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Rao says India will stand by Sri Lanka in resettlement of IDPs


Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao today said India stood with Sri Lanka in responding to the challenges posed by the task of resettlement and rehabilitation of the large number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) resulting from the end of armed conflict in the island-nation last year.


During an interaction with local officials in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, today at the start of a visit to that country, Ms Rao referred, in particular, to the challenge posed by housing and noted that India had pledged to build 50,000 houses in teh Northern and Eastern Provinces.


She said Jaffna would be assisted through signature projects such as the Jaffna Cultural Centre, the Jaffna Teaching Hospital and the Duraiappah Stadium.


Ms Rao said it was a time to look to the future for the sake of the coming generations and underlined that India had always accorded high priority to the welfare of the people of Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.


The Foreign Secretary started the day with a visit to Vavuniya and Kilinochchi. She was accompanied by Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka Ashok K Kantha, the Governor of the Northern Province, Maj Gen (Rtd) G A Chandrasiri and senior officials of the two countries.


In Vavuniya, she received a briefing on the resettlement situation from Maj Gen Kamal Gunaratne, the Security Forces Commander of the Wanni. She then visited Menik Farm, where she met with a number of IDPs and their families who are still awaiting resettlement. She also visited their homes and witnessed their conditions of stay.


In a public meeting at the Urban Council Hall in Vavuniya, Ms Rao met with another group of IDPs. She assured the IDPs of the Government of India’s continued commitment to assist them in the task of rebuilding their lives. India’s announcement to build 50,000 houses was widely welcomed.


The Foreign Secretary underlined that these houses would be built with local participation and would give a fillip to local employment.


She also met with the Government Agent (GA) of Vavuniya, Mrs. P S M Charles and discussed other possible areas where India could assist in the process of resettlement.


Ms Rao then visited Mahilankulam near Omanthai, a site where the Horizon (Ex-servicemen) Group of India is conducting demining operations in a heavily mined area that constituted the no-man’s land between the former Forward Defence Lines (FDLs) of the Sri Lankan Army and the LTTE.


The Government of India is funding three Horizon demining teams, in addition to four teams from Sarvatra, another Indian demining group working in Sri Lanka. The work of the demining teams has come in for considerable praise. Before leaving Vavuniya, Ms Rao also distributed another consignment of Indian assistance consisting of agricultural toolkits, roofing sheets and cement bags among recently resettled IDPs at the Agrarian Services Centre in Omanthai.


In Kilinochchi, she met with local army and civil officials who briefed her on the progress of resettlement. They expressed their happiness that Government of India was readily coming forward to assist in the process of resettlement. She also met with recently resettled families in the Kilinochchi area and distributed toolkits, cement bags and roofing sheets to them.


In Jaffna, Ms Rao met with local officials who briefed her on the situation in the Jaffna Peninsula and the resettlement priorities of the district. She was accorded a warm public reception at the Jaffna Public Library where the Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development, Mr. Douglas Devananda, and the Mayor of Jaffna were also present. At the library, she also met with a broad spectrum of civil society leaders and heard from them about the recent developments following the end of armed conflict. They underscored the need for India to be involved in the political process to ensure a permanent settlement.


According to an official statement issued here, Ms Rao also visited the site of the Cultural Centre that will be constructed with Indian assistance.


Tomorrow, Ms Rao will visit Mullaitivu and Trincomalee, before returning to Colombo for further meetings with Sri Lankan dignitaries. She will also call on Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa before flying back to India.


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India-SACU Preferential Trade Agreement to be finalised soon: Sharma

South African President Jacob Zuma opening “The India Show” in Johannesburg, on August 30, 2010. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and his  South African counterpart  Rob Davies are also seen.
South African President Jacob Zuma opening “The India Show” in Johannesburg, on August 30, 2010. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and his South African counterpart Rob Davies are also seen.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma met his South African counterpart Rob Davies in Johannesburg yesterday and said the India-Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) would be finalised soon.

Mr Sharma said officials from India and SACU would meet in the first week of October to discuss pending issues relating to the agreement.

While highlighting the historical, political and economic relations between the two countries, the Ministers agreed that a PTA would be of mutual benefit to both sides in the long term. They agreed that there were many areas where there was complementarity of interests of both the countries and the PTA would further enhance the same.

According to an official press release here today, Mr Sharma also met South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Minister of Public Enterprises Barbara Hogan, among others.

He also inaugurated a conference on "Doing Business with India" along with Mr. Davies.

He will be traveling to Durban as part of "The India Show" to mark the 150 years of the first arrival of Indians in South Africa. The Minister is in South Africa in connection with "The India Show", which was inaugurated by South African President Jacob Zuma yesterday.

Mr Sharma said he was optimistic that, given the current trend of growth in bilateral trade between India and South Africa, the target of $10 billion set for 2012 could be achieved in 2011 itself.

He said that, as India-South Africa trade expands, both countries will benefit by generating employment and other opportunities for the people of the two countries. He expressed satisfaction that the strategic partnership between India and South Africa had now matured into a dynamic and multi-faceted relationship encompassing virtually all areas of human endeavor.

The Minister recalled that the two countries had priority areas of bilateral cooperation such as infrastructure and manufacturing, mines and minerals, energy, banking and financial services, agro-processing, pharmaceuticals, information technology, automobiles and auto-components.

Reiterating its earlier stand explained in the June 4, 2010 bilateral between the Trade Ministers, the Indian side expressed its keenness to have an agreement on Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) at the earliest. It was decided that this issue of BIPPA would also be discussed in the senior officials meetings slated in the first week of October 2010.

Mr Sharma mentioned that the state visit of President Zuma in June this year was a great success and a milestone in the bilateral partnership. The understandings reached during his visit have elevated the relationship between the two countries to a phase of increased intensity and closeness, he added.

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Delhi Metro's Central Secretariat-Qutab Minar corridor to start on Sep 3


The Central Secretariat – Qutab Minar underground corridor of the Delhi Metro will be inaugurated by Union Urban Development Minister S Jaipal Reddy in the presence of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on September 3.


Mr Reddy will flag off the ceremonial train on the occasion from the Udyog Bhavan station at 1 pm on that day. The section will be opened for the public from 3 pm of the same day, when commercial operations will commence.


A press release from the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) said Mr R K Kardam, the Commissioner for Metro Rail Safety (CMRS), had completed his inspection of the corridor today and a formal clearance was expected shortly.


The 12.53 kilometre long corridor has nine underground stations - Udyog Bhawan, Race Course, Jor Bagh, INA, AIIMS, Green Park, Hauz Khas, Malviya Nagar and Saket - and one elevated station, Qutab Minar.



With the opening of this line, the total length of the Jahangirpuri – Gurgaon HUDA City Centre corridor will become 45 kilometres which will be covered in about one hour and 20 minutes. It will cost Rs. 29 for a passenger to travel from HUDA City Centre to Jahangirpuri.



The total operational Metro network will thus become 138 kilometres with 117 stations from that date, the release added.


