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International

India's policy towards China is "expanding areas of cooperation, reducing differences": Mukherjee

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President Pranab Mukherjee today said India's policy towards China is expanding areas of cooperation and reducing differences.
 
Addressing the Indian community at Guangzhou, at the start of a four-day state visit to China, he said frequent bilateral visits reflected the expanding relations between the two great nations.
 
"There has been phenomenal progress in bilateral relations since 1990. Trade between the two countries has increased from $ 2.9 billion in 2000 to more than $ 71 billion today. There is immense potential for growth in trade, investment and mutual economic cooperation," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said India and China were closely cooperating with each other in most multilateral fora.
 
India, a founding member of WTO, supported the membership of China from day one. It argued in WTO that it is wrong to keep China with its vast population out of the WTO. India and China both are founding members of G-20. As the most advanced emerging economies, they are making major contributions to world growth, he said.
 
The President said if 2.5 billion people of India and China came together and walked together, it would be a great event. 
 
"Intensifying cooperation in trade, investment, development experience, sharing of best practices and cooperating in all areas is the biggest guarantor of peace, development and prosperity. This will ensure the onward march to progress of both nations," he said.
 
Mr. Mukherjee said members of the Indian community were unofficial ambassadors of India in the country in which they lived. 
 
"They carry part of India in their hearts at all times. India is proud of its diaspora," he said.
 
He invited the Indian diaspora to contribute its best to the gigantic task underway of transforming lives of billions of Indians.
 
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This is Mr. Mukherjee's first visit to China as President, though he has visited that country several times in various other capacities, including as Planning Commission Deputy Chairman, Minister of External Affairs and Minister of Defence.
 
Chinese President Xi Jinping had visited India in September 2014, when the two sides agreed to establish a Closer Developmental Partnership, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited China in May last year, which had helped to push the partnership further.
 
Mr. Mukherjee's visit began Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong, a province with an economy of over $ 1 trillion.
 
On the second leg of the visit, the President will reach Beijing on May 26, where he will meet the top leadership of China. Their discussions will cover a whole range of bilateral issues, including political, economic and people-to-people contacts, as well as regional and global issues of significance.
 
Among other events, Mr. Mukherjee will attend a Round Table of Vice-Chancellors and Presidents of Universities of India and China in Beijing.
 
Mr. Mukherjee will have meetings with the Chinese President and the Chinese Premier. He will also  meet the Chairman of the National People’s Congress.
 
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Modi gifts copy of rare manuscript of Quran to Ayatollah Khamenei, Ghalib's poetry to Rouhani

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted a specially commissioned reproduction of a rare seventh-century manuscript of the Holy Quran attributed to Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph, to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hossein Khamenei here today.
 
Written in Kufic script, this manuscript is a prized possession of the Ministry of Culture’s Rampur Raza Library, an official press release said.
 
The Prime Minister, who was on a two-day visit to Iran, also gifted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani specially commissioned reproductions of Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib’s collection of poetry in Persian, Kulliyat-e-Farsi-e-Ghalib, as also Sumair Chand’s Persian translation of Ramayana. 
 
First published in 1863, Kulliyat-e-Farsi-e-Ghalib is a collection of over 11,000 verses by Ghalib. The reproduction is from a rare copy of the book’s 1867 edition to which some missing pages have been added from a copy of the 1872 edition from Maulana Azad’s personal collection preserved in the library of Indian Council for Cultural Relations in New Delhi. 
 
Translated into Persian in 1715 and copied in 1826, Sumair Chand’s Ramayana is a rare manuscript at the Ministry of Culture’s Rampur Raza Library, and contains over 260 illustrations – possibly the largest number in any hand-written Ramayana manuscript. 
 
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Modi says India, Iran must regain past glory of traditional ties

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the time had come for India and Iran to regain the past glory of their traditional ties and links and march together.
 
"India and Iran have always been partners and friends. Our historical ties may have seen their share of ups and downs. But, throughout our partnership has remained a source of boundless strength for both of us," he said in his address at a conference on "India and Iran, Two Great Civilizations: Retrospect and Prospects" here.
 
He told the gathering that eminent scholars like them had a defining role in their joint efforts in this area.
 
Mr. Modi said the conference was an occasion to recall and renew the centuries old association and a perfect response to those who preach radical thoughts in their societies.
 
"It also fulfils a responsibility to familiarize our younger generations with the beauty and riches of our cultural heritage. No one is more qualified to shoulder this task than this gathering of learned men and scholars," he said.
 
"In the world of today, political pundits talk of strategic convergence. But, India and Iran are two civilizations that celebrate the meeting of our great cultures. The rare Persian manuscript Kalileh-wa-Dimneh, released just now, captures the close historical links between India and Iran. It is remarkable how the simple stories of the Indian classics of Jataka and Panchatantra became the Persian Kalileh-wa-Dimneh. It is a classic example of exchange and travel of cultural ideas between two societies. ­A beautiful demonstration of how our two cultures and countries think alike. A true depiction of the wisdom of our ancient civilizations," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said centuries of free exchange of ideas and traditions, poets and craftsmen, art and architecture, culture and commerce had enriched both their civilizations. 
 
"Our heritage has also been a source of strength and economic growth for our nations. The richness of Persian heritage is an integral part of the fabric of the Indian society. A part of Iranian culture lives in Indian hearts. And, a slice of Indian heritage is woven into the Iranian society. Our ancient heroes and epics bear striking parallels. The dargahs of Azmer Sharif and Hazrat Nizamuddin in India are equally revered in Iran. Mahabharata and Shahnama, Bhima and Rustam, Arjuna and Arsh exhibit similarity in our world views and values. Crafts like Zardozi, Guldozi and Chanderi may be a part of the Iranian society. They are equally common in India too. 
 
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"In the richness of Iranian culture, who can forget the poetry and beauty of its vehicle—the Persian language. In India, we regard it as one of our own. The great medieval poets of India have called the Persian and Sanskrit the two sisters. India's religious epic Ramayana which has seen over a dozen translations in Persian is known to have about 250 words of Persian. It served as a court language in medieval India. But, its popularity is also because it is written on the hearts of the Indians. It is taught in around 40 universities in India. All India Radio has been running the Persian language service for last 75 years. India has a proud collection of almost 5 million manuscripts of Persian in public and private collections. There are more than 20 million documents in Persian in National and State Archives. Many of these have common heritage as they were written by Iranian calligraphers and painted by Indian artists. In Salar Jung museum in Hyderabad, such a combination can be found in many manuscripts. A major effort to digitize all manuscripts, including Persian is currently underway in India. Every year, the President of India has conferred awards on the Persian Scholars," he said.
 
