Rajnath says India making efforts to reduce preventable deaths, losses in disaster situations

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

Trump warns Pakistan on terror support, seeks bigger role for India in Afghanistan

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

Minor earthquake shakes Nepal

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

Indian Embassy in Mexico organises conference on investment opportunities in India

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

US designates Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization

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

BIMSTEC natural platform for countries in the region: Swaraj

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Kathmandu on August 11, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addressing the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Kathmandu on August 11, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) was a natural platform for the countries of the region, with their shared histories, values and ways of life, to build a common future.
Addressing the 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting here, she said, “We are meeting in a landmark year when BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is observing its 20th anniversary. It brings together like-minded countries with a common commitment to the prosperity of its people representing one-fifth of world humanity. BIMSTEC is also one of the fastest growing regions in the world.”
It enjoys the unique strengths of connecting South and South-East Asia. It links the ecologies of the Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal, she said.
“For India, BIMSTEC is a natural choice to fulfil our key foreign policy priorities of 'Neighbourhood First' and 'Act East,” Ms Swaraj noted.
“We were honoured to host the BIMSTEC Leaders Retreat, during the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa in October 2016. At the Retreat, our leaders pledged to make BIMSTEC stronger, more effective and result oriented. They also agreed on an action agenda to achieve greater connectivity, trade, people-to-people contacts, and sustainable use of resources,” she said.
Ms Swaraj said she was happy to note the progress made in the priority areas of Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Transport & Communication, Tourism and Environment & Disaster Management, where India is the lead country.
Peace and security are essential for development to take place. The First Meeting of BIMSTEC National Security Chiefs in New Delhi in March adopted a holistic approach to tackle traditional and non-traditional security challenges, that threaten the region, she said.
“We worked out collective strategies to counter the scourge of terrorism, violent extremism & transnational crimes, as also to strengthen our maritime and cyber security cooperation. Specific follow-up measures in these areas are now under progress,” she said.
“Our region is vulnerable to a variety of disasters due to its geo-climatic conditions. To build regional capacities, India is hosting the first BIMSTEC Disaster Management Exercise in October 2017. This will help us develop quicker, coordinated and comprehensive responses to disasters, and provide timely relief and rehabilitation,” the Minister said.
She said intra-regional tourism got a boost with the launch of the BIMSTEC Network of Tour Operators recently in New Delhi. This first-of-its kind platform has brought industry and stakeholders from across the region together.
Promotion of intra-BIMSTEC tourist circuits, joint marketing strategies, and BIMSTEC specific tourism products, notably the Buddhist circuit, would allow tourists to experience our rich and shared civilizational heritage, she said, adding that India has also further liberalized its tourist e-visa visa norms, which makes it easier for foreign tourists to visit its neighbouring countries when they are on a trip to India.
The Minister said enhanced connectivity is vital to achieving their common goals of growth, employment & prosperity. "To achieve smoother cross-border flows of trade and people, we need to put in place the enabling soft infrastructure such as the Framework Agreement on Transit, Trans-shipment and movement of Vehicular Traffic; & the Agreement on Coastal Shipping, at the earliest,"she said.
"Energy is considered the engine of economic development. Our region is blessed with abundant energy resources. I am happy to note, that cross-border exchange of power between India, Nepal, Bhutan & Bangladesh is on a rapid upswing. The BIMSTEC MOU on Grid Interconnection, which has been finalized, would further facilitate regional energy trade. In India, a massive programme to harness renewable energy is transforming our energy landscape. Let us build a strong renewable energy partnership to tackle climate change together, for a greener world tomorrow," he said.
Ms. Swaraj said BIMSTEC has a combined GDP of over $ 2.85 trillion but there remained an immense unfulfilled potential for deeper economic integration. 
"Along with the work on BIMSTEC FTA, the BIMSTEC Trade Facilitation Agreement and the BIMSTEC Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters would fasten trade and must be concluded at the earliest.
“In the area of public health, I am happy to inform of a unique initiative - the BIMSTEC Telemedicine Network that was launched recently by one of our premier medical institutes JIPMER. The Network brings together ten top hospitals and medical institutes in the region to provide cutting edge telemedicine services. The BIMSTEC Task Force on Traditional Medicine would be meeting in India in October 2017 to strengthen the role of traditional medicine in holistic health care,” she added.

Fire breaks out in 86-storeyed building in Dubai, no injuries reported

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

Boeing delivers first 737 MAX 8 to flydubai

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

10 Indians among 11 killed in fire at Najran in Saudi Arabia

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

Modi meets Korean President, Italian and Norwegian Prime Ministers

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Prime Ministers Paolo Gentolini of Italy and Erna Solberg of Norway on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Prime Ministers Paolo Gentolini of Italy and Erna Solberg of Norway on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit here today.
During his meeting with Mr. Moon, Mr. Modi extended felicitations in person to him for his victory in Presidential elections. Mr. Moon recalled Mr. Modi's congratulatory phone call and tweet in Korean language, which was warmly received by the people of South Korea. 
An official press release said both leaders expressed their commitment to further develop the special strategic partnership between India and South Korea, particularly through participation in programmes such as Make in India, Digital India, Start up India, et cetera. 
The Prime Minister invited President Moon to visit India at an early date. The invitation was accepted. 
Mr. Modi's discussions with Mr. Gentolini focused on promoting bilateral relations, particularly trade and investment and people-to-people ties. 
He invited Italy's participation in World Food India - the food processing exhibition to be held in India in November this year. The two leaders stressed the significance of promoting interaction between medium enterprises of the two countries for strengthening bilateral economic cooperation. 
Mr. Gentolini appreciated Indian investments in his country, including in industrial sector. The two leaders also discussed ways and means to work together for providing sustainable solutions to prevent climate change and promote development in Africa. 
Mr. Modi and Ms. Solberg discussed bilateral matters, especially strengthening of economic relations. He invited participation of Norwegian pension funds in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. 
Ms. Solberg invited India to participate in the Oceans' Conference on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). In a gesture symbolising cooperation for attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Ms. Solberg presented to Mr. Modi, at the end of the meeting, a football with SDGs inscribed on it. 

Modi meets Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on sidelines of G-20 Summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for bilateral talks on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit here today.
The two leaders briefly reviewed progress in bilateral relations, including in important projects, since their last meeting in Japan during Mr. Modi's visit to Japan in November 2016, official sources said.
Mr. Modi expressed satisfaction at developments in bilateral relations since then. 
The Prime Minister said that he looked forward to Mr. Abe's coming visit to India for the next Annual Summit between the two countries and hoped that it would further strengthen their cooperation. 

India will work with China, other BRICS countries on priority areas, says Mahesh Sharma

Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Mahesh Sharma said yesterday that India would work with China and other BRICS countries on Chair's priority areas, global economic partnership, global governance, people-to-people exchanges and macroeconomic coordination.
The other areas marked for cooperation are Agenda 2030, International peace and stability, open world economy, IMF reform, media, sports, education, traditional medicines, and exchanges among students and scholars and culture, Dr Sharma said while addressing the second meeting of BRICS Culture Ministers at Tianjin in China.
“India attaches importance to its engagements with BRICS which has emerged as a valuable forum for consultation, coordination and cooperation on contemporary global issues of mutual interest and has helped promote mutual understanding,” he added.
The Minister said India held the BRICS Chairmanship in 2016 and hosted the 8th BRICS Summit on October 15-16, 2016 in Goa under the theme ‘Building Responsive, Inclusive and Collective Solutions’.
“Each of the BRICS countries possesses rich cultural heritage and traditions and we share goodwill, understanding, respect and interest for each other's cultural heritage. This respect and interest will in times to come contribute towards developing even stronger bonds of friendship, empathy and cooperation,” he added.
“India has bilateral cultural agreements and specific cultural exchange programmes with each of the BRICS countries. We have been showcasing our rich cultural heritage through Festivals of India organized in China and South Africa already. Preparations are afoot to organize a similar festival in Brazil in September this year and in Russia  early next year,” the Minister said.
“We are in the midst of a tremendous shift in the way of growth and modernization, but libraries continue to play a central role in providing open and free access to information and ideas. As gateways to knowledge and culture, libraries play a fundamental role in society. The resources and services they offer, create opportunities for learning, support literacy and education, and help shape the new ideas and perspectives that are central to a creative and innovative society," he said.
He said the National Museum of India has been organizing exhibitions overseas. Presently, an exhibition on “Across the Silk Road: Gupta Sculptures and their Chinese Counterparts during 400-700 AD” is on show in various museums of China since September, 2016.
Dr Sharma said under the Cultural Mapping of India Scheme, a web portal has been developed for collection of online data from artistes for cultural mapping, which will serve as an artist repository. A sub scheme as a National Mission on Cultural Mapping and Roadmap with a Financial Outlay of Rs 469.40 crore for 2017-2018, 2018-2019 & 2019-2020 has been approved under the umbrella of "Kala Sanskriti Vikas Yojna", he added.

