the country, instilled values and ideals in young minds and dedicated entire lifetimes to the noble calling of teaching.
 
Today, the President said, 2,000 Indian faculty members are contributing to teaching and to academic research in Ethiopian universities. Indian academics comprise the largest and among the most valued expatriate teaching communities in Ethiopian universities.
 
“We are proud that they serve as a bridge between our respective academic communities. They have fostered linkages and research collaborations between universities and educational institutions in both countries,” he added.
 
The President said that every year India welcomes hundreds of Ethiopian students as part of its African scholarship programmes. They come on fully-funded scholarships to carry out research or get a higher degree.
 
“This is a shining example of cooperation between two emerging economies. In addition, there is the Pan-African e-Network Project, a milestone in educational and capacity building collaboration between African countries, including of course Ethiopia, and India. 
 
“It was created in this very city in 2009. Crafted in Addis Ababa eight years ago, it connects 48 countries of Africa to India,” he added.
 
Mr Kovind said just as Indian teachers have contributed to Ethiopian institutions, a steady stream of Ethiopian students has added to the scholarship and cultural mosaic of universities in India.
 
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"It is a matter of great happiness for us that alumni of Indian educational institutions occupy positions of eminence in Ethiopia. This list includes the First Lady and at least nine Ministers in the Cabinet," he said.
 
The President said in terms of demographic profiles, both Ethiopia and India are young countries; 65% of India’s people are below the age of 35; 64% of Ethiopia’s people are below the age of 25.
 
“We have a similar set of challenges. These centre on equipping our young people and our students with the education and skills to compete in the 21st century economy. Above all, there is the need to foster an economic model that contributes to local communities, rather than extract from them.
 
“In this, Ethiopia and indeed all of Africa will find India a willing and sensitive partner,” he added.
 
The President said the outcome of such a friendship is seldom a quick sprint; they are more likely to be a marathon. In India, Ethiopia has a long-distance running partner. And surely the land of Bikila and Gebrselassie knows and treasures the value of a long-distance runner.
 
Yesterday evening, the President held wide-ranging talks with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. He also attended the banquet hosted in his honour by the President of Ethiopia, Dr Mulatu Teshome in the Presidential Palace in Addis Ababa.
 
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Kovind tells diaspora in Ethiopia that government cares for them

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President Ram Nath Kovind has lauded the contributions made by the Indian community in Ethiopia as teachers, educators, entrepreneurs, tech professionals and workers. 
 
Speaking at a reception hosted by Indian Ambassador Anurag Srivastava here yesterday, Mr Kovind said as teachers and educators they have given a helping hand to nation building in their host country. As entrepreneurs, they have created economic opportunities and imparted skills to local people.
 
As tech professionals and workers, they have added value to Ethiopian Industry. With hard work and dedication, the Indian community has earned respect from the Ethiopian society. And yet it has retained and carried forward Indian values, family traditions and work ethic while adapting very well to this adopted home, he added.
 
The President said Ethiopia, like India, is a land of diversity, of multiple languages and varied cuisines; of music, dance and drama. The Indian community here must take advantage of the local eclectic culture as well as showcase and share our own cultural diversity.
 
Both India and Ethiopia have large young populations. The youth are the future, and it is from them that new ideas would come. He advised the Indian community to make special efforts to connect with Ethiopia’s youth. This would help them germinate their ideas to provide solutions for a better world, be it tacking climate change or skilling people.
 
The President said the Government seeks sustained and proactive engagement with our overseas community. The purpose of this engagement is to provide an opportunity to familiarise the community with transformational changes taking place in India. The dialogue with the diaspora is also aimed at shaping possibilities and platforms through which it can participate in India’s growth and development.
 
The President said the Government also cares for the overseas Indian community and keeps its promise to stand by them. He referred to efforts made to evacuate Indian citizens from Yemen (as part of Operation Rahat in 2015) and Libya, or more recently help individuals and families during the floods in parts of the United States.
 
The event was attended by some 500 members of Ethiopia’s Indian community. The Indian community is spread all over the country and is 5,000 strong.
 
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Kovind holds talks with President of Djibouti; two countries sign agreement on political consultations

File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind held delegation level talks with Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh on a wide range of issues, including areas of common concern and interest such as terrorism, renewable energy and maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region.
 
The wide-ranging discussions also covered topics such as Djibouti’s support for membership of the International Solar Alliance and technical and capacity building assistance by India to enhance employment opportunities for Djibouti’s young people. 
 
Earlier, Mr. Kovind, who reached here yesterday evening, was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Presidential Palace this morning. He inspected a guard of honour along Mr. Guelleh.
 
An agreement to establish regular political consultations between India and Djibouti, at the level of the Foreign Office, was signed in the presence of the two Presidents.
 
Mr. Kovind specifically thanked Mr. Guelleh for Djibouti’s support during Operation Rahat, undertaken by India in 2015 to evacuate its citizens from conflict-hit Yemen. 
 
