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Sharif granted bail on medical grounds

Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif
The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday granted bail to ailing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on medical grounds in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills corruption case.
 
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) President Shehbaz Sharif had filed the bail application for the release of his brother, who is currently admitted in the Services Hospital here, from the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), reports Dawn news.
 
An accountability court had earlier this month granted NAB a 14-day physical remand of Nawaz Sharif in connection with the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. The remand expired on Friday.
 
Earlier in the day, the prosecution and defence had concluded their arguments in the case.
 
A two-member bench, headed by Justice Baqar Najafi, had heard the petition.
 
The anti-corruption watchdog's prosecutor told the court that "every life, including that of Nawaz Sharif, is precious", adding that the former premier's condition was treatable.
 
After being hospitalised on Monday night, a six-member medical board, headed by Services Hospital Principal Ayaz Mahmood, had confirmed on Thursday that Nawaz Sharif was suffering from acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a bleeding disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets.
 
Doctors have said that the disease was treatable.
 
In the court on Friday, Nawaz Sharif's lawyer Ashtar Ausaf told the court today that the former premier's condition was "extremely serious".
 
Ayaz told the court that his platelet count was constantly reducing, adding that the hospital had conducted tests to see if the former leader was also suffering from dengue, Dawn news reported.
 
He informed the court that Nawaz is a diabetes patient and is suffering from several other ailments as well.
 
Meanwhile, a two-member bench of the Islamabad High Court comprising heard Shehbaz Sharif's petition seeking the suspension of Nawaz Sharif's sentence in the other Al-Azizia corruption case and release on bail.
 
During the proceedings, Services Hospital Medical Superintendent Saleem Cheema, who is a member of the medical board, said that Nawaz Sharif's condition was critical.
 
The IHC adjourned its hearing till October 29.
 
IANS
 

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Imran issues directives for Maryam to be with Nawaz in hospital

Nawaz Sharif
Nawaz Sharif
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has issued directives to allow PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz to stay with her ailing father, former premier Nawaz Sharif, in the same hospital in Lahore, said Punjab province Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar.
 
According to Geo News, Sarwar said on Thursday that Khan had sought a briefing on Maryam and Sharif's health after which he issued directives to the Punjab government to fulfil legal requirements to shift her to the Services Hospital with the former Prime Minister.
 
Sources claimed that Khan also spoke to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and directed him to make arrangements for Maryam's stay with her father.
 
Sharif, who had been shifted from the Kot Lakhpat Jail where he is serving seven-year imprisonment in Al-Azizia case to the NAB's Lahore building following his arrest in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case, hospitalised on Monday night after a decline in his platelet count.
 
Sharif received transfusions of mega units of platelets at the hospital the next day. The government officials, as well as his party leaders, had told the media that he was in a stable condition after he underwent the treatment.
 
However, his condition deteriorated on Wednesday evening after his platelets count again fell sharply to a life-threatening level of 7,000.
 
On Thursday, the medical board treating the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) supremo confirmed that he was suffering from acute immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and would recover in a week's time.
 
Maryam, meanwhile was also admitted in the Services Hospital late Wednesday night but was later shifted back to Kot Lakhpat Jail, where she's serving jail term for a corruption case.
 
PML-N leaders slammed the government for shifting Maryam back to jail, alleging that her medical tests and treatment had not been completed.
 
IANS

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39 bodies found in lorry container in Essex, driver held

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A murder investigation has been launched after 39 people were found dead in a lorry container in UK's Essex on Wednesday, reports said.
 
Essex Police said the vehicle travelled from Bulgaria and entered the UK on Saturday via Holyhead, Anglesey, over 300 miles from where the bodies were recovered from Waterglade Industrial Park in Grays at around 1.40 am BST on Wednesday, the Telegraph reported.
 
Holyhead is the second-busiest ferry port in the UK after Dover.
 