India has prioritised strengthening health systems, says Nadda at BRICS meeting

Union Health & Family Welfare Minister J. P. Nadda today said India has prioritised strengthening health systems as a non-negotiable strategy.
“Strengthening of health systems is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). India has prioritized strengthening health systems as a non-negotiable strategy towards achieving SDGs,” Mr Nadda said during his address at the BRICS Health Ministers at Tianjin in China. 
The Minister spoke on the theme – ‘Strengthen Health System and Achieve Health-Related SDGs.’
Stressing the importance of building strong and resilient health systems, he said that the case for strengthening health systems stems from the basic realization that even the most well-crafted or well-designed health interventions cannot succeed without a strengthened health system that encompasses improvements in healthcare service provision, utilization, quality and efficiency of healthcare services delivered including adoption of healthy behaviours and practices.
The health sector adds direct economic value by expanding the number of jobs, investing in infrastructure projects and purchasing supplies needed for health-care delivery, he added.
The National Health Policy, 2017 adopted by India is well aligned with the SDG-3 targets. “The new policy enunciates health in all policies, comprehensive primary healthcare, organisation of public healthcare delivery, improving vaccines and drug security and progressive movement towards universal health coverage,” he said.
The National Health Mission (NHM), one of the largest health programmes in the world, represents the prime vehicle to achieve the SDG-3, and in its next phase is aligning its goals with the National Health Policy 2017 and the SDG-3, he pointed out.
Highlighting the achievements of India in the health sector, Mr Nadda stated that India has expanded the number of vaccines under Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) and launched Mission Indradhanush aimed at expanding coverage by reaching the unreached.
India has taken various measures to augment both number, quality and skill mix and geographical distribution to address shortage of critical health human resource such as increasing medical seats, upgradation of District Hospitals to Medical colleges in underserved areas, establishing new AIIMS, he added.
The Health Minister said dialysis services are provided free of cost to the poor under the recently launched Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme which is on Public Private Partnership mode. The proposed National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) envisages inclusion of preventive care, robust IT platform, strong grievance redressal mechanism in addition to expanding both population and benefit coverage and providing an additional coverage to senior citizens.
He said to address the growing burden of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) on account of premature mortality and morbidity, India has launched a universal population-based free screening, control and management programme for five common NCDs that is envisaged to translate into one of the largest population based screening and management programmes in the world in next few years.
Reiterating the commitment of the Government, the Health Minister said that India stands unwavering in its commitment towards synergizing collaboration with BRICS countries especially through the ‘BRICS Framework for Collaboration on Strategic Projects in Health’.

Education a universal apolitical agenda to empower people: Javadekar

Union Human Resources Development Minister Prakash Javadekar today said increased cooperation in education is the need of the hour as it was a universal, apolitical agenda that would empower people.
Addressing the 5th Meeting of BRICS Education Ministers here, Mr Javadekar expressed appreciation for the creation of an institutional mechanism in the form of BRICS Network University and BRICS Think Tank Council.
The BRICS Network University, where 12 universities from each of the five BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- will engage with each other in education research and innovation, was another commendable initiative, he added.
The Minister pointed out that the meeting has prioritised five areas of cooperation, namely, Communication and IT, Economics, Climate Change, Water Resources and Pollution and BRICS study. India will participate wholeheartedly in all these cooperative efforts, he added.
Mr Javadekar said India was reforming and reprioritising its education. In school education, learning outcomes were being emphasised upon. Efforts were also on to promote creativity and keep alive curiosity and inquisitiveness among students. In higher education, the focus is on skilling, research and innovation.
Among the initiatives taken by the Indian government in the sector was launching of the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) which provides a relative ranking of Indian institutions. India’s indigenous MOOCs platform, SWAYAM, has already hosted over 480 courses online and, this year, plans to host 2000 courses. GIAN (Global Initiative for Academics Network) under which 600 professors from 62 countries have already conducted their courses in India. “This year, we expect to receive another 800 faculty from across the world,” he added.
The Minister also spoke about India’s research initiative, IMPRINT, which identifies priority areas for research for India, the National Digital Library, which provides over 7.2 million online resources free of cost and is ever expanding, National Academic Depository (NAD) and Smart India Hackathon, which involved over 40000 students in solving over 300 problems received from various sources.
Delegations from the other BRICS Member States spoke about education systems of their countries, initiatives taken by them and identifying the areas of future cooperation among the BRICS Member States. There were deliberations on the Beijing Declaration on Education which was discussed thereafter in the Senior Officials’ Meetings held yesterday.
The Beijing Declaration identifies some specific activities to deepen the cooperation among the BRICS Member States, encompassing the entire spectrum of education from school and higher education to vocational and technical education.
Before the meeting of Education Ministers, an international conference of Vice-Chancellors of the Universities participating in the BRICS Network University (BRICS-NU), meeting of International Governing Board (IGB) of BRICS-NU and meetings of International Thematic Group (ITGs) of BRICS-NU were held in Zhengzhou, China from July 1-3.
During the meeting, the participating countries signed the Regulation for the IGB and the statutes for the ITGs, thus completing the structure of the BRICS-NU.
At the conclusion of the BRICS Education Ministers’ meeting, a bilateral meeting was also held between Mr Javadekar and the Education Minister of China, Chen Baosheng when bilateral cooperation between India and China was discussed.
Earlier, the meeting adopted the Beijing Declaration on Education. The 11-point declaration reiterated support for the BRICS Network University (NU) to collaborate in the fields of education, research and innovation and encourage universities to participate in the BRICS University League.
Cultural cooperation was to be increased through language education and multilingualism to promote mutual understanding of the history and culture of BRICS Member States.
Initiatives were to be undertaken to promote the professionalism of academics in higher education through the BRICS Network University as a focus of future education development.
It was decided to provide encouragement to more teachers and educational administrators to learn from the experience of other countries in improving teacher quality and performance, and promoting the development of education through international exchanges.
Cooperation was to be strengthened in the field of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), sharing of ideas and experiences in the development of vocational educators, and developing projects that are of common interest to the BRICS Member States.
The members should recognise the importance of BRICS Think Tanks Council (BTTC), BRICS Network University as well as other BRICS initiatives, and encourage the streamlining of mechanisms for their close cooperation to ensure the alignment of their work.
The importance of streamlining the cooperation among educational think tanks and education researchers was emphasised and China’s invitation to host a conference to explore possible cooperation among the various entities in the BRICS Member States was welcomed.
It was decided to encourage the organisation of “youth winter/summer camps” to reinforce communication and cultural exchanges among the young generation from the BRICS Member States.
The Member States were to be encouraged to expand the number of scholarship opportunities to students across the BRICS Member States.
Sharing of the experience and practices in achieving the SDG4-Education 2030 targets was stressed upon to foster a more favourable policy environment, adoption of effective practices, and advocate global educational policies that take into account the common concern and priorities of the BRICS Member States.
It was decided to encourage the participation in the 3rd BRICS NU Annual Conference to be held in 2018, in Cape Town, South Africa and in the BRICS Global Business and Innovation Conference to be held in September 2017, in St. Petersburg, Russia.

