Gurkha ex-servicemen foundational pillars of India-Nepal ties: Mukherjee

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.

Janakpur is best example of India’s shared heritage with Nepal, says Mukherjee

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.
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.

India welcomes Nepal to be part of its growth story, says Mukherjee

The Chief Executive Officer of Kathmandu Metropolitan City presenting the key of the Metropolitan City to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at a civic reception hosted in his honour at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, Kathmandu in Nepal on November 3, 2016.
The Chief Executive Officer of Kathmandu Metropolitan City presenting the key of the Metropolitan City to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee at a civic reception hosted in his honour at the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office, Kathmandu in Nepal on November 3, 2016.
President Pranab Mukherjee today invited Nepal to be a part of India’s growth story.   
Speaking at a civic reception hosted in his honour by the Kathmandu Municipal City, the President said, “As two developing economies, we have a shared vision of economic prosperity and sustained development for our respective nations and also our region. 
“As a neighbour and close friend, India has an abiding interest in seeing sustained economic development in Nepal,” he added.
“India believes that to keep pace with the growing aspirations of our people and in order to give them the quality of life that they seek, our focus should remain on creating an enabling environment for their economic progress and promoting peace and political stability,” Mr Mukherjee said. 
“India welcomes Nepal to be a part of its growth story and take advantage of the opportunities inherent in the rapid transformation of our economy,” he added.
The President said Kathmandu is not only the political capital of Nepal, but also a spiritual centre for the people in the region. He termed his visit to Nepal as a kind of pilgrimage. It is a mission of friendship to foster ever greater understanding and cooperation between India and Nepal. 
There are no two sovereign nations in the world like India and Nepal, sharing a common culture and having an open border between them. The Government and people of India are committed to further strengthening and deepening this relationship, he added.
The President said India fondly remembers the support that its freedom fighters received from the leaders and people of Nepal during the struggle against foreign rule. 
“India wishes the people and the Government of Nepal every success in the important task of implementing its constitution, taking on board all the sections of its society,” Mr Mukherjee said.
He said India’s development partnership with Nepal, which started in 1951, covers a broad canvas of projects in the priority sectors of Nepal’s economy.
“It is matter of satisfaction that our fruitful collaboration in small development projects is benefiting local communities in Nepal. I am pleased to learn that several India-assisted projects – for building roads and bridges and providing irrigation and energy are currently under implementation. 
“Government of India is also committed to assisting Nepal, as per its priorities, in post-earthquake reconstruction in the framework of the US $ 1 billion assistance announced by it. This reconstruction will be taken up in the housing, infrastructure, health, education and cultural heritage sectors,” Mr Mukherjee said.
During the visit of Prime Minister of India to Nepal in 2014, twinning of the cities of Kathmandu and Varanasi had been agreed upon. “I am pleased to learn that under this agreement, several activities have been carried out to forge stronger bonds of friendship and enhance people to people contacts,” he added.
Following the reception, the President wrote in the Visitor’s Book, “I am deeply honoured by the civic reception accorded to me by the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office at the historic Rashtriya Sabha Griha. 
"I am particularly happy to visit this holy city once again. Needless to say, Kathmandu has expanded greatly since my last visit. I congratulate the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office for their unfailing dedication in managing and maintaining this rapidly growing city - despite the inevitable challenges," he added.

India to assist in renovation of ghats adjoining Pashupatinath Temple

President Pranab Mukherjee visited Pashupatinath Temple today and promised Indian assistance for renovation and upgradation of ghats adjoining the shrine. 
 “I am very happy to be here again – at the holy Pashupatinath Mandir, a site of unique cultural, religious and historical significance,” he wrote in the visitors' book following the visit.
“I enjoyed participating in the special Pooja and thank the Temple Trust for the arrangements made for my visit,” he said.
“Government of India is happy to assist in the establishment of the Nepal-Bharat Maitri Pashupatinath Dharamshala project, presently under implementation. I am happy to have announced, during my State Visit, that Government of India will also assist in renovation and upgradation of the Ghats adjoining the Temple area,” the President said.
“I offer the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust my best wishes for the success of its endeavours in conserving and maintaining this unique temple complex which is equally revered by devotees in India and Nepal,” he added.