Later in the day, the President attended a State Banquet Luncheon hosted by Mr. Guelleh.
 
Thereafter, Mr. Kovind left for Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, on the second leg of his two-country visit to Africa. 
 
In Addis Ababa, Dr Mulatu Teshome, the President of Ethiopia, made a special gesture in being present at the Bole International Airport to receive Mr. Kovind. Subsequently, he was accorded a guard of honour and witnessed an Ethiopian cultural and music performance. 
 
President Kovind is the first Indian President to visit Ethiopia in 45 years after President V.V. Giri (1972) and President S. Radhakrishnan (1965).
 
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Kovind reaches Djibouti; addresses members of Indian community

File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
File photo of President Ram Nath Kovind
President Ram Nath Kovind reached Djibouti yesterday evening on the first leg of a state visit to two African countries that will later take him to Ethiopia.
 
Djibouti Prime Minister Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed received the President at Ambouli International Airport here. The two leaders then engaged in a short round of talks on bilateral relations and themes of common interest to both countries.
 
This is Mr. Kovind's first visit abroad after assuming office on July 25. It is also the first visit to Djibouti by an Indian Head of State or Head of Government.
 
Shortly after leaving the airport, the President paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi by garlanding the bust of the Father of the Nation on Djibouti’s Nelson Mandela Avenue.
 
Later in the evening, the President addressed an Indian community reception hosted by the Ambassador of India to Djibouti, Mr. Anurag Srivastava. The reception was attended by about 200 people, roughly half the Indian/Indian origin population in Djibouti, some of them descendants of Indian traders who migrated from Jamnagar and Rajkot over 100 years ago.
 
More recently, Indian blue-collar and white-collar workers, employed in the port in Djibouti or in IT companies, have added to the diaspora.
 
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Kovind said every member of the Indian community present was a representative of the nation. In whatever capacity they have made Djibouti their home – be it as traders, as professionals, or as skilled workers, they have shown a spirit of selfless and dedicated service to the people around them. They have, while preserving their traditions, family values and strong work ethic, adapted very well in their adopted home, becoming pillars of support for the local community and a source of pride for India.
 
Mr. Kovind said that the rise of India is opening new opportunities for collaboration. 
 
"Our diaspora has an important role in building bridges between India and the world. India is on a high growth trajectory. There is optimism and excitement in our country. We have undertaken to transform the lives of ordinary people by 2022 when we celebrate 75 years of our Independence. We want to embrace and connect with our diaspora abroad," he said, inviting the Indian diaspora to partner in the rise of New India.
 
Mr. Kovind said the fact that his first visit abroad after being elected President was to Africa was no coincidence but a conscious decision. "Our relations with this beautiful continent have a special place in our hearts, and we remain ever committed to deepening our fraternal bonds with the African people," he said.
 
The President said that historical links and people-to-people contacts have existed between India and Djibouti since times immemorial. "We must now try to rediscover this shared history and identity. Much effort is required to resurrect our common heritage, not just for old times’ sake but to build a contemporary partnership. Prospects of the blue economy and the connect of the Indian Ocean provide immense possibilities to build a sustainable future," he said.
 
The President said that Djibouti is a strategically located country, just off the Gulf of Aden. It is an important Indian Ocean partner country for India. During the Yemeni crisis of 2015, Djibouti was supportive of Indian efforts to evacuate Indian citizens, and those of other countries, as part of Operation Rahat, and offered use of an air strip.
 
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Saudi Arabia allows women to drive vehicles in the kingdom

 
Saudi king issues decree allowing women to drive
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it would allow women to drive vehicles in the kingdom in what is seen as the latest step in a series of social and economic reforms being carried out in the country.
 
The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud had, in an order addressed to the Minister of the Interior, referred to the  negative consequences of not allowing women to drive vehicles and the positive aspects of allowing them to do so, "taking into consideration the application of the necessary legal controls and adherence to them".
 
"We adopt the application of the provisions of the Traffic Law and its Executive Regulations - including the issuance of driving licenses - to both males and females, and to form a high-level committee of ministries of (internal affairs, finance, labor and social development) to study the necessary arrangements for enforcement," he said.
 
The decree said the ministerial body must submit its recommendations on the practicalities of the edict within 30 days and ensure full implementation of the order by June 2018.
 
The  ban on women driving vehicles was a major social issue in the kingdom, with no law or religious edict actually prohibiting it. The matter was extensively debated in the government, the media and in social circles.
 
The decree referred to the fact that the majority of the Council of Senior Scholars agreed that women driving was not prohibited by religion, and therefore they did not oppose allowing them to drive in principle.
 
“The scholars see no reason not to allow women to drive as long as there are legal and regulatory guarantees to avoid the pretexts (that those against women driving had in mind), even if they are unlikely to happen,” said the decree.
 
The announcement was welcomed around the kingdom and also across the world.
 
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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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