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India, ASEAN review progresss on Services & Investment Agreement

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma with the Trade/Commerce Ministers and Officials from the ASEAN Member States at the 8th AEM-India Consultations, in Da Nang, Vietnam on August 27, 2010.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma with the Trade/Commerce Ministers and Officials from the ASEAN Member States at the 8th AEM-India Consultations, in Da Nang, Vietnam on August 27, 2010.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today held talks with Trade and Commerce Ministers of the ten ASEAN member-states at Da Nang in Vietnam to review, among other matters, progress in the negotiations on the proposed India-ASEAN Services & Investment Agreement.

The talks were part of the Eighth ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-India Consultations Meeting.

An official press release said the Ministers directed their officials that the talks on the agreement needed to be accelerated.

Mr Sharma said both sides should finalise the services text and concurrently complete negotiations on the schedules of commitments on the basis of the mandate of the Leaders given in Framework Agreement of 2003 for substantial sectoral coverage and GATS-plus agreement. He hoped that ambitious and commercially meaningful offers would be exchanged between the parties.

The Ministers also called for intensification of negotiation on the core issues related to investment. They underscored the importance of trade in services and investment negotiations to complement the trade in goods agreement, in order to further enhance the economic integration of ASEAN and India.

In this respect, the Ministers tasked the negotiators to step up their engagement with a view to completing negotiations by March 2011. The Ministers emphasised that the challenges encountered in the services and investment negotiations could be overcome through greater understanding and flexibility among the parties to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

The Ministers also exchanged views on the global economic environment, noting with satisfaction that emerging economies in Asia were leading the recovery in the global economy.

India’s economy is poised to expand by 9.4% in 2010, while ASEAN’s real GDP is expected to be over 5%, much higher than the 1.5% recorded in 2009.

In 2009, ASEAN’s trade with India remained high at $41.2 billion and India was ASEAN’s seventh largest trading partner.

The Ministers expressed confidence in the strengthening economic ties between the two sides, further boosted by the implementation of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement in 2010. The Ministers encouraged the full implementation of the agreement by all countries within 2010 so that the private sector could reap benefits offered by it.

In line with the transparency requirements of the WTO, ASEAN and India have notified the ASEAN-India FTA agreements to the WTO under the Enabling Clause on 23 August 2010.

The Ministers also took the opportunity to review progress of the Doha negotiations, remaining convinced that a strong multilateral system based on mutually beneficial outcomes in agriculture, NAMA and services are key to a stable and progressive global trading system, an official press release added.

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India committed to regional integration of CEPEA: Sharma

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma meeting the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade & Industry Masayuki Naoshima, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting (AEM), at Da Nang city, Vietnam on August 26, 2010.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma meeting the Japanese Minister for Economy, Trade & Industry Masayuki Naoshima, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting (AEM), at Da Nang city, Vietnam on August 26, 2010.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today reiterated India's commitment towards the 16-country regional integration initiative of Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA).

At meetings with Trade and Commerce Ministers from the 10 ASEAN member-states and China, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand (Australia was represented by an Official) gathered at Da Nang in Vietnam today, Mr Sharma also welcomed the formation of four working groups to study economic cooperation, rules of origin, customs procedures and tariff nomenclature of the region.

The Ministers exchanged views on regional and global issues affecting the East Asian region as well as developments in several areas of cooperation within the East Asia Summit (EAS) framework.

Mr Sharma announced that India would host the next workshop on Rules of Origin. While discussing the future steps under the CEPEA process, the Minister supported Japan's paper suggesting a procedure and timeline. He also suggested that the ASEAN+6 meetings be structured and formalized.

According to an official press release here, the Ministers also exchanged views on recent developments in the Doha Development Round in the WTO.

Mr Sharma reiterated India's commitment towards a strong multilateral trading system based on economic growth, development and stability.

During his meeting with Mr. Masayuki Naoshima, Minister of Economy and Trade and Industry, Japan on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting (AEM), Mr Sharma expressed satisfaction over the progress made during the inter-sessional meeting held from August 16-19 in New Delhi to finalize the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries.

He said that India and Japan were committed to a high quality agreement that would not only take the bilateral trade and economic relations to a new high but also bring the two countries closer in harnessing their full potential for a meaningful strategic partnership in the region.

Both Ministers agreed that the CEPA negotiations were currently at an advanced stage and the negotiating teams were working hard to give it a final shape. The chief negotiators are scheduled to meet in Tokyo on September 9 to explore the possibility of an "in principle agreement". They hoped that the "in principle" agreement will happen and the two sides will complete necessary formalities to get the agreement ready to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Tokyo in October.

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Mike Froman denies making link between Bhopal and IBRD lending

Michael Froman
Michael Froman

United States Deputy National Security Advisor Mike Froman today denied that he had made any link between the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and the Dow Chemicals issue and IBRD lending to India in an e-mail sent by him in July to Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

"With regard to recent reports about my private correspondence with Mr. Ahluwalia, I want to make clear that I was not making any link between what are two separate and distinct issues nor issuing a ‘threat’ of any sort – any assertion to the contrary is absolutely wrong, both in intent and in fact," he said in a statement.

Mr Froman said he was dismayed to think that anything he wrote could be interpreted as minimising the toll of the December 3, 1984 Bhopal disaster.

"The human suffering as a result of Bhopal is a terrible tragedy. Resolving the Bhopal issue is for the Indian people to decide. The U.S. does not seek to interfere in this process," he said.

"I value the opportunity I have to work with Mr. Ahluwalia and others in India to strengthen and deepen the ties between our two countries, both bilaterally and through the G20. Such efforts are key to building our strategic partnership and facing our common challenges together for the benefit of both our peoples," he added.

The statement came after media reports in India suggested yesterday that the US was applying pressure on the Indian Government to provide relief to Dow Chemicals.

The reports quoted Mr Froman as saying in a July 30 e-mail to Mr Ahluwalia: ""We are hearing a lot of noise about the Dow Chemicals issue. I trust that you are monitoring it carefully. I am not familiar with all the details. But I think we want to avoid developments which put a chilling effect on the investment relationship."

That e-mail was in reply to one from Mr Ahluwalia in which he had sought American help at the World Bank meeting.

"I wonder if I can enlist your help on a matter relating to India’s borrowing from the World Bank. We are about to hit the arbitrary single borrower limit in IBRD which forces IBRD to cut new lending to India drastically unless the limit is relaxed. You may remember I had mentioned this as an issue when we discussed the IBRD capital increase in G-20. The matter is coming up in the IBRD board audit committee on Monday. The US is a member. The management wants a relaxation for India. The British prime minister was in Delhi yesterday. We raised it with him and he said that the UK ED would be instructed to support us. Could you speak to treasury to get the US ED on our side? At a time when countries are graduated out of soft assistance, it is normal to switch them to IBRD. But we are faced with a sharp reduction...Larry will fully understand. Hope you can help," Mr Ahluwalia had said, according to the reports.

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Three Indian peacekeepers killed in DR Congo

File photo of Indian Ambassador Devendra Nath Srivastava on a visit to the Indian Aviation Contingent (IAC) in Goma, Democratic Republic Congo on March 23, 2010. IAC Commander Gp Capt A K Nabh is seen briefing him on operational and support aspect provided by the contingent in DR Congo.
File photo of Indian Ambassador Devendra Nath Srivastava on a visit to the Indian Aviation Contingent (IAC) in Goma, Democratic Republic Congo on March 23, 2010. IAC Commander Gp Capt A K Nabh is seen briefing him on operational and support aspect provided by the contingent in DR Congo.