"As two ancient civilizations, we are known for our ability to be inclusive and welcoming to foreign cultures. Our contacts have not just refined our own cultures. They have also contributed to the growth of moderate and tolerant societies globally. Sufism a rich product of our ancient links, carried its message of true love, tolerance and acceptance to the entire mankind. The spirit of Sufism is also reflected in the Indian concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, the world as one family," he added.
 
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Trilateral agreement on Transport & Transit Corridor can alter course of history: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, witnessing the signing of Trilateral Agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran on Transport & Transit Corridor, in Tehran on May 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, witnessing the signing of Trilateral Agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran on Transport & Transit Corridor, in Tehran on May 23, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan on Transport and Transit Corridor, signed here earlier in the day, could alter the course of history of the region and become the new foundation of convergence between the three nations.
 
"The corridor would spur unhindered flow of commerce throughout the region," he said in remarks at the signing ceremony, at which he was present along with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
 
He said the inflow of capital and technology could lead to new industrial infrastructure in the Iranian port of Chahbahar, which India has agreed to help develop under a separate bilateral agreement between the two countries.
 
"This would include gas based fertilizer plants, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and IT. The key arteries of the corridor would pass through the Chahbahar port of Iran. It's very location, on the mouth of Gulf of Oman, is of great strategic significance. Afghanistan will get an assured, effective, and a more friendly route to trade with the rest of the world. 
 
"The arc of economic benefit from this agreement would extend beyond our three nations. Its reach could extend to the depths of the Central Asian countries. When linked with the International North South Transport Corridor, it would touch South Asia at one end and Europe at another. And, studies show that as compared to the traditional sea routes, it could bring down the cost and time of the cargo trade to Europe by about 50%. Over time, we could even look to connect it with the strong sea and land based routes that India has developed with the Indian Ocean Region and South East Asia," he said.
 
Mr. Modi began his remarks with a quotation from a famous poet of Persia, Hafez, who said, "Days of separation are over; night of wait is coming to an end; Our friendship will stay forever."
 
"Today, we are all witnessing creation of history. Not just for the people of our three countries, but for the entire region. To build bonds of connectivity is the most basic of human urges. Today, we seek to fulfil it. We are grateful to Excellency Rouhani for hosting this unique event. Thank you President Ashraf Ghani, for your presence. It truly holds a special significance. It is a privilege to be here," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said Mr. Rouhani, Mr. Ghani and he had just held detailed discussions on a range of issues. 
 
"The agenda for economic engagement is a clear priority for us. We stand together in unity of our purpose. To carve out new routes of peace, and prosperity is our common goal. We want to link with the world. But, better connectivity among ourselves is also our priority. It is indeed a new dawn for the region," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said Iran, Afghanistan and India were deeply aware of the richness and reality of our ancient links. 
 
"Through centuries, art and culture, ideas and knowledge, language and traditions have formed a common bond between us. Even through turmoil of history, our societies never lost touch with each other. Today, we meet to write new chapters in our engagement. 
 
"The world of 21st century offers unique opportunities.But, it also poses its own set of challenges.Today, the nature of global engagement requires an attitude more suitable to this century, not the mindset of the century gone by. Today, the watch-words of international tiesare trust not suspicion; cooperation not dominance; inclusivity not exclusion. This is also the guiding philosophy and driving spirit of the Chahbahar Agreement. This will be a corridor of peace and prosperity for our peoples. Motives of economic growth, and empowerment would drive it. It will build our security without making others vulnerable. It would break barriers among our nations and encourage new benchmarks of people-to-people contacts. And, help us to eventually build what we all desire and deserve - a friendly and healthy neighbourhood," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the world around their countries was changing in fundamental ways. 
 
"The lack of comprehensive connectivity is not the only challenge that limits our national growth. Political turmoil and undercurrents of economic stress continue to spread in West Asia. In the Indo-Pacific,rise a mix of political competition and economic opportunities is putting pressure on the existing Asian order. Global economy is yet to fully come out of uncertainty and weakness. Our present growth and future prosperity is under threat from the spread of radical ideas and physical terror.
 
"Amidst this landscape, our three countries are blessed with the most potent resource—our youth. Our three nations are estimated to have more than 60 percent of their population under 30 years of age. They are an asset in our national and regional development. We want them to walk the road to knowledge and skills; industry and enterprise. And, not fall victim to the path of guns and violence.
 
"I am confident that economic fruits of the Chahbahar Agreement will expand trade, attract investment, build infrastructure, develop industry and create jobs for our youth. The Agreement will strengthen our ability to stand in mutual support against those whose only motto is to maim and kill the innocents. Its success will be a positive vote for peace and stability in the region," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi said it was his strong belief that trade and transit routes should only be a starting point of their journey to greater connectivity.
 
"In my vision, the full spectrum of connectivity agenda between Iran, Afghanistan and India should span: from culture to commerce; from traditions to technology; from Investments to IT; from services to strategy; and from people to politics. 
 
"In a way, it is a pledge to: Realize the imperative of better connectivity; Establish peace and create stability; Build economic prosperity and engineer new trade ties; Curb radicalism and remove shadows of terror; and Break barriers and spread sweetness of familiarity among our people. 
 
"History will look back at this effort with nothing but approval and admiration. I compliment Excellencies Rouhani and Ghani for their leadership in guiding this effort," he added.
 
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India, Iran sign pact on Chabahar port, discuss ways of strengthening strategic partnership

India and Iran on Monday signed a landmark bilateral agreement to develop the Chabahar port in Iran with Indian assistance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.

 
Modi meets top Iranian leaders in Tehran
India and Iran today signed a landmark bilateral agreement to develop the Chabahar port in Iran with Indian assistance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
After their talks here, Mr. Modi said at a joint media interaction with Mr. Rouhani that the agreement on Chabahar port and related infrastructure, and availability of about $ 500 million from India for the purpose, was an important milestone. 
 
"This major effort would boost economic growth in the region. We are committed to take steps for early implementation of the agreements signed today," he said.
 
He said the trilateral Transport and Transit Agreement with participation of Iran, India and Afghanistan, to be signed later today, would be a historic occasion. 
 
"It will open new routes for India, Iran and Afghanistan to connect among themselves. India and Iran also share a crucial stake in peace, stability and prosperity of the region. We also have shared concerns at the spread of forces of instability, radicalism and terror in our region. We have agreed to consult closely and regularly on combating threats of terrorism, radicalism, drug trafficking and cyber crime. We have also agreed to enhance interaction between our defence and security institutions on regional and maritime security," he said.
 
The agreement on development of Chabahar as well as the trilateral agrement on transport and transit corridor among India, Afghanistan and Iran highlight the significance India attaches to developing connectivity using Chabahar as a regional hub.
 