Essex Police said early indications are that 38 adults and one teenager have died, BBC reported.
 
Police have arrested the lorry driver, a 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland on suspicion of murder.
 
"We have arrested the lorry driver in connection with the incident, who remains in police custody as our inquiries continue," Chief Superintendent Andrew Mariner said.
 
He said that police are trying to identify the victims.
 
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "appalled" by the shocking incident.
 
"I am receiving regular updates and the Home Office will work closely with Essex Police... My thoughts are with all those who lost their lives and their loved ones," BBC quoted Johnson as saying.
 
Seamus Leheny, Northern Ireland policy manager for the Freight Transport Association, said if the lorry had come from Bulgaria, entering into Britain via Holyhead was an "unorthodox route".
 
"People have been saying that security and checks have been increased at places like Dover and Calais, so it might be seen as an easier way to get in by going from Cherbourg or Roscoff, over to Rosslare, then up the road to Dublin," he said.
 
"It's a long way around and it will add an extra day to the journey."
 
IANS
 

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Kovind attends Enthronement Ceremony of Emperor Naruhito

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Indian President Ram Nath Kovind attended the enthronement ceremony of  Emperor Naruhito of Japan in the Imperial Palace here today.
 
Kovind arrived here yesterday on the final leg of a two-nation visit that took him to the Philippines earlier.
 
On the sidelines of the enthronement ceremony, he met President Bidya Devi Bhandari of Nepal. During the discussions, Kovind said the continuously expanding and strengthening partnership with Nepal was a priority for the Indian government.
 
“It is in consonance with India’s vision to promote economic growth and prosperity in the neighbourhood. India values its development partnership with Nepal. India is committed to support Nepal in its economic growth and development as per the priorities set by the Government of Nepal,” he added.
 
Later in the evening, the President addressed the members of the Indian diaspora in Tokyo at a reception hosted by Sanjay Kumar Verma, Ambassador of India to Japan.
 
Speaking on the occasion, Kovind said India was on a transformational path.  “Our economy is growing at a fast rate. We are creating new infrastructure apace.  We are making efforts to lead the world on digital economy, on new technologies, on climate change action and on fashioning the contours of the knowledge society.
 
“India offers immense opportunities for the diaspora to participate in our progress and prosperity. The country seeks your support and commitment to create an India of our vision and dream, an India that promises to light millions of homes with progress and prosperity, an India that cares for one and for all,” he added. 
 
"Our cultural relations with Japan are deep and historic. We share spiritual and religious connections, from Buddhism to Hinduism and more.  Our strategic, political, security and economic collaboration have assumed a new high.
 
“Japan is a lead partner for us in transforming our economy. Their participation in the High-Speed Rail project from Mumbai to Ahmedabad is a symbol of our deep mutual trust and friendship. To deepen our technology collaboration, we have established the India-Japan Digital Partnership,” he said.
 
Yesterday, the President visited the Tsukiji Hongwanji Buddhist Temple and planted a sapling from Bodh Gaya.  He also visited the Shinto Meiji Shrine and interacted with a delegation from the Gotemba Pagoda.
 
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William and I are on different paths: Prince Harry

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

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More control, less waiting -- top priorities for air passengers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11 injured in Saudi Arabia train station blaze

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

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6.4-magnitude earthquake rattles Philippines

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

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

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

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

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Modi outlines India's rapid development agenda at UNGA

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

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Modi urges world to unite on terror at UNGA

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

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India, Caribbean Community boost ties

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

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Choksi will be extradited after he exhausts appeals: Antigua PM

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

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Fulfil promises to better lives of Kashmiris: Trump to Modi

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Even as he backed India's position on Pakistan-sponsored terror, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday "encouraged" Prime Minister Narendra Modi to improve relations with Islamabad and also "fulfil his promises" to better the lives of the Kashmiri people.
 