Three Indian blue helmets were killed in an overnight ambush of a United Nations peacekeeping base in the troubled far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a UN statement said here today.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the assault and conveyed his condolences to the Government of India and to the families of the three slain soldiers.

According to the statement, the operating base of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) in Kirumba, in the volatile North Kivu province, was attacked shortly before 2 a.m. local time by up to 60 unidentified men armed with machetes and spears.

It said several peacekeepers engaged with the attackers, forcing them to retreat, but at least six military personnel were injured in the surprise attack, some of them critically. In the attack, whose motive is unclear, the assailants also stole two MONUSCO weapons, it said.

"The Secretary-General condemns the assault and calls on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to launch an immediate investigation into this incident and ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly identified and brought to justice," according to the statement issued by his spokesperson.

"The Secretary-General would like to take this opportunity to commend the men and women serving in MONUSCO in various capacities, for their efforts to protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian assistance and bring peace to the Democratic Republic of the Congo," it said.

MONUSCO spokesperson Madnodje Mounoubai told UN Radio that the mission is investigating who carried out the attack and why.

The blue helmets, he stressed, "are not party to the conflict. They are here to ensure peace. So we don’t know exactly what are reasons behind this attack."

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Obama says strategic partnership with India will continue to grow

United States President Barack Obama today said ties between the US and India had never been stronger and declared that his goal was to make this one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.

"The strategic partnership between our countries will continue to grow, and I am looking forward to my November visit to India," Mr Obama said in a message to Indians on the eve of Independence Day.

"On behalf of my administration and the American people, I wish to congratulate all who will celebrate the 63rd anniversary of India’s independence," he said.

Mr Obama said Indians around the world could not only look back on their history with pride, but could also look ahead to a future filled with hope and further progress.

"Ever since August 15, 1947, India’s non-violent struggle for freedom, its rejection of terrorism and extremism, and its belief in democracy, tolerance, and the rule of law

have been an inspiration and beacon of hope for people around the world.

"India’s example has had a profound effect on many countries, including the United States. Leaders of our civil rights movement, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke about the debt they owed to Mahatma Gandhi," he said.

Mr Obama said the over two million members of the Indian American community were living examples of the bonds that bound the two nations together and their accomplishments had become well-known and admired in both countries.

"Our goal is to make this one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century. Once again, congratulations and best wishes for a happy and safe Independence Day," he added.

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Clinton says US committed to strengthening partnership with India

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today said her country was committed to further strengthening its cooperation and partnership with India.

In a message ahead of India's Independence Day on August 15, Ms Clinton said that, as US President Barack Obama had noted during the recent India-US Strategic Dialogue, the relationship between the two countries was unique.

"It is rooted in common interests, shared values and democratic traditions, and strengthened by our extensive people-to-people connections. We look forward to further developing these bonds when President Obama visits India this fall. Because it is only through dynamic, global cooperation between India and the United States that we can address the defining challenges of the 21st century," she said.

Ms Clinton noted that, each year on August 15, Americans join with Indians around the world to honour Mahatma Gandhi and the heroes of the Indian independence movement who proved that great change could be achieved through non-violent resistance.

"Their courage and determination has inspired generations of leaders around the world, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who advanced America’s own struggle for civil rights and equality. Sixty-three years after Independence, India is a world leader, and the 'Indian Dream' of freedom, tolerance, and prosperity continues to offer an example for people who yearn for democracy and liberty around the globe," she said.

"Once again, I congratulate the people of India on all you have achieved and wish you a safe and joyous Independence Day celebration," Ms Clinton added.

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WHO officially declares end to H1N1 pandemic

Dr Margaret Chan
Dr Margaret Chan

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared an end to the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic but has called for continued vigilance, pointing out that pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable.

"The world is no longer in phase 6 of influenza pandemic alert. We are now moving into the post-pandemic period. The new H1N1 virus has largely run its course," WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told reporters in Geneva yesterday.

"These are the views of members of the Emergency Committee, which was convened earlier today by teleconference," she said.

Ms Chan said the committee had based its assessment on the global situation, as well as reports from several countries that are now experiencing influenza. She said she fully agreed with the committee’s advice

"As we enter the post-pandemic period, this does not mean that the H1N1 virus has gone away. Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come," she said.

Ms Chan said that, in the post-pandemic period, localized outbreaks of different magnitude may show significant levels of H1N1 transmission.

"This is the situation we are observing right now in New Zealand, and may see elsewhere," she said.

"In fact, the actions of health authorities in New Zealand, and also in India, in terms of vigilance, quick detection and treatment, and recommended vaccination, provide a model of how other countries may need to respond in the immediate post-pandemic period," she said.

Ms Chan said that, globally, the levels and patterns of H1N1 transmission now being seen differed significantly from what was observed during the pandemic. Out-of-season outbreaks are no longer being reported in either the northern or southern hemisphere. Influenza outbreaks, including those primarily caused by the H1N1 virus, show an intensity similar to that seen during seasonal epidemics, she said.

According to her, during the pandemic, the H1N1 virus crowded out other influenza viruses to become the dominant virus.

"This is no longer the case. Many countries are reporting a mix of influenza viruses, again as is typically seen during seasonal epidemics," she said.

The WHO chief said that recently published studies indicated that 20–40% of populations in some areas had been infected by the H1N1 virus and thus had some level of protective immunity. Many countries report good vaccination coverage, especially in high-risk groups, and this coverage further increases community-wide immunity, she said.

"Pandemics, like the viruses that cause them, are unpredictable. So is the immediate post-pandemic period. There will be many questions, and we will have clear answers for only some. Continued vigilance is extremely important, and WHO has issued advice on recommended surveillance, vaccination, and clinical management during the post-pandemic period," she said.

Ms Chan said that, based on available evidence and experience from past pandemics, it was likely that the virus would continue to cause serious disease in younger age groups, at least in the immediate post-pandemic period. Groups identified during the pandemic as at higher risk of severe or fatal illness will probably remain at heightened risk, though hopefully the number of such cases will diminish, she said.

In addition, a small proportion of people infected during the pandemic, including young and healthy people, developed a severe form of primary viral pneumonia that is not typically seen during seasonal epidemics and is especially difficult and demanding to treat. It is not known whether this pattern will change during the post-pandemic period, further emphasizing the need for vigilance, she said.

"As I said, pandemics are unpredictable and prone to deliver surprises. No two pandemics are ever alike. This pandemic has turned out to be much more fortunate than what we feared a little over a year ago," she said.

"This time around, we have been aided by pure good luck. The virus did not mutate during the pandemic to a more lethal form. Widespread resistance to oseltamivir did not develop. The vaccine proved to be a good match with circulating viruses and showed an excellent safety profile," she said.

Ms Chan said that, thanks to extensive preparedness and support from the international community, even countries with very weak health systems were able to detect cases and report them promptly.