Mukherjee receives honorary doctorate from Kathmandu University

President Pranab Mukherjee received an honorary doctorate from Kathmandu University here today.
“I am deeply honoured by the conferment of Honorary Doctorate on me by the Kathmandu University today. I accept it in the name of the people of India,” Mr Mukherjee, who is on a state visit to Nepal, said.
“A nation is built on the strength of its academic institutions and the education that they impart to its citizens. I am confident that the Kathmandu University will continue to deliver this key enabler for the socio-economic development of Nepal and also deepen the collaborative exchanges of this University with Indian institutions of higher learning. The Government of India stands ready to assist in this endeavour,” the President said.
“I offer the Kathmandu University and its Vice Chancellor, Shri Ram Shrestha, my best wishes for their success in providing quality education to Nepali as well as foreign students,” he added.
Congratulating the University on its Silver Jubilee, Mr Mukherjee said  within a short span of 25 years, it has established itself as a focal point of higher learning in Nepal, offering academic courses in humanities, science, engineering, medicine, management and law. It attracts talented students from Nepal and its neighbourhood. With its core objectives of imparting quality education and learning skills, it is well placed to evolve into a centre of academic excellence for the entire region.
He stressed the need for concerted efforts to build world-class universities. There was a time when there existed in the region renowned seats of learning like Takshashila and Nalanda which attracted mighty minds from across the world. 
Universities in the region have the best of talent in terms of students and faculty. However, they still lag behind in global rankings. This situation must be remedied with a focus on research and innovation, he said. 
The President expressed happiness that Kathmandu University is already taking necessary steps to move in this direction.

Obama greets people on Diwali, urges them to see beyond differences

United States President Barack Obama has greeted people on the occasion of Diwali and said the festival was a reminder of what is possible when they see beyond the differences that often divide them.
"To all who are celebrating the festival of lights across America and around the world, happy Diwali. As Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Buddhists light the diya, share in prayers, decorate their homes, and open their doors to host and feast with loved ones, we recognize that this holiday rejoices in the triumph of good over evil and knowledge over ignorance," he said.
Mr. Obama said the festival also spoke to a broader truth about their shared American experience.
"It's a reminder of what's possible when we see beyond the differences that too often divide us. It's a reflection of the hopes and dreams that bind us together. And it's a time to renew our collective obligation to deepen those bonds, to stand in each other's shoes and see the world through each other's eyes, and to embrace each other as brothers and sisters - and as fellow Americans.
"I was proud to be the first President to host a Diwali celebration at the White House in 2009, and Michelle and I will never forget how the people of India welcomed us with open arms and hearts and danced with us in Mumbai on Diwali. This year, I was honored to kindle the first-ever diya in the Oval Office - a lamp that symbolizes how darkness will always be overcome by light. It is a tradition that I hope future Presidents will continue.
"On behalf of the entire Obama family, I wish you and your loved ones peace and happiness on this Diwali," he added.

Bahrain to work with India to combat terrorism

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh meeting the King of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in Manama on October 24, 2016.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh meeting the King of Bahrain, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, in Manama on October 24, 2016.
Bahrain Interior Minister Lt. General Shaikh Rashid has stated that his country was prepared to work with India in combating terrorism and in strengthening regional security.
During talks with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was on a three-day visit to Bahrain, here yesterday, Shaikh Rashid said, “We look forward to working together in the fight against terrorism and in strengthening our mutual and regional security. The Joint Steering Committee should look at how we can work together to address challenges and to follow up the progress of the agreed decision through exchange of visits and expertise and working to achieve common goals.”
He said Bahrain has throughout history been a link between East and West. Bahrain's special relationship with India was due to the large Indian community in the Kingdom. Bahrain is a tolerant, peaceful and open country.
Shaikh Rashid also invited Mr Rajnath Singh to visit temples and community centres that reflect the diversity of Bahraini society. Bahrainis and Indians have lived together for generations.
He hailed the first meeting of the Bahraini-Indian Joint Steering Committee as part of the agreement signed between the two sides on counter-terrorism to reinforce security cooperation, especially regional terrorism issues. He highlighted that Bahrain has experienced terrorist acts that caused loss of life and horrific injuries and damage to infrastructure.
Mr Rajnath Singh said mutual visits will develop bilateral ties.”Tterrorism is a threat to the whole world and that India is ready to reinforce joint counter-terrorism cooperation with Bahrain,” he added.
The two sides agreed that the historical visit of the King of Bahrain to India in February 2014 built a basic foundation toward a strong partnership between the two countries, as well as the creation of opportunities to develop bilateral relations in various sectors.
The two sides also agreed that the exchange of high level visits has contributed to the implementation of important agreements between the two countries. They discussed the visit of the Bahrain Interior Minister to India in December, 2015 that included the signing of the cooperation agreement on international counter-terrorism and trafficking of narcotics, psychotropic substances and chemical precursors.
They agreed on their strong stances against all forms of terrorism, saying terrorism is a hazard to all countries and communities. They rejected the linking of terrorism to any race, religion or culture. They agreed that a terrorist in one country cannot be glorified as freedom fighters by another, and the two sides called upon all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries, to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the state, and to fight terrorist infrastructure whenever it exists.
The two sides also agreed to actively implement the counterterrorism agreement for which a joint committee was formed that held its first meeting in the sideline of the visit. They decided to hold regular committee meetings, in accordance to the clauses of the agreement.
The two sides agreed to reinforce cooperation in exchange of information on ongoing terrorism-related investigations, exchange of information of ongoing organised crime investigations, including terrorism and drug trafficking, determine and exchange information on terrorism financing and organised crime sources and confiscation of terrorism money in accordance to the laws of both countries, study youth extremism and the use of the internet and how to tackle the issue, further cooperation in e-security and fight money laundering.
They also agreed to promote participation in training courses and seminars that are held by the two countries for security officials to exchange expertise on crime fighting and other unconventional threats. 
They welcomed cooperation in anti-human trafficking and the fight against emerging security threats of the two countries. The two sides agreed to continue high level communication to reinforce security cooperation.

Indo-Sri Lanka joint military exercise Mitra Shakti 2016 begins in Ambepussa

The fourth edition of the India-Sri Lanka joint military exercise ‘Mitra Shakti 2016’ is being conducted at Sinha Regimental Centre in Ambepussa in this island nation.
The main focus of this edition of the joint exercise from October 24 to November 6 is to enhance inter-operability while carrying out Counter Insurgency (CI)/Counter Terrorism (CT) operations under the United Nations Mandate. 
A comprehensive training programme spanning 14 days has been drawn up for the purpose, an official press release from the Indian Ministry of Defence said.
The Indian Army contingent reached Sri Lanka on October 23. The Indian contingent is represented by a platoon from the Rajputana Rifles Regiment and the Sri Lankan Army will be represented by a platoon from the Sinha Regiment.
The opening ceremony was held yesterday during which the troops of both contingents participated in a ceremonial Parade. Brig B L Ratnayake, Commandant of Sri Lankan Sinha Regimental Centre from the Sri Lankan Army also addressed the troops.
In the initial two stages, both armies would get familiar with the respective methodology of such operations, each other’s arms and equipment and the command and control systems. It will then graduate towards tactical understanding to enhance inter operability while carrying out Counter Insurgency (CI)/Counter Terrorism (CT) operations.
The previous exercise with the Sri Lankan Army was successfully conducted in September 2015 at Pune in India. The “Mitra Shakti” series of bilateral exercises is one of the major bilateral defence cooperation initiatives between India and Sri Lanka since 2013.

Deal with terror scourge in comprehensive manner: Rajnath

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said  both India and Bahrain were vulnerable to the scourge of terrorism that has to be dealt with in a comprehensive manner instead of the segmented and partial approaches adopted by some countries.
Mr Rajnath Singh, who is on a three-day visit to Bahrain, aired these views during his bilateral meeting with Interior Minister of Bahrain Lt. General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
Terrorism constitutes the greatest threat to humanity since World War II. There are no good or bad terrorists, he added.
The Minister thanked the Bahraini leadership for condemning the recent terrorist attack in Uri in September and the Pathankot airbase attack in January this year. It is a matter of satisfaction that the world opinion is with India in its resolution to dismantle the launching pads of terrorism from across the border, he added.
Mr Rajnath Singh expressed happiness over the fact that the bilateral Security Dialogue at the Deputy NSA level has now been institutionalized. The second round was held in New Delhi last week, he added.
The Home Minister said that signing of agreement for cooperation in combating international terrorism, transnational organized crime and trafficking in illicit drugs, narcotic and psychotropic substances and precursors chemicals has laid strong foundation for enhanced security/counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.
He also said that India would like to enhance ties with Bahraini defence and security establishment.
Mr Rajnath Singh said that India is keen to strengthen trade and investment ties with Bahrain and avail of the strategic location of Bahrain as a "gateway" to the GCC market.
“While our bilateral trade is healthy and has reached about US$ one billion, there is still a huge potential to further expand it,” he added.
“The presence of a large Indian community in Bahrain constitutes an important link between our two countries. Indians are the largest expatriate community in Bahrain,” he said.
He thanked the Bahraini authorities for launching the ‘Little India in Bahrain’. This is a praiseworthy gesture towards India and Indian community and will promote Indian culture in Bahrain, the Home Minister said.
During the meeting, he said ties between the two countries go back many centuries and are based on mutual trust and respect. Both enjoy warm, close and multi-faceted relations between our two countries underpinned by cultural, religious and economic linkages, he added.
On the first day of his visit yesterday, Mr Rajnath Singh interacted with the Indian community at Indian School Bahrain, Isa Town. He said that Bahrain had supported India on many occasions and India will reciprocate in the same manner.

