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Omar Abdullah voices displeasure over random secondary check at NY airport

File photo of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
File photo of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has voiced his displeasure at being pulled aside for a random secondary immigration check after landing in New York on Sunday.
 
"Another "random" secondary immigration check upon landing in the US. Thrice in three visits, the randomness is growing tiresome now," Mr. Abdullah, the leader of the opposition National Conference in Jammu & Kashmir and a former Union Minister, said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"I just spent TWO hours in a holding area & this happens EVERY time. Unlike @iamsrk I don't even catch Pokemon to pass the time," Mr. Abdullah, who was here for a speaking engagement at New York University, said.
 
He was referring to Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who was detained at the Los Angeles Airport in August this year and had similarly expressed his displeasure on Twitter. That was the third time that the actor had been detained at an American airport.
 
"I'm here to speak at an event organised by NYU but I almost wish I'd stayed at home instead. Ah well, that's two hours well & truly wasted!!" Mr. Abdullah added.
 
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US tells Pakistan that nuclear-capable states need to exercise restraint

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Reacting to some of the recent rhetoric from Pakistani leaders on the possibility of using nuclear weapons, the United States has said that nuclear-capable states have a very clear responsibility to exercise restraint regarding nuclear weapons and missile capabilities.
 
"And that’s my message publicly and that’s certainly our message directly to the Pakistani authorities," US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark C. Toner said at his daily press briefing here on Friday.
 
He was answering a question from a journalist about a reported statement by the Pakistan Defence Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif last Wednesday in which, in the context of the escalation of tension between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Septembe 18 terror attack at an Army base at Uri in Jammu & Kashmir, he had said that his country was open to using "tactical devices" against India if it felt threatened.
 
As many as 19 Indian soldiers died in the attack, while four terrorists were killed by security forces.
 
On the night of September 29-30, the Indian Army carried out "surgical strikes" at launch pads across the Line of Control (LoC) to prevent Pakistani terrorists positioned there from crossing over into the country and striking at targets in Jammu & Kashmir and other places.
 
Asked if the US had got any assurance from India or Pakistan regarding the situation on the LoC and their future course of action, Mr. Toner said Washington was following the situation on the ground very closely.
 
"From our perspective, we urge calm and restraint by both sides. We understand that the Pakistani and Indian militaries have been in communication and we believe that continued communication between them is important to reduce tensions. I think we don’t – certainly don’t want to see any kind of escalation and any – and certainly any kind of break in that communication. 
 
"We have repeatedly and consistently expressed our concerns regarding the danger that cross-border terrorism poses for the region, and that certainly includes the recent attacks – terrorist attacks in Uri. And we continue to urge actions to combat and de-escalate – and delegitimize, rather, terrorist groups like Lashkar-e Talaba – Tayyiba, rather – Haqqani Network, as well as Jaish-e-Mohammad," he said.
 
He said US Secretary of State John Kerry had talked over the telephone to Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
 
"We’re very concerned about the situation there. We don’t want to see it escalate any further. And as part of that concern, the Secretary is certainly engaged and talking to Indian leadership – senior Indian leadership," he added.
 
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Russia says Pakistan should stop activities of terror groups in its territory

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Russia today voiced concern over the situation on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan and said it expected the Pakistani government to take effective steps to stop the activities of terrorist groups in its territory.
 
"We are concerned with the aggravation lately of the situation along the line of control between India and Pakistan," a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
 
"We are calling on the parties not to allow any escalation of tension and to settle the existing problems by political and diplomatic means through negotiations.
 
"We stand for decisive struggle against terrorism in all its manifestations. We expect that the Government of Pakistan should take effective steps in order to stop the activities of terrorist groups in the territory of the country," the statement added.
 
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India's relations with Africa not a transactional partnership: Ansari

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Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari today said that India's relations with Africa were not a transactional partnership but dated back to the time of common struggles against colonialism.
 
Addressing the Mali National Assembly here, Mr Ansari said he was delighted to be in the country, an ancient seat of learning and a nation that was for centuries a melting pot of cultural traditions and influences.
 
“The African impact on India is found in our genetic make-up, cultural and linguistic traditions, our artefacts, gastronomic choices, and our common world view.
 
“The strong sense of political affinity and solidarity between India and Africa dates back several decades to when the peoples of India and Africa were engaged in an unremitting struggle to gain independence from colonial rule,” he added.
 
The Vice-President said that he had come to share a vision of the future, a future that is peaceful and prosperous and where India and Africa stand shoulder to shoulder claiming their rightful destinies and justice for the people.
 
This visit, the first high level visit to Mali from India, takes place at a time of excellent bilateral relations and when the world is acknowledging the India growth story, he added.
 
Mr. Ansari said India's relations in Africa were driven by the aim of empowerment, capacity building, human resource development, access to Indian market, and support for Indian investments in Africa.
 
This unique relationship does not need any point of reference and the partnership is a two way street. “There are many inspiring models and examples of African success stories in sustainable development and empowerment of people, especially youth and women that we could do well to emulate,” he added.
 
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Mr Ansari said both countries would raise the partnership to a much higher level in the years ahead and also make the partnership more effective, based on a comprehensive review of the Development Partnership programme with Africa.
 
“India was confident, that with its sagacious leadership; abundant natural resources; and its talented youth, Africa is well on its way to realise the vision of 'Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want'," he added.
 
The Vice-President said that the partnership can be a source of great strength for each other, both to reinforce and accelerate each other’s economic development and to build a more just, inclusive, equitable and sustainable world, possible due to complementary resources and markets and the power of human capital.
 
“We must also reckon with the impediments to development and the foremost among them is the scourge of terrorism, regionally and globally," he said.
 
He said that spreading tide of extremism and terrorism is a threat we both face and India faces it from across the borders. India condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and is of view that international and cross-border terrorism should be dealt in a comprehensive manner, he added.
 
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Independent India a faithful reflection of national movement: Ansari

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Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari yesterday said independent India was a faithful reflection of the legacy of the national movement.
 
Delivering a lecture at the University of Lagos in Nigeria, Mr Ansari said “the image of the modern Indian nation and the values that shape and continue inform it today were cast in the crucible of our struggle for independence from colonial rule or what we now call the Indian National Movement."
 
“Much of the gain from the movement is enshrined in our Constitution and continues to enlighten the political and judicial discourse in India,” he added.
 