"Had things gone wrong in any of these areas, we would be in a very different situation today," she said.

As many as 1833 people have died in India since mid-June last year when the WHO declared the swine flu as a pandemic.

In the week ended August 8, 83 people had died of the influenza in different parts of the country.

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Indian pilot abducted by rebels in Congo


The External Affairs Ministry today confirmed that Mr Syed Mazher, an Indian national, working as a pilot with a private airline, in Congo had been abducted by rebels on July 24.


The Ministry said Mr Mazher was taken hostage by rebels at Kitambe, about 25 km north of Walikale in the North Kivu province of the country.


It said the Indian mission in Kinshasa was in continous contact with the concerned Congolese authorities to secure the safe release of the pilot.


A statement from the Ministry said the Congolese authoriteis had assured the Indian mission that they were taking necessary steps in this regard.


"We will pursue with our efforts for the safe return of Mr Syed Mazher," the statement added.


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US condemns disclosure of Afghan documents on WikiLeaks

File photo of US National Security Advisor General James Jones.
File photo of US National Security Advisor General James Jones.

The United States has strongly condemned the disclosure of classifed information on the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, which has released close to 91,000 documents from the Afghanistan battlefront which, among other things, reportedly show the role of Pakistani agencies and the Taliban in fighting Western military forces.

Media reports said the documents also showed how NATO forces had killed scores of civilians in unreported incidents in Afghanistan and revealed the secret efforts of coalition forces to "kill or capture" senior Taliban and al Qaeda figures.

According to the reports, the documents point to the influence of foreign governments in the insurgency. They suggest that members of Pakistan's security forces, especially the Inter Services Intelligence, had met Taliban leaders to organise resistance against the US forces and assassinate US-supported Afghan leaders.

US National Security Advisor Gen James Jones said in a statement here on Sunday that the disclosure could put the lives of Americans and their partners at risk and threaten the country's national security.

"WikiLeaks made no effort to contact us about these documents – the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted. These irresponsible leaks will not impact our ongoing commitment to deepen our partnerships with Afghanistan and Pakistan; to defeat our common enemies; and to support the aspirations of the Afghan and Pakistani people," he said.

The statement said the documents posted by WikiLeaks reportedly covered a period of time from January 2004 to December 2009.

"On December 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years. This shift in strategy addressed challenges in Afghanistan that were the subject of an exhaustive policy review last fall.

"We know that serious challenges lie ahead, but if Afghanistan is permitted to slide backwards, we will again face a threat from violent extremist groups like al Qaeda who will have more space to plot and train. That is why we are now focused on breaking the Taliban’s momentum and building Afghan capacity so that the Afghan government can begin to assume responsibility for its future. The United States remains committed to a strong, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan," Gen Jones said.

He said that, since 2009, the US and Pakistan had deepened their important bilateral partnership.

Gen Jones said counter-terrorism cooperation had led to significant blows against al Qaeda's leadership. He said the Pakistani military had gone on the offensive in Swat and South Waziristan, at great cost to the Pakistani military and people.

He also pointed out that the US and Pakistan had commenced a Strategic Dialogue, which had expanded cooperation on issues ranging from security to economic development.

"Pakistan and Afghanistan have also improved their bilateral ties, most recently through the completion of a Transit-Trade Agreement. Yet the Pakistani government – and Pakistan’s military and intelligence services – must continue their strategic shift against insurgent groups. The balance must shift decisively against al Qaeda and its extremist allies. U.S. support for Pakistan will continue to be focused on building Pakistani capacity to root out violent extremist groups, while supporting the aspirations of the Pakistani people," he added.

Wikileaks said the document set, called the Afghan War Diary (AWD), "an extraordinary compendium" of over 91,000 reports, covered the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.

"The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related detail," it said.

"The reports cover most units from the US Army with the exception of most US Special Forces' activities. The reports do not generally cover top-secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations.

"We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits," it said.

WikiLeaks describes itself as a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public.

"We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. All governments can benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. But with technological advances - the internet, and cryptography - the risks of conveying important information can be lowered," it says.

"We believe that it is not only the people of one country that keep their government honest, but also the people of other countries who are watching that government. That is why the time has come for an anonymous global avenue for disseminating documents the public should see," it says.

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Headley issue: US says expects both countries to live up to responsibilities

U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley.
U.S. Department of State Assistant Secretary Philip J. Crowley.

Amidst reports suggesting that the Barack Obama administration was upset by Indian officials going public with details of the disclosures made by suspected Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Headley, the United States has said that it fully expected both countries to live up to their responsibilities in this regard.

"Well, we value the cooperation between India and the United States on law enforcement and combating terrorism; it’s important. It does place responsibilities on both countries," US Assistant Secretary of State Philip J Crawley said at the daily briefing at the State Department on Wednesday.

"We fully expect both countries to live up to their respective responsibilities," he said, adding that he was not going to make any comment specifically on the issue.

Asked if the recent statements by Union Home Secretary G K Pillai and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon were a breach of the understanding that the two countries had in the matter, Mr Crawley said, "I’m just going to simply say that our cooperation is significant. It is a vital dimension of our relationship. It’s important for both sides. And when – and in this cooperation there are responsibilities that we both have, and I’ll leave it there."

Asked if he was aware of the statements made by the two Indian officials, Mr Crawley said, "Yes."

The US had granted a team of Indian investigators direct access to Headley, a US national of Pakistani origin held in Chicago who is believed to have been a part of the conspiracy behind the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

A team from India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) had conducted a series of interviews with Headley in the first week of June this year. There was apparently an understanding between the two sides that details of the information provided by Headley would not be made public.

Headley pleaded guilty on March 18, 2010 in the Northern District of Illinois to 12 federal terrorism charges, admitting that he participated in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, as well as later planning to attack a Danish newspaper.

Headley had travelled several times to India before the 26/11 attacks and had conducted a recce of the sites where the attacks were carried out. More recently, it has come to light that Headley had visited the area in Pune where the German Bakery is located. A blast in the bakery in mid-February had killed 17 people and injured about 50 others.

As part of the plea bargain, he had agreed to testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video conferencing or letters rogatory.

Headley and another suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani national, had been arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Chicago in October last year for allegedly conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks in Denmark and India.

Mr Pillai had said in a recent newspaper interview, on the basis of the disclosures made by Headley, that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had controlled and coordinated the 26/11 attacks.

This week, Mr Menon told a seminar on terrorism here that that what Indian officials learnt from Headley had confirmed many of the things they knew before.

"And it’s really the links between the official establishment and with existing intelligence agencies , it’s that nexus which makes it a much harder phenomenon for us to deal with. Unfortunately what we know and what we see suggests that these links or this nexus in fact will not be broken soon. If anything, it is getting stronger," he said.

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India: Afghanistan's peace, reintegration effort must be Afghan-led

India said on Tuesday it supported Afghanistan's efforts towards peace and reintegration, but stressed that it must be fully Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. .
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Kabul on 20 July, 2010.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Kabul on 20 July, 2010.

India today said it supported Afghanistan's efforts towards peace and reintegration, but stressed that, for it to succeed, it must be fully Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and carry all sections of Afghanistan's population together.