Union Home Minister begins three-day visit to Bahrain

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said  India and Bahrain were working together to further strengthen security and counter-terrorism cooperation between both the countries.
Embarking on a three-day visit to Bahrain, Mr Rajnath Singh said he looked forward to the visit on the invitation of Minister of Interior Lt. Gen Sheikh Rashid Bin Abdulla Al Khalifa.
India and Bahrain enjoy excellent bilateral relations characterised by broad based political, economic and cultural contacts, he added.
On Friday, the Union Home Minister had said in Delhi that the signing of the agreement on cooperation in combating international terrorism, transnational organized crime and trafficking in illicit, drugs, narcotic and psychotropic substances and precursors chemicals during the visit of the Bahrain Interior Minister to New Delhi in December last year had laid a strong foundation for security and counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries.
Mr Rajnath Singh made these comments during his meeting with the President of National Security Agency of Bahrain, Sheikh Talal bin Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa who called on the Union Home Minister in Delhi on October 21.

Dissatisfaction with functioning of elected bodies causing distrust in democratic process: Ansari

Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari delivering a lecture on ‘Indian Democracy: Achievements and Challenges’, at the Corvinus University, in Budapest, Hungary on October 17, 2016.
Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari delivering a lecture on ‘Indian Democracy: Achievements and Challenges’, at the Corvinus University, in Budapest, Hungary on October 17, 2016.
Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari today said that, while public participation in the electoral exercise has noticeably improved, dissatisfaction from the functioning of elected bodies is breeding cynicism with the democratic process itself.
The imperative for a corrective is evident to reinforce public confidence in the ability of the system to deliver, as intended, Mr Ansari said  delivering a lecture on 'Indian Democracy: Achievements and Challenges' at the Corvinus University here.
The Rector, Mr. Andras Lanczi, the faculty members and other dignitaries were present on the occasion.
The Vice-President referred to the events of October 1956 and the role that an Indian diplomat Mohammad Ataur Rahman played in it. The Asiatic Society in Kolkata was proud to have the association of the Hungarian Scholar Alexander Cosma de Koros and it has published many of his research works.
He said that the quest for improvements will continue with the growth of public awareness of the electoral process.  An observer of the Indian scene has noted that ‘the ethos of democracy expresses itself in the freedom of expression, respect for human rights, good governance, pluralism and mutual understanding.’
A participatory democracy today is only possible through the active participation of citizen’s initiatives.  Evidence of this, in the case of India, is to be found in new social movements that mobilize large masses and in the process create space for political action that have a transformative capacity, he added.
Mr Ansari, in his speech referred to Hungary and Hungarian scholars' association with India. “Foremost among them was Alexander Cosma de Koros. The Asiatic Society in Kolkata is proud of his association with it and has published many of his research works. His tomb in Darjeeling is a monument protected by the Archaeological Survey of India,” he added.
Mr Ansari said the democratic process has brought about a shift of political power from the middle and higher castes and classes of urban society to backward classes who are now the politically most influential ones in the country.
They have won reservations for themselves in legislatures and government services as were accorded to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes after independence through Constitutional provisions. There are few examples in recent history of such a conspicuous shift of political power, involving such a huge mass of population, taking place in such a short period of time almost without any violence and in a democratic way.  This is one more example of the miracles that democracy can create, he added.

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.

US tells Pakistan that nuclear-capable states need to exercise restraint

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.

Russia says Pakistan should stop activities of terror groups in its territory

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.

India's relations with Africa not a transactional partnership: Ansari

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.
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.

Independent India a faithful reflection of national movement: Ansari

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.

Rice calls Doval, says US expects Pakistan to act against LeT, JeM

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.

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.

Nirmala Sitharaman visits Sri Lanka for talks on bilateral trade, investment relations

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.

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.
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.

G4 Foregin Ministers call for comprehensive reform of UN Security Council

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.

India-Russia joint military exercise Indra-2016 begins in Vladivostok

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.

India-US-Afghanistan Trilateral meeting held in New York

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.

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.

Mahesh Sharma receives three ancient Indian artefacts in Australia

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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