The trilateral agreement on using Chabahar-Zahedan-Zaranj as a corridor is expected to be a game changer for regional connectivity, especially for Afghanistan, which can find an assured and reliable alternative access to India via sea. The route will also significantly enhance prospects for India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond through synergies with other initiatives touching the region such as North-South transport corridor.
 
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"Through ages, the beauty and richness of the Persian heritage has attracted the world to Iran. For me, visiting Iran, is indeed a great privilege," Mr. Modi said at the outset.
 
"India and Iran are not new friends. Our dosti is as old as history. Through centuries, our societies have stayed connected through art and architecture, ideas and traditions, and culture and commerce. As friends and neighbours, we have shared interest in each other’s growth and prosperity, and joys and sorrows. We can never forget that Iran was among the first countries to come forward in support when earthquake struck my state, Gujarat, in 2001. Similarly, India is proud to have stood with the people of Iran during your difficult times. I compliment the leadership of Iran for their far-sighted diplomacy," he said.
 
He recalled his meeting with Mr. Rouhani in the Russian city of Ufa in 2015. "Your leadership and the clarity of your vision have deeply impressed me," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said that, in their meeting today, they focused on the full range of their bilateral engagement. 
 
"We exchanged views on the emerging regional situation and global issues of common concern. The agenda and scope of our partnership is truly substantial. The outcomes and agreements signed today open a new chapter in our strategic partnership. The welfare of our people is guiding our broad based economic ties. Expanded trade ties, deeper connectivity, including Railways partnerships in oil and gas sector fertilizers education and cultural sphere are driving our overall economic engagement," he said.
 
"The past history of our ties has been rich. President Rouhani and I would leave no stone unturned to work for its glorious future. Our friendship will be a factor of stability in our region," he said.
 
He said he looked forward to calling on the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei later today.
 
"I look forward to welcoming you in India to carry forward the agenda of our engagement," he said.
 
Mr. Modi quoted a couplet from Ghalib, which, in translation, says, "Once we make up our mind, the distance between Kaashi and Kaashan is only half a step".
 
The Prime Minister reached here yesterday afternoon at the start of his two-day visit to this country. Soon after his arrival, Mr. Modi visited the Bhai Ganga Singh Gurdwara in Tehran and paid his respects there.
 
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Parrikar visits Oman, discusses ways of enhanced defence cooperation

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Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar paid a three-day official visit to Oman, ending today, during which India and Oman discussed all aspects of bilateral defence cooperation, including enhanced military to military exchanges.
 
During his talks with Mr. Bader Bin Saud Bin Harib Al Busaidi, Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs of Oman, and other Omani leaders, the two sides also exchanged views on regional developments of mutual interest.
 
Mr. Parrikar also met Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said and Minister of Royal Office Lt Gen. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Nu’amani, an official press release said.
 
Mr. Parrikar reiterated the high importance that India attached to its strategic partnership with Oman. 
 
He conveyed his appreciation at the continued support rendered by Oman for the Operational Turnaround (OTR) of Indian Navy ships for anti-piracy patrols as well as technical support for landing and over flight of Indian Air Force aircraft. 
 
The Minister visited the Military Technology College and the Sultan’s Armed Forces Museum in Muscat. He also attended a reception at Sultan Qaboos Port to mark the goodwill visit to Oman of Indian Naval Ships Delhi, Deepak and Tarkash. 
 
Four Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and agreements were signed during the visit, including one on defence cooperation between the Defence Ministries of the two countries and another between Royal Oman Police (Coast Guard) and the Indian Coast Guard in the field of marine crime prevention at sea.
 
The two sides also signed an MoU on maritime issues and a protocol between the Royal Air Force of Oman and the Indian Air Force on Flight Safety information Exchange. 
 
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"Both sides noted that defence cooperation is a key facet of their bilateral strategic partnership, which is based on historical ties as well as mutual trust and shared interests. It was agreed that the two sides would further expand and consolidate their ongoing bilateral defence cooperation," the release said.
 
Mr. Parrikar was accompanied on the visit by a high-level official delegation comprising Secretary (Defence Production) Ashok Gupta, Secretary (R&D) & DG, DRDO S. Christopher, Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen M M S Rai, FOC-in-C Western Naval Command Vice-Admiral Sunil Lanba, Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal B S Dhanoa and other senior defence ministry officials. 
 
A defence industry delegation comprising Additional DG, Ordnance Factory Board S C Bajpai and CMD, Bharat Electronics Limited S.K. Sharma also accompanied the Defence Minister. 
 
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Modi starts visit to Iran with trip to gurdwara in Tehran

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Tehran on Sunday at the start of a two-day visit to Iran aimed at drawing up the roadmap for expanding and strengthening bilateral cooperation and advancing the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering prayers at Bhai Ganga Singh Sabha Gurdwara, in Tehran, Iran on May 22, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi offering prayers at Bhai Ganga Singh Sabha Gurdwara, in Tehran, Iran on May 22, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Tehran today at the start of a two-day visit to Iran aimed at drawing up the roadmap for expanding and strengthening bilateral cooperation and advancing the strategic partnership between the two countries.
 
Mr. Modi was accorded a red carpet welcome at the Mehrabad International Airport here and was received by Dr. Ali Tayebnia, Iran's Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance.
 
Soon after his arrival, Mr. Modi visited the Bhai Ganga Singh Gurdwara in Tehran and paid his respects there.
 
"Animated by the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, we Indians make every country our home," he told members of the Indian community later. 
 
He said it was a matter of great privilege to celebrate the 350th anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh shortly. "Our new generation should learn from the central tenets of Guru Granth Sahib," he said.
 
"I have noted several suggestions that have emanated from your community. Let us all work together to serve humanity," he added.
 
During his stay in Tehran, Mr. Modi will hold talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and also call on the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, tomorrow.
 
"I am looking forward to my visit to Iran today and tomorrow, at the invitation of President Rouhani. India and Iran enjoy civilizational ties and have shared interest in the peace, security, stability and prosperity of the region," Mr. Modi had said in a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter ahead of his departure for Tehran.
 
"My meetings with President Rouhani and Hon’ble Supreme Leader of Iran will provide an opportunity to advance our strategic partnership. Enhancing connectivity, trade, investments, energy partnership, culture and people to people contacts would be our priority. 
 
"I also look forward to the conclusion of the Chahbahar Agreement during my visit. 
 
"I will visit Gurudwara in Tehran and inaugurate an International Conference on ‘retrospect and prospect’ of India and Iran relations," he added.
 
Briefing newspersons about the visit here on Friday, Mr. Gopal Baglay, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said that Mr. Modi and Dr. Rouhani would hold in-depth disucussions tomorrow on the entire gamut of bilateral relations and also exchange views on regional and global issues of mutual interest.
 
The two leaders will then witness signing of bilateral documents and jointly address media. President Rouhani will host a lunch in honour of Prime Minister Modi.
 