The Vice-President said the national movement was more than a struggle for independence. It was an exercise in building a nation. It was not just a movement to replace a colonial regime and deliver political power to Indians but was aimed at using that power to secure social and economic justice, and dignity, for every Indian, he said.
 
The movement is perhaps one of the best examples of the creation of an extremely wide movement with a common aim in which diverse political and ideological currents could co-exist and work, and simultaneously continue to contend for overall ideological and political hegemony over it, he added.
 
The Vice-President said India was blessed that a set of people of incredible talent and wisdom graced the period. They possessed moral integrity of the highest order; the tallest among them was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, whose singular efforts transformed the struggle from a campaign by the elites into a true mass movement, he added.
 
Mr Ansari said a defining feature of the movement were the values and modern ideals on which it was based and the broad socio-economic and political vision of its leadership -- a vision of a democratic, civil libertarian and secular India, based on a self-reliant, egalitarian social order and an independent foreign policy.
 
An aspect of its commitment to the creation of an egalitarian society was the national movement’s opposition to all forms of inequality, discrimination and oppression based on gender and caste. From its early days, the national movement was committed to secularism, he added.
 
The Vice-President said the national movement developed a broad international outlook based on opposition to colonialism and sympathy and support for people fighting for their independence.
 
The youth should have a sense of history and know that the present environment that encourages their aspirations was built on the sacrifice and toil of others before them. Nigeria and India, as large developing countries with multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual societies, have enormous responsibilities within their countries and in shaping the future of their region and beyond, he added.
 
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Rice calls Doval, says US expects Pakistan to act against LeT, JeM

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United Nations Security Adviser Susan E. Rice reiterated the US expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individualsand entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), and their affiliates.  
 
During a telephone call she made to Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on Wednesday, Ms. Rice highlighted the danger that cross-border terrorism posted to the region.
 
She strongly condemned the September 18 cross-border attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and offered condolences to the victims and their families, US National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price said.
 
"Ambassador Rice affirmed President Obama’s commitment to redouble our efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of terrorism throughout the world.  
 
"Highlighting the danger that cross-border terrorism poses to the region, Ambassador Rice reiterated our expectation that Pakistan take effective action to combat and delegitimize United Nations-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and their affiliates. 
 
"In the context of the robust U.S.-India partnership, Ambassador Rice discussed our shared commitment with India to pursuing peace and regional stability and pledged to deepen collaboration on counterterrorism matters including on UN terrorist designations," Mr. Price added.
 
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India, Nigeria should harness complementarities in attracting investments: Ansari

Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari addressing the India-Nigeria Business Forum, in Abuja, Nigeria on September 27, 2016.
Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari addressing the India-Nigeria Business Forum, in Abuja, Nigeria on September 27, 2016.
Indian Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari has called upon India and Nigeria to harness their complementarities in attracting investments while attempting to broad-base their economies.
 
Addressing the India-Nigeria Business Forum here yesterday, Mr Ansari said as Nigeria “embarks with renewed vigour and determination in realizing greater prosperity for its people, India stands ready to join as a partner.”
 
The overall engagement between India and Nigeria remains vibrant and full of vitality and India has been its largest trading partner. Nigeria is the largest trading partner of India in Africa, he pointed out.
 
“Our bilateral trade has been growing steadily for the last one decade and touched US$16 billion in 2014-15. It is only because of the global decline in oil prices that our trade has slowed down in the past one year,” Mr Ansari said.
 
“Nigeria is an important partner for our energy security requirement and there is significant potential for diversifying our engagement in oil and gas sector by enhancing our cooperation in both upstream and downstream domains,” he added.
 
The Vice-President said more than 100 Indian companies have made Nigeria their base and their investments have exceeded $ 10 billion so far.
  
Another $ 5 billion are committed in diverse sectors such as communications, power, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, automotive sector and oil, he said. Decades of economic growth have strengthened India’s private sector and it is keen to expand its global operations, he said.
 
The Vice-President said the innovative spirit of Indian industry, backed by strong government research and development push and a network of quality educational institutions, make India and the Indian companies the most promising business partners today.
 
There was considerable potential for expanding trade in the areas of automotive components, automobiles, engineering products, IT, pharmaceuticals, bio-technology and healthcare sectors.
 
India and Nigeria count on their business leaders to be the architects of this important change, he added.
 
The Vice-President of Nigeria, Mr. Yemi Osinbajo and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.
 
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Nirmala Sitharaman visits Sri Lanka for talks on bilateral trade, investment relations

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Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited Sri Lanka on September 26-27, 2016 for talks on ways of enhancing and deepening bilateral trade and investment relations.
 
She discussed various issues related to bilateral trade and investment with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe 
over an official dinner hosted in her honour.
 
During the visit, a meeting of the India-Sri Lanka Business Forum was held which was attended by Ms. Sitharaman and Mr. Malik Samarawickrama, Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade of Sri Lanka. 
 
Many issues relating to trade, services and investment were highlighted and it was agreed that their resolution be explored. The Commerce and Industry Minister also suggested that the meeting of the reconstituted India-Sri Lanka CEO Forum be held at the earliest. 
 
The Commerce and Industry Minister also had a bilateral meeting with a high-level Sri Lankan delegation led by Mr. Samarawickrama.
 
The Sri Lankan delegation also included other Sri Lankan Ministers such as Mr Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation, Mr Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Mr Sujeewa Senasinghe, State Minister of International Trade, Mr Ajith P. Perera, Deputy Minister for Power and Renewable Energy and Ms Anoma Gamage, Deputy Minister of Petroleum Resources Development. 
 
The leaders expressed satisfaction on the progress of the proposed Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) between India and Sri Lanka. It was noted that the Second Round of negotiations for the ETCA is scheduled to take place in New Delhi on September 29-30, 2016. The leaders also discussed several other issues related to bilateral trade and investment. 
 
"The deliberations were extremely cordial and marked by a spirit of mutual respect and understating that characterizes the strong and vibrant relations between the two countries. 
 
"The visit has emphasised the importance of Sri Lanka as an important trading and investment partner for India and would help in further deepening the existing bilateral relations," the release added.
 
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India has very focused approach to all regions of Africa: Ansari

Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari interacting with accompanying mediapersons onboard Air India Special Flight on his way to Nigeria, on September 26, 2016.
Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari interacting with accompanying mediapersons onboard Air India Special Flight on his way to Nigeria, on September 26, 2016.
Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari today said India was now pursuing a very focused approach to all the different regions of Africa.
 
Speaking to newspersons accompanying him on his special Air India flight on his five-day visit to Nigeria and Mali, he said his visit was part of the increased high-level visits between India and Africa and India's sustained engagement with the 54 countries of the continent.
 
He said India had a long association with the continent, starting from the days of decolonization and that there is a natural sympathy and friendship which India receives in African countries. He fsaid that in any decision globally, whether in the United Nations or anywhere else, the weight of Africa is always felt.
 
Speaking on India's ties with Nigeria, the Vice-President said that the country was the largest in Africa in terms of population, and that it carried significant weight in the region, and in international fora. Its own objectives for the reform of the United Nations were not dissimilar to India's goals. 
 
In specific terms, India had a long-standing strategic relationship with Nigeria, particularly in the defense field, for training and establishment of training institutions.  On the economic side, the Vice-President said that India's ties with Nigeria were critical as about 12% of its energy imports come from Nigeria. 
 
With more than 100 Indian companies working in the country, including some of the biggest industrial houses, trade and investment was a key aspect of cooperation, and there was an expectation of a fruitful relationship for both countries. 
 
Mr. Ansari pointed out that the President of Nigeria had been invited twice as the Chief Guest for India's Republic Day celebrations, which was an indication of this political closeness.
 
On India's ties with Mali, he said that the Indian government was keen to expand the engagement, given the vast potential for expanding their bilateral cooperation. He mentioned the strong development partnership between India and Mali and spoke of the successful implementation of three out of the four India-assisted projects there.
  
Responding to a question of UN reforms, Mr. Ansari said that although there were obstacles on the path, the reform of the UN Security Council was inevitable. Most of the nations of the world, particularly those in Asia, Africa and South America desired it, as the UN could no longer reflect the world of 1945.  He also mentioned the contribution of countries such as India, and Nigeria in the maintenance of international peace and security - these were the principal troop contributors as opposed to the permanent members of the Security Council. So it had become imperative that if the UN was to work as a credible international body, reforms were required.
 
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On the issue of terrorism, the Vice President said  that it had become a global issue, one that was disturbing social peace and impacting development. It was natural therefore that it constituted an important part of any bilateral discussion - it was in everyone's interest in eliminating this menace and bilateral mechanisms such as intelligence sharing were in place, particularly given that networks of terror had become global.
 
On reported attacks on Nigerian nationals in India, he said that these were stray incidents and were not specific to citizens of any particular country nor racially motivated. What was however important to note, he stressed was that law enforcement agencies had quickly responded wherever and whenever such incidents had taken place.  
 
On India's approach to raising issues of cross-border terrorism by Pakistan with members of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Vice-President emphasized that the facts of the issue were pretty clear and that all nations were aware of the problem of state-sponsored terrorism, not just OIC member states. He further stressed that  while we engaged bilaterally with OIC states, the organization itself had limited relevance given its consensus based approach of functioning.
 
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G4 Foregin Ministers call for comprehensive reform of UN Security Council

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G4 Foreign Ministers, meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) here on Wednesday, underscored their unwavering commitment to a comprehensive reform of the Security Council which needs to take into account the geopolitical realities of the 21st century. 
 
Minister of State for External Affairs M. J. Akbar and the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Brazil an Japan stressed that, more than 70 years after the founding of the UN, the Security Council also had to adapt in order to cope with the ever growing global challenges.
 
"With a view to the manifold conflicts and humanitarian crises, a more representative, legitimate and effective Council is needed more than ever to guarantee peace and security worldwide," they said.
 
Apart from Mr. Akbar, the meeting was attended by Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Foreign Minister of Germany, Mr. José Serra, Foreign Minister of Brazil, and Mr. Fumio Kishida, Foreign Minister of Japan
 
The Ministers welcomed meetings of the Group of Friends on Security Council Reform, which brought together high-level representatives of Member States from diverse regions aiming at pushing forward Security Council reform. In this regard, they called upon all reform-oriented Member States to join efforts and finally bring about meaningful reform.
 
The Ministers expressed their support for equitable regional representation, underscoring the imperative for Africa’s representation in both the permanent and non-permanent membership as well as adequate and continuing representation of small and medium sized Member States, including the Small Island Developing States, in a reformed Security Council.
 
The Ministers reiterated their resolve to continue contributing to the fulfillment of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and emphazised that the G4 countries are legitimate candidates for permanent membership and supported each other’s aspirations.
 
The Ministers thanked the President of the 70th General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, for his efforts on Security Council Reform (IGN). They welcomed the consensual adoption of Decision 70/559 by the UN General Assembly to continue to use the text presented by the President of the 69th General Assembly in his letter dated 31 July 2015 as the basis for negotiations within the IGN process in the General Assembly. They also welcomed the expressions of flexibility made by numerous delegations during the past IGN session which resulted in the identification of areas of convergence in Member States’ positions on all issues related to the five clusters as identified by GA resolution 62/557 Security Council reform.
 
Ministers also concluded, however, that substantial progress was still limited and that efforts need to be intensified to build further momentum and to arrive at real text-based negotiations.
 
They pledged to continue to work towards a comprehensive Security Council reform in the framework of the IGN. They expressed their full support to the President of the 71st United Nations General Assembly, trusting that he will support swift and substantive progress towards a meaningful reform of the Security Council.
 
The Ministers also briefly exchanged views on UN reforms to render the UN fit for the 21st century and discussed their expectations for the next Secretary General of the United Nations in this regard.
 
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India-Russia joint military exercise Indra-2016 begins in Vladivostok

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The eighth edition of the India-Russia joint military exercise, Indra 2016, has begun in the Ussiriysk District in Vladivostok, Russia. 
 
An official press release said the main focus of this edition of the joint exercise is on ‘Counter-Terrorism Operations in semi mountainous and jungle terrain under United Nations Mandate’. 
 
To achieve interoperability in joint operations, troops from both sides would acquaint themselves with the respective approach to such operations. A comprehensive training programme spanning eleven days has been drawn up for the purpose, the release said.
 
The troops of Indian Army marched alongside the Russian Army in the opening ceremony of Exercise Indra 2016. Both contingents marched in unison, past the saluting dais, exhibiting their resolve to further the Indo-Russian friendship. 
 
Brigadier Sukrit Chadah, Indian contingent commander, addressed the two contingents and highlighted the need for jointness between the two nations to defeat terrorism.
 
Mr Loz, Vice Governer Primosski krai Province and Maj Gen Andrei Ivanovich Sichevoe, COS 5th Army from the Russian Army also addressed the contingents.
 
As many as 250 soldiers of the Kumaon Regiment are representing the Indian contingent and the Russian army is being represented by 250 soldiers from the 59th Motorized Infantry Brigade. 
 
Indra series of bilateral exercises is one of the major bilateral defence cooperation initiatives between India and Russia since 2003. The Indian contingent is scheduled to return to India in the first week of October, the release added.
 
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India-US-Afghanistan Trilateral meeting held in New York

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Delegations from Afghanistan, India and the United States met here on Wednesday on the margins of the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), for a round of Afghanistan-India-U.S. consultations.
 
Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Karzai, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra and U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Olson, met to exchange views on the situation in Afghanistan and on regional issues of mutual interest, a joint press release said after the meeting.
 
Reaffirming their shared interests in advancing peace and security in the region, as well as countering terrorism, all sides welcomed the discussions focused on political, economic, and development goals in Afghanistan, including the regional dimension. 
 
"The meeting provided a forum for the U.S. Government and the Government of India to explore ways to coordinate and align their assistance with the priorities of the Afghan government. They agreed that the dialogue helps advance shared values and goals, and decided to continue these consultations on a regular basis," they added.
 
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US tells Pakistan to prevent terrorists from using its territory as safe havens

John Kerry
John Kerry
The United States has reiterated the need for Pakistan to prevent all terrorists from using Pakistani territory as safe havens.
 
At a meeting here with visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, US Secretary of State John Kerry also commended recent efforts by Pakistani security forces to counter extremist violence. 
 
The meeting took place a day after the terror attack on an Army administrative base at Uri in Jammu & Kashmir, in which 18 Indian soldiers and four terrorists were killed. India has blamed elements based in Pakistan for the Uri attack as well as previous attacks at an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot earlier this year.
 
"They also spoke about regional issues, including recent developments with regard to Afghanistan. The Prime Minister and Secretary Kerry expressed strong concern with recent violence in Kashmir -- particularly the army base attack -- and the need for all sides to reduce tensions," State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.
 
"Secretary Kerry also stressed the need for restraint in nuclear weapons programs. The Secretary praised Pakistan for hosting Afghan refugees for over 40 years and highlighted the importance of continued respect for humanitarian principles," he said.
 
Mr. Kirby said Mr. Kerry and Mr. Sharif discussed the strong, long-term bilateral partnership between the two countries and ways to build upon the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.
 
"The Secretary commended the Prime Minister for restoring macroeconomic stability to Pakistan over the last three years and expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s cooperation on climate change priorities," he said.
 
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Mahesh Sharma receives three ancient Indian artefacts in Australia

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Minister of State for Culture & Tourism Mahesh Sharma formally received in Canberra yesterday three ancient artefacts stolen and smuggled out of India and inadvertently acquired by National Gallery of Australia.
 
The returned artefacts are Seated Buddha, Goddess Pratyangira and Worshippers of Buddha, an official press release said.
 
Senator Mitch Fifield handed over the artefacts to Mr Sharma at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).
 
Earlier, during the visit of Australian Prime Minister to India in September 2014, the Australian government had returned statue of ‘Dancing Siva'.
 
Receiving the artefacts, Dr. Sharma said, "Our sincere thanks to Government of Australia and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Mitch Fifield and the National Gallery of Australia for the gesture of returning these three antiquities, which will carry a big message of the relations between two countries".
 
Mr Fifield said, "This is the ethical demonstration of National Gallery of Australia. This process in which Indian and Australian governments are working together is a testimony of quality and health of the bilateral relations".
 
Indian High Commissioner Navdeep Suri and top officials of National Gallery of Australia attended the event.
 
Dr. Sharma also met Assistant Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Keith Pitt, MP, later in the afternoon and discussed various bilateral issues of mutual interest.
 
He is on an official visit to Australia from September 18-20. Yesterday, he attended an event in connection with ‘Confluence-the Festival of India’ at the iconic Sydney Opera House here.
 
The event included the infectious, happy tones of India's most popular folk band, Raghu Dixit, a dazzling performance from the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble, one of the India’s foremost dance companies, and a performance of Pung Cholom, where acrobatics, martial arts and leather drums come together to form an energetic and thrilling spectacle.
 
It also saw a unique coming together of Australian and Indian performing art forms showcasing distinct movements, rhythms and inherent similarities.
 
Sufi gospel music by acclaimed Indian singer and composer Sonam Kalra and aboriginal tunes interlaced with Jazz rhythms and classical and folk dances proved to be a big draw with the audience.
 
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US, UK condemn terror attack on Army base in Uri

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The United States and the United Kingdom have strongly condemned the terror attack on an Army administrative base at Uri in Jammu & Kashmir on Sunday morning, in which 17 soldiers and four terrorists were killed.
 
"The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack on an Indian army base in Kashmir during the early morning of September 18," Assistant Secretary and State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.
 
"We extend our condolences to the victims and their families. The United States is committed to our strong partnership with the Indian government to combat terrorism," he said.
 
In London, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and offered his deepest condolences to the victims and their families and friends.
 
"The UK condemns all forms of terrorism, and stands shoulder to shoulder with India in the fight against terrorism, and in bringing the perpetrators to justice," he added.
 
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India says NAM must cooperate to combat terrorism

Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari addrsssing the plenary session of the 17th Non-Aligned Movement Summit at Margarita Island in Venezuela on September 17, 2016.
Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari addrsssing the plenary session of the 17th Non-Aligned Movement Summit at Margarita Island in Venezuela on September 17, 2016.
India has called upon the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to establish a mechanism that will ensure effective cooperation in combating terrorism that has emerged as the main threat to the security, sovereignty and development of nations across the world.
 
"You will agree that the time has come for our movement to recognize the need for concrete action in the fight against terrorism," Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari, the leader of the Indian delegation, said at the plenary session of the 17th NAM Summit on Margarita Island in Venezuela on Saturday.
 
Mr. Ansari said that the biggest threat to international peace, and to the sovereignty of States today was the phenomenon of terrorism. 
 
"No cause justifies the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians as a means to achieve a political goal or change of policies. Terrorism is one of the most egregious sources of human right violations today, and its use as an instrument of State policy is to be unequivocally condemned. It has become a major impediment to development.
 
"It is therefore imperative for the Non-Aligned Movement to galvanize the international community to strengthen the international legal framework to address this menace,including by adopting the draft Comprehensive UN Convention on Terrorism, to ensure the closest cooperation amongst the international community to counter the scourge of terror," he said.
 
Mr. Ansari said the movement must also ensure that all existing structures that are the building blocks of UN’s Global Counter Terrorism Strategy functioned in a non-partisan and professional manner.
 
He noted that the world of today would certainly appear very different to the founding leaders of the movement who took the initiative to meet in Belgrade in 1961. 
 
"While the global landscape has changed, the values and principles on which they laid the foundations of our Movement, namely 'respect for sovereignty', 'peaceful settlement of disputes' and 'international cooperation' – are as relevant today as they were at the time of our first Summit," he said.
 
Mr. Ansari said NAM's theme for the next three years – "Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity for Development” – was in congruence with its founding principles.
 
"We do believe that cooperation, and Development Cooperation, is an essential means of promoting and developing international solidarity, of putting a human face on the impact of economic globalization. This becomes all the more important in the light of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in the Agenda 2030 which, if implemented successfully, will transform the lives of all our citizens. It would be a reaffirmation of our commitment as a Movement to ensure the dignity and development of all humankind," he said.
 
"As a Movement that has stood steadfastly in the forefront by highlighting global economic issues that affect the developing world, we must ensure wholehearted and holistic implementation of the SDGs and remain attentive to any effort to modify or distort Agenda 2030 by laying overemphasis on particular SDGs over others, or by trying to create a standard of measurement that could be intrusive and has no relationship to national contexts," he said.
 
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The Vice-President said sustainable development was both the bedrock and the highest aspiration of NAM's efforts; hence the importance of solidarity that this Movement attaches to achieving it.
 
"This is epitomised in the theme of the Summit – Solidarity for Development," he said.
 
"The other two elements of our triad of objectives – Peace and Sovereignty – are a pre-requisite for development. A peaceful global environment is essential for development and for development cooperation; such cooperation must be undertaken in exercise of the sovereign will of each member of the community of nations. The interdependence of the three is thus evident and essential. The impediments to each must also be discerned clearly," he said.
 
Mr. Ansari said United Nations lay at the heart of the multilateral system set up at the end of the Second World War.
 
"Today we need to ask whether an organization designed in 1945 with just 51 member States, is really appropriate to serve the needs of an international community that now comprises 193 independent sovereign States facing 21st century challenges to their citizens’ well-being and security.
 
"World leaders at their Summit at the UN in 2005 had called for urgent reform of the Security Council as part of the effort to make the United Nations fit for the 21st century. The Inter-governmental Negotiations process currently underway in the UN General Assembly seeks to fulfil that mandate. We must use the forthcoming 71st UNGA to ensure that our discussions in the IGN move forward," he said.
 
He said that, as the largest peace movement of the world, NAM must be in the vanguard of the principal international debates on political, strategic and even economic and social issues to achieve that ideal. 
 
"I do hope that one of the priorities during your Chairmanship of this Movement will be to modernize the manner in which we function. We began a discussion on this at the Cartagena Summit in 1995; this discussion must continue and fructify so that NAM may achieve its full potential," he added.
 
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Minor earthquake shakes Bhutan

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.4 on the Richter scale, shook Bhutan today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 27.1°N and longitude 90.0°E, occurred at 1647 hours IST at a focal depth of 25 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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US agrees to be partner country for Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2017

United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal at a meeting with a delegation from Gujarat led by Mr. Bharat Lal, the state's Resident Commissioner in Delhi. in Washington on September 15, 2016.
United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal at a meeting with a delegation from Gujarat led by Mr. Bharat Lal, the state's Resident Commissioner in Delhi. in Washington on September 15, 2016.
The United States has agreed to participate as a Partner Country in the eighth edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit that will be held in Gandhinagar from January 10-13, 2017.
 
The announcement was made by US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal at a meeting with a delegation from Gujarat led by Mr. Bharat Lal, the state's Resident Commissioner in Delhi. here on Thursday.
 
India's Charge d'Affaires in Washington Taranjit Singh Sandhu and other Indian officials were present at the meeting.
 
Others present at the meeting included Special Assistant to the US President and Senior Director for South Asia at the National Security Council Peter Lavoy; U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets Arun Kumar; Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Charles Rivkin; and Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Ziad Haider.
 
During the meeting, Ms. Biswal praised Gujarat's efforts to become a model of innovation and sustainable economic growth and reform for India, a press release from the Department of State said.
 
The Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit, which was started in 2003 to rekindle the pace of investments in the state, is a biennial investors' summit that brings together global business leaders, investors, corporations, thought leaders, and policymakers.
 
It has, over the years, become one of the most important business events in India.
 
The event is now positioned as a forum for ideation, knowledge sharing, networking, explore business opportunities, signing cooperation agreements and partnerships and setting the policy agenda to meet some of the current national challenges.
 
The 2017 summit is expected to bring together Heads of States and Governments, Ministers, executives from the corporate world, senior policy makers, heads of international institutions and academia from around the world.
 
Mr. Lal and his delegation were in Washington as part of a trip that earlier took them to Toronto and Montreal in Canada and to Houston and Chicago in the United States. The delegation later travelled to New York. In all these places, they held road shows about the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit and held meetings with leaders of business and industry to brief them about the investment opportunities available in Gujarat.
 
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Pope Francis declares Mother Teresa a saint

 
Pope declares Mother Teresa a saint
Pope Francis today proclaimed Mother Teresa, the Albanian-Indian nun who founded the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity, a saint, praising her for serving the most needy and unwanted and for shaming the powers of the world for the crimes of poverty they created.
 
"We decree and define Blessed Teresa of Calcutta to be a saint, and we place her name in the catalogue of Saints, decreeing that in the universal Church she is to be venerated among the Saints with pious devotion," he said as he celebrated the Rite of Canonization at a mass offered in St Peter’s Square here.
 
"She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created," he said.
 
For Mother Teresa, who died on September 5, 1997, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering, he said.
 
Pope Francis said there were always two protagonists in history: God and man. "Our task is to perceive the call of God and then to do his will. But in order to do his will, we must ask ourselves, 'What is God’s will in my life?'"
 
He went on to say that God is pleased by every act of mercy, "because in the brother or sister that we assist, we recognize the face of God which no one can see".
 
He said it took a certain daring and courage to recognize the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and those who are cast aside, and to give oneself in their service. 
 
"Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. 
 
"She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that 'the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable'. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime – the crimes! – of poverty they created," he said.
 
"Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! 
 
"I think, perhaps, we may have some difficult in calling her 'Saint Teresa': her holiness is so near to us, so tender and so fruitful that we continue to spontaneously call her 'Mother Teresa'. May this tireless worker of mercy help us increasingly to understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion.
 
"Mother Teresa loved to say, 'Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile'. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness," he added.
 
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The tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square erupted into applause even before Francis finished pronouncing the rite of canonization.
 
Nuns and volunteers of the Missionaries of Charity order gathered at its headquarters in Kolkata and in other cities across India and the world to watch the live telecast of the mass.
 
About 250 nuns of the order, dressed in their trademark white sarees with blue borders, were seated in the front rows at the mass, along with 1,500 homeless people and official delegations from several countries, including 13 heads of state or government.
 
The Indian delegation to the canonization was led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was amongst those present.
 
In keeping with the spirit of Mother Teresa, the Pope later offered Neapolitan pizza to the 1,500 homeless people invited to the canonization in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall.
 
The invitees were poor and needy people, especially from the houses of Sisters of Mother Teresa from places such as Milan, Bologna, Florence, Naples and all the houses in Rome.
 
Born as Agnes Bojaxhiu Gonxha in Skopje, on August 26, 1910, Teresa entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland in 1928 to pursue her desire to serve as a missionary. She went to India in 1929, professed first vows in May 1931 and perpetual vows in May 1937. She spent 20 years teaching in a school in Darjeeling.
 
In 1948, she obtained ecclesiastical permission to begin her apostolate in the slums of Calcutta. The Missionaries of Charity became a Religious Congregation of diocesan right on October 7, 1950 and were raised to a Congregation of pontifical right on February 1, 1965. When she died in 1997, the Congregation numbered 3,842 Sisters working in 594 houses in 120 nations. Soon after her death, Vatican had put her on a fast-track for sainthood.
 
Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. The Government of India honoured her with the Bharat Ratna, the coutry's highest civilian honour, in 1980.
 
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China willing to work to maintain hard-won sound ties with India: Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Hangzhou on Sunday, ahead of the 11th G20 Summit, and told him Beijing was willing to work with India to maintain their "hard-won sound relations" and strengthen their cooperation.

 
Modi meets Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of G20 Summit
Chinese President Xi Jinping met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here today, ahead of the 11th G20 Summit, and told him Beijing was willing to work with India to maintain their "hard-won sound relations" and strengthen their cooperation.
 
"China is willing to work with India to maintain their hard-won sound relations and further advance their cooperation," Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, quoted Mr. Xi as saying at the meeting.
 
Mr. Modi said the India-China partnership was important not just for the region, but the entire world.
 
He stressed that both countries must be sensitive to each other's strategic interests and ensure that there were no negative perceptions about each other.
 
He said India had worked to forge closer ties with China and strengthen their development partnership by ensuring peace and tranquility on their border and working for stronger cultural and people-to-people contacts.
 
Mr. Modi, who reached here yesterday evening after a two-day visit to Vietnam, was accorded a warm reception on his arrival at the Hangzhou airport. 
 
The meeting with Mr. Xi was his first engagement here. It was also their first meeting since China stalled India's bid for membership of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in late June by insisting that it must first sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
 
India has consistently refused to sign the NPT, describing it as discriminatory, but has always insisted that it has been adhering to all non-proliferation norms on a voluntary basis.
 
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that it was a "cordial" meeting, which Mr. Xi noted was their eighth in the last two years.
 
Mr. Modi said this could become Asia's century only if all Asian countries took responsibility for taking steps to make the dream a reality. He said the people of India and China expected their leaders to take concrete steps for their progress, development and prosperity.
 
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Modi visits Quan Su Pagoda in Hanoi, interacts with monks

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today visited the Quan Su Pagoda in Hanoi and offered prayers.
 
Interacting with the monks, the Prime Minister said that he was fortunate to visit the Pagoda. India’s first President Rajendra Prasad had visited this shrine in 1959, he added.
 
Noting that links between India and Vietnam were 2000 years old, Mr Modi said that while some came to make war, India had come with the message of peace – the message of Buddha, which has endured.
 
He said the world must walk on the path of peace, which brings happiness and prosperity. Buddhism took the sea route from India to Vietnam, and therefore Vietnam has received the purest form of Buddhism. He said he has seen a glow on the faces of the monks who have been to India and a great curiosity on the faces of those who wish to travel to the country.
 
The Prime Minister invited them to visit the land of the Buddha, and especially Varanasi, which Mr Modi represents in Parliament.
 
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India, Vietnam upgrade ties to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

India and Vietnam on Saturday decided to upgrade their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and deepen their defence and security engagement to advance their common interests.

 
Modi announce $500m line of credit to Vietnam for defence cooperation
India and Vietnam today decided to upgrade their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and deepen their defence and security engagement to advance their common interests.
 
"We have agreed to scale up and strengthen our bilateral engagement," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc here after their bilateral talks.
 
"My conversation with Prime Minister Phuc has been extensive and productive. Our discussions covered the full range of bilateral and multilateral cooperation," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, as two important countries in the region, they felt it was also necessary to further their ties on regional and international issues of common concern. 
 
"We agreed to tap into the growing economic opportunities in the region. We also recognized the need to cooperate in responding to emerging regional challenges. 
 
"Our decision to upgrade our Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership captures the intent and path of our future cooperation. It will provide a new direction, momentum and substance to our bilateral cooperation. Our common efforts will also contribute to stability, security and prosperity in this region," he said
 
Mr. Modi said he and Mr. Phuc realized that their efforts to bring economic prosperity to their people needed to be accompanied by steps to secure them.
 
"Prime Minister and I have, therefore, agreed to deepen our defence and security engagement to advance our common interests. The agreement on construction of offshore patrol boats signed earlier today is one of the steps to give concrete shape to our defence engagement. I am also happy to announce a new Defence Line of Credit for Vietnam of US$ 500 million for facilitating deeper defence cooperation. The range of agreements signed just a while ago point to the diversity and depth of our cooperation," he said.
 
Mr. Modi thanked Mr. Phuc for the special gesture of personally showing him to Ho Chi Minh's house.
 
"Ho Chi Minh was one of the tallest leaders of the twentieth century. Thank you for extending me the privilege. Let me also congratulate the people of Vietnam on their national day that you celebrated yesterday," he said.
 
He referred to the links between the two societies that go back over 2000 years.
 
"The advent of Buddhism from India to Vietnam and the monuments of Vietnam’s Hindu Cham temples stand testimony to these bonds. For people of my generation, Vietnam holds a special place in our hearts. The bravery of the Vietnamese people in gaining independence from colonial rule has been a true inspiration. And, your success in national reunification and commitment to nation building reflects the strength of character of your people. We in India have admired your determination, rejoiced in your success and have been with you all along in your national journey," he said.
 
Mr. Modi noted that Vietnam is undergoing rapid development and strong economic growth.
 
"As Vietnam seeks to empower and enrich its people; modernize its agriculture; encourage entrepreneurship and innovation; strengthen its Science and Technology base; create new institutional capacities for faster economic development; and take steps to build a modern nation, India and its 1.25 billion people stand ready to be Vietnam's partner and a friend in this journey," he said.
 
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"Prime Minister and I agreed to take several decisions today to move on the pledge of our partnership. India will be offering a grant of US$5 million for the establishment of a Software Park in the Telecommunications University in Nha Trang. The framework agreement on Space cooperation would allow Vietnam to join hands with Indian Space Research Organization to meet its national development objectives. Enhancing bilateral commercial engagement is also our strategic objective. For this, new trade and business opportunities will be tapped to achieve the trade target of fifteen billion dollars by 2020. I also sought facilitation of ongoing Indian projects and investments in Vietnam. And, have invited Vietnamese companies to take advantage of the various schemes and flagship programmes of my government," he said.
 
Referring to the centuries-old cultural connect between their people, Mr. Modi hoped hoped for the early establishment and opening of the Indian Cultural Centre here.
 
He said Archaeological Survey of India could soon start the conservation and restoration work of the Cham monuments at My Son. He said India was thankful for Vietnam's leadership in facilitating inscription of Nalanda Mahavihara as a UNESCO World Heritage site earlier this year.
 
"ASEAN is important to India in terms of historical links, geographical proximity cultural ties and the strategic space that we share. It is central to our 'Act East' policy. Under Vietnam's leadership as ASEAN Coordinator for India, we will work towards a strengthened India-ASEAN partnership across all areas," he said.
 
"We can take satisfaction from the nature and direction of our partnership. At the same time, we must stay focused to keep up the momentum in our ties. I have enjoyed your hospitality. It would be my pleasure to host you and the leadership of Vietnam in India. We look forward to welcoming you in India," he added.
 
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Indian warship INS Satpura on four-day visit to Singapore

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Indian Naval Ship Satpura arrived here yesterday on a four-day visit as part of deployment of the Eastern Fleet to the South China Sea and Western Pacific.
 
The ship is enroute to India after participation in Exercise Malabar 16 and Exercise RIMPAC-16.
 
During the visit, the ship will have professional interaction with the Republic of Singapore Navy towards further enhancing co-operation between the two forces.
 
Calls on senior Government and military authorities, sporting and cultural interactions, aimed at strengthening ties and mutual understanding between the two Navies, are also planned.
 
The visiting ship is also likely to conduct exercises at sea with the Republic of Singapore Navy, aimed at enhancing interoperability in communication as well as search and rescue procedures, upon departure from Singapore.
 
At the helm of the ship is Commanding Officer Captain A N Pramod.
 
Bilateral relations between India and Singapore are characterised by strong bonds of friendship based on cultural, religious and economic ties over two millennia, an official press release said.
 
"Today, economic, cultural and defence relations are the mainstay of India-Singapore relationship. Singapore is India’s 10th largest trade partner globally and 2nd largest in ASEAN (2014) accounting for nearly 26% of India’s overall trade with ASEAN," it added.
 
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Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan detained at LA airport, US officials apologise

File photo of Shahrukh Khan
File photo of Shahrukh Khan
Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan was detained at the Los Angeles Airport in the United States on Friday, prompting the actor to express his displeasure and and two top American diplomats apologised to him within hours.
 
"I fully understand & respect security with the way the world is, but to be detained at US immigration every damn time really really sucks," Khan, who suffered similar treatment at US airports twice in past six years, said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"The brighter side is while waiting caught some really nice Pokemons," he said.
 
"Sorry for the hassle at the airport, @iamsrk - even American diplomats get pulled for extra screening!" US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal responded on the social media site.
 
To which Khan said, "No hassle ma’m. Respect the protocol,not expecting to b above it. Appreciate ur graciousness, its just inconvenient."
 
A little later, US Ambassador to India Richard Verma tweeted: "Sorry for the trouble at LAX @iamsrk. We are working to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Your work inspires millions, including in the US.
 
"No trouble sir, respect the protocol & not expecting 2 b above it. It’s just a tad inconvenient. Thx for ur concern," Khan told him.
 
On April 11, 2012, the actor was detained at the White Plains airport near New York for more than two hours by immigration officials and US authorities had later apologised for the inconvenience caused to him.
 
Khan himself was unfazed by that incident and he joked about with students at Yale University, where he was honoured as a Chubb Fellow.
 
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The actor had arrived at the airport on a private plane along with Nita Ambani, the wife of Reliance Industries Limited chairman Mukesh Ambani. The Ambanis' daughter Isha was president of the South Asian Society at the university at that time.
 
Whie the others in the group were cleared without delay, Khan had to wait for a considerable length of time, during which his hosts at the university and Indian consulate officials took up the matter with the Department of Homeland Security in Washington and other US authorities.
 
Khan was, as a consequence, late for an event at the university and he explained to the crowd that he had been "detained at the airport as always". "It was nice, as it always happens," he had said, in a reference to the previous incident in August 2009, when he was similarly detained at New Yorks' Newark International Airport.
 
"Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kicked the star out of stardom," he said to loud applause from the audience.
 
"They always ask me how tall I am and I will always lie and say 5 feet 10 inches. Next time I am going to get more adventurous. If they ask me what colour are you, I am going to say white," he joked.
 
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Rajnath calls for "strongest" steps against nations supporting terrorism

Sending a clear and unambiguous message to Pakistan from its soil, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday said the strongest possible steps needed to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations, but also those individuals, institutions or nations that support them.

 
Rajnath: Strongest action needed against nations backing terrorism
Sending a clear and unambiguous message to Pakistan from its soil, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said the strongest possible steps needed to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations, but also those individuals, institutions or nations that support them.
 
"Those who provide support, encouragement, sanctuary, safe haven or any assistance to terrorism or terrorists must be isolated," he said in his statement at the 7th Meeting of SAARC Ministers of Interior/Home here.
 
"Only this will ensure that the forces engaged in promoting the heinous crime of terrorism against humanity are effectively countered," he said.
 
Mr. Singh said that it was vital that the South Asian environment has necessary conditions for achieving greater regional prosperity, connectivity and cooperation, if their efforts to meet SAARC's objectives are to succeed. 
 
The South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional grouping of eight South Asian nations -- India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives and Afghanistan.
 
"However, we are witness to mounting threats and incidents that endanger our region’s peace and stability. Terrorism remains the biggest challenge and threat to our peace. South Asia continues to be deeply affected by this malady, as witnessed most recently in cowardly terrorist attacks in Pathankot, Dhaka, Kabul and other places. Merely strong condemnation of such terrorist attacks is not enough. We must harden our resolve to eradicate this menace and also take serious steps to this end," Mr. Singh said.
 
"It also needs to be ensured that terrorism is not glorified and is not patronized by any state. One country’s terrorist cannot be a martyr or freedom fighter for anyone. I also speak for the entire humanity- not just for India or other SAARC members – in urging that in no circumstances should terrorists be eulogised as martyrs," he said.
 
Mr. Singh said the will and the mandate of the international community against proscribed and wanted terrorists and their organisations must also be respected and implemented. 
 
"If we are to rid ourselves of terrorism, we will have to genuinely believe that attempts to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists are misleading. No type of terrorism or support to it can be justified on any grounds whatsoever. Immediate and effective action is required against all those who support or encourage international terrorism in any way, whether they are state actors or non-state. Only then justice will be ensured for the victims of terrorist attacks such as in Mumbai and Pathankot. We must have the approach of ‘zero tolerance’ against any type of terrorism," he said.
 
He said that, in their common fight against terrorism, implementation of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol became crucial. This also included ensuring effective measures so that those committing terrorist acts did not escape prosecution and punishment, and were extradited or prosecuted, he said.
 
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"The menace of terrorism is greatly amplified by the misuse of digital technology. In our effort to tackle terrorism, we should look into all possible avenues of cyber-crime, its linkages with the terrorist world, and how these could be dealt with. Attention and efforts need to be devoted to ensure that social media and other modern technology is not misused for misleading especially the youth or promoting terrorism in any way," he said.
 
He said he was happy that all SAARC members had supported India's proposal to hold the second Meeting of the High Level Group of Eminent Experts to Strengthen the SAARC Anti-Terrorism Mechanism from 22-23 September in New Delhi.
 
"I would also draw the attention of my esteemed colleagues to the need for immediate ratification of the SAARC Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. We have not been able to benefit from the Convention, as some Member States are yet to ratify it. I would urge remaining Member States to consider ratifying the Convention at the earliest.
 
"Trafficking of drugs and its abuse is a grave challenge which has an immeasurable adverse impact. It is a problem which is connected with all types of organized crime. Today, drug business generates the highest illegal fund flows. Trafficking of drugs, coupled with the problem of increasing circulation of fake currency, feeds into supporting terrorism and can create economic de-stabilization in our region. Towards implementation of the Regional Convention on Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, we have offered our full support and cooperation by way of capacity building and training programmes. There is also a felt need to achieve the full potential of the SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk and the SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk," he siad.
 
"Safety and security of women and children will determine the well-being and strength of our nations. It is timely and relevant that SAARC has accorded due priority to this area of cooperation, since new threats are emerging with increasing access to information technology and the changing nature of global economy. In India, we have taken a number of new initiatives such as the 'Track Child' national portal and 'Operation Smile' to rescue children. We shared our experience at the Ministerial Meeting of the South Asia Initiative to End Violence Against Children, which we were privileged to host recently. Our Prime Minister had launched the flagship 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' programme. It has rapidly expanded and has started contributing to ensuring the survival, protection, education and empowerment of the girl child," he said.
 
Mr. Singh said the Narendra Modi government in India, right from its formation more than two years ago, had reaffirmed that good relations with its neighbours were its highest priority.
 
"Under our 'neighbourhood first' policy, we have spared no effort in further building our engagement, and working together with our partners in the region, to secure peace and prosperity for our people. I have come to this meeting with the same purpose. 
 
"I recall that under this Forum, we last met before the Eighteenth SAARC Summit that was held in Kathmandu in November 2014. At that Summit, our leaders committed to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia. With 30 years of SAARC’s existence, today the need is more than ever that we take regional cooperation to a level that realizes the aspirations and expectations of our people," he said.
 
Mr. Singh said that India's vision for the region, as outlined by Mr. Modi at the 18th SAARC Summit, rested on the pillars of trade, investments, wide-ranging development cooperation, contacts between their people -- and, all through seamless connectivity. 
 
"We have accordingly carried forward the initiatives announced by Prime Minister. I am also happy to note that we have implemented the India business card scheme, which would facilitate eligible business leaders in their visits to India," he said.
 
Mr. Singh mentioned that achieving greater transparency and good governance was a cornerstone of the Modi government's policy.
 
"To give just one example, through our financial inclusion scheme Jan Dhan Yoyana that leverages world's largest biometric Unique ID system Aadhar, and Direct Benefit Transfers, we have been able to transform our services delivery to ensure that benefits of public schemes reach the grass-root levels. 
 
"In a few months, leaders of the region would come together in this city of Islamabad for the 19th SAARC Summit. It is my hope that we would be able to demonstrate to our leaders concrete progress in areas of our mutual concern and interest that I mentioned in brief. The time for us to act is now," he added.
 
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