Speaking at the first-ever International Conference on Afghanistan in Kabul since 2001, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna also said the efforts must abide by the red lines agreed to at the London Conference -- giving up violence, cutting off all links with terrorism - whether jehadi or state-sponsored - and accepting the democratic and pluralistic values of the Afghan Constitution, including women's rights.

"The international community must learn lessons from past experiences at negotiating with fundamentalist and extremist organizations and ensure that any peace process is conducted in an inclusive and transparent manner," he said.

The conference is being attended by some 30-odd Foreign Ministers, including United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Mr Krishna said adequate capacity of the Afghan security forces and other Afghan institutions was a sine qua non for protecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty, plurality and democracy.

He warned that gains of the last nine years stood to be squandered if this aspect did not receive the attention that it deserved as the international community pondered its next steps regarding Afghanistan.

He also emphasised that the international community should also ensure that there was no selectivity in dealing with terrorism.

"Terrorism cannot be compartmentalised. As (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai said today, it is the vicious common enemy we face. Today, one cannot distinguish between Al Qaeda and plethora of terrorist organisations which have imbibed the goals and techniques of Al Qaeda. It is, therefore, essential to ensure that support, sustenance and sanctuaries for terrorist organisations from outside Afghanistan are ended forthwith." he said.

Mr Krishna noted that the conference was being held at a crucial stage of Afghanistan's contemporary history to demonstrate solidarity with the Government of the country for its long-term stability and reconstruction.

Pointing out that India and Afghanistan were historic friends, he said India was committed to the unity, integrity and independence of Afghanistan underpinned by democracy and cohesive pluralism and free from external interference.

He said India had contributed to these goals through its Development Partnership which was implemented entirely in accordance with the priorities of the Afghan Government and people.

"Our Assistance programmes are spread all over Afghanistan and cover all sectors of development: humanitarian, infrastructural, institution and capacity building, small-scale quick gestation projects, and agriculture. The ultimate aim of our assistance is to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan state and people to stand on their own feet in the areas of governance and services for the Afghan people," he said.

He said the conference, with Afghan Government's determination to take full responsibility for Afghanistan's own development, security and governance, and the international community's willingness to realign international assistance in accordance with Afghan priorities and action plans, was a big step in that direction.

Mr Krishna said Afghanistan's stability and economic development depended a lot on its neighbours and the region as a whole.

He said Afghanistan's greatest economic potential, perhaps, resided in its immense potential as a trade, transport and energy hub, and as a bridge linking Central, West, South Asia and the Gulf. Its prosperity also depends on the consumer market of nearly 1.5 billion people in the South-Asian sub-continent, he said.

Mr Krishna said the recent reports of Afghanistan's great mineral wealth also opened up possibilities for mining and investment.

"But for Afghanistan to realize its full potential in these areas, Afghanistan's neighbours need to come together to forge greater regional cooperation and facilitate trade and transit. Growing economic inter-dependence will also help in weaning disaffected youth away from insurgency and militancy and in creating a zone of co-prosperity in the region. We support the wishes of the Government of Afghanistan to take the lead in this direction," he said.

Mr Krishna said the determination exhibited by the Afghan Government to take charge of its own destiny and future for Afghan ownership and leadership and the solidarity demonstrated by the international community in supporting this process politically, economically and in the sphere of security, augured well for the future.

"My country reiterates its commitment to stability, development and prosperity of the Afghan people and looks forward to working together closely with the Government of Afghanistan and the international community in realising these objectives," he added.

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India, Seychelles to expand cooperation for maritime security in IOR

India and Seychelles today agreed to take forward their cooperation to tackle the spread of piracy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

On the request of the Seychellois leadership, India also agreed to extend help for maritime and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance operations and capacity building of its forces.

The decisions were taken at the series of meetings that visiting Defence Minister A K Antony had with the President of Seychelles, Mr. James Alix Michel, Vice-President Danny Faure, Minister for Home Affairs Joel Morgan and Foreign Minister Jean Paul Adam in Mahe.

The Defence Minister is leading a high-level delegation to a visit of the island-nation, which includes Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral D K Dewan.

Mr Antony said the problem of piracy in the Gulf of Aden affected all countries of the world. He shared the concerns of Seychelles on the increasing reach of the pirates.

"This is a problem which calls for cooperation among all countries. The Indian Ocean links us all and is critical for our economic interests. We must cooperate to ensure peace and stability in this region," he said.

Mr Antony reiterated India's assurance, as conveyed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during Mr Michel's visit to New Delhi earlier this year, for continued cooperation in all fields, particularly defence and security. Dr Singh had also announced a $ 5 million assistance for defence related projects for Seychelles.

Over and above this, on a specific request from the Seychelles, Mr Antony agreed to provide one new Dornier and two Chetak helicopters from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for maritime surveillance, at the earliest.

Although the normal delivery time is 18 to 24 months, he said India would try to supply the aircraft in 15 months. During this period, India will provide one of her in-service Dornier aircraft to carry out maritime surveillance.

Agreeing to a request from the Seychellois side, Mr Antony said India would help them to carry out EEZ surveillance as frequently as possible. He said the Indian Navy would also make additional visits this year to conduct surveillance and hydrographic survey. During these visits, Seychellois personnel can embark on board the Indian Navy Ships for maintenance training and conduct drills and exercises.

Mr Antony also agreed to offer help for capacity building of the Seychellois Forces, an official press release added.

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Krishna arrives in Islamabad in effort to rebuild trust in bilateral ties

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna with Foreign Minister of Pakistan S.M. Qureshi before delegation level talks in Islamabad, on July 15, 2010.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna with Foreign Minister of Pakistan S.M. Qureshi before delegation level talks in Islamabad, on July 15, 2010.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna reached Islamabad today at the start of a three-day visit which he said marked the beginning of a new journey in the efforts to build a peaceful, friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries.

During his stay in Pakistan, Mr Krishna will hold bilateral discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi as part of the steps decided by their Prime Ministers in Thimphu in late April to reduce the "trust deficit" between the two countries.

"I bring with me the warm greetings of the people and Government of India for the well being of the people and Government of Pakistan. I would also like to convey our best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and stable Pakistan," Mr Krishna said in a statement on arrival in Pakistan.

He said he was looking forward to his meetings with Mr Qureshi and his delegation.

"We hope to discuss all issues of mutual interest and concern that can contribute to restoring trust and building confidence in our bilateral relationship," he said.

Mr Krishna said he also looked forward to receiving feedback on the issues raised by Home Minister P Chidambaram during his visit to Pakistan last month on India's core concern of terrorism, particularly in the light of the discussions Mr Chidambaram had in Pakistan in the context of the interrogation of David Coleman Headley regarding the Mumbai terrorist attack of November 26, 2008.

"India is committed to resolving all issues with Pakistan through a peaceful dialogue and negotiations, based on mutual trust and confidence," he said.

Mr Krishna will also call on Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

"I am carrying with me a message of peace and friendship from the people of India and we hope to undertake this voyage of peace, however long and arduous, jointly with the Government and people of Pakistan," he said.