Thereafter, a trilateral agreement on transport and transit corridor among India, Afghanistan and Iran will be signed at a separate event on the same day. It will highlight the significance India attaches to developing connectivity using Chabahar as a regional hub.
 
Mr. Baglay said the conference on India-Iran ties was being organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) with the Academy of Persian Language and other Iranian partners. Mr. Modi will also release a rare Persian manuscript brought out by ICCR at the event.
 
Mr. Baglay said Mr. Modi's visit would focus mainly on connectivity and infrastructure, the energy partnership with Iran, boosting bilateral trade, promoting regular consultations on peace and stability, particularly in their region and extended neighbourhood, and encouraging people-to-people contacts and relations between the two countries.
 
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"In the sphere of connectivity... the bilateral contract on development and operation by India of Phase-I of the Chabahar port will be signed between Indian Ports Global Private Ltd and Arya Banadar of Iran. Documents on Exim Bank’s line of credit to Iran including for the port will be signed as well," he said.
 
He said the trilateral agreement on using Chabahar-Zahedan-Zaranj as a corridor would be a game changer for regional connectivity, especially for Afghanistan, which can find an assured and reliable alternative access to India via sea. The route will also significantly enhance prospects for India’s connectivity with Afghanistan, Central Asia and beyond through synergies with other initiatives touching the region such as North-South transport corridor.
 
Mr. Baglay said there was interest in Indian public and private sectors to invest in Chabahar free trade zone as also in railway projects in Iran. Progress on Farzad B gas field will elevate further India’s energy partnership with Iran beyond a buyer-seller relationship. Discussions have moved towards commercial conclusion and financial closure in this regard, he said.
 
"A host of measures will be discussed between the two leaders to promote bilateral trade including expanding and strengthening the legal framework and more business-to-business interaction. Matters pertaining to restoring effective banking channels in the post-sanction phase will also be discussed," he sad.
 
He said that both Iran and India have stakes in peace and stability in the region which faces several challenges including terrorism and violent extremism. Discussions between the two leaders will cover these aspects and provide guidance for regular consultations between the two countries at various levels in these and related areas such as cyber crime and maritime security.
 
"Peace and stability in Afghanistan, on which the three countries, namely India, Iran and Afghanistan, held their first trilateral consultations last month in New Delhi, will also be discussed," he said.
 
"Prime Minister’s visit to Iran will thus impart a timely impetus to the ongoing efforts of the two countries and their business entities to expand bilateral cooperation and mutually benefit from new opportunities in the wake of lifting of sanctions against Iran earlier this year," he added.
 
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Indian warships reach Muscat in Oman as part of Gulf visit

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Indian Naval Ships Delhi, Tarkash and Deepak under the Command of the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh, reached Muscat in Oman yesterday as part of a visit to various Gulf states.
 
The visit of the ships from May 21-24 coincided with a visit by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to the Sultanate from May 20-26.
 
An official press release said that, during the visit, the crew of the IN ships will undertake professional interactions with the Royal Navy of Oman pertaining to nuances of maritime operations, including means of combating maritime terrorism and piracy. 
 
In addition, calls on senior Government and military authorities, sporting and cultural interactions and sharing of best practices, aimed at enhancing cooperation, strengthening ties and mutual understanding between the two navies, are also planned.
 
The visiting IN ships are also likely to conduct exercises with the Royal Navy of Oman, the release said.
 
"Bilateral relations between India and Oman have been historically strong based on deep cultural affinity and vibrant economic linkages. In modern times, these were formally established with the 1953 Indo-Oman Treaty of Friendship, Navigation and Commerce, a first between India and any Arab country. The signing of a MoU on Defence Cooperation in December 2005 and the subsequent establishment of the Joint Military Cooperation Committee in March 2006 has set the foundation for increased defence cooperation," the release said.
 
"Since then, naval cooperation between the countries has progressed steadily with increased port visits by naval ships and training of RNO personnel by the Indian Navy in hydrography, diving, training, logistics and dockyard management. India and Oman are also members of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a voluntary and co-operative initiative between 30 countries of the Indian Ocean Region, which has served as an ideal forum for sharing of information and cooperation on maritime issues. Oman also supports Indian Navy’s anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden by providing OTR facilities," it said.
 
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The release said the successful conduct of bilateral biennial naval exercise ‘Naseem Al-Bahr’ off the Indian Coast in February 2016 had reinforced the strong ties between the two navies. The Royal Navy of Oman’s participation in the recently concluded International Fleet Review at Visakhapatnam, India with two ships -- RNOV Al Shamikh and RNOV Al Seeb -- was another indicator of the close ties between the two Navies, it said.
 
"The current visit would be another milestone in the strong maritime relationship between the countries. It will strengthen mutual understanding, facilitate sharing of best practices and enhance interoperability. It will enable a common understanding of the security challenges in the region and contribute to security and stability of this vital part of the Indian Ocean Region," the release added.
 
INS Delhi is commanded by Captain Sandeep Singh Sandhu, INS Tarkash is commanded by Capt Pradeep Singh, NM and INS Deepak is commanded by Capt Sujit Kumar Chhetri. 
 
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EgyptAir confirms missing flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo has crashed

 
EgyptAir plane 'swerved' in mid air before plunging
An EgyptAir aircraft on flight MS 804 from Paris to Cairo, with 66 people on board, which was reported missing, crashed near the Greek island of Karpathos in the early hours of today, the airline confirmed this evening.
 
Earlier this morning, the airline had said that the aircraft, an Airbus A320, had disappeared from radar in the wee hours of today.
 
The airline said in a statement in Cairo this evening that the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation had received official word from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that confirmed the finding of wreckage of the missing aircraft near Karpathos Island.
 
"EgyptAir sincerely conveys its deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers onboard Flight MS804. Family members of passengers and crew have been already informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected. Meanwhile, the Egyptian Investigation Team in co-operation with the Greek counterpart are still searching for other remains of the missing plane," the statement added.
 
The airline had said in the morning that the flight which had departed Paris at 23:09 (CEST) had lost communication with the radar tracking system at 0245 hours local time in Cairo. It was at a height of 37,000 feet, it said.
 
The airline said the flight had 66 people on board, including 56 passengers, incuding a child and two infants, three EgyptAir security personnel and seven members of crew.
 
It said the pilot had 6275 of flying hours including 2101 flying hours on Airbus 320, while the co-pilot had 2766 flying hours. The aircraft was manufactured in 2003.
 
Special teams from the Egyptian Armed Forces had joined the search operations for the missing aircraft, it said.
 
The airline has set up toll-free numbers for relatives of passengers -- 080077770000 from any landline in Egypt and +202 25989320 from any mobile phone or from outside Egypt.
 
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EgyptAir flight 804 from Paris to Cairo disappears from radar

 
EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo goes missing
An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar in the early hours of today, the airline said in a brief statement posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"An informed source at EgyptAir stated that Flight no MS804, which departed Paris at 23:09 (CEST), heading to Cairo has disappeared from radar.
 
"EgyptAir media centre will update as more information becomes available," the statement said.
 
According to various accounts, the flight had 59 passengers and 10 crew on board.
 
The airline said the flight lost communication with the radar tracking system at 0245 hours local time in Cairo. It was at a height of 37,000 feet and disappeared after entering Egyptian airspace.
 
"EgyptAir has contacted the concerned authorities and bodies and inspection is underway through the rescue teams," the statement added.
 
The airline said the flight had 66 people on board, including 56 passengers, incuding a child and two infants, three EgyptAir security personnel and seven members of crew.
 
It said the pilot has 6275 of flying hours including 2101 flying hours on Airbus 320, while the co-pilot has 2766 flying hours. The aircraft was manufactured in 2003.
 
Special teams from the Egyptian Armed Forces had joined the search operations for the missing aircraft.
 
The airline has set up toll-free numbers for relatives of passengers -- 080077770000 from any landline in Egypt and +202 25989320 from any mobile phone or from outside Egypt.
 
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Indian warships reach Bahrain on four-day visit

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Indian Naval Ships Delhi, Tarkash and Deepak, under the command of Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh, reached Bahain on a four-day visit that is a part of a tour of Gulf States.
 
During the visit, the crew of the IN ships will undertake professional interactions with the Royal Bahrain Naval Force (RBNF) pertaining to nuances of maritime operations, including means of combating maritime terrorism and piracy, an official pres release said.
 
In addition, calls on senior Government and military authorities, sporting and cultural interactions and sharing of best practices, aimed at enhancing cooperation as well as strengthening mutual understanding between the two navies, are also planned. The visiting IN ships are also likely to conduct exercises with the RBNF. 
 
The release said the visit would facilitate sharing of best practices, enhance maritime cooperation and evolve a shared understanding of the maritime security challenges between the Indian Navy and the Royal Bahrain Naval Force.
 
It will also bolster the strong bonds of friendship between India and Bahrain and enhance the security and stability in this vital part of the Indian Ocean Region, it said.
 
INS Delhi is commanded by Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu, INS Tarkash by Capt Pradeep Singh and INS Deepak by Capt Sujit Kumar Chhetri. 
 
Indian Navy ships Delhi, Deepak, Trishul and Tabar last visited Manama in September 2015. A delegation from the Royal Bahrain Naval Force also participated in the recently concluded International Fleet Review at Visakhapatnam.
 
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Three Indian warships on four-day visit to Kuwait

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Three Indian warships -- INS Delhi, Tarkash and Deepak under the Command of the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh -- reached Kuwait on Wednesday on a four-day visit to the Gulf state.
 
During the visit, the Indian Naval officers and sailors would undertake professional interactions with the Kuwait Naval Force pertaining to nuances of maritime operations, including means of combating maritime terrorism and piracy, an official press release said.
 
In addition, they would call on senior Government and military authorities, hold sporting and cultural interactions and share best practices, aimed at enhancing cooperation and strengthening mutual understanding between the two navies, it said.
 
The visiting Indian Navy ships are also likely to conduct exercises with the Kuwait Naval Force.
 
Bilateral relations between India and Kuwait have been traditionally friendly based on strong foundations of cultural affinity and trade links dating back to ancient times. These have been strengthened in recent times by a vibrant economic relationship and growing convergence on security issues.
 
Indians are the largest expatriate community in Kuwait. High level visits in the recent past have provided further impetus to our strong bilateral relationship, the release said.
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Defence cooperation between the two countries has been steadily growing through high level visits, training exchanges and port visits by naval ships. India and Kuwait are also members of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a voluntary and co-operative initiative between 30 countries of the Indian Ocean Region, which has served as a forum for sharing of information and cooperation on maritime issues.
 
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Indian Naval Ships Delhi, Deepak, Trishul and Tabar last visited Kuwait in September 2015. A delegation from the Kuwait Naval Force participated in the recently concluded International Fleet Review at Visakhapatnam.
 
The current visit will further bolster the strong bonds of friendship between India and Kuwait and contribute significantly to security and stability in this vital part of the Indian Ocean Region, the release said.
 
INS Delhi, an indigenous guided missile destroyer, is commanded by Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu, INS Tarkash, a stealth frigate, is commanded by Capt Pradeep Singh and INS Deepak, fleet replenishment tanker, is commanded by Capt Sujit Kumar Chhetri.
 
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Indian warships reach Dubai on four-day visit to UAE

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In a demonstration of India’s commitment to maritime relations with countries in the Gulf, Indian Naval Ships Delhi, Tarkash and Deepak under the command of the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet, Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh, have arrived here on a four-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 
INS Delhi is commanded by Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu, INS Tarkash is commanded by Capt Pradeep Singh, and INS Deepak is commanded by Capt Sujit Kumar Chhetri.
 
During the visit, the crew of IN ships will undertake professional interactions with the UAE Navy towards enhancing co-operation between the two forces. In addition, calls on senior Government and military authorities, sporting and cultural interactions and sharing of best practices, aimed at strengthening mutual understanding between the two navies, are also planned. 
 
The visiting IN ships are also likely to conduct exercises with the UAE Navy, an official press release said.
 
"Bilateral relations between India and UAE are characterised by strong bonds of friendship based on cultural and economic ties dating back to nearly 3000 BC. These have been further strengthened in recent times by a vibrant economic relationship and growing convergence on security issues. UAE is India’s second largest trading partner and Indians are the largest expatriate community in the UAE," the statement said.
 
According to it, the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UAE in August 2015 heralded the beginning of a comprehensive strategic partnership, wherein both nations agreed to cooperate in maritime security and strengthen defence relations. 
 
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is scheduled to visit UAE from May 18-19.
 
"Maritime cooperation between the two countries has increased steadily since the inaugural Navy-to-Navy Staff Talks in January 2007. Reciprocal port visits, high-level delegations and training exchanges have further bolstered naval cooperation between the two countries. IN ships last visited UAE in September 2015 wherein Delhi, Deepak, Trishul and Tabar berthed at Dubai. India and UAE are also members of Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), a voluntary and co-operative initiative between 30 countries of the Indian Ocean Region, which has served as an ideal forum for sharing of information and cooperation on maritime issues. UAE hosted the 2010 edition of IONS at Abu Dhabi. 
 
"The current visit seeks to bolster the strong bonds of friendship between India and UAE and contribute to security and stability in this vital part of the Indian Ocean Region," the release added.
 