India, Israel agree to protect their strategic interests, combat terrorism

India and Israel on Wednesday agreed to do much more together to protect their strategic interests and also cooperate to combat growing radicalization and terrorism, including in cyber space.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, Israel on July 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, Israel on July 5, 2017.
India and Israel today agreed to do much more together to protect their strategic interests and also cooperate to combat growing radicalization and terrorism, including in cyber space.
"India and Israel live in complex geographies. We are aware of strategic threats to regional peace and stability. India has suffered firsthand the violence and hatred spread by terror. So has Israel," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their talks here.
In a joint statement issued by the two sides, the two Prime Ministers  reiterated their strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. 
They stressed that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever. The leaders asserted that strong measures should be taken against terrorists, terror organizations, their networks and all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups. They also underscored the need to ensure that terrorist organizations do not get access to any WMD or technologies. Both leaders also committed to cooperate for the early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
"We also discussed the situation in West Asia and wider region. It is India’s hope that peace, dialogue, and restraint will prevail," Mr. Modi said.
The two sides signed seven agreements today, including two memoranda of understanding (MoU) between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) regarding cooperation in GEO-LEO Optical Link and in Electric Propulsion for Small Satellites and a plan of cooperation between them in the area of atomic clocks.
The other agreements related to setting up of the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F), water conservation, water utility reform and agriculture.
Mr. Modi had arrived here yesterday on a historic three-day visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister.
Mr. Modi began his statement by thanking Mr. Netanyahu for his "exceptional generosity" with his time and friendship.
"I will truly cherish the most wonderful dinner that you and Mrs Netanyahu hosted for me yesterday. Our conversation last night, meeting Mrs Netanyahu, learning about your family especially what you told me about your father has taken my experience of your beautiful country to a whole new level. India admires the success of your people in overcoming adversity to advance, innovate and flourish against all odds. I am honoured to be in Israel on this extra-ordinary visit. In our modern journey, our paths have been different, but our belief in democratic values and economic progress has been a shared pursuit," he said.
Mr. Modi said his visit was an occasion to rejuvenate the bonds of the friendship between the two countries; to compose a new chapter in their ties; and to jointly venture towards new horizons of engagement.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu and I have had productive discussions covering an extensive menu of issues. Not just on areas of bilateral opportunities. But, also how our cooperation can help the cause of global peace and stability. Our goal is to build a relationship that reflects our shared priorities and draws on enduring bonds between our peoples," he said.
Mr. Modi said Israel was among the leading nations in the field of innovation, water and agricultural technology. 
"These are also among my priority areas in India’s development. We agreed that efficiency of water and resource use; water conservation and its purification; productivity increases in agriculture are key areas in deepening our bilateral cooperation. We are of one view that together our scientists and researchers would develop, build and implement mutually beneficial solutions in the field. Our decision to establish a bilateral Technology Innovation Fund worth US$ 40 million for research in industrial development will help us in achieving this goal. We regard thriving two-way trade and investment flows as the bedrock of a strong partnership. Prime Minister Netanyahu and I agreed on the need to do more in this direction. Businesses on both sides should take primary lead in such efforts. This would also be our message to the CEO Forum tomorrow," he said.
India, Israel to cooperate in fight against terror: Modi
Mr. Modi said their people held natural affinity and warmth for each other. "The Indian-origin Jewish community reminds us of these bonds. It also serves as a bridge to a shared future. In recent years, we have been receiving a large number of Israeli tourists in India. At the same time, more and more Indian students are choosing to pursue advance academics and research in your best universities. I am confident that the strength of these links, old and new, will hold us in good stead as we forge a partnership for the 21st century."
"Around 150 kilometers from here, there is a slice of history in the city of Haifa in Israel that is very dear to my country. This is the final resting place for forty-four of the Indian soldiers who sacrificed their lives during World War I to liberate that city. Tomorrow, I will travel to Haifa to pay homage to our brave Indian soldiers. 
"It has been a productive and memorable twenty-four hours in Israel. I am sure that the rest of my stay would be equally exciting. Let me also take this chance to invite you and Mrs. Netanyahu and your family to visit India. I again thank you for your warm welcome and hospitality," he added.
Earlier, Mr. Netanyahu said they were making history together. "This is a deeply moving moment for me, both in personal, but also in national and international terms.
"I have a feeling that today, India and Israel are changing our world and maybe changing parts of the world. Because this is a cooperation, it's a marriage really made in Heaven but we're implementing it here on Earth," he remarked.
"We discussed in our meetings yesterday and today, just now, with several of our ministers and your delegation, we spoke about so many fields where we think we can make a big difference – a big difference in water and agriculture and health, in every field, in so many fields, in the fields that affect the lives of our people, their well-being, their employment possibilities, the longevity of their lives and how they live it. 
"So we have decided, because Prime Minister Modi and I are I think not only wedded to visions, but we like to have our feet connected. We try to look to the distance but have our feet firmly planted on the ground. We have empowered our staffs to bring us concrete plans in these diverse areas by the first of January. So this is very practical," he said.
He said that, while both sides would seek to bring to fruition cooperation in various areas which could truly revolutionize their relationship and the lives of millions of people, they were talking about beyond all that.
"We're talking about also cooperation in third countries and actually working together to better the future of the people of Africa. India is present there, Israel is present and coming in to Africa and we think that by joining forces in various areas that I just discussed and others, we can help the people of Africa as well. So this is very, very exciting and it shows you how we are seizing the future.
"We also recognize that we are being challenged. We are being challenged by the forces of terror, the forces of terror that seeks to undermine our world, our countries, the peace and stability of our common civilization and we have agreed to cooperate in this area as well," he said.
He thanked Mr. Modi for the "important gesture" of meeting young Moshe Holtzberg, a survivor of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai. "But this is an expression of our commitment to fight the bad and work for the good, and I think this is what marks this visit. It's a partnership to seek the good, to defend the good, to achieve the good," he said. "And this is a good day."

Modi presents replicas of relics from Kerala to Netanyahu

Prime Minister Narendra Modi presented Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with replicas of two sets of relics from Kerala which  are regarded as key artifacts in the long Jewish history in India.
They comprise two different sets of copper plates that are believed to have been inscribed in 9-10th century C.E.
The first set of copper plates is a cherished relic for the Cochini Jews in India. It is regarded as a charter describing the grant of hereditary royal privileges and prerogatives by the Hindu King, Cheraman Perumal (often identified as Bhaskara Ravi Varma) to the Jewish leader Joseph Rabban. According to traditional Jewish accounts, Joseph Rabban was later crowned as the Prince of Shingli, a place in or equated with Cranganore. Cranganore is where Jews enjoyed religious and cultural autonomy for centuries, before they moved to Cochin and other places in Malabar. 
Local Jews once placed in each coffin a handful of earth from Shingli/Cranganore that was remembered as a holy place and a “second Jerusalem”. The replica of these plates was made possible with the cooperation of the Paradesi Synagogue in Mattancherry, Kochi, an official press release said.
The second set of copper plates is believed to be the earliest documentation of the history of Jewish trade with India. These plates describe the grant of land and tax privileges by the local Hindu ruler to a church and oversight of trade in Kollam to West Asian and Indian trading associations. West Asian association included Muslims, Christians, Zoroastrians, as also a group of Jews who signed in Judeo-Persian and possibly also in Arabic and Pahlavi (Middle Persian). The plates bear their signatures that appear to have been cut into the plates by a local workman unfamiliar with the script. The replica of these plates was made possible with the cooperation of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church in Thiruvalla, Kerala, the release said.
In addition, Prime Minister also presented Mr. Netanyahu a Torah scroll donated by the Paradesi Jewish community in Kerala. Handwritten over a hundred years ago, the scroll had been dedicated to the Paradesi Synagogue in Kochi that had been built in 1568. The Torah is enclosed on wooden staves in a wooden case adorned with silver sheets and a metal crown covered in gold sheets in floral ornament style, bearing motifs typical of lamps and decorations of south India.
Mr. Modi arrived here yesterday at the start of a historic three-day visit, the first by an Indian Prime Minister, to Israel.