Mr Krishna's visit is in pursuance of the mandate given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr Gilani, during their meeting in Thimphu, Bhutan, on April 29, to their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to work out the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in the relationship, thus paving the way for a substantive dialogue on issues of mutual concern.

During the meeting, held on the sidelines of the SAARC Summit, Dr Singh had told Mr Gilani that India was willing to discuss all matters of mutual concern but the issue of terrorism was holding back progress in the relationship between the two countries.

Dr Singh had conveyed to Mr Gilani India's concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory and the slow progress in the investigations in the cases related to the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai.

As many as 166 people were killed in those attacks, which India blamed on elements based in Pakistan. After 26/11, India suspended its Composite Dialogue with Pakistan and said there could be no meaningful dialogue with that country unless it brought those responsible for those attacks to justice and dismantled the terrorist infrastructure on its soil used to plan and carry out acts of terrorism against India.

In February, in an effort to break the ice, India offered to host Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries.

That meeting between Ms Rao and Mr Bashir was held in New Delhi on February 25 and India kept the focus then on the steps being taken by Pakistan against terrorist groups operating from its territory against India.

Ms Rao had held talks with Mr Bashir again on June 24 in Islamabad. Later, Mr Chidambaram held a bilateral meeting with Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik in Islamabad on June 26 on the sidelines of a meeting of SAARC Interior Ministers.

In early June, the United States had granted a team of Indian investigators direct access to Headley, a US natioal of Pakistani origin held in Chicago and believed to be a Lashkar-e-Toiba activist and a part of the conspiracy behind the 26/11 attacks.

Headley pleaded guilty on March 18, 2010 in the Northern District of Illinois to 12 federal terrorism charges, admitting that he participated in planning the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, as well as later planning to attack a Danish newspaper.

The Indian investigators were aiming to find out from Headley the places he visited during his various trips to India. It is believed that Headley had conducted a recce of the sites where the attacks were carried out. It had also come to light that Headley had visited the area in Pune where the German Bakery is located. A blast in the bakery in mid-February had killed 17 people and injured about 50 others.

In mid-March, Headley entered into a plea bargain with the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago.

As part of this, he has agreed to testify in any foreign judicial proceedings held in the United States by way of deposition, video conferencing or letters rogatory.

Headley and another suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Tahawwur Hussain Rana, a Pakistani national, had been arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Chicago in October last year for alelgedly conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks in Denmark and India.

During his meetings with Mr Malik, Mr Chidambaram is understood to have told him about some of the findings made by the Indian team during their interrogation of Headley, especially about the role of groups and individuals based in Pakistan in the 26/11 conspiracy.

At the meeting between Mr Krishna and Mr Qureshi tomorrow, India will contine to keep the focus on the measures being taken by Pakistan against terrorist groups working against India and is likely to insist on evidence that Pakistan is doing all it can to bring those responsible for the 26/11 attacks to justice.

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US National Security Adviser James Jones to visit India July 14-16

File photo of US National Security Advisor General James Jones.
File photo of US National Security Advisor General James Jones.

United States National Security Adviser James Jones will visit India from July 14-16 for talks on counter-terrorism and other key issues and to begin laying the groundwork for US President Barack Obama's visit to India in November this year.

US National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Mike Hammer said Gen Jones would meet National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and other senior Indian officials to discuss a full range of subjects key to the strategic partnership between the two countries.

He said these issues included counter-terrorism cooperation, regional security, defence cooperation, and export controls.

"General Jones will also have an opportunity begin laying the groundwork for a successful visit by President Obama to India in November," the spokesman added.

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Sharma invites Singaporean companies to invest in India

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma meeting the Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong, in Singapore on July 09, 2010.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma meeting the Senior Minister, Goh Chok Tong, in Singapore on July 09, 2010.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today invited Singaporean companies to invest in India's infrastructure sector.

At meetings with Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong in Singapore, he also discussed ways of using Singapore's expertise in areas of water management, urban planning and skills development.

An official press release said here that Mr Sharma also briefed Mr Tong on the progress of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and other areas where Singaporean companies could bring in their expertise and investments.

In the meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Mr Sharma discussed issues relating to the ongoing 2nd Review of the India Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). Mr Kiang underscored the importance of early conclusion of India-ASEAN Agreements on Services and Investments.

During his meeting with Mr Yeo, Mr Sharma discussed bilateral relations and India’s engagement with ASEAN, the release said.

At a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) with CEOs and industrialists, Mr Sharma gave a broad overview of India's economy and also referred to the country's engagement with Asia in general and Singapore in particular.

The Minister delivered a lecture on "Resurgence of Asia in 21st Century - an Indian Perspective" at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Mr Sharma is also scheduled to visit a water plant which showcases the advances that Singapore has made in the area of used water recycling and water management in urban situations, the release added.

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Sharma calls for greater Malaysian investment in infrastructure sector

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma meeting the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, at Kuala Lumpur on July 07, 2010.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma meeting the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, at Kuala Lumpur on July 07, 2010.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today called for  from Malaysia and the participation of Malaysian sovereign investment funds in India's infrastructure sector.greater investments.

Mr Sharma is currently in Kuala Lumpur at the head of a 15-member high-level delegation, including CEOs of companies, to Malaysia.

The Minister called on Malaysia Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Tun Razak today for wide-ranging discussions on issues of mutual interest.

According to an official press release here, Mr Najib expressed a strong wish for an early conclusion of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between the two countries.

Mr Sharma apprised him about the progress of negotiations and expressed optimism that they could be concluded by the end of this year.

Mr Najib said his country was keen on developing its knowledge-based industry in partnership with India. He said he would like to see greater greater movement of Indian specialists and professionals towards this end.

He expressed satisfaction on the dynamism of India- Malaysia bilateral trade, expressing hope that the target of $ 15 billion would be met much earlier than 2015. He underlined the growing partnership between Indian and Malaysian corporates, specially commending the Terminal 3 of IGI Airport as a shining example of collaboration.

Mr. Najib evinced keen interest in collaboration in infrastructure and energy sectors and gave a special emphasis on renewable energy collaboration for rural electrification in Malaysia.

Earlier in the day, Mr Sharma held bilateral talks with his counterpart Mustapa Muhamed. During the meeting, both ministers reviewed the progress in ongoing CECA negotiations and agreed to conclude a balanced and ambitious agreement by the end of the year.

Taking stock of bilateral trade and investment relations, they expressed confidence about achieving the target set for bilateral trade. Investments from both sides are in the range of $ 5 billion and the ministers identified priority sectors for future engagement including infrastructure, particularly highways, railways and airports, IT and ITES, biotechnology, tourism and health services. They also agreed to encourage joint investment projects in third countries, citing the successful execution of the airport project in Istanbul. Mr Mustapa will visit India soon with a CEO delegation focusing on tier-2 cities.

During his visit, Mr Sharma also met Minister for Transport Kong Cho Ha and Minister in Prime Minister’s Department Noor Mohammed and CEOs of top Malaysian companies such as Malaysian Airport Holding, Axiata, IJM Corporation and UEM Corporation.