According to a readout of the bilateral meeting between Trump and Modi, the two leaders "discussed progress on different aspects of their strategic partnership and upcoming opportunities to ensure it remains strong."
 
"The President reaffirmed the importance of greatly increasing trade between the US and India, and highlighted the need for resolving barriers to free, fair, and reciprocal trade, which includes improving US companies' market access in India.
 
"The President noted good progress on defence and security cooperation.
 
"Additionally, the President encouraged Prime Minister Modi to improve relations with Pakistan and fulfil his promise to better the lives of the Kashmiri people.
 
"Finally, both leaders expressed concerns about the situation in Afghanistan and shared ideas about how to work together to promote security and prosperity in the country," the readout said.
 
On Tuesday, while speaking to mediapersons ahead of their bilateral talks, Trump said that Modi would "take care" of the issue of Pakistan-sponsored terror and that Modi had given the message on terrorism to Islamabad "loud and clear" from the 'Howdy, Modi!' stage, that was shared by the US President in Houston on Sunday.
 
When asked what message he had for Pakistan on being actively involved in training militants, Trump said: "Well, I mean, the message is not for me to give, it's for Prime Minister Modi to give.
 
"And I think he gave that loud and clear the other day when we were together (in Houston for 'Howdy, Modi!'). He gave a pretty loud message. And I'm sure he'll be able to handle that situation."
 
Trump had also said that it would be great if both India and Pakistan can work out something on Kashmir.
 
"I'm sure we all want to see that. But I really believe that Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Khan, they get along -- they will get along when they get to know each other. And I think a lot of good things will come from that meeting," Trump had said.
 
IANS
 

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Gandhi solar park, peace garden inaugurated at UN

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Leaders from around the world joined hands in the spirit of Gandhian universality to inaugurate a solar facility and roof garden at the UN headquarters and a garden with trees from across the US dedicated to the Mahatma on his 150th birth anniversary.
 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Andre Holness of Jamaica, Jacinda Arden of New Zealand and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore placed their hands on a glass globe to inaugurate them remotely during a meeting on Tuesday convened by India on Leadership Matters -- Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in the Contemporary World.
 
Coloured lights throbbed in the globe as the solar array came online catching the sun's last rays of the day and a video of the park lit up.
 
The Gandhi Solar Park costing $1 million and having an output of 50 kilowatts of electricity is located on the roof of the Conference Building at the headquarters and is a gift from India to the UN to provide it clean energy.
 
India also donated the Gandhi Peace Garden made up of 150 trees located at a university campus in Old Westbury as another environmental gift.
 
Marking the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi, the two gifts symbolise India's commitment to the environment by producing clean power and capturing carbon emissions in the trees.
 
Accepting the gifts, Guterres said: "I commend those who have decided to pay tribute to Gandhi's legacy by marking this anniversary with a project connected to one of the Sustainable Development Goals -- a fitting way to honour this most action-oriented leader."
 
He thanked India for supporting the elimination of single-use plastic at the UN by providing reusable bags and kits, and for installing solar panels and a green roof on top of the Conference Building.
 
IANS
 

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Modi receives Global Goalkeeper Award, dedicates it to 1.3 bn Indians

Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving the Goalkeepers Global Goals Award 2019 conferred by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in New York, on September 24, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving the Goalkeepers Global Goals Award 2019 conferred by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in New York, on September 24, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Tuesday conferred the Global Goalkeeper Award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the Swachh Bharat mission. 
 
Modi was conferred the award by Bill Gates at an event on the sidelines of the UNGA. He said the honour bestowed on him was for the millions of Indians who participated in the mission.
 
He said receiving the award on Mahatma Gandhi's 150th anniversary is especially significant for him, for it shows people's power -- of the determination of 1.3 billion people to achieve any goal.
 
Modi said that when he first talked about the Clean India campaign five years ago, there were "different reactions", but "if you are committed to your goal then these are of no importance".
 
"What is important is the united efforts to make India clean and the development of a mindset in 1.3 billion Indians, and every single effort that people make for this effort. I, therefore, dedicate this award to those who made cleanliness the highest priority in their daily lives," he said.
 
He said though the Swachh Bharat mission was begun by his government, the people took charge of it. "I think of the woman who sold her sheep to build a toilet, of the retired man who donated his pension for a toilet, or the lady who sold her "mangalsutra" to build a toilet. Such a campaign has been unheard of in recent times," the PM said.
 
When he took over in 2014, less than 40 per cent homes had toilets in the country, and now it is close to 100 per cent.
 
He said the success of the Clean India mission has benefited women the most, as in rural areas women had to wait for it to get dark to venture to the fields to relieve themselves. "For mothers and sisters, not having a toilet at home is the biggest difficulty, it also goes against their self-respect," the PM said.
 
He said lack of toilets in schools would force girls to give up their studies and sit at home.
 
He said the Clean India Mission has also helped save thousands of lives and cited a WHO report that said building toilets in homes helped save 300,000 lives. He cited a UNICEF study that said that every family with a toilet will be able to save Rs 50,000 a year, while a Bill and Melinda Gates report said that increase in sanitation has improved the BMI of women.
 
"I recall that Mahatma Gandhi said he believes that cleanliness is more important than independence. I am very happy that the dream of Mahatma Gandhi of cleanliness is going to become a reality."
 
He said the main objective of the UN is to make peoples' lives better and the Clean India Campaign plays an important role in achieving the UN goal.
 
He said that the construction of so many toilets had also generated employment opportunities for poor people in rural areas.
 
"Our government has tried to change governance to cooperative federalism in the way different states have taken part in the campaign, through creating awareness, constructing toilets, through training. The states were given full assistance to fulfil the resolution," he said.
 
Modi said that states now compete among themselves to rank higher in cleanliness survey competitions.
 
Modi said that India is ready to share its experiences with other countries.
 
"India is very close to achieving its goals, we are working at a fast pace. Through Fit India movement for preventive healthcare, and we have made 2025 the target to make India Tuberculosis free. We are making fast progress in the National Nutrition Mission and will be able to overcome malnutrition. The Jal Jeevan Mission has been launched to provide a regular supply of clean water to every home. We have also decided to stop single-use plastic by 2022," said Modi.
 
"I have complete faith in 1.3 billion Indians," he said. 
 
IANS

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'Mahatma Gandhi helped bring out inner strength of people': Modi

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said Mahatma Gandhi helped bring out the inner strength of people and inspired them with his philosophy, even among those who had never met him.
 
Martin Luther King Junior and Nelson Mandela's policies were based on Gandhi's vision, he said.
 
Addressing a programme on "Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in the Contemporary World" at the UNGA, he said that Mahatma Gandhi was at the centre of India's freedom movement but his philosophy was not just for that.
 
"He helped to bring out the inner strength of people, and inspired them and even if he had not been engaged in the freedom struggle he would have spent his life on swaraj and self-reliance. His vision is before us.
 
"Through peoples' participation, jan bhagidari, people are leading such programmes in India, whether it's the Swachh Bharat Mission or Digital India, people are now leading these campaigns themselves," he said.
 
"At a time when everybody is thinking of how to impress, we must remember what Mahatma Gandhi stood for -- how to inspire. Mahatma Gandhi never held positions of power, yet he motivates people around the world.
 
"Millions of people, several nations drew strength from his ideals and attained freedom," he said.
 
"Mahatma Gandhi stressed on the real strength of democracy. He taught people to be self-sufficient and not to depend on governments," he said.
 
Later Modi along with other leaders jointly inaugurated solar panels atop the UN Headquarters and the Gandhi Peace Park in New York.
 
A stamp on Mahatma Gandhi was released by the UN on the occasion.
 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and a number of heads of state, including Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Michael Holness and Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern, were present on the occasion
 
IANS
 

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