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Mukherjee invites New Zealand investors to join in 'Make in India' initiative

President Pranab Mukherjee meeting the Governor General of New Zealand, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, at Government House, in New Zealand on April 30, 2016.
President Pranab Mukherjee meeting the Governor General of New Zealand, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae, at Government House, in New Zealand on April 30, 2016.
Noting the tremendous progress made by New Zealand in several areas like dairy development, food processing, clean energy and water and disaster management, President Pranab Mukherjee today invited investors and entrepreneurs from this country to join in the 'Make in India' initiative.
 
Speaking at a banquet hosted here by New Zealand Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae, Mr Mukherjee, who is the first Indian head of state to visit the country, said, “We would very much like to enhance our bilateral co-operation in these areas, learn from the successful experience and practices of New Zealand and collaborate with you in creating new and innovative products and technology.”
 
He said a new momentum in bilateral relations, especially after the visit of Prime Minister John Key, to India in June, 2011 had resulted in bilateral trade crossing $ 1billion in 2013. “However, given the relative size of our economies and the wide convergence of interests in many areas, we both agree that the present level of trade and investment needs to be vigorously advanced in order to realise its substantial potential,” he added.
 
Mr Mukherjee said on an earlier occasion, he had visited New Zealand as External Affairs Minister in 1995 for the Conference of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in which Nelson Mandela participated for the first time as Head of State of South
Africa.
 
In this visit, the President was accompanied by Union Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Kumar Balyan and senior Members of Parliament representing various political parties and regions.
 
He said while the two countries may be separated by geographical distances, cooperation had, in recent years, become “increasingly multifaceted, dynamic and rewarding”.
 
The President noted that India and New Zealand had demonstrated a remarkable degree of independence of spirit in defending and upholding democratic values. “We both recognize the imperatives of strengthening the UN system and other international organizations. We would like to see them reformed so that they remain relevant and effective in addressing the challenges that confront the world today,” he said.
 
“In this context, India stands ready to shoulder greater responsibilities in the international arena. In the United Nations Security Council, New Zealand has addressed issues of global security and highlighted the challenges faced by smaller states. The impressive support that New Zealand garnered in last year’s UNSC election revealed both the quality of your diplomacy and the trust that other countries have placed in you. We look forward to enhanced cooperation between our two countries both in the regional as well as global context,” he added.
 
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“We both recognise that we have a broad convergence of interests on regional and global issues. India deeply appreciates New Zealand's support for India as a member of a reformed and expanded UN Security Council,” the President said.
 
“Both New Zealand and India share common concerns in our fight against international terrorism. We have been working together in regional and multilateral fora on this and other key issues including disarmament, climate change and sustainable development,” he noted.
 
Referring to New Zealand being home to more than 170,000 people of Indian origin, he said the people-to-people contacts were growing. 
 
“Indian students are increasingly opting for higher studies in New Zealand and we are seeing enhanced tourist flows in both directions. The most famous New Zealander known to Indians remains Sir Edmund Hillary - for being the first climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest along with Tenzing Norgay. Today, cricketers from New Zealand are household names in every part of India,” Mr Mukherjee said.
 
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Javadekar seeks more time for India, others to implement provisions of Paris agreement

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Describing the Paris Agreement  on the reduction of climate change, entered into at the December 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference as “a historical achievement for mankind”, Minister of State for Environment and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar has sought more time for India and others to implement its provisions.
 
“Paris agreement is a historical achievement for mankind. All countries should implement it in letter and spirit. After signing of Paris Agreement the developed world needs to immediately ratify the Kyoto Protocol 2nd commitment period and should present enhanced pre-2020 actions. The second urgent task to be done is mobilisation of $100 billion. Without this crucial mobilisation, many of the developing countries cannot implement their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs),” he said at the Major Economies Forum here yesterday.
 
“We have submitted our INDCs post-2020 – all the countries. So we must now spell out immediately that early entry into action for pre-2020 action is important. Early fulfilment of $100 billion per year mobilization by developed countries is important, because without means of implementation, many countries’ INDCs will not be fructified. We should go step-by-step. We are not talking about early entry into force of Paris agreement. It is post-Paris agreement. There are practical difficulties only. Early entry into force will not leave enough time to formalize the procedures and modalities which have to be adopted at the first session of CMA,” he added.
 
Mr. Javadekar said the real issue was pre-2020 actions of the developed world as well as developing countries. Pre-2020 actions of developed countries should be in accordance with the principles and provisions of the Convention. They should be comprehensive, covering all relevant sources, sinks and reservoirs of green house gases, and adaptation as well as finance, technology development and transfer, including cost effective technologies, he said. 
 
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According to him, India has led from the front as far as pre-2020 action is concerned, though India is not mandated to take pre- 2020 actions as per Kyoto Protocol. Secondly, the various institutional mechanisms set up under the Paris agreement – that is, capacity-building, technological mechanism, may not have been put in place to effect by that time. Third, most developing countries, including Indian INDCs are conditional upon the means of implementation, he said.
 
“Early entry into force may not leave enough time for developed countries to formulate the roadmap for the provisions of the means of implementation, thereby directly affecting the implementation of INDCs. Moreover, it does not alter the commitments made for the pre-2020 period, which are based on Kyoto Protocol 2nd commitment period, which runs till 2020, under the Doha Agreement,” he added.
 
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Minor earthquake jolts Nepal in early hours of Sunday

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale, shook Nepal in the early hours of today.
 
A bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said the quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 28.7 N and longitude 85.1 E, occurred at 0201 hours IST at a focal depth of 150 km.
 
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Javadekar stresses need to work towards a more equitable world

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Minister of State of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar has stressed the need to work towards building a more equitable world as only that could be sustainable.
 
Speaking at the Thematic Debate on Sustainable Development Goals here yesterday, Mr Javadekar described 2015 as a landmark year because of the collective decision on two important issues-- the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and a very ambitious balanced agreement on climate change.
 
“It was historic, because both of these provide an assurance to the seven billion people of the world that there will be sustainable development on all fronts, and there will be justice for poorer sections of the societies and poorer countries... We must collectively work towards building a more equitable world, as only an equitable world can be sustainable.
 
“India attaches utmost importance to the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development since the agenda articulates international development priorities and global development cooperation for the next 15 years,” he added. 
 
“We welcome the fact that all countries are expected to take measurable actions to implement the 2030 Agenda. The reaffirmation of the principle of ‘Common But Differentiated Responsibilities’ as the underlying basis of the Agenda, amply signifies that universality does not amount to uniformity of action,” the Minister said. 
 
He also expressed the hope that the agreement on the creation of a ‘Technology Facilitation Mechanism’ would result in utilisation of the transformative power of technology for sustainable development solutions. 
 
As mandated by the 2030 Agenda itself, the processes for follow-up and review must remain voluntary, country-led, positive in nature, and should reinforce mutual learning and exchange of best practices. The purpose of the review mechanism must be to enhance the implementation of the Agenda on the ground, and to this extent, ensure the provision of enhanced levels of financial and technological support to developing countries, he added. 
 
The Minister said since September, India has taken 26 initiatives. These include construction of 15 million toilets in a year, including 5 lakh toilets in schools for girl students; 50 million LPG connections to poor families free of cost for those who have been using wood as fuel.
 
“We have doubled the Clean Environment Cess to $ 6 per tonne on coal production, which is a huge taxation. We have issued biometric card to 1 billion people, who avail subsidies. This has meant that now subsidies are going directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries. I have named just five or six, but we have taken 26 initiatives. All these show our commitment in this regard,” Mr Javadekar said. 
 
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The SDGs will have very significant resource implications world-wide. At the global level UNCTAD estimates that the total investment needs are in order of USD 5-7 trillion per annum. Total investment needed in developing countries alone could be about USD 3.9 trillion per annum, mainly for basic infrastructure (roads, rails and ports, power stations, water and sanitation), food security (agriculture and rural development), climate change mitigation and adaptation, health and education. For India, as per preliminary estimates, the average financial requirement is USD 565 billion per annum for next 15 years to achieve SDGs. 
 
“Therefore every country is on test. The developed world will be tested to adopt sustainable consumption in their countries and provide means of implementation to developing world. Developing world will be tested for planning comprehensively for achieving SDGs and utilise properly the funds provided by developed world. Both groupings will be tested on how they walk the talk and eradicate poverty,”  he added.
 
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Swaraj urges RIC countries to lead the way in fight against terrorism

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at the RIC Conference in Moscow on April 18, 2016.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, at the RIC Conference in Moscow on April 18, 2016.
Stating that the foremost challenge to world security continued to be posed by international terrorism, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said the RIC countries (Russia, India, China) must lead the way in getting the international community together to counter terrorism through joint action, including at the United Nations.
 
"We must not fail in this regard. If we continue to adopt double standards in dealing with terrorism it will have serious consequences not just for our own countries, but the international community as a whole," she said in her opening remarks at the 14th RIC Foreign Ministers Meeting here.
 
Apart from Ms. Swaraj, the meeting was attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
 
This is Ms. Swaraj's second RIC meeting as the External Affairs Minister of India, the last being in Beijing in February 2015. 
 
She said the meetings provided a good opportunity to the three influential countries to exchange views on how they could jointly contribute to international peace, security and development. 
 
Ms. Swaraj noted that there had been some positive movement on the issue of reform of the UN Security Council, with a text being put for the first time on the table for inter-governmental negotiations (IGN).
 
"However, we need greater urgency on this issue. I seek the support of my Chinese and Russian colleagues for taking the IGN process forward," she said.
 
She said the slowdown of the global economy had created its own set of issues for all their economies and development agendas. "As three large, emerging economies, we share similar approaches and could benefit from coordinating our positions," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said BRICS was an important framework in this regard and India looked forward to active participation of all members in the meetings of BRICS during its presidency this year. India hoped to have a very successful BRICS Summit in Goa in October, she said.
 
"Let me end by re-emphasizing the importance of RIC for consultations on regional and global issues of common concern," she added.
 
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Later, in a media statement, Ms. Swaraj said the meeting had discussed several issues of regional and global interest and that their consultations were friendly and constructive.
 
"This underscores the utility of this forum. We apprised each other of our respective positions on various issues and all three of us agreed on the merit of coordinating our positions.
 
"A Joint Communiqué is being issued, which reflects the common positions held by all three of us on a range of issues," she said.
 
"We had a productive exchange of views on the situation in the Middle East. We all stressed our commitment to support democratic, pluralistic and peaceful forces in order to restore stability in the region.
 
"We also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and agreed that it was important for the international community to remain engaged and support the Afghanistan Government in its development and reconciliation efforts and in defeating terrorist forces.
 
"On the issue of Security Council reforms, I once again urged both Russia and China to take the lead in ensuring that the IGN process in the UN advances swiftly. India’s permanent membership of the Security Council is long overdue and this anomaly needs urgent rectification. 
 
"We also had an exchange of views on various groupings, including BRICS," she said.
 
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US Assistant Secretary of State Nisha Desai Biswal to visit India from April 18-21

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United States Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Desai Biswal will travel to India from April 18-21 for meetings with government officials and business leaders to discuss opportunities for greater engagement.
 
A media note from the Department of State said that, while in India, Ms. Biswal would meet government leaders to discuss trade and business ties, as well as a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues to deepen the U.S.-India strategic partnership.
 
She will also meet with business leaders and students on U.S.-India economic relations and to promote U.S.-India ties, the note added.
 
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Investment Agreement signed for Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline

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Shareholders of the TAPI Pipeline Company Limited (TPCL) signed an investment agreement on April 7 in a ceremony witnessed by Petroleum Ministers and senior officials of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and senior Asian Development Bank (ADB) officials. 
 
The pipeline will pave the way for long-term natural gas supplies that will give a major boost to the signatory countries’ economies and energy security, a press release from ADB said.
 
According to it, the Investment Agreement provides an initial budget of over $200 million to fund the next phase of the development of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline. 
 
This includes funding for detailed engineering and route surveys, environmental and social safeguard studies, and procurement and financing activities, to enable a final investment decision, after which construction can begin. Construction is estimated to take up to three years.
 
“The financial support committed by the shareholders of TAPI under this investment agreement is a true testament of their intention to get this historic project off the ground and running,” said Yagshygeldi Kakayev, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan. “Turkmenistan’s vision is strongly aligned with that of its TAPI neighbors to make this project a reality and to deliver a truly regional project that will address energy demands and support economic prosperity and security in the region.”
 
TPCL will build, own, and operate the TAPI pipeline, which, once completed is expected to transport up to 33 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India over 30 years. The pipeline will stretch about 1,600 kilometers from the Afghan/Turkmen border to the Pakistan/Indian border.
 
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“TAPI exemplifies ADB’s key role in promoting regional cooperation and integration over the past 20 years,” said Sean O’Sullivan, ADB’s Director General for the Central and West Asia Department.  “TAPI will unlock economic opportunities, transform infrastructure, diversify the energy market for Turkmenistan, and enhance energy security for the region.”
 
Acting as TAPI secretariat since 2003 and as transaction advisor since 2013, ADB has been instrumental in the progress of the TAPI pipeline to date. In the latter role, ADB helped establish TPCL, select Turkmengaz as consortium leader, and finalize the Shareholders and Investment Agreements.
 
ADB, headquartered in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. 
 
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Moderate earthquake jolts Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, jolted the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan tonight, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 36.9 N and longitude  71.2 E, occurred at 2000 hours IST at a focal depth of 78 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Minor earthquake recorded in Nepal

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An earthquake of slight intensity, measuring 4.3 on the Richter scale, shook Nepal this morning, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 27.8 N and longitude 86.2 E, occurred at 1001 hours IST at a focal depth of 10 km, an IMD bulletin added.
 
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Modi gifts gold-plated replica of Kerala's Cheraman Juma Masjid to King Salman

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, today gifted King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud a gold-plated replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kerala. 
 
Situated in Thrissur district, the Cheraman Juma Masjid is believed to be the first mosque built in India by Arab traders around 629 AD, and symbolic of active trade relations between India and Saudi Arabia since ancient times. 
 
According to oral tradition, Cheraman Perumal was the Chera King and a contemporary of the Holy Prophet who went to Arabia and embraced Islam after meeting the Holy Prophet at Mecca. Some years later, he sent letters to his relatives and the ruling chieftains of Malabar through his friends Malik bin Dinar and Malik bin Habib who, along with their companions, were then given permission by the local rulers to build the mosque at Kodungallur. 
 
The mosque has an ancient oil lamp that is always kept burning and believed to be over a thousand years old. People from all religions bring oil for the lamp as an offering.
 
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Modi assures Saudi investors that retrospective taxation is a thing of the past

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting prominent Saudi business leaders at Saudi Chambers of Commerce, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 3, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting prominent Saudi business leaders at Saudi Chambers of Commerce, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 3, 2016.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today told potential investors from Saudi Arabia that India had a unique combination of democracy, demography and demand, and several policy initiatives had been taken over the last two years to spur growth and progress. 
 
Interacting with 30 Saudi CEOs and Indian business leaders in Riyadh today on the second day of his visit to the kingdom, Mr. Modi said the economic relationship between the two countries must be taken beyond exports and imports, to technology transfers and joint investment.
 
He assured Saudi investors that retrospective taxation was a thing of the past, and his Government believed in a predictable long-term taxation regime. 
 
He mentioned petroleum, renewable energy, infrastructure, and defence manufacturing, as possible areas for Saudi investment. He said Saudi investment in fertilizers, warehousing, cold chain facilities and agriculture, would be a win-win partnership, as it would ensure good quality food products for Saudi Arabia. 
 
Speaking about the health sector, he said there was tremendous scope for investment in the manufacturing of medical devices. He said India's health sector which is globally extremely cost competitive, offered immense scope for health tourism. 
 
He added that Indian nurses, present in large numbers in the Gulf, were a testament to our well-trained manpower. 
 
He said India and Saudi Arabia should look at working together in the field of cyber-security. 
 
Mr. Modi described India and Saudi Arabia as old friends, ready to take bold new steps to a golden future. 
 
Emphasizing the strength of ties between the two countries, he recalled King Salman mentioning that he was taught by an Indian teacher. 
 
Mr. Modi also visited the all-women IT and ITES Centre of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Riyadh, where he was given an overview of the operations. He interacted with the all-women workforce, who enthusiastically welcomed and greeted him. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said that it was a big message for the world that he is meeting with the people who are, in a way, the pride of Saudi Arabia. 
 
He said that, in today’s competitive world, nations had to unite their strengths, both natural and human, for optimum progress. He said that when women power became a part of the development journey, it gathered fresh momentum. 
 
He said that the atmosphere he was witnessing at the Centre today appeared to be a harbinger of a positive force for the world. He invited the women IT professionals to visit India, and said their visit would make a huge impact even in India. 
 
Mr. Modi emphasized the role of technology in governance, and said e-governance, for him, meant easy governance, effective governance, and economic governance. 
 
The Prime Minister invited them to see the “Narendra Modi App” and even share their views on women empowerment in India. 
 
“Vande Mataram. Matri Devo Bhavah,” wrote the Prime Minister on the message board at the Centre. 
 
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Modi says political stability has helped India take rapid economic strides

Prime Minister Narendra has said that India had taken rapid strides towards development in a short period of time because of the political stability in the country arising out of the fact that, after a gap of 30 years, there was a government with a majority in the Lok Sabha on its own.

 
India's spirit of 'Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas' has brought new hope to world: PM
 
Prime Minister Narendra has said that India had taken rapid strides towards development in a short period of time because of the political stability in the country arising out of the fact that, after a gap of 30 years, there was a government with a majority in the Lok Sabha on its own.
 
"In a very short time, India has provided a new confidence and new hope. We are now an important nation, the world accepts India as one," he told members of the Indian community in Riyadh here yesterday.
 
He said that, at a time when the whole world was passing through an economic crisis, organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and credit rating agencies were saying that India represented a ray of hope.
 
"Some people have even described India as a 'shining star'," said Mr. Modi, who was on two-day visit to Saudi Arabia in the third and final leg of a three-nation tour that had earlier taken him to Brussels in Belgium and Washington DC in the United States.
 
Mr. Modi said India was today making rapid economic progress and the world's attention was focused on it. According to him, a country of 125 crore people could give the world a lot and do a lot for it.
 
He said that India had also shown to the world that every one in the country could be carried along on the path of development on the basis of democratic principles and human values.
 
He said it was a fact that, in the face of adverse circumstances, India had moved ahead with its development programmes.
 
Mr. Modi said India's biggest strength was its 800 million youth, below the age of 35. He said the whole world needed such a work force that is talented and equipped with the latest technology. India is marching ahead in this regard rapidly.
 
"Whether it is agriculture, industry or services, India is marching ahead," he said.
 
Mr. Modi also visited the L&T workers' residential complex in Riyadh. Infrastructure major Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is part of a consortium that is building a section of the Riyadh Metro. 
 
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Modi appreciated the efforts made by the workers for the project, and said “your hard work has brought me here.” 
 
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He said that the work being done by Indian workers abroad, not only earned money, but also raised the stature of India. He said Indian workers were fondly remembered in various parts of the world where they had completed many prestigious projects. He said that in future, the Riyadh Metro too would similarly evoke memories about Indian workers who had contributed to its construction. 
 
The Prime Minister said he often got to know about Indians working abroad through letters he received from their relatives. He added that he shared both their joys and their sorrows, through these letters. "I feel I am a part of your family," he said. 
 
Mr. Modi mentioned the "e-migrate" initiative of the Union Government, which would facilitate people who wished to work abroad. He said more "worker resource centres" would be opened, and the MADAD portal was a way to immediately reach the Union Government. The Prime Minister said that India had the capacity to give the world the manpower it required. 
 
The gathering of over a thousand workers, cheered enthusiastically on many occasions as the Prime Minister spoke. 
 
The Prime Minister later mingled with the assembled workers, and shared snacks with them. 
 
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