Modi says India, Israel want to put in place robust security partnership against shared threats

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that India and Israel wanted to frame a relationship that transforms the landscape of their economic engagement and also put in place a robust security partnership to respond to shared threats to their peace, stability and prosperity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and  his wife Sara on his arrival at their residence for dinner in Jerusalem, Israel on July 4, 2017. Photo: Avi Ohayon, Israel Government Press Office.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being greeted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara on his arrival at their residence for dinner in Jerusalem, Israel on July 4, 2017. Photo: Avi Ohayon, Israel Government Press Office.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that India and Israel wanted to frame a relationship that transforms the landscape of their economic engagement and also put in place a robust security partnership to respond to shared threats to their peace, stability and prosperity.
"In modern times, our ties have seen rapid growth since the establishment of our full diplomatic relations a quarter century ago," he said at a pre-dinner statement at the residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu here on the opening day of his historic three-day visit to Israel.
"Common objectives of economic prosperity, strong technology and innovation ties and the need to secure our societies define the space for convergent action between us. Over coming decades, we want to frame a relationship that transforms the landscape of our economic engagement. India is the world's fastest growing large economy. Our focus on using technology and innovation to meet our development priorities provides productive scope to expand our academic, scientific and research, and business links. 
"We also want to put in place a robust security partnership to respond to shared threats to our peace, stability and prosperity. I will work with Prime Minister Netenyahu to craft and build a clear action agenda to realise these objectives," he said.
Mr. Modi began by saying that, just a short while back, he had laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum to remember and honour over six million Jewish lives that were lost in the horror of the holocaust. 
"Yad Vashem is a reminder of the unspeakable evil inflicted generations ago. It is also a tribute to your unbreakable spirit to rise above the depths of tragedy, overcome hatred and forge ahead to build a vibrant democratic nation. Yad Vashem tells us that those who believe in humanity and civilized values must come together and defend it at all costs. As such, we must resolutely oppose the evils of terrorism, radicalism and violence that plague our time," he said.
Mr. Modi said the link between their people went back to thousands of years when the first Jews landed on India’s south-western coastline. 
"Since then, the Jews have flourished, and their traditions and practices thrived in India. We are proud of jewish sons and daughters of India like Lt. General J.F.R. Jacob, Vice Admiral Benjamin Samson, Master architect Joshua Benjamin, and film actors Nadira, Sulochana, and Pramila whose diverse contributions have greatly enriched the fabric of Indian society. Indian Jews are a living and vibrant connect to this shared history. My visit to Israel celebrates this ancient bond between communities across both our nations. And, I am happy that I will have occasion to engage with the rich Indian diaspora in Israel later tomorrow," he said.
Modi says India, Israel must fight terrorism, radicalism
Earlier, welcoming Mr. Modi, Mr. Netanyahu noted that Mr. Modi had been here only a few hours and he had already visited Yad Vashem, paid his respects at the tomb of the founder of Israel's national movement, Theodor Herzi, seen some of Israel's cutting edge technology and visited a greenhouse.
"So, you've had a glimpse of our painful past but also of our promising future. And we're very excited to host you here. We have a great admiration for the people of India. I told you about my late uncle, Professor Elisha Netanyahu, he was a mathematician at the Israel Institute of Technology and he told me many times about his admiration for the great Indian mathematician Ramanujan. He said he was the greatest mathematician of the 20th century but he said he was perhaps the greatest mathematician in many many centuries. And this symbolizes the talents of the people of India. As we know, we have the talents of the people of Israel. And we believe in this partnership of talent.
"We both seek a better future for our peoples. Doing so requires a lot of work. It won't happen overnight but Prime Minister Modi and I have the same trait – we both want it to happen overnight. We are tireless reformers and I want to congratulate you, Prime Minister, on the reforms that you're doing to change India's economy and we both believe that we can do together great things for the betterment of the future of our peoples," he said.
Mr. Netanyahu said he had been inspired by Mr. Modi's enthusiasm for yoga. "He said to me: you can start at a low level, choose your level. So I'm starting at a low level and here's what we're going to do. When I do a relaxing Tadasana pose, in the morning I'll turn my head to the right, India is the first democracy that I'll see. And when Prime Minister Modi does a relaxing pose of Vasisthasana and he turns his head to the left, Israel is the first democracy that you can see. So, in fact we have India and Israel are two sister democracies. In fact, together we account for about 20% of the world's population. But although we are unequal in size, we're equal in spirit. We believe we can accomplish great things. We have accomplished great things and we have many many more opportunities to seize together in the future," he said.
He also said that they faced common challenges and the first of them is to defeat the forces of terror that rampage through the world and threaten both their countries. "So we must stand together in this battle, much as we work together to perfect the future," he said.
"Prime Minister, we share a bond of democracy and creativity, a deep respect for the past, a boundless optimism for the future and it's in this spirit, my friend Narendra, of close cooperation and deepest friendship that I welcome you here to our home in Jerusalem. Welcome friend," he added.

Modi arrives in Israel on historic visit, says will build strong and resilient partnership

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Tel Aviv on Tuesday at the start of a historic three-day visit to Israel -- the first ever by an Indian head of government -- that is aimed at deepening the bilateral engagement and building a strong and resilient partnership between the two countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his arrival, at Ben Gurion Airport, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 4, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being received by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his arrival, at Ben Gurion Airport, in Tel Aviv, Israel on July 4, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived here today at the start of a historic three-day visit to Israel -- the first ever by an Indian head of government -- that is aimed at deepening the bilateral engagement and building a strong and resilient partnership between the two countries.
In a rare gesture, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several members of his Cabinet were present to receive Mr. Modi in an elaborate official welcome ceremony at the Ben Gurion Airport. Mr. Modi later inspected a guard of honour.
At a brief ceremony that followed, Mr. Netanyahu began with the Hindi words, "Aap ka swagat hai, Mere dost" (Welcome, my friend). He said Mr. Modi was welcome with open arms and that even the sky was not the limit for cooperation between the two countries. He described Mr. Modi as a great leader and a "world leader".
"Shalom le kulaam ani semya mayodh lehiyot po (I am delighted to be here in Israel)," Mr. Modi said in response.
"It is my singular honour to be the first ever Prime Minister of India to undertake this ground breaking visit to Israel. I want to thank my friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu, for the invitation and for receiving me with so much warmth. My visit celebrates the strength of centuries old links between our societies. Based on these bonds our partnership has maintained a strong and sustained upswing since the establishment of full diplomatic relations 25 years ago," he said.
Mr. Modi said the people of Israel have built a nation on democratic principles. "They have nurtured it with hard work, grit and the spirit of innovation. You have marched on regardless of adversity and converted challenges into opportunity. India applauds your achievements."
"Today is July 4, exactly 41 years since Operation Entebbe. The day when your Prime Minister, and my friend, Bibi, lost his older brother Yoni, while saving the lives of so many Israeli hostages. Your heroes are an inspiration for the younger generations," he said.
Mr. Modi said India is a very old civilization but a young nation. He said 800 million people in India are below the age of 35. "The talented and skilled youth of India are also its driving force. They propel my vision to transform India, its industry, its economy, its way of doing business, and its interface with the world," he said.
"In our path of sustained high growth and all around development, India counts Israel among its important partners. The need to rely on science, technology, innovation, and higher technical education to overcome our developmental challenges is common to both of us. These domains also bring together the creative energy and ideas of the highly skilled youth and entrepreneurs of the two countries. Alongside building a partnership for shared economic prosperity, we are also cooperating to secure our societies against common threats such as terrorism. 
"A progressive partnership in all these areas would shape the scope of my conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu. I am also keen to interact with the Indian diaspora in Israel, including a large number of Jews of Indian origin, who have enriched both our societies. 
"My visit marks a path breaking journey of engagement. A journey that we are excited to undertake together for the good of our people and societies. As we march together, a strong and resilient partnership with Israel will be my intent and focus. I thank you once again for this tremendous welcome," Mr. Modi added.
Modi arrives in Israel on three-day visit
"My friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, welcome to Israel," Mr. Netanyahu said.
"Prime Minister, we've been waiting for you a long time. We've been waiting almost 70 years in fact because yours is truly a historic visit. It's the first time an Indian Prime Minister is visiting Israel. We receive you with open arms. We love India. We admire your culture, we admire your history, your democracy, your commitment to progress. We view you as kindred spirits in our common quest to provide a better future for our peoples and for our world," he said.
He recalled that, when they first met at the United Nations three years ago, they had agreed to break down the remaining walls between the two countries.
"We shook each other's hands and we agreed to forge a historic partnership for progress. We then met again in Paris and since then we've spoken many times on the phone. But I remember my friend what you said in that first meeting. You said that when it comes to India-Israel's relations, the sky is the limit.
"But actually, my friend, the sky isn't the limit because today even our space programs are working together to achieve even greater heights. The ties between our talented innovative peoples is natural. It's so natural that we could ask what took so long for them to blossom? Well, it took a meeting of minds and hearts, it took a commitment of our governments. We have that today. 
"On this visit, your Make in India initiative meets my Make with India policy. We're setting up a 40 million dollar innovation fund as the seed for even greater cooperation on technology between us. Our partnership extends to water, agriculture, security, energy, many, many other fields. I believe the formula for success is simple: it's I-square T-square. That equals – Indian talent times Israeli technology. It equals Israel-India's ties for tomorrow. I2 T2. This is the degree of mathematics I remember from my student days. But I'm confident of the real mathematics of life.
"I'm confident of the success of our partnership for many reasons: First, is the talent of our peoples. It's been said, Prime Minister, that in Silicon Valley in California the two most common languages overheard are Hindi and Hebrew. Occasionally, one hears some native English too. Second, I believe in the success of our partnership because of the great sympathy between our peoples - the natural comradery between Indians and Israelis. The Jews of India and the 100, 000 Israelis of India descent are a wonderful human bridge between our two nations, our two peoples. 
"Third, I'm confident of our success because of leadership. Prime Minister Modi, you are a great leader of India and a great world leader. Your visit to Israel is a testament to that. Our two peoples have deeply held values rooted in ancient cultures, yet we both seek to realize the promise of a better future. I know, and this visit marks that very clearly, that we can do even more, even better together," Mr. Netanyahu added.
Apart from holding detailed discussions with Mr. Netanyahu on all matters of mutual interest, including common challenges such as terrorism, Mr. Modi will also call on Israeli President Reuven Rivlin during his visit.
Among other engagements, he will pay homage to Indian soldiers at the Indian Cemetery in Haifa and address members of the Indian community at an event in Tel Aviv.
India established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992 and since then the relationship has evolved into a multi-dimensional partnership. This year both the countries are commemorating 25 years of diplomatic relations.
In a post on his Facebook page yesterday, on the eve of his departure, Mr. Modi said that, as the first Indian Prime Minister to travel to Israel, he was greatly looking forward to this unprecedented visit that will bring the two countries and people closer. He said he would have in-depth talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the full spectrum of the bilateral partnership and ways of strengthening it in diverse fields for mutual benefit. "We will also have the chance to discuss major common challenges like terrorism," he said.
"My programme during the visit gives me an opportunity to engage with a cross-section of Israeli society. I am particularly looking forward to interacting with the large vibrant Indian diaspora in Israel that represents an enduring link between our two peoples.
"On the economic side, I will join with leading Indian and Israeli CEOs and start-ups to discuss our shared priority of expanding business and investment collaboration on the ground. In addition, I hope to get insights into Israel’s accomplishments in technology and innovation through on-site visits.
"During my stay, I will visit the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum to honour the memory of the victims of the holocaust that counts among the greatest tragedies in human history. Later, I will also pay my respects to the courageous Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during the liberation of Haifa in 1918," he added.

India, US decide to enhance cooperation in fight against terrorism, extremism

India and the United States on Monday decided to enhance their cooperation in fighting the serious challenges of terrorism, extremism and radicalization and, as part of this effort, doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorists everywhere in the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Donald Trump at the Joint Press Statement, at White House, in Washington DC, on June 26, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United States President Donald Trump at the Joint Press Statement, at White House, in Washington DC, on June 26, 2017.
India and the United States on Monday decided to enhance their cooperation in fighting the serious challenges of terrorism, extremism and radicalization and, as part of this effort, doing away with the safe shelters, sanctuaries and safe havens for terrorists everywhere in the world.
At a joint media interaction with US President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden at the White House after their talks here, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said they had, at their meeting, discussed terrorism, extremism and radicalization, which they felt were the major challenges facing the world today.
"With respect to our common concerns on terrorism, we will also enhance our sharing of intelligence, and exchange information to deepen and expand our policy coordination as far as possible," he said.
Mr. Trump said both nations had been struck by the evils of terrorism, and they were both determined to destroy terrorist organizations and the radical ideology that drove them. "We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism," he said.
Later, in a Joint Statement issued by the two sides, the two leaders stressed that terrorism is a global scourge that must be fought and terrorist safe havens rooted out in every part of the world. 
They resolved that India and the United States will fight together against this grave challenge to humanity. They committed to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D-Company, and their affiliates. India appreciated the United States designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist as evidence of the commitment of the United States to end terror in all its forms. In this spirit, the leaders welcomed a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals. 
The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups. 
The leaders announced increased cooperation to prevent terrorist travel and to disrupt global recruitment efforts by expanding intelligence-sharing and operational-level counterterrorism cooperation. They welcomed commencement of the exchange of information on known and suspected terrorists for travel screening. They further resolved to strengthen information exchange on plans, movements and linkages of terrorist groups and their leaders, as well as on raising and moving of funds by terrorist groups. 
The leaders also affirmed their support for a U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism. They also pledged to work together to prevent proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors.
This was the first meeting between Mr. Modi and Mr. Trump and the Prime Minister said their talks today would mark a very important page in the history of the collaboration and cooperation between the two nations.
He said the talks had been extremely important from all points of view, for several reasons "because they were based on mutual trust; because of the convergence and similarities they revealed in our values, and our priorities, and in our concerns and interests; because they focused on the highest levels of achievement in our cooperation, and mutual support, and partnership; because our two countries are global engines of growth; because the all-around or comprehensive economic growth and joint progress of both countries and both societies is the main objective for both the President and myself, and will remain so; because the top priority for both President Trump and myself is to protect our society from global challenges like terrorism; and because our aim is the strengthening of India and the USA -- two great democracies in the world -- friends."
"Our robust strategic partnership is such that it touches upon almost all areas of human endeavor.  In our conversation today, President Trump and I have discussed all dimensions of India-U.S. relations at length.  Both nations are committed to a bilateral architecture that will take our strategic partnership to new heights," he said.
India, US call on Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists
Mr. Modi said that, in this relationship, in both countries, increased productivity, growth, job creation, and breakthrough technologies -- an engagement towards all these are, and will remain, strong drivers of their cooperation, and give further momentum to their relationship.
"We consider the USA as our primary partner for India's social and economic transformation in all our flagship programs and schemes.  I am sure that the convergence between my vision for a 'new India' and President Trump's vision for 'making America great again' will add new dimensions to our cooperation," he said.
The Prime Minister said he was very clear about the fact that India's interests lay in a strong, prosperous and successful America. In the same way, India's development and its growing role at the international level were in the US's interest.
"One of our common priorities will be the development of trade, commerce, and investment links.  And in this regard, in the technology, innovation, and knowledge-economy sectors, the expansion and deepening of cooperation is also among our priorities.  Towards this end, we shall take steps to further strengthen our successful digital partnership," he said.
Mr. Modi said Mr. Trump and he also spoke at length on regional issues. "The increasing instability, due to terrorism, in Afghanistan is one of our common concerns.  Both India and America have played an important role in rebuilding Afghanistan and ensuring its security.  In order to attain our objectives for peace and stability in Afghanistan, we will maintain close consultation and communication with the U.S. to enhance coordination between our two nations," he said.
"In the Indo-Pacific region, in order to maintain peace, stability, and prosperity in the region, this is also another objective of our strategic cooperation in this area.  The increasing possibilities for enhancing cooperation in order to protect our strategic interests will continue to determine the dimensions of our partnership.  We will continue to work with the USA in this region.
"With regard to security-related challenges, our enhanced and growing defense and security cooperation is extremely important.  We have spoken at length on this subject as well.  
"The strengthening of India’s defense capabilities, with the help of USA, is something that we truly appreciate.  We have also decided to enhance maritime security cooperation between the two nations.  President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defense technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us," he said.
Mr. Modi said they also discussed international issues and their common strategic interests.  "In this context, we are extremely grateful for the continued support of the United States for India’s membership of international institutions and regimes.  We truly appreciate the support, because this is also in the interest of both our nations," he said.
"President Trump, I thank you for your feelings of friendship towards India and myself.  I deeply appreciate your strong commitment to the enhancement of our bilateral relations.  I am sure that under your leadership, our mutually beneficial strategic partnership will gain new strength, new positivity, and will reach new heights, and that your vast and successful experience in the business world will lend an aggressive and forward-looking agenda to our relations.  
"In this journey of India-America relations, I think I would like to thank you for providing great leadership.  Be assured that in this joint journey of our two nations towards development, growth and prosperity, I will remain a driven, determined, and decisive partner. 
"My visit today and the extensive talks I have held with you have been very successful, very fruitful.  And before leaving this mic, I would like to invite you to India, along with your family.  And I hope that you will give me the opportunity to welcome you and host you in India," he added.
Earlier, describing Mr. Modi as the leader of the world's largest democracy to the White House, Mr. Trump said he had always had a deep admiration for India and its people, and a profound appreciation for its rich culture, heritage and traditions.
"During my campaign, I pledged that if elected, India would have a true friend in the White House.  And that is now exactly what you have -- a true friend.  The friendship between the United States and India is built on shared values, including our shared commitment to democracy.  Not many people know it, but both American and the Indian constitutions begin with the same three very beautiful words:  We the people," he said.
Mr. Trump said Mr. Modi and he both understand the crucial importance of those words, which helps to form the foundation of cooperation between the two countries.  
"Relations between countries are strongest when they are devoted to the interests of the people we serve.  And after our meetings today, I will say that the relationship between India and the United States has never been stronger, has never been better.
"I’m proud to announce to the media, to the American people, and to the Indian people, that Prime Minister Modi and I are world leaders in social media -- we’re believers -- giving the citizens of our countries the opportunity to hear directly from their elected officials, and for us to hear directly from them.  I guess it’s worked very well in both cases," he said, amid laughter.
"I am thrilled to salute you, Prime Minister Modi, and the Indian people for all that you are accomplishing together.  Your accomplishments have been vast.  India has the fastest growing economy in the world.  We hope we’re going to be catching you very soon in terms of percentage increase, I have to tell you that.  We’re working on it.  
"In just two weeks, you will begin to implement the largest tax overhaul in your country’s history -- we’re doing that also, by the way -- creating great new opportunities for your citizens.  You have a big vision for improving infrastructure, and you are fighting government corruption, which is always a grave threat to democracy," he said.
Mr. Trump said that, together, the two countries could help chart an optimistic path into the future, one that unleashes the power of new technology, new infrastructure, and the enthusiasm and excitement of very hardworking and very dynamic people.
"I look forward to working with you, Mr. Prime Minister, to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, and to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal.  It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets, and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country," he said.
He expressed happiness about low-cost Indian carrier SpiceJet's recent order for a hundred new Boeing aircraft, one of the largest orders of its kind, which would support thousands of American jobs. He said the US was also looking foward to exporting more American energy to India as its economy grows, including major long-term contracts to purchase American natural gas, which are being negotiated. 'And we will sign them.  Trying to get the price up a little bit," he remarked.
"To further our economic partnership, I’m excited to report that the Prime Minister has invited my daughter, Ivanka, to lead the U.S. delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India this fall.  And I believe she has accepted.  
Mr. Trump said the security partnership between the US and India was incredibly important. He said their militaries were working every day to enhance cooperation. "And next month, they will join together with the Japanese navy to take place in the largest maritime exercise ever conducted in the vast Indian Ocean," he said.
"I also thank the Indian people for their contributions to the effort in Afghanistan, and for joining us in applying new sanctions against the North Korean regime.  The North Korean regime is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly.
"Working together, I truly believe our two countries can set an example for many other nations, make great strides in defeating common threats, and make great progress in unleashing amazing prosperity and growth.
"Prime Minister Modi, thank you again for joining me today, and for visiting our country and our wonderful White House and Oval Office.  I enjoyed our very productive conversation this afternoon, and look forward to its continuation tonight at dinner.  The future of our partnership has never looked brighter.  India and the United States will always be tied together in friendship and respect," he added.

Modi urges American CEOs to back women's empowerment, renewable energy, start-ups in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said his Government was focused on improvement in the quality of life of the Indian people, which required global partnership, and sought enhanced attention from American CEOs in areas such as women empowerment, renewable energy, start-ups and innovation.

Modi interacts with top American CEOs in Washington
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said his Government had, in the  last three years, focused on improvement in the quality of life of the Indian people, which required global partnership, and sought enhanced attention from American CEOs in areas such as women empowerment, renewable energy, start-ups and innovation.
At an interaction with 20 top American CEOs at a roundtable meeting here, he said the world was focused on India's economy, especially in areas such as manufacturing, trade, commerce and people-to-people contacts, thanks to factors such as its young population and rising middle class.
He suggested linking sanitary practices, products and technologies with the requirements of school going girls. He reiterated that his primary interest is improving the quality of life in India.
He said the Government was working on principles such as Minimum Government, Maximum Governance. He spoke of the recent reforms, and noted that the Union Government alone has initiated 7000 reforms. He said this indicates India's quest for global benchmarks. He mentioned the Government's emphasis on efficiency, transparency, growth and benefit for all. 
On Goods and Service Tax (GST), the Prime Minister said that this is becoming a reality after years of effort. He added that its implementation is a complex task that may well be the subject of future case studies. He added that this shows India can take big decisions and implement them swiftly. 
An official press release said the CEOs appreciated the Prime Minister for his policy initiatives and the work done in recent times towards ease of doing business. Initiatives such as Digital India, Make in India, Skill Development, Demonetization and the thrust towards renewable energy came in for much appreciation from a number of CEOs, it said.
Several CEOs showed their willingness to be partners in skill development and education initiatives. They also mentioned social initiatives being undertaken by their companies in India, in spheres such as women empowerment, digital technology, education and food processing. Themes such as infrastructure, defence manufacturing and energy security also came up for discussion. 
In conclusion, the Prime Minister thanked the CEOs for their observations. Looking forward to his meeting with US President Donald Trump tomorrow, he said India and the US have shared values. He said if America becomes stronger, India will be a natural beneficiary. He also added that India believes that a strong America is good for the world. 

India, Russia hold 17th Meeting of Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation

India and Russia held talks on ways of enhancing defence ties, one of the key pillars of their bilateral relations, at the 17th Meeting of their Inter-Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation in Moscow yesterday.
The meeting was co-chaired by  Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu.
"The discussions were productive and held in an atmosphere of warmth and friendship," an official press release said.
During the meeting, both sides expressed satisfaction at the concrete progress that has been made in all areas of cooperation since the last meeting of the Commission in October 2016. 
In a major outcome, both sides have agreed to a roadmap for the development of bilateral defence cooperation for which a Protocol has been signed. The roadmap includes specific activities to be concluded by both sides, and aims to enhance cooperation in the field of political and military dialogue, exercises, exchange of visits, military cooperation and training of military personnel. 
Mr. Jaitley stressed the utmost importance of having a robust and reliable after-sale support mechanism with regard to serviceability of Russian origin equipment and new opportunities for participation of Russian companies in the Indian defence manufacturing sector, as part of the 'Make in India' programme, under the new strategic partnership policy of the Government of India. 
Both sides also agreed to conclude various ongoing negotiations for different platforms, as well as restructure the Intergovernmental Commission to enhance military to military cooperation, the release said.
It was decided that the next meeting of the Commission will take place in India next year on mutually convenient dates, the release added.

Jaitley invites Russian firms for tech transfer to Indian companies in defence sector

Union Minister for Finance and Defence Arun Jaitley at the Plenary Session “Make in Russia: Double Purpose Industrialization” of Technoprom-2017, at Novosibirsk, Russia on June 21, 2017.
Union Minister for Finance and Defence Arun Jaitley at the Plenary Session “Make in Russia: Double Purpose Industrialization” of Technoprom-2017, at Novosibirsk, Russia on June 21, 2017.
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley today invited Russian companies to come forward with proposals for technology transfer to Indian companies and facilitate manufacturing of more advanced components/ parts and sub-systems for defence equipment.
This can start with platforms of Russian origin where the requirement is in large numbers and is recurring in nature, Mr Jaitley said addressing the plenary session of "Make in Russia: Double Purpose Industrialisation" at Technoprom-2017 at Novosibirsk in Russia.
“We envisage ‘Make in India’ in defence sector to not only address domestic requirements but also to enable Indian firms to become part of the global supply chain. Despite India’s significant domestic requirements in defence, manufacturing and business would be sustainable in the longer term only if companies look at global requirements and create economies of scale,” he added.
As an incentive, industrial licensing for manufacturing of defence equipment has been significantly liberalised, he pointed out. “Now for manufacturing of parts, components, sub-systems, production equipment and testing equipment, no license is required from the Government. Even for the items for which license is required, the initial validity has been increased from three years to 15 years. As a result of this liberal approach, the presence of private companies in defence production sector has risen manifold in last two years,” he said.
“Russian companies may identify some items for which they can set up joint ventures with Indian companies so that these items can be supplied across the world. Keeping this in mind, we have also streamlined the process of export clearances in last two years.
"India’s export control processes and technology security mechanisms are robust as required in the interest of national security. “India is likely to soon become a member of the multilateral Wassenaar Arrangement, which will further catalyse our international engagement,” he added.
Another area where Russian industry and business houses can join hands with Indian companies is research and development. “We are now giving significant emphasis to technology development and innovation in the defence sector. In the Defence Procurement Procedure-2016, we have streamlined the ‘Make’ procedure to encourage and incentivize design and development of defence equipment and systems. We would welcome partnerships between Indian and Russian companies in this area as well,” he added.
“Cities such as Bengaluru, Delhi and Hyderabad have design centres of many global defence companies. Bengaluru is fast emerging as an aerospace design hub of the world. Russian companies must take advantage of the large skilled manpower available in India. This would be a win-win situation for companies of both countries,” he added.

London high-rise fire: Police say 79 people dead or missing

Photo: London Fire Brigade
Photo: London Fire Brigade
London's Metropolitan Police Service today said that at least 79 people had died or were missing in the devastating fire that engulfed and almost completely destroyed a 24-storeyed building of apartments, Grenfell Towers, in West London in the early hours of last Wednesday.
"Sadly, what I can say now is that as a result of all our efforts we believe - as of 08:00hrs this morning - that 79 people are either dead or missing and sadly we must presume them dead following the fire at Grenfell Tower," Met Commander Stuart Cundy told journalsits.
"Of those 79, five have people have been formally identified. I have specially trained family liaison officers that are supporting all those families affected at this truly difficult time," he said.
He said the terrible reality of the fire that night meant that the police were supporting some people who may have lost a number of members of their family.
"We will give them every possible support at this truly difficult time. Clearly, our family liaison officers will be doing that with the utmost compassion and dignity.
"However - what I must stress is that the figure of 79 may change and it may change for a number of reasons," he said. "Based on what I know today I do not expect that to be in such numbers as we have seen over the last few days.
"It is an awful reality that some people may not be identified due to the intensity of the fire," he said.
He said the police were making all possible efforts to trace all those people who could have been in the building  on the fateful night and ensure that they were safe and well. 
"What is important to myself, and all of us, is to find everyone who is inside the building and return them to their loved ones. Thankfully, due to all the work we have been doing over the last few days, we have located five people who we feared dead and are in fact safe and well.
"Our work to recover those people from inside is ongoing - specialist teams from the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and the police are continuing their painstaking task to locate and recover all those in Grenfell Tower. We have been able to send those teams through the whole building from the top to bottom.
"On Saturday I was in there myself, I went all the way to the top floor and it's incredibly hard to describe the devastation suffered in some parts of the building," he said.
He said this was the reason the police had taken the step of issuuing photographs from inside the building to help people understand the complexity of the work and why it would take so long. 
"We will explain to families what the identification process is...To date five people have been formally identified - once that has happened and with the agreement of the families we will make their names public," he said.
According to various sources, Grenfell Tower, Tower, on Latimer Road in North Kensington in West London, had about 130 flats with some 500 residents, but there was no estimate about how many were actually in when the fire broke out. Most of those present in the building would have been asleep when the blaze started at around 0045 hours on Wednesday.
London Fire Brigade said they received the first calls about the fire at around 0054 hours on Wednesday and as many as 40 fire tenders and 200 firefighters reached the scene soon.
The firefighters battled the flames, which spread very quickly and engulfed nearly the entire building, from the second floor to the top floor, leaving many people, epsecially those on the upper floors, with not much time to escape.
Police said they were called at 01:16 hrs to reports of a large fire at a block of flats at the Lancaster West Estate, W11 and officers were rushed there. Emergency services evacuated as many residents as possible from the tower block in extremely difficult circumstances.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage. The building had undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment recently.

London high-rise fire: Police say 58 dead or missing

Photo: London Fire Brigade
Photo: London Fire Brigade
London's Metropolitan Police Service has said that at least 58 people have died or are missing in the devastating fire that engulfed and almost completely destroyed a 24-storeyed building of apartments, Grenfell Towers, in West London in the early hours of last Wednesday.
A statement from the police said this number included the 30 people who were confirmed dead on Friday.
"Based on what police now know, sadly 58 are missing and we assumed likely to have died. This latest figure includes the 30 already confirmed to have died in the devastating fire in a west London tower block on Wednesday," it said.
The police also confirmed the identity of one of the victims who perished in the fire. 
"Police can confirm that Mohammad Alhajali, aged 23, who lived in Grenfell Tower has now been formally identified. A post mortem examination was carried out on Friday, 16 June at Westminster Mortuary," the statement said.
According to it, family liaison officers have now been deployed to support 52 families. These include the families of those deceased as well as those who are critically injured, and also families in cases where police have strong reason to believe that people reported as missing are very likely to be inside Grenfell Tower.
"Over the last four days police have worked tirelessly to provide greater clarity on the number of people that are believed to have died in the fire.This has involved focusing our efforts on the people we have been told were in the building at the time of the fire but have not been seen since,"  it said.
"Those families who have not yet had a family liaison officer deployed to support them will be contacted by police throughout the course of this afternoon," it said.
The police said 16 bodies were now in a mortuary, including one person who died in hospital and the others have been recovered from the building.
At this stage 19 people remain in hospital of which ten are receiving critical care. Everyone who was taken to or who remains in hospital has been identified, it said.
The statement also said the ongoing search and rescue operation being carried out by joint specialist teams from the London Fire Brigade, London Ambulance Service and the Met had to stop on Friday afternoon due to serious concerns about the safety of those recovering bodies due to the overwhelming damage caused by the fire.
As of 13:30 on Saturday, those teams have re-entered the building and are now continuing with the recovery operation, which will take many weeks to come.
Metropolitan Police Service Commander Commander Stuart Cundy, said: "Whilst I sincerely hope that our work over the coming days means that we able to say that less people are confirmed as having died, I also have to consider the sad reality that this may rise.
"I would like to ask anyone who was in Grenfell Tower that night, but for whatever reason has not told us they are safe to please call our Casualty Bureau. It does not matter why you have not told us, what is important is that we know you are safe.
"I completely understand the growing sense of frustration within the local community and especially those people for whom Grenfell Tower was home.The loss of life as a result of this tragedy is truly harrowing, and we remain committed to providing the certainty and answers as soon as we possibly can.
"Sadly, our work will be ongoing for many, many weeks. We know that there are still bodies of those who died inside the building and we want to return those people to their families as soon as we possibly can.
"The work to search the building is challenging, but naturally could never be done quickly enough for those currently having to live with the uncertainty of knowing where their loved ones are," he said.
"Family liaison officers are providing support to 52 families. We are drawing on officers from across the Met, and other forces, to provide our response and will make sure that our response has as many officers as it needs."
Meanwhile, detectives carrying out the investigation are appealing for the public's help.
"I would like to ask the public for their help with this complex investigation.If you have images or videos that show the fire then please give it to us. Part of our investigation will involve a painstaking analysis of how the fire spread and this footage could be vital to helping establish that.
The statement said that families would be informed as soon as formal identifications had been made, which can only be done when police can prove beyond doubt the identity. Due to the intensity of the fire that took hold of the building this is essential in ensuring that families can be confident in identification processes, it said.
"Internationally recognised standards of identification are being used to identify the deceased. These are known as the INTERPOL Disaster Victim Identification Standards.
"Victims are identified where possible, by at least one of the primary identification methods which are dental comparison, fingerprints and DNA.
"Other, secondary, identification features are also taken into consideration, such as tattoos and scars. Supporting information to consider can include jewellery, clothing or property.
"Trained liaison officers are deployed into families once a preliminary identification has been made, who support them through the formal identification process.These processes take place in conjunction with the coroner. Both the Met and the coroner are committed to working as quickly as possible to identify people and repatriate them to their families," the statement said.
Among other things, the police are investigating how the fire spread so quickly and dramatically to the entire building, from the second floor up, and claimed so many lives.
The police, however, had said on Friday that, following initial reports from specialist investigators and experts who examined the flat where the fire started, there was nothing to suggest the fire was started deliberately.
According to various sources, Grenfell Tower, Tower, on Latimer Road in North Kensington in West London, had about 130 flats with some 500 residents, but there was no estimate about how many were actually in when the fire broke out. Most of those present in the building would have been asleep when the blaze started at around 0045 hours on Wednesday.
London Fire Brigade said they received the first calls about the fire at around 0054 hours on Wednesday and as many as 40 fire tenders and 200 firefighters reached the scene soon.
The firefighters battled the flames, which spread very quickly and engulfed nearly the entire building, from the second floor to the top floor, leaving many people, epsecially those on the upper floors, with not much time to escape.
Police said they were called at 01:16 hrs to reports of a large fire at a block of flats at the Lancaster West Estate, W11 and officers were rushed there. Emergency services evacuated as many residents as possible from the tower block in extremely difficult circumstances.
The entire area around the building was cordoned off by the police and around 30 adjacent flats to the tower block were evacuated as a precautionary measure. People were advised to avoid the area.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage. The building had undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment recently.

Death toll in London high-rise fire goes up to 30

Queen Elizabeth visits victims of London tower blaze
The death toll in the devastating fire that engulfed and almost completely gutted a 24-storeyed building of apartments, Grenfell Towers, in West London in the early hours of Wednesday has risen to 30, with the recovery of 12 more bodies since yesterday.
The number also includes one person who succumbed to injuries in hospital, official sources said.
"The other deceased remain inside the building. Unfortunately, it is expected that the total will rise and it is not expected that any survivors will be found," a statement from the Metropolitan Police Service said.
The number of deceased is expected to increase as emergency services personnel go through the building, floor by floor, to look for victims in the coming days.
As many as 24 people, of the 79 hospitalised initially, remain in hospital, and 12 of them are receiving critical care.
Meanwhile, the authorities are putting together an investigation team to look at all aspects of how the fire spread so quickly and dramatically to the entire building, from the second floor up, and claimed so many lives, they said.
"Detectives from across the Met, led by Detective Chief Inspector Matt Bonner of the Homicide and Major Crime Command will investigate what happened and why," the statement said.
"At this stage the Met can confirm that, following initial reports from specialist investigators and experts who have examined the flat where the fire started, there is nothing to suggest the fire was started deliberately.
"However, like any investigation, it is the job of the police to establish all the facts and if any criminal offences have been committed.
"The Met will work closely with the London Fire Brigade and the Health and Safety Executive, and it has been agreed that the police will take primacy of the investigation," the statement said.
Metropolitan Police Service Commander Stuart Cundy said the priority of everyone involved in the ongoing operation at Grenfell Towers was to recover and identify all the victims.
"It is very hard to find the words to express how those families affected must be feeling, and it is our job to work tirelessly to provide them with the answers they so richly deserve. This is a deeply distressing time and my thoughts remain with all those whose lives have been changed by this tragic incident," he said.
"Working with the Coroner and specialist detectives, using internationally recognised standards of identification, we will ensure that families are informed as soon as possible when we know beyond doubt that it is their loved one who has been identified.
"As I have said, that will be a complex process. Our efforts are focused on making sure we have family liaison officers supporting all those families where people are dead, critically ill in hospital or still unaccounted for.
"I'd urge anyone who has not yet been contacted by the police but is missing loved ones to either go to the reception centre at the Westway sports and leisure centre or call our Casualty Bureau on 0800 0961 233. This is really important so police liaison officers can directly support families."
Mr. Cundy said the conditions inside the building meant that the search and recovery operation to find and recover the victims was extremely challenging. 
"The upper floors of the block are particularly hazardous due to the damage caused by the fire. The sad reality is that this work will take some time, stretching into many, many weeks.  We have specialist teams from the Police, London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service working closely together to do this as safely yet as swiftly as possible.
"Equally, our investigation will be complex and lengthy and will draw on some of our most experienced detectives from across the Met.
"We are determined to provide those families with detailed answers about the tragedy that has taken their loved ones from them and affected many others for the rest of their lives," he added.
The statement said dedicated and specially trained family liaison officers were being drawn together from a wide range of units and commands. As of this morning, family liaison officers have been deployed to support 36 families. These include the families of those identified as deceased as well as those who are critically injured, and also families in cases where police have strong reason to believe that people reported as missing are very likely to be inside Grenfell Towers.
The number of deployments will increase throughout the course of today, it said.
"The Casualty Bureau continues to be staffed 24 hours a day. If someone you have reported missing has now been found please update us at the Westway sports and leisure centre in Crowthorne Road or via Casualty Bureau," the statement added.
According to various sources, Grenfell Tower, Tower, on Latimer Road in North Kensington in West London, had about 130 flats with some 500 residents, but there was no estimate about how many were actually in when the fire broke out. Most of those present in the building would have been asleep when the blaze started at around 0045 hours on Wednesday.
London Fire Brigade said they received the first calls about the fire at around 0054 hours on Wednesday and as many as 40 fire tenders and 200 firefighters reached the scene soon.
The firefighters battled the flames, which spread very quickly and engulfed nearly the entire building, from the second floor to the top floor, leaving many people, epsecially those on the upper floors, with not much time to escape.
Police said they were called at 01:16 hrs to reports of a large fire at a block of flats at the Lancaster West Estate, W11 and officers were rushed there. Emergency services evacuated as many residents as possible from the tower block in extremely difficult circumstances.
The entire area around the building was cordoned off by the police and around 30 adjacent flats to the tower block were evacuated as a precautionary measure. People were advised to avoid the area.
The cause of the fire is not known at this stage. The building had undergone a multi-million pound refurbishment recently.
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