Mr Sharma and Mr Najib will address a business conference tomorrow, an event that is expected to be attended by more than 500 CEOs from the two countries.

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IAF helicopters evacuate casualties of fuel tanker explosion in Congo

Three Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters flew 13 sorties to airlift as many as 32 seriously injured people from the scene of an accident in Congo's South Kivu Province where a fuel tanker loaded with gasoline overturned and exploded on the night of July 2.


An official press release said the mishap occurred at Sange village, 36 km from the town of Uvira.


The accident occured at a spot close to houses and commercial shops and the ensuing fire caused a large number of casualties.


According to the release, the total number of dead was put at about 230 by various news agencies and more than 190 people, including women and children, suffered injuries. Many of them had severe burns.


On July 3 morning, the IAF helicopters on the UN Mission in Congo, based at Bukavu, the provincial capital, were tasked to carry out casualty evacuation of the seriously injued patients from Sange to Bukavu as no medical facilities were available near the scene of the tragedy.


Two helicopters were tasked for Casualty Evacuation role while a third was tasked with carrying various senior UN officials to the site. All three helicopters were promptly airborne for the task; the first helicopter dropped the officials at the site and cleared the helipad and positioned itself at the UN Heliport in Uvira for the other two helicopters to carry out the evacuation mission. A total of three shuttles were flown by these two helicopters and all the seriously injured patients were airlifted directly to Camp Siao helipad in Bukavu Town for further treatment.

A total of 32 serious burn casualties were airlifted by the three helicopters in 13 sorties towards this mission. While two aircraft landed back at Bukavu late in the evening on the same day having accomplished the task, the third recovered back at Bukavu in the morning on July 4 after having stayed overnight at the UN Heliport in Uvira town.


The prompt response by the IAF helicopters had been appreciated by all agencies concerned, the release added.


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Obama: At G20, when the PM speaks, people listen

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama met in Toronto on Sunday for their second bilateral interaction in two months.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Toronto on June 27, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of G20 Summit in Toronto on June 27, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United States President Barack Obama met in Toronto on Sunday for their second bilateral interaction in two months and they are understood to have discussed the global economy, ways of strengthening India-US ties, the war against terrorism and other issues of mutual interest.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, which both leaders were attending.

Dr Singh and Mr Obama had last met on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit convened by the US President in Washington in April. In November 2009, Dr Singh had paid a State Visit to Washington, the first of the Obama presidency.

In remarks to the media before they went in for their meeting, Mr Obama said he believed that the extraordinary leadership that Dr Singh had provided not just to India, but to the world, had helped the world navigate through some very difficult times.

"And I can tell you that here at the G20, when the Prime Minister speaks people listen, particularly because of his deep knowledge of economic issues, as well as the fact that he understands that as India rises as a world power, not just a regional power, that it also has enormous responsibilities to work with the rest of the world community around issues of peace and prosperity," he said.

He referred to the Strategic Partnership instituted by the two countries during Dr Singh's State Visit in November which involves senior Ministers of the two countries at the highest level working together to try to find ways to enhance commercial ties, security ties, and coordination on critical multi-lateral issues like climate change.

He also referred to External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's visit to Washington at the head of a delegation to follow up on the initiative. Mr Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had conducted some very high-level talks, Mr Obama said, noting that he, too, had the opportunity to participate in that dialogue.

"We also wanted to make sure that in addition to government-to-government ties, we were initiating people-to-people ties, and so an Indian-American CEO conference took place. And we're going to continue to see how we can get our businesses to work together, and then generating recommendations to each of us in terms of how we can improve ties between the United States and India," he said.

The US President sad he and his wife Michelle Obama very much looked forward to their visit to India later this year. "We are also just excited because of the tremendous cultural, as well as political and social and economic examples that India is providing the world and has in the past," he said.

Dr Singh said India attached the greatest importance to its relationship with the US. "It is our common endeavor to give this strategic partnership a new thrust, a new meaning, a new content. And it's my privilege to be associated in this global endeavor with you, Mr. President," he said.

"You are a role model to millions and millions of people all over the world. Your life history is a history which inspires millions of people everywhere where there are people who have risen by the sheer depth of their austerity, of their hard work, and their commitment to the values on which you have worked and you've stood for," he said.

Dr Singh said India was enaged in getting rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease, which still afflict millions and millions of its people.

"And it's our common desire to work together to get rid of this scourge in our lifetime. And in that, the United States' support means a great deal to us. Your personal commitment to social justice is something we cherish," he added.

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PM warns simultaneous contractionary policies could provoke double dip recession

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Sunday that contractionary policies by many industrialised countries simultaneously could lead to a double dip recession.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attending the Opening Plenary Session of the G-20 Summit, in Toronto, Canada on June 27, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attending the Opening Plenary Session of the G-20 Summit, in Toronto, Canada on June 27, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the global economic recovery was still fragile and contractionary policies, if followed by many industrialised countries simultaneously, could provoke a double dip recession.

"This would have very negative effects on developing countries, and on the prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals," Dr Singh said at the G20 Summit in Toronto today.

He said the central problem the world faced today was how to ensure and protect global growth in a situation where amrkets had become very nervous about debt sustainability, especially in some countries in the Eurozone.

"I recognize that there are uncertainties and it is difficult to strike the right balance. But on the whole, I feel the risks of destabilizing the recovery are too great. We have a much greater risk of deflation than inflation. We must, therefore, give primacy to consolidating the recovery, while also taking measured steps to deal with sovereign debt problems," he said.

The Prime Minister said this called for careful coordination of policies among the G20 countries. He pointed out that it was precisely for this purpose that the member-countries had agreed at the last summit in Pittsburgh to work on a Framework to deliver strong and sustainable growth.

"The outcome of Phase I of this process, which is now before us, sheds valuable light on the policy responses needed in different groups of countries," he said.

Dr Singh said fiscal consolidation must, obviously, have high priority in those advanced deficit countries that are experiencing exceptional fiscal stress and where markets had signaled serius concern. However, other advanced countries should opt for a much more calibrated exit from stimulus, he said.

"We should adopt a carefully differentiated approach, reflecting the circumstances of individual countries," he said.

He said the time phasing of fiscal action was also important. He said markets might well be reassured by credible steps by major industrialised countries, which impact the fiscal deficit significantly over time, even if the immediate impact is more limited, he said.

Dr Singh said developing countries needed to rebalance their strategies to rely less upon exports and more on domestic demand. In many developing countries, this is best done through increased investment directed to infrastructure. This will sustain growth in the short run by offsetting the contractionary effect of lower exports. It will also increase growth potential in the medium term, by addressing the supply side constraints, he said.

He said aiming at higher levels of investment despite lower export growth was likely to generate larger current account deficits. This will help rebalance global demand, but it requires an environment in which the higher current account deficits of developing countries can be financed. This requires an expansion in both multilateral and private capital flows, he said.

"Growth in developing countries would be greatly helped if threats of new protectionist measures in industrialized countries are firmly resisted and existing barriers to trade, especially those affecting developing countries, are reduced. In this context, a successful completion of the Doha Development Round is imperative," he stressed.

The Prime Minister also briefly spoke about India was handling the situation. He said that, thanks to an effective fiscal and monetary stimulus, the country was able to contain the effect of the global crisis on its economy. After growing at 9 percent for four years before the crisis, India's economy averaged about 7 percent growth in the last two years. It expected to grow by 8.5 percent in 2010-11 and hoped to go back to 9 percent by 2011-12.

"This is an ambitious goal and we recognize that we have much to do to achieve it. We are taking steps to reverse the fiscal stimulus we had introduced to deal with the crisis. To this end we have outlined a medium term plan to halve the fiscal deficit by 2013-14.

"We are giving a strong push to investment in infrastructure, relying on private public partnership as much as possible to reduce the burden on scarce public resources.

"We have a sound and well regulated financial sector which was not affected by the crisis. We will persevere with implementing financial sector reforms to support rapid and inclusive growth in the real economy, and also to increase systemic stability in the financial sector," he added.

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Navy's Talwar-class stealth frigate Tarkash launched in Kaliningrad

Indian Navy's stealth frigate Tarkash being launched at the Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad, Russia on June 23, 2010.
Indian Navy's stealth frigate Tarkash being launched at the Yantar Shipyard in Kaliningrad, Russia on June 23, 2010.

The second of the three follow-on Talwar class stealth frigates being built for the Indian Navy by Yantar Shipyard, Kaliningrad in Russia was launched by Ms Ramma Dewan, wife of Vice-Admiral D K Dewan, the Vice-Chief of Naval Staff, at a ceremony there yesterday.

The ceremony was attended by, amongothers, the Governor of Kaliningrad Region and the Commander-in-Chief of Russia's Baltic Fleet, apart from senior Indian Navy officers posted in Russia.

The frigate, christened Tarkash during the ceremony, belongs to the elite Talwar Class of ships, three of which -- Talwar, Trishul and Tabar -- are already in service with the Navy.

The first follow-on ship, christened Teg, was launched on November 27 last year. These frigates have been constructed to suit the Indian Navy’s specific requirements and are highly potent platforms, an official press release said.

Their mission in Navy spans the entire spectrum of Naval warfare, - air, surface and sub-surface, it said. The ships are capable of operating in blue waters, and are at the forefront of the Indian Navy task forces.

The features of the follow-on ships have been upgraded to a higher level of sophistication with the experience gained by the Navy in operation of the first three ships. Tarkash, which means Quiver, will also carry supersonic Brahmos missile system with vertical launch capability, which is an Indo-Russian joint venture.

True to its name, Tarkash carries cutting edge weaponry which includes advanced surface-to- air missiles, 100 mm caliber guns (artillery), close range guns, torpedos, rocket launchers and associated fire control systems. The ship will also carry one Russian built anti-submarine warfare helicopter Ka-31, the release said.

The ship is powered by four powerful gas turbines, giving it a top speed of 30 knots. The vessel is fitted with state-of-the-art  navigation, communication and electronic warfare equipment. It is also equipped with highly advanced radar and sonar systems for early detection and warning.

Tarkash is scheduled to join the Indian Navy in the second half of 2011, post commissioning in Russia, the release added.

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Mukherjee says India to achieve more than 8.5% growth in 2010-22

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that, despite the continuing global economic crisis, India would be able to achieve a growth rate of more than 8.5 per cent during the current financial year.

Interaction by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee at the Institute of International Finance in Washington, DC on June 21, 2010. Also seen is Ambassador Meera Shankar.
Interaction by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee at the Institute of International Finance in Washington, DC on June 21, 2010. Also seen is Ambassador Meera Shankar.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that, despite the continuing global economic crisis, India would be able to achieve a growth rate of more than 8.5 per cent during the current financial year.


Addressing a gathering of senior executives from financial services firms at the Institute of International Finance in Washington on Monday evening, he said he endorsed the prediction made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that India would achieve a growth rate of 8.8 per cent during 2010-11.


Mr Mukherjee said there were three challenges before the Indian economy today. The first was to return to the path of the fiscal consolidation and bring down the fiscal deficit to 5.5 per cent in the current year and 4.1 per cent in the next financial year.


He said the second challenge before India was to contain the rate of inflation which had reached almost double digits -- 9.9% compared to 2.1% in the previous year. He said that this was mainly due to constraints on the supply side of food articles which include cereals, pulses, edible oils and sugar among others. He added that inflation in food articles was more than 17% for a long time which will start declining after the middle of July 2010 as the monsoon is expected to be normal this year.


According to him, the third challenge before the Indian economy was to contain the oil prices as it has to import more than 70% of its requirements from outside.


Mr Mukherjee said the flow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country had not been disturbed because of the strong fundamentals of Indian economy despite the worldwide financial crisis.


He said that, during the last G-20 Finance Ministers' meeting in Busan, South Korea early this month, India had argued that the process of fiscal consolidation should be country-specific and staggered and should not be enforced in one go in all the countries. Besides, India took the stand that there was no need for funding banks from Government exchequer through bank levy. It said a banking regulation mechanism and institutional framework should be put in place to avoid any bank levy. He said that both the suggestions were well taken by the member countries.


Mr Mukherjee also had an interactive session yesterday with chief executive officers and leaders of the business community of India and the US on the eve of the meeting India-US CEOs Forum today. The session was organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) to discuss and formulate the issues for today's meeting of the Forum.


He said business leaders of both countries could play a major role in further strengthening
bilateral relations between India and the US.


Mr Mukherjee said there was need for close cooperation with the US, not only in finance and trade but also in other areas such as agriculture, insurance, health including clinical research and education, among others.


He said that, in order to prevent any deceleration in growth process in the current global situation, it was necessary for him to generate domestic demand by injecting stimulus packages equivalent to 3% of GDP in 2009-10 and has to strike a balance between demand for external and domestic sectors.


The Finance Minister said that he had partially rolled back certain stimulus packages during the current financial year but was not in favour of a complete rollback and full exit at this stage because of the continuation of the international financial crisis.


Mr Mukherjee said that India had been able to achieve domestic savings of up to 34-36% of GDP. He said that India was on the path of fiscal consolidation and wanted to bring down the fiscal deficit to 5.5% in the current year and 4.1% by the end of 2011-12.


Replying to a question, the Finance Minister said that India was happy over China’s announcement for its flexible policy as far its currency, Yuan is concerned and it will not hit the Indian economy adversely.


He was hopeful that China would follow the policy keeping in view the interest of the world economy.


Later, Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar hosted a dinner for the visiting delegation that included Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and business leaders such as Reliance Industries Limited Chairman Mkesh Ambani, Mr Analjit Singh of Max India, Mr Deepak Parekh of HDFC, Mr S Gopalakrishnan of Infosys, Ms Kiran Majumdar Shaw of Biocon and Ms Preetha Reddy of Apollo Hospitals.


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India, S. Korea to discuss civil nuclear energy cooperation pact

Extenal Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna speaking at the sixth India - ROK Joint Commission meeting in Seoul on June 18, 2010.
Extenal Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna speaking at the sixth India - ROK Joint Commission meeting in Seoul on June 18, 2010.

India and South Korea today agreed to launch negotiations for an agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy and discussed ways of enