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India is natural destination for markets and business opportunities for Poland: Ansari

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Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari has said that India is a natural destination for Polish business looking for markets and business opportunities beyond Europe.
 
Addressing a Business Summit at the Ministry of Economic Development here yesterday, Mr Ansari said India’s 29 states now offer a climate of both cooperative and competitive federalism, with quantum improvements in investment conditions in different Indian states.
 
The new policy initiatives taken by the Union Government, such as Make in India, Skill India and Digital India schemes, present new business opportunities for Polish companies in areas such as defence, food processing, coal and mining, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology and renewable energy, he added.
 
Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szyd?o, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Development and Finance Jerzy Kwiecinski besides India's Minister of State for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh were among those present on the occasion.
 
“Today, Poland is India’s largest economic partner in Central Europe with bilateral trade that has grown to US $ 2.8 billion in 2016. I understand that this marked a growth of nearly 25% over the level of trade in the previous year. Investments are growing rapidly in both directions.
 
“This strong economic interaction between India and Poland is an indicator of the growing economic strengths of our countries. As Polish business looks for markets and business opportunities beyond Europe, India is a natural destination,” Mr Ansari said.
 
“With a growth rate of over 7%, despite the general global downturn, India today is not just the fastest growing major economy in the world, it is also one of the most open and welcoming destination for investments and technologies. A vibrant democracy of 1.3 billion people with a young, skilled workforce, India offers an aspirational middle class market of over 400 million people,” he added.
 
The constant reforms in fiscal and investment facilitation policies are transforming the economic scenario in India. A landmark Goods and Services Tax reform, for instance, is aimed at making India a unified market, with all 29 states offering an identical and predictable tax environment.
 
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Increasing transparency and a liberalised investment climate now allows the smooth flow of FDI in sectors like defence, railways, civil aviation and pharmaceuticals. We have seen a strong global confidence in the India story, with a surge in Foreign Direct Investments, which reached over US $ 50 billion in 2016, the Vice-President said.
 
"India’s 29 states now offer a climate of both cooperative and competitive federalism, with quantum improvements in investment conditions in different Indian states. Some Polish regions are already availing of the business opportunities that Indian states offer.
 
“Cooperation in the education sector can become an important area of cooperation for us. India’s young are eager to seek educational opportunities that Poland offers. We already have some 2500 Indian students in Poland. These students add to the resources of Poland’s distinguished universities and will act as bridgeheads for our future engagements,” he pointed out.
 
“I understand that the delegation led by the Deputy Prime Minister, Prof. Piotr Glinski that visited India in January for the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, had useful interactions with our political leadership and our business community. We have identified possible opportunities in sectors like food processing, mining, aerospace and defence,” he added.
 
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Terrorism will recoil on those nurturing it, warns Jaitley

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India's Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has warned against distinctions still sought to be made between good and bad terrorists, despite all the evidence and experience to the contrary, and warned that terrorism would recoil on those who nurture it.
 
“The global nature of this menace and the need for a coherent and sustained international response to it is now widely acknowledged," he said in his address at the 6th Moscow Conference on International Security titled ‘Global Security: Challenges of The 21st Century’ here yesterday.
 
"Nearly all countries present at this conference are taking proactive steps to counter international terrorism," he said.
 
Mr. Jaitley said India would steadfastly partner all friendly countries confronted with the challenge of terrorism. 
 
"We have successfully addressed this threat for over three decades. We will continue to strengthen ongoing cooperation in counter-terrorism with our partners,” he added.
 
Saying that the scourge of terrorism remains the primary security challenge for all peaceful countries, he pointed out that Russia itself continues to be a target, with the attack in St Petersburg still fresh in memory. “I wish to convey India’s strong solidarity with Russia and our sympathy for the victims and the families affected by of this dastardly attack,” he added.
 
Terrorism is being reinvented in newer and even more dangerous manifestations. The manipulation of young minds by fundamentalist groups using new technologies and social media has already caused long-term damage to our societies. One manifestation of this is the recent string of lone-wolf attacks in many countries, Mr. Jaitley said.
 
On the positive side, the territory acquired by ISIS in the Middle East has begun to be effectively challenged by several countries. This is reassuring and should be taken to its logical conclusion. Cooperation between major powers in this effort can become a template for similar steps elsewhere, he said.
 
“However, even as we work to eliminate the breeding grounds of terrorism in West Asia, the dangers of such elements returning to their home countries has become a major challenge. We need to encourage closer information exchanges and intelligence cooperation to address this threat.
 
“We should also resolutely resist opportunistic efforts by some states to support terrorist proxies by training, funding or providing safe havens to such groups for their limited objectives,” he added.
 
The conference was attended by Mr. Alexander Fomin, Deputy Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation and Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
 
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Mr Jaitley referred to continued unpredictability in ties between major powers and worrying signs of economic protectionism. New barriers to migration and the closing of borders are other elements of such an approach.
 
“Europe appears pre-occupied with the future of the EU project. We are also witnessing a sharpening of divisions in the European continent not seen since the Cold War,” he said.
 
Later, Mr Jaitley had “a warm and productive meeting” with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu. In his remarks to the media after the meeting, he said, “Diplomatic relations between India – Russia are in the 70th year. This is a relationship which goes far beyond just the relations between the Governments. 
 
"Russia has been a true and trusted friend of India, which is regarded so by the people of India, and there has been a much greater cooperation at the level of Defence. It is a cooperation which extends to Joint Military exercises, training cooperation and also with regard to supply of equipment which India purchases from Russia," he said.
 
“We have future plans to set up manufacturing units in India and these are subjects of discussion which came up in my bilateral meeting with the Defence Minister and I am sure with the level of engagement we have, this relationship will continue to grow”, Mr. Jaitley added.
 
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Three Indian warships arrive at Toulon in France

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Three Indian warships -- INS Mumbai, Trishul, and Aditya -- have arrived at Toulon in France for a three-day visit.
 
The ships were warmly received yesterday by the administration in Toulon and the French Navy at Toulon Naval Base in coordination with the Embassy of India. 
 
The visiting ships are a part of the Indian Navy’s Western Naval Command and the Task Group is headed by Rear Admiral R B Pandit, the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Fleet, who is flying his flag on the guided missile destroyer, INS Mumbai.
 
On completion of the visit at Toulon, bilateral exercise Varuna between the Indian Navy and the French Navy is scheduled this week. The Varuna series of exercises began in 2000 and have grown into an institutionalised form of interaction between the two navies. The last Varuna exercise was held off the Indian coast.
 
The current visit seeks to underscore India’s peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly and like-minded countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen the existing bonds between India and France. 
 
The visit of Vice-Admiral Girish Luthra, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command to France, coinciding with the visit of the IN ships to France and conduct of Exercise Varuna, amply demonstrate the Indian Navy’s engagement with the French Navy, an official press release said.
 
Vice-Admiral Luthra is scheduled to visit the French frigate FNS Auvergne, a French Nuclear Submarine Unit, as well as an Underwater Weapons Facility. He would also call on senior official in France, including Vice Admiral Charles-Henri du Che, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Sea Area (CECMED), the release said.
 
Relations between India and France have traditionally been close and friendly. Defence cooperation between India and France has grown substantially in the recent past and the interaction between the Indian Navy and the French Navy has been one of the cornerstones of this framework, it said.
 
With the establishment of the strategic partnership in 1998, there has been significant progress in all areas of bilateral co-operation including defence, nuclear energy and space. A high level committee for defence cooperation between the two countries at the level of Defence Secretaries met in Paris in 2015. Bilateral exercises such as Garuda, Shakti and Varuna have been a regular feature between the two nations, it said.
 
The IN warships will engage with the French Navy during their stay in the country and a number of professional interactions including the bilateral exercise Varuna, sports and social engagements are planned.  
 
"The interaction between two professional navies will go a long way in enhancing co-operation and understanding between the two," the release added.
 
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Jaitley raises H-1B visa issue with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley raised the issue of the recent executive orders by the United States Administration which indicated a possible tightening of the H-1B visa regime at a bilateral meeting with United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross here on Thursday.
 
Mr. Jaitley outlined the significant contributions the skilled Indian professionals have made to the US economy and expressed the hope that the US administration will take this aspect into consideration while taking any decision, an official press release said.
 
The Minister, who is the US to attend the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was accompanied to the meeting by Indian Ambassador in Washington Navtej Sarna and Secretar, Economic Affairs, Shaktikanta Das.
 
Both leaders emphasized the strength of India-US economic relations and the bipartisan support it has acquired over the years.  
 
Mr. Jatiley briefed the US Commerce Secretary on the strength of the Indian economy and the significant structural reforms the Government of India had undertaken over the last three years.  
 
Mr. Ross congratulated Mr. Jaitley on making the Goods & Service Tax (GST) a reality, the release added.
 
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Vijay Mallya arrested in London following India's extradition request

Well-known businessman Vijay Mallya, who is wanted by Indian authorities for allegedly failing to repay loans worth more than Rs. 9000 crore given by a consortium of leading Indian banks to the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, the high profile airline launched by his UB Group, was arrested in London today, official sources said.

Vijay Mallya
Vijay Mallya
Well-known businessman Vijay Mallya, who is wanted by Indian authorities for allegedly failing to repay loans worth more than Rs. 9000 crore given by a consortium of leading Indian banks to the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, the high profile airline launched by his UB Group, was arrested in London today, official sources said.
 
Mr. Mallya was produced before the Westminster Magistrates Court in Central London, where he was granted conditional bail. The next hearing in the case will be held on May 17.
 
India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had written to the United Kingdom government in April last year seeking the deportation of Mr. Mallya, who had left India on March 2, 2016.
 
In response to India's request, the UK authorities had recently begun the legal process for extraditing Mr. Mallya to India. But there are several legal formalities that have to be gone through before a wanted person can be extradited to India under UK laws.
 
"Officers from the Metropolitan Police's Extradition Unit have this morning, Tuesday 18 April arrested a man on an extradition warrant," a brief statement from London's Metropolitan Police Service, popularly known as Scotland Yard, said.
 
"Vijay Mallya, 61 (18/12/1955), was arrested on behalf of the Indian authorities in relation to accusations of fraud. He was arrested after attending a central London police station, and will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court later today, 18 April," the statement added.
 
Mr. Mallya, however, said there was the usual media hype over his arrest and that the extradition hearing had started in court today as expected.
 
"Usual Indian media hype. Extradition hearing in Court started today as expected," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
In January, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court had issued a non-bailable warrant against Mr. Mallya in a case relating to the alleged default of a Rs. 720 crore loan from IDBI Bank.
 
In between, Mr. Mallya had tried to settle the issue with the consortium of banks led by State Bank of India (SBI), offering an amount of Rs. 4000 crore, but the banks did not accept the offer.
 
India had requested the UK to deport Mr. Mallya so that his presence could be secured for investigations against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
 
Among other things, he had been accused of diverting abroad a part of the loan Kingfisher had taken from IDBI.
 
Earlier, on April 24, 2016, the Ministry of External Affairs had said that it had revoked Mr. Mallya's passport.
 
The decision to revoke the passport was taken after taking into consideration the replies furnished by Mr. Mallya to a show cause notice issued to him by the Ministry, facts brought by Enforcement Directorate, and non-bailable warrant under the PMLA Act 2002 issued by Special Judge, Mumbai.
 
Mr. Mallya, 61, who was then a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament, has denied that he had fled from the country and asserted that he was not an "absconder". 
  
Mr. Mallya was supposed to present himself before ED officials on April 15,  2016 but had failed to do so. That was the third time that the ED had summoned him, but Mr. Mallya had sought an extension on the previous occasions.
 
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The sanction of loans for the airline is also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office.
 
The Opposition had said at that time that Mr. Mallya could not have left the country without the active support of the Government when the consortium of 17 banks had urged the Supreme Court to stop him from leaving India.
 
The Government had hit back by saying that most of the loans were sanctioned by banks during the tenure of the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
 
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said in the Lok Sabha last year that the first sanction for the loans was given by a consortium of banks in September, 2004. The additional amounts and second renewal, were given on February 7, 2008. The accounts were declared as non-performing accounts on April 30, 2009.
 
"Thereafter, notwithstanding the fact that they had been declared non-performing accounts in 2009, a restructuring was done on 21st of December, 2010. So, these dates speak for themselves. I am just giving you a total amount with interest. As on 30th of November, 2015, that is four months ago, along with all interests compounded, the total amount due is to the tune of Rs.9,091.40 crore," he had said.
 
Mr. Jaitley had also asserted then that Mr. Mallya's assets were being attached and that the banks would make all efforts to recover the entire amount due to them.
 
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Pakistan Army court sentences Jadhav to death; India slams verdict

Kulbhushan Yadav
Kulbhushan Yadav
A former Indian Naval officer, Kulbhushan Jadhav, has been awarded the death sentence by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Pakistan which tried him under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) for his alleged involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against that country, drawing sharp reactions from India.
 
A press release from Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said Pakistan Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had confirmed the death sentence awarded by FGCM today.
 
Pakistan has accused Jadhav of being an agent of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and claimed that he was arrested on March 3, 2016 through a counter intelligence operation from Mashkel, Balochistan.
 
The release said Jadhav was tried by FGCM under section 59 of Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 and Section 3 of O?cial Secret Act of 1923. FGCM found Kulbushan Sudhir Yadhav guilty of all the charges. "He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organize espionage / sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi.
 
"The accused was provided with defending of?cer as per legal provisions," the release said.
 
In Delhi, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and handed over a demarche to him which, among other things, warned that if the sentence were carried out, the Government and people of India would regard it as a case of premeditated murder.
 
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"We have seen the ISPR press release today regarding Shri Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian citizen, who has been awarded a death sentence by a Pakistani military court martial," the demarche said.
 
"Shri Jadhav was kidnapped last year from Iran and his subsequent presence in Pakistan has never been explained credibly. The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, has repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities.
 
"The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Shri Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our High Commission was not even informed that Shri Jadhav was being brought to trial. Senior Pakistani figures have themselves cast doubt about the adequacy of evidence. The claim in the ISPR release that Shri Jadhav was provided with a defending officer during the so-called trial is clearly absurd in the circumstances.
 
"If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the Government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder," the demarche added.
 
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25-year-old Indian shot dead in US during robbery at convenience store

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A 25-year-old Indian, identified as Vikram Jaryal, was shot dead during an armed robbery at a covenience store he was working in at Yakima in Washington state in the United States of America early on Thursday morning, reports reaching here said.
 
Media reports from the town said Jaryal told police what had happened at the AM-PM convenience store, where he worked as a clerk, before he succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
 
The report said police were looking for two people in masks who robbed the store on Yakima Avenue and 6th Street in the town just before 2.00 am on Thursday. 
 
Police have released pictures from the CCTV cameras in the store and have sought the help of the public in finding the suspects.
 
According to the reports, the clerk, who was behind the counter when the masked men barged into the store, cooperated by handing over the money to them, but one of the suspects shot him anyway.
 
Police arrived on the scene a little later and the victim was able to tell them what happened.
 
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter that she had received a report on the incident.
 
She said the victim had reached the United States only 25 days ago and was working at the gas station owned by a family friend.
 
"On 6 April two miscreants entered the shop at 1.30 am. They snatched cash from victim and shot on his chest. This resulted in his death," she said.
 
"We are coordinating with the investigative agencies. They have got the CCTV footage and are in the process of apprehending the culprits," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said the Consulate General of India in San Francisco was helping the family and following up the matter with the police authorities.
 
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Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner completes first flight

The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner taking to the skies for the first time at Boeing South Carolina in the United States on March 31, 2017.
The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner taking to the skies for the first time at Boeing South Carolina in the United States on March 31, 2017.
The Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner, which is the newest and longest model of the 787 family, took to the skies for the first time on Friday at Boeing South Carolina and completed a successful flight totaling four hours and 58 minutes.
 
“The 787-10’s first flight moves us one step closer to giving our customers the most efficient airplane in its class,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President & CEO Kevin McAllister. “The airplane will give carriers added flexibility in growing their network routes and build on the overwhelming success of the 787 Dreamliner family.”
 
A press release from Boeing said that the aircraft, piloted by Test & Evaluation Capts. Tim Berg and Mike Bryan, performed tests on flight controls, systems and handling qualities. The 787-10 will now undergo comprehensive flight testing before customer deliveries begin in the first half of 2018.
 
“From takeoff to landing, the airplane handled beautifully and just as expected,” said Berg, chief 787 pilot. “The 787-10 is a fantastic machine that I know our customers and their passengers will love.”
 
The 787-10 has won 149 orders from nine customers across the globe including launch customer Singapore Airlines, Air Lease Corporation (ALC), All Nippon Airways (ANA), British Airways, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and United Airlines.
 
"As an 18-foot (5.5-m) stretch of the 787-9, the 787-10 will deliver the 787 family’s preferred passenger experience and long range with 25 percent better fuel per seat and emissions than the airplanes it will replace and 10 percent better than today’s competition," the release said.
 
The 787 Dreamliner family is a key part of Boeing’s twin-aisle airplane strategy, which offers a modern, optimized and efficient airplane family in every market segment. Since entering service in 2011, the 787 family has flown more than 152 million people on over 560 unique routes around the world, saving an estimated 14 billion pounds of fuel, the release added.
 
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India calls upon IORA to ensure freedom of navigation, over-flight in Indian Ocean

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Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today called upon the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) member States to ensure that the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the Indian Ocean is respected by all, as an expression of commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
 
Addressing the 1st IORA Leaders' Summit and the 20th anniversary of the Association, Mr. Ansari stressed the imperative need for open trade and open sea lanes that carry it.
 
Indonesia President Joko Widodo and IORA Secretary General K. V. Bhagirath, who is also the Indian Ambassador, were present at the session.
 
Mr. Ansari said maritime safety and security could be reinforced by institutionalising cooperative mechanisms such as White Shipping Agreements and by setting up an Information Fusion Centre for strengthening Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA), he said.
 
“My Government would be happy to host such a centre in India, with our in-house expertise supplemented by support from IORA member countries. We will also be happy to share our hydrographical capability with the member states for better navigation and understanding of marine topography,” he added.
 
“Today, terrorism has become the major impediment to development and threatens all pluralist and open societies. No cause justifies the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians. IORA must show zero tolerance for State-sponsored terrorism. The perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of terrorism must be isolated and face strong sanctions,” Mr Ansari said.
 
“We have reiterated our commitment to combating terrorism by adopting the IORA Declaration on countering violent extremism,” he added.
 
“The IORA Concord we sign today is a milestone document that underscores the criticality of maritime safety and security. India shares the vision for a peaceful region and the seas around us. We believe that our ocean must be protected from traditional and non-traditional threats, particularly piracy. All using these international waters must act with responsibility and restraint,” the Vice-President pointed out.
 
“IORA members have to help each other by sharing intelligence, securing our cyber space and minimizing the use of internet and social media for terrorist activities. There is a pressing requirement to work out the modalities for institutionalizing an IORA cooperation mechanism to this end by pooling the resources available with the member states. I would like to propose a network of think tanks to enable the collation of available resources with member countries.
 
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“This would help synergize the efforts of individual members States. In this context, I am happy to announce the intention of my government to establish IORA Centre of Excellence (ICE) in one of the coastal cities of India. The objective would be to provide academics and researchers access to a collective source of data and resource material. We will shortly be circulating a concept note on the proposed Centre through the IORA Secretariat,” he said.
 
“The Action Plan adopted today is a vision of our shared priorities. India stands committed to working with other members to realize the region’s untapped potential and to ensure that the Indian Ocean becomes a zone of prosperity and harmony,” he added.
 
The Indian Ocean is at the crossroads of global trade. The Ocean and its littoral are rich in natural resources and is home to more than 2.3 billion people. This creates limitless opportunities for growth and prosperity, he noted.
 
“Ours is a region marked by great diversity of cultures and levels of economic development. Yet for centuries the people on the shores of this ocean have been linked by the winds that blow across it. These facilitated exchanges of ideas through trade, religion and culture. As IORA member States, we recognize that the sea does not separate; rather it is a bridge that connects.
 
“We have made a beginning by unveiling 'Project Mausam' to re-kindle our cultural linkages. The recent launch of the Kalinga Indonesia Dialogue, that reminiscences an inspiring part of our history, is a welcome initiative. We look forward to more creative engagements, both bilateral and collective, among the member States,” he added.
 
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Sikh man shot in US, says he was told, "Go back to your own country" by masked gunman

 
Sikh man shot at in United States
A 39-year-old Sikh man was allegedly shot at and injured by a partially-masked gunman who walked onto his driveway in Kent, Washington in the United States and opened fire at him, saying, "Go back to your own country", in a suspected case of hate crime.
 
Reports reaching here said the man was working on his vehicle in the driveway of his house in the East Hill neighbourhood of the town, around 8 pm on Friday, when the unknown man approached him.
 
Police said the victim told them that there was an altercation between them, during which the man made statements to the effect of "Go back to your own country". The victim was shot in the arm.
 
The reports said the victim described the assailant as a six-foot tall white man with a stocky build. He had covered the lower half of his face with a mask.
 
"I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai, a US national of Indian origin. I have spoken to Sardar Harpal Singh, father of the victim," Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"He told me that his son had a bullet injury on his arm. He is out of danger and is recovering in a private hospital," she added.
 
Police in Kent are in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law-enforcement agencies in connection with the incident.
 
“We’re early on in our investigation. We are treating this as a very serious incident," the reports quoted Kent Police Chief Ken Thomas as saying on Saturday morning. 
 
Sikh community leaders said the victim had been discharged from hospital. They said he and his family were very shaken up by the incident and that the community was concerned about the "climate of hate".
 
The Sikh Coalition, a New York-based civil rights group, urged local and federal authorities to investigate the incident as a case of hate crime.
 
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The incident has come days after an Indian-American engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, 32, was killed when a 51-year-old US Navy veteran Adam Purinton allegedly shot at him and his friend, Alok Madasani, shouting, "Get out of my country", in an incident in a Kansas City bar on February 22.
 
On Thursday night, Harnish Patel, an Indian-origin businessman, was found shot dead in the front yard of his house in Lancaster county in South Carolina.
 
Local media reports quoted the county coroner's office as saying that Patel, 43, died on the spot but there was no indication that it was a hate crime.
 
The reports said Patel was shot about ten minutes after he closed his Speedee Mart store. They quoted investigators as saying that he drove straight home from the store and appeared to have been confronted by the killer when he stepped out of his silver-coloured Toyota Sienna mini-van around 11.30 pm local time.
 
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Indian-origin businessman shot dead in Lancaster, South Carolina, in US

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Harnish Patel, an Indian-origin businessman, was found shot dead in the front yard of his house in Lancaster county in South Carolina in the United States late on Thursday night, reports reaching here said, days after an Indian-American engineer was shot dead in a Kansas City bar on February 22.
 
Local media reports quoted the county coroner's office as saying that Patel, 43, died on the spot.
 
The reports said Patel was shot about ten minutes after he closed his Speedee Mart store. They quoted investigators as saying that he drove straight home from the store and appeared to have been confronted by the killer when he stepped out of his silver-coloured Toyota Sienna mini-van around 11.30 pm local time.
 
Lancaster County Sheriff's office said in a statement that Patel had closed his store at 11.24 pm and left for home in his vehicle. Lancaster County officials received calls at 11.33 pm after a woman called 911 to say she had heard screaming and gunshots.
 
"Deputies found Mr. Patel lying in his front yard a few feet from the side door to his home. Lancaster County Emergency Medical Services personnel responded, as did a deputy coroner, and Mr. Patel was declared deceased at the scene. It appears Mr. Patel suffered gunshot wounds," the statement said.
 
Investigators processed the scene and collected evidence from the spot and are seeking any information that might be related to the homicide.
 
“We ask anyone with information he or she thinks might be related to this incident in any way to please contact us,” said Sheriff Barry Faile. “If you saw anything at the store, in the area of Craig Manor Road, or anywhere in between, let us know. Even if you think it is not important, it could be the lead that solves this case.”
 
The reports quoted Mr Faile as saying on Friday afternoon, as the investigation progressed, that the Indian ethnicity of the victim did not appear to be a factor in the crime. “I don’t have any reason to believe that this was racially motivated,” he said.
 
In the incident in Kansas City, the Indian-American engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed and his friend Alok Madasani suffered bullet injuries when an American man shot them in a bar after telling them to "get out of my country".
 
The alleged shooter, Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with murder and attempt to murder in what is being seen as a possibly racially motivated attack. A third man, Ian Grillot, 24, also suffered bullet injuries when he intervened in the incident. Purinton fled the scene  and turned up five hours later at a bar in an Applebee's in Clinton, Mo. He told the bartender there that he needed a place to hide because he had "just killed two Middle Eastern men", media reports had said.
 
The bartender called the police and Purinton was arrested, the reports had said. Purinton is a Navy veteran, IT specialist, former pilot and air traffic controller.
 
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Indian-American engineer shot dead, two hurt in Kansas City in US

Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian-American engineer, was killed and his friend, Alok Madasani, suffered bullet injuries when an American man shot them in a Kansas City bar on Wednesday after telling them to "get out of my country".

Srinivas Kuchibhotla
Srinivas Kuchibhotla
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian-American engineer, was killed and his friend, Alok Madasani, suffered bullet injuries when an American man shot them in a Kansas City bar on Wednesday after telling them to "get out of my country".
 
The alleged shooter, Adam Purinton, 51, has been charged with murder and attempt to murder in what is being seen as a possibly racially motivated attack.
 
A third man, Ian Grillot, 24, also suffered bullet injuries when he intervened in the incident, which occurred around 7.15 pm at the Austins Bar & Grill, local media reports said.
 
While Kuchibhotla,  32,  died in a local hospital later, Madasani, also 32, was discharged on Thursday. Grillot's condition was said to be improving.
 
Both Kuchibhotla and Madasani were part of the Aviation Systems Engineering team at Garmin Ltd., headquartered in Olathe.
 
“Unfortunately, two associates on our Aviation Systems Engineering team, Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, were shot. We are devastated to inform you that Srinivas passed away and Alok is currently recovering in the hospital,” Garmin said in an e-mail to its employees.
 
Kuchibhotla, who managed helicopter programs at Garmin, had a bachelor's degree from the Jawharlal Nehru Technological University in Hyderabad, India and a master's degree in electrical and electronics engineering from the University of Texas, El Paso in the United States.
 
GoFundMe pages have been set up by their friends for Kuchibhotla's family and Madasani.
 
The page on Kuchibhotla said: "Srini was the kindest person you would meet, full of love, care and compassion for everyone. He never uttered a word of hatred, a simple gossip, or a careless comment. He was brilliant, well mannered and simply an outstanding human being. 
 
"His wife Sunayana and his family are now faced with incredible grief and a multitude of expenses. 
 
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"We've set up this fund to help them with  the funeral expenses and other ongoing grief / recovery support costs. This includes the very expensive process of  carrying his mortal remains back to India, so his parents can say goodbye one last time to their beloved son," it said.
 
By Friday, the contributions had crossed $ 259,000 against a goal of $ 150,000.
 
According to the reports, Purinton fled the scene  and turned up five hours later at a bar in an Applebee's in Clinton, Mo. He told the bartender there that he needed a place to hide because he had "just killed two Middle Eastern men", they said.
 
The bartender called the police and Purinton was arrested, the reports said. Purinton is a Navy veteran, IT specialist, former pilot and air traffic controller.
 
In Delhi, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she was shocked by the incident and conveyed her heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family.
 
She said she had spoken to the Indian Ambassador to the US, Mr Navtej Sarna, who had informed her that two Indian Embassy officials had rushed to Kansas.
 
"We will provide all help and assistance to the bereaved family. I have spoken to the father and Mr.K.K.Shastri brother of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Hyderabad and conveyed my condolences to the family. I have assured all help and assistance to the family.
 
"We will make all arrangements to transport the mortal remains of Srinivas Kuchibhotla to Hyderabad," she added.
 
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Scientists discover seven Earthlike planets orbiting a nearby star

The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist's concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature in Feb. 23, 2017 announcing new results about the system. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultra-cool dwarf, has seven Earth-size planets orbiting it. This artist's concept appeared on the cover of the journal Nature in Feb. 23, 2017 announcing new results about the system. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Scientists, using US space agency NASA's Spitzer space telescope, have discovered the first known system of seven warm, rocky Earth-size planets around a single star about 40 light years away that could be the best place to search for answers to the question "Are we alone?".
 
Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water, a press release from NASA said.
 
The release said the discovery had set a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. 
 
"All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone," the release said.
 
“This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal.”
 
At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles), the system of planets is relatively close to Earth, in the constellation Aquarius. Because they are located outside of the Earth's solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.
 
This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system. 
 
Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, Spitzer confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.
 
The new results were published Wednesday in the journal Nature, and announced at a news briefing at NASA Headquarters here.
 
Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.
 
Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky. Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surfaces. The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated – scientists believe it could be an icy, "snowball-like" world, but further observations are needed.
 
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"The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star," said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium. "It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds."
 
In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star – classified as an ultra-cool dwarf – is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system. All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun. The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighboring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in Earth's sky.
 
The planets may also be tidally locked to their star, which means the same side of the planet is always facing the star, therefore each side is either perpetual day or night. This could mean they have weather patterns totally unlike those on Earth, such as strong winds blowing from the day side to the night side, and extreme temperature changes.
 
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Spitzer, an infrared telescope that trails Earth as it orbits the sun, was well-suited for studying TRAPPIST-1 because the star glows brightest in infrared light, whose wavelengths are longer than the eye can see. In the fall of 2016, Spitzer observed TRAPPIST-1 nearly continuously for 500 hours. Spitzer is uniquely positioned in its orbit to observe enough crossing – transits – of the planets in front of the host star to reveal the complex architecture of the system. Engineers optimized Spitzer’s ability to observe transiting planets during Spitzer’s “warm mission,” which began after the spacecraft’s coolant ran out as planned after the first five years of operations. 
 
"This is the most exciting result I have seen in the 14 years of Spitzer operations," said Sean Carey, manager of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at Caltech/IPAC in Pasadena, California. "Spitzer will follow up in the fall to further refine our understanding of these planets so that the James Webb Space Telescope can follow up. More observations of the system are sure to reveal more secrets.”
 
Following up on the Spitzer discovery, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has initiated the screening of four of the planets, including the three inside the habitable zone. These observations aim at assessing the presence of puffy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres, typical for gaseous worlds like Neptune, around these planets.
 
In May 2016, the Hubble team observed the two innermost planets, and found no evidence for such puffy atmospheres. This strengthened the case that the planets closest to the star are rocky in nature.
 
"The TRAPPIST-1 system provides one of the best opportunities in the next decade to study the atmospheres around Earth-size planets," said Nikole Lewis, co-leader of the Hubble study and astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also is studying the TRAPPIST-1 system, making measurements of the star's minuscule changes in brightness due to transiting planets. 
 
Operating as the K2 mission, the spacecraft's observations will allow astronomers to refine the properties of the known planets, as well as search for additional planets in the system. The K2 observations conclude in early March and will be made available on the public archive.
 
The release said Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler will help astronomers plan for follow-up studies using NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2018. With much greater sensitivity, Webb will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone, and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures – key factors in assessing their habitability.
 
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, at Caltech, in Pasadena, California. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at Caltech/IPAC. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.
 
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Strong 6.2 earthquake jolts parts of Balochistan in south-western Pakistan

Map: Courtesy USGS
Map: Courtesy USGS
Several parts of Balochistan in south-western Pakistan were jolted by a magnitute 6.2 earthquake in the early hours of this morning.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake of moderate intensity, which had its epicentre at latitude 25.2°N and longitude 63.4°E, occurred at 0333 hours IST at a focal depth of 10 km.
 
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) said the earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale and had its epicentre 20 km west south-west of the coastal town of Pasni, about 450 km from Karachi. It occurred at 2203 hours UTC at a focal depth of 25.9 km, it said.
 
Pakistani media reports said tremors, which occurred at 0304 hours local time, were felt in places such as Gwadar, Makran and Pasni. There were no reports of casualties or damage to property. Relief teams were sent to remote parts of the region and officials had fanned out to survey the area.
 
Pasni, with a population of about 400,000 people, is located on the Makran coast on the Arabian Sea.
 
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Trump calls Modi, says India true friend, partner in addressing global challenges

United States President Donald Trump
United States President Donald Trump
United States President Donald Trump has emphasized that his country considered India a "true friend and partner" in addresing challenges around the world.
 
During a telephone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, he discussed opportunities to strengthen the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defense. 
 
A readout of the call issued by the White House said the two leaders also discussed security in the region of South and Central Asia.  
 
"President Trump and Prime Minister Modi resolved that the United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism.  President Trump looked forward to hosting Prime Minister Modi in the United States later this year," it added.
 
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Search for missing flight MH370 ends after three years with no answers

File photo of a Malaysia Airlines B777-200ER aircraft. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
File photo of a Malaysia Airlines B777-200ER aircraft. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Nearly three years after Malayasia Airlines flight MH 370 went missing on March 8, 2014 with 239 people on board, while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the underwater search for the aircraft was suspended today with no answers to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the plane.
 
The decision to call off the search was announced in a joint statement by Malaysian Minister of Transport Liow Tiong Lai; Australian Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester and Chinese Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng.
 
"Today the last search vessel has left the underwater search area. Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has not been located in the 120,000 square-kilometre underwater search area in the southern Indian Ocean," they said.
 
"Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modelling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft.
 
"Accordingly, the underwater search for MH370 has been suspended," the three ministers said.
 
The statement said the decision to suspend the underwater search had not been taken lightly nor without sadness. 
 
"It is consistent with decisions made by our three countries in the July 2016 Ministerial Tripartite meeting in Putrajaya Malaysia.
 
"Whilst combined scientific studies have continued to refine areas of probability, to date no new information has been discovered to determine the specific location of the aircraft.
 
"We have been overwhelmed by the commitment and dedication shown by the hundreds of people involved in the search, which has been an unprecedented challenge. Their tireless work has continued to improve our knowledge of the search area and has been critical in our efforts to locate the aircraft. We would like to reiterate our utmost appreciation to the many nations that have provided expertise and assistance since the early days of this unfortunate tragedy.
 
"Today’s announcement is significant for our three countries, but more importantly for the family and friends of those on board the aircraft. We again take this opportunity to honour the memory of those who have lost their lives and acknowledge the enormous loss felt by their loved ones.
 
"We remain hopeful that new information will come to light and that at some point in the future the aircraft will be located," the statement added.
 
On January 29 2015, the Government of Malaysia had officially declared the disappearance of the aircraft as an accident and that all 239 people on board were presumed to have lost their lives.
 
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The declaration was meant to pave the way for the airline to move ahead with the compensation process even as the search for the aircraft continued.
 
The passengers on board included five Indians and a Canadian of Indian origin. In all, the passengers were of 14 different nationalities. All crew on board were Malaysians.
 
The passengers included 153 from China/Taiwan (including one infant), 38 from Malaysia, 5 Indians, 7 Indonesians, 6 Australians, four from France, three (including an infant) from the United States, two each from Ukraine, Canada and New Zealand, and one each from Russia, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.
 
The Malaysia authorities had earlier announced that they had concluded that the Boeing 777-2H6ER aircraft had veered off its flight path and exhausted its fuel over a defined area of the southern Indian Ocean. They had also concluded that the aircraft is located on the sea floor close to that defined area. 
 
The Boeing aircraft, with registration 9M-MRO, lost contact with Air 
Traffic Control after waypoint IGARI during a transition of airspace between Malaysia and Vietnam whilst en-route to Beijing. There were 227 passengers, 2 flight crew and 10 cabin crew on board.
 
The search and rescue mission at one stage involved 160 assets, including 65 aircraft and 95 vessels as well as experts from 25 countries, including Australia, China, India, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, the UAE, the US, South Korea and Vietnam.
 
The search and rescue phase was carried out from 8 March 2014 to 28 April 2014 where the search area covered the South China Sea, the Straits of Malacca, the Andaman Sea and the southern Indian Ocean.
 
Following the announcement by the Australian Government on 28 April 2014, the search and rescue phase transitioned to a search and recovery phase. 
 
On 28 April 2014, the search coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) moved to an underwater phase led by the Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) and the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). Malaysia and China sent their respective experts and assets to assist JACC and ATSB in this phase.
 
This phase of the search included the use of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) and bathymetry survey capabilities. 
 
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India, U.S. hold Ocean Dialogue Preparatory Meeting

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The United States and India held wide-ranging discussions on areas of cooperation in sustainable marine resource management at the U.S.-India Ocean Dialogue Preparatory Meeting on Friday.
 
The talks were led by Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Judith G. Garber and Munu Mahawar, Joint Secretary (Americas) in India's Ministry of External Affairs..
 
The areas of cooperation discussed included the blue economy, fisheries security, and joint exploration of exclusive economic zones, a press release from the Department of State here said.
 
The release said the U.S.-India Ocean Dialogue Preparatory Meeting represents progress toward the commitment made during the first U.S.-India Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in 2015 to protect ocean ecosystems and promote sustainable development through the blue economy. 
 
"Reflecting the whole of government commitment to marine protection, U.S. participation included representatives of the Department of State, U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, and National Science Foundation.
 
"Collectively, the United States and India have approximately 17,000 miles of coastline, making this official dialogue one of the largest bilateral diplomatic engagements in the world that is specifically focused on oceans," the release added.
 
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US Assistant Secretary Nisha Desai Biswal to visit India

Nisha Biswal
Nisha Biswal
United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal will travel to India on her final visit in her official capacity. 
 
She will travel to New Delhi, Bengaluru, Ahmedabad, and Mumbai, India, January 5-12, where she will meet with government officials and business leaders to discuss the dynamic growth in ties between the United States and India, a press release from the Department of State said.
 
While in India, Ms. Biswal will meet government leaders to discuss trade and business ties, as well as a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues to deepen the U.S.-India strategic partnership, it said.
 
She will attend the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in Ahmedabad, where she will meet with government and community leaders. She will also attend the annual Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Convention in Bengaluru, which marks the contributions of the overseas Indian community to the development of India, the release added.
 
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India, Sri Lanka agree to release fishermen held in each other's custody

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India and Sri Lanka agreed to the immediate release of fishermen in each other's custody following Ministerial talks between the two countries here today.
 
A press release from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said both sides agreed to a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the release and handing over of fishermen in each other's custody on completion of legal and procedural formalities.
 
Indian Minister of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh met Sri Lankan Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Mahinda Amaraweera in this regard. The talks followed the first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on fisheries held in New Delhi on December 31.
 
The JWG, constituted in pursuance of the decision taken at the Ministerial meeting held in New Delhi on November 5, was co-chaired by Secretary (Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries), India and Secretary (Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development), Sri Lanka.
 
The Ministers exchanged views on possible mechanisms to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen's issues. The co-chairs of the JWG briefed the Ministers on the outcome of the first JWG meeting for consideration of the Ministers and further directions to take the process forward.
 
As part of the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) agreed to by both sides, it was decided to intensify cooperation on patrolling and to institute periodic interaction between the Coast Guards of the two countries. An understanding was reached to ensure that there was no physical harm or loss of life while apprehending fishermen by Navy and Coast Guard of the two countries.
 
It was agreed to explore the possibility of introducing effective tracking systems for the fishing vessels and making use of onboard communication equipment mandatory.
 
The Ministers appreciated the efforts taken by the JWG in operationalising the “hotline” between Indian and Sri Lankan Coast Guard, which would ensure quick decision making and response.
 
Both sides discussed the issue of releasing fishing vessels in each other’s custody. The Indian side requested for the immediate release of Indian fishing vessels. The Sri Lankan side agreed to consider the request in view of the progress being made by the JWG.
 
The Sri Lankan side reiterated that the practice of bottom trawling needs to end at the earliest. The Indian side assured that bottom trawling would be phased out in a graded time-bound manner within a practicable time frame keeping in mind the capacity building of the fishermen who have to be diversified into deep sea fishing as well as other coastal fisheries activities including mariculture, pearl farming, seaweed culture, and so on.
 
The Sri Lankan side was briefed about the measures already instituted including the decision to construct a new fishing harbour at Mookaiyur in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, and the capacity building programme for Indian fishermen on deep sea fishing that commences tomorrow at Chennai and Kochi.
 
The next JWG meeting will be held in Colombo in April this year to review the progress made in addressing the fishermen issues in a comprehensive manner, the release added.
 
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Earthquake of magnitude 5.5 jolts Nepal

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale, shook Nepal early this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 27.7°N and longitude 86.4°E, occurred at 0505 hours IST at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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"Made in India, Made by Japan" works wonderfully: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday invited businessmen from Japan to invest in India, stating that the huge infrastructure and development projects underway in the country offered unprecedented opportunities for Japanese industry.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the CII-Keidanren Business Luncheon, in Tokyo, Japan on November 11, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the CII-Keidanren Business Luncheon, in Tokyo, Japan on November 11, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited businessmen from Japan to invest in India, stating that the huge infrastructure and development  projects underway in the country offered unprecedented opportunities for Japanese industry.
 
"Made in India and Made by Japan combination has already started to work and converge wonderfully," he said at the CII-Keiidanren Business Luncheon here on the second day of his visit to Japan.
 
Reiterating his view that the 21st century was Asia's Century, he said Asia had emerged as the new centre of global growth.
 
He said Asia was competitive in manufacturing and services, was becoming a hub for global innovation, was home to large talented workforce, and was, as home to sixty percent of global population, an ever expanding market. 
 
"India and Japan will have to continue to play a major role in Asia’s emergence. The growing convergence of views between Japan and India under our Special Strategic and Global Partnership has the capacity to drive the regional economy and development, and stimulate the global growth," he said.
 
"Strong India – Strong Japan will not only enrich our two nations. It will also be a stabilising factor in Asia and the world,"he said.
 
Mr. Modi said India was today on the path of several major transformations. He said the Government had taken decisive steps and built a governance system that would help India realize its potential. The results are already visible,he said.
 
"Even against a weak international economic scenario, the news from India is of strong growth and abundant opportunities. It is of Incredible opportunities, and about India's Credible Policies. In 2015, the Indian economy grew faster than other major economies. World Bank and IMF assess this trend to continue. Lower labour costs, large domestic market and macro-economic stability combine to make India a very attractive investment destination," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, in the last two fiscal years, India received about $ 55 billion as foreign direct investment (FDI). This is not only highest ever FDI but also highest growth in FDI in India, he said.
 
"Today, every global company has an India strategy. And, Japanese companies are no exception. It is no surprise that today Japan is India's fourth largest source of FDI. Japanese investments extend to both green-field and brown-field projects; manufacturing and services; infrastructure and insurance; and e-commerce and equity," he said.
 
"On our part, we would, of course, want greater influx of Japanese investments. For this, we will be proactive in addressing your concerns. And, we will further strengthen the special mechanisms including Japanese Industrial Townships," he said.
 
Mr. Modi urged Japanese travellers to make use of the ten-year business visa, the e-Tourist Visa, and the Visa-On-Arrival facility that India now offered to them.
 
He said the Social Security Agreement with Japan had also been implemented, which is good news for the growing number of professionals on both sides. 
 
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Mr. Modi said India's development needs were huge and substantial and the country was seeking rapid achievement of its developmental priorities, but in a manner that is environment friendly. 
 
"We want to build roads and railways in a faster way; we want to explore minerals and hydrocarbons in a greener way; we want to build homes and civic amenities in a smarter way; and we want to produce energy in a cleaner way," he said.
 
"In addition, there are futuristic infrastructure projects of second generation. These include: the Dedicated Freight Corridor, the Industrial Corridors, High Speed Railways, Smart Cities, Coastal Zones and Metro Rail projects," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said cars made in India by a Japanese car maker were already selling in Japan. 
 
"I wish to thank and congratulate those of you who are already in India. To those who are exploring, I promise you that we are committed to further refine our policies and procedures to boost Make in India," he said.
 
"Creating an enabling environment for business and attracting investments remains my top priority. Stable, predictable and transparent regulations are redefining the nature of doing business in India. 
 
"E-governance is no longer just a fancy buzzword, but a basic facility. We have successfully enacted a new legislation regarding Goods and Services Tax (GST).  The Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code passed recently will make it easier for investors to have an exit. We are setting up commercial courts and commercial divisions to ensure speedy disposal of commercial matters. 
 
"The arbitration proceedings will now become faster as the Arbitration law has been amended. In June this year, we have further relaxed our FDI regime. We have also announced a new Intellectual Property Rights policy," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said all of these pointed to the new direction of economic reforms that India is pursuing. 
 
"My resolve is to make India the most open economy in the world. The impact of our efforts is being felt and recognized globally. FDI equity inflows have gone up by 52% in last two years. India has gone up 19 spots on the World Logistics Performance Index 2016 brought out by the World Bank. We have done substantial improvement on Ease of doing business. Our ranking has improved considerably. 
 
"In two years, India is up by 32 places on the Global Competitiveness Index of World Economic Forum. According to the World Investment Report of 2015, India is first among the top 10 FDI Destinations of the World. 
 
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"I have long maintained that India needs scale, speed and skill. Japan has a very important role to play in all three. Its involvement in our mega projects like Dedicated Freight Corridors, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, Metro Rail and High Speed Rail signifies scale and speed. 
 
"With a number of skill development initiatives already underway, our partnership now extends to this crucial area of our priority. The captains of Japanese business and industry sitting here will agree with me that a combination of Japan's technologies and India's human resources will create a win-win situation. 
 
"I have said earlier also that the combination of your hardware and our software is a fantastic combination. It will benefit both countries. 
 
"Let us join hands even more closely and strongly. Let us march forward and explore bigger potentials and brighter prospects," he added.
 
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Theresa May says UK, India are natural partners, can achieve great things

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday that the United Kingdom and India are natural partners and together could achieve great things like delivering jobs and skills, developing new technologies, improving cities, and tackling terrorism and climate change.

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British Prime Minister Theresa May today said the United Kingdom and India are natural partners and together could achieve great things like delivering jobs and skills, developing new technologies, improving cities, and tackling terrorism and climate change.
 
"This is a partnership about our shared security and shared prosperity," she said in a statement ahead of a visit to India, describing the UK as the world's oldest democracy and India as the largest.
 
"It is a partnership of potential. And on this visit I intend to harness that potential, rebooting an age-old relationship in this age of opportunity and with that helping to build a better Britain," she said.
 
Ms. May will reach Delhi late on Sunday night at the start of what will be her first bilateral visit outside of Europe at the head of a delegation of 33 business representatives.
 
The visit is aimed at seizing for Britain the opportunities of Brexit, its decision to leave the European Union, and delivering an economy that works for all
 
Travelling with a trade delegation for the first time, Ms. May’s visit to Delhi and Bangalore will be focused on forging a stronger strategic partnership between the United Kingdom and India.
 
Ms. May and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are due to meet in Delhi tomorrow afternoon for over two hours of talks on trade, investment, defence and security, a press release from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.
 
The release said Ms. May wants to establish a stronger trade and investment dialogue with India, breaking down existing trade and investment barriers, and securing agreement to talks at official level that will pave the way for a bilateral trade arrangement once the UK has left the EU.
 
The Prime Minister will be accompanied by the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Trade Minister Greg Hands.
 
"When I took office, I said that the mission of this government would be to forge a bold new positive role for the United Kingdom in the world and make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us. And that’s exactly what I will be doing this week – leading my first trade mission to India, with small businesses from every corner of the country, as we seize the opportunities of leaving the European Union," Ms. May said in her statement.
 
"Because while others seek to tie our negotiating hands, the government will get on with the job of delivering the decision of the British people. It was MPs who overwhelmingly decided to put the decision in their hands. The result was clear. It was legitimate. MPs and peers who regret the referendum result need to accept what the people decided.
 
"And now we need to turn our minds to how we get the best outcome for our country. That means sticking to our plan and timetable, getting on with the work of developing our negotiating strategy and not putting all our cards on the table – that is not in our national interest and it won’t help us get the best deal for Britain.
 
"It also means expanding our horizons and forging stronger partnerships with countries around the world," she said.
 
The release said a host of commercial deals are due to be signed during the visit, which together are expected to create 1,370 jobs in the UK, providing a real boost to its workforce and financial security for hundreds of families across the country.
 
They include a £1.2 million joint venture initiative between the Pandrol Group UK and Rahee Group in India – to set up a state-of the-art manufacturing plant in India, supplying metro and Indian rail projects across the country; a £15 million high-end imaging and diagnostic centre in Chennai to be developed by Lyca Health UK; and a £350 million investment from British start-up, Kloudpad, into high-tech electronics manufacturing in Kochi. The company will create a manufacturing facility and a highly advanced research and development facility allowing them to expand their global reach.
 
The release said both governments would also sign a landmark agreement to improve the intellectual property landscape in India with a programme of co-operation between the UK Intellectual Property Office and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. This will support Indian efforts to protect and enforce intellectual property rights, thereby addressing one of the concerns for British businesses operating in India.
 
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The UK will also commit to extend assistance to India to improve the business environment, including by providing advice on reducing regulation, tax and public administration, standards and insolvency. No other country has such comprehensive co-operation with India in this area, which is intended to support Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to push India up the world’s Ease of Doing Business rankings from its current 130th spot and in turn make it easier for UK business to trade and invest in India.  
 
Finally, both Prime Ministers are expected to launch an India-UK Urban Partnership on smart cities and urban development which could be unlock new business worth up to £2 billion to British business over the next 5 years. 
 
"This partnership brings together not just the two governments, but also business, investors and top urban experts from both nations, to build smarter, more inclusive cities that drive prosperity, jobs and growth in both India and the UK. The collaboration is expected to focus on the fast-growing and dynamic state of Madhya Pradesh with the historic and holy city of Varanasi also set to benefit," the release said.
 
"The Indian diaspora plays a vital role in our national life with approximately 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK and Indian companies currently employing over 100,000 people in the UK. India is now our second largest international job creator, with 7,105 new jobs in Britain in the past year," the release added.
 
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Indian naval ship arrives in Sydney on three-day visit

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Indian Navy’s offshore patrol vessel Sumitra arrived here today on a three-day visit to Australia aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing maritime security cooperation between the two countries.
 
During the stay in harbour, various activities are planned towards enhancing cooperation and mutual understanding between the two navies such as official calls, reception on board, ship open to visitors, guided tours for Indian Naval personnel and professional interaction between personnel of both the navies, a press release from the Indian Ministry of Defence said.
 
During the port call, INS Sumitra will also participate in the “Festival of India”. On departure, the ship will undertake a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with Royal Australian Navy ships.
 
"India and Australia have a strong bilateral relationship with growing convergence on economic and strategic issues. Maritime interaction between the two nations has also been steadily growing with the institutionalization of biennial bilateral maritime exercise AUSINDEX, with its inaugural edition being held in Bay of Bengal in 2015," the release said.
 
An Indian Navy delegation participated in Ex Kakadu 16 hosted by Australia in September. The port visit by Sumitra would further strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations and enhance maritime security, cooperation and interoperability between the two Navies, it said.
 
Sumitra, is the fourth of the Saryu class ships, based on an indigenous design and constructed by Goa Shipyard Ltd. Since commissioning in 2014, the ship has been deployed for multiple operational tasks, the most notable being ‘Operation Rahat’, which entailed the evacuation of personnel of various nationalities from war-torn Yemen in 2015. 
 
The ship has a range of 6,500 nautical miles and is capable of embarking one Dhruv/ Chetak helicopter. The ship is commanded by Cdr K P Shreeshan.
 
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Gurkha ex-servicemen foundational pillars of India-Nepal ties: Mukherjee

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President Pranab Mukherjee today said it was a matter of pride that the brave Gurkhas have been serving in India since the last 200 years with exemplary courage and sincerity.
 
Addressing a gathering of Gurkha ex-servicemen of Indian Army at Pension Payment Office, Mr Mukherjee said they have earned a name for themselves in the Indian Army.
 
“Today 32,000 Gurkha soldiers are serving in the Indian Army and around 1 26,000 ex-servicemen and their dependents are drawing pension in Nepal," he said.
 
The President said these ex-servicemen were the foundational pillars of the friendship between Nepal and India. He assured them that India would never step back in its efforts for the welfare of its ex-servicemen.
 
India was running many welfare schemes for their prosperity and well-being. Every year, nearly 3100 crore Nepali rupees are being distributed as pension in Nepal.
 
“In the current year, our objective is to distribute around 4000 crore of Nepali rupees under ‘One Rank One Pension’ and 7th Central Pay Commission commitments,” Mr Mukherjee said.
 
The President said India has provided 32,000 Nepali Rupees per pensioner in addition to other aid to the 6832 earthquake affected ex-servicemen.
 
Last year approximately 6.5 crore Nepali Rupees have been distributed under various welfare schemes. Apart from starting the ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme in Nepal to take care of their health in old age, approximately 1 crore Nepali Rupees have been distributed as medical assistance.
 
Ten medical teams from Indian Army visit Nepal every year. Till now, 64 ambulances have been gifted to various ex-servicemen institutions.
 
The President said the Indian Army is providing scholarships to the dependent children of ex-servicemen. Under its plan of infrastructural development, drinking water projects have been started in 1049 villages of ex-servicemen so far. Electricity has also been made available through Solar Electrification Projects in 17 remote areas.
 
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Janakpur is best example of India’s shared heritage with Nepal, says Mukherjee

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President Pranab Mukherjee today said this ancient city, abode of Sita in the Ramayana epic, revered both in India and Nepal, was “one of the best examples of our shared civilizational heritage.”    
 
“A centre of learning since ancient times, Janakpur city has attracted scholars from all corners of the world. It has been a fertile meeting place for intellectuals and scholars of all faiths,” Mr Mukherjee said at a civic reception.
 
Raja Janak, the ruler of this famous city and father of Sita, is credited with inculcating an atmosphere of knowledge and learning among the city’s inhabitants, he added.
 
The ancient texts, manuscripts, coins and sculptures that have been excavated from its vicinity amply demonstrate Janakpur’s fame as a centre of learning.
 
“I have been informed that the earliest written manuscript of the first Mandal of the Rig Veda was discovered near Janakpur,” the President said. “Since time immemorial, this city has been a melting pot of diverse cultures and religions. Tales abound in our folklore of how Lord Buddha and Mahavira visited Janakpur during their spiritual journey across the region,” he added.
 
Besides Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam have also found roots in Janakpur. It is a city that has been established on the foundation of scholarship, hospitality and syncretism, Mr Mukherjee said.
 
India-Nepal relations are founded on these ancient linkages and traditions. The ties that bind Janakpur and Ayodhya have existed since time immemorial, he pointed out.
 
The residents of this great city are heirs to the bond of familial ties that were established between Raja Janak and Raja Dashrath. People of India value this unique relationship, shared tradition and rich heritage.
 
“The key to economic development of Janakpur lies in the promotion of the tourism sector. Recently, Janakpur and Ayodhaya reinforced their ancient ties by signing a twin city agreement,” Mr Mukherjee said.
 
“The development of the Ramayana tourism circuit, with better facilities for millions of pilgrims, will not only generate employment opportunities but also strengthen the story of our common heritage,” he added.
 
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On the occasion, the President announce the construction of two dharmashalas along the Parikrama Path around Janakpur. “These two dharamshalas will, I hope, be of benefit to the pilgrims from both Nepal and India,” he added.
 
“Janakpur is close to India - both spiritually and geographically. It is essential that we pay adequate attention to the development of border infrastructure and connectivity to facilitate movement of people,” the President said.
 
Today, in consonance with priorities of the people of Nepal, both Governments are giving particular attention to expediting implementation of connectivity and development projects such as Terai roads, cross-border rail links, Integrated Check posts and power transmission lines, he added.
 
These projects are vital not only for Nepal’s socio-economic and infrastructural transformation but also demonstrate our collaborative efforts to facilitate trade, investments and movement of people.
 
India is assisting in the construction of four Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) along important India-Nepal entry points. The ICPs at Birgunj and Biratnagar will be of great advantage to the people of Jankapur and the surrounding region, he added.
 
“I have been informed that ICP at Birgunj will soon be operational. These ICPs, with their modern, state of the art facilities, will be instrumental in promoting trade and tourism and facilitate the convenient movement of people across the border,” the President said.    
 
Turning to Mr Bimalendra Nidhi, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of Nepal, who was present along with Mahant of Janaki temple Ram Tapeshwar Das, Mr Mukherjee said his father late Mahendra Narayan Nidhi was not only a great Nepali leader, but also an ardent Gandhian in his life and political philosophy.
 
“On this occasion, I would like to acknowledge his contribution to spreading Gandhian thoughts and philosophy and pay tribute  to his cherished memory,’ he added.
 
“We all are cultural and spiritual ambassadors of India and Nepal. With our joint efforts, we can propagate, across the globe, the message of peace and love bestowed upon us by Lord Rama and Goddess Sita,” the President said.
 
“It is our common responsibility to build on the legacy of our forefathers, which would be a befitting tribute to them. Let us all work together to achieve this noble objective with their blessings,” he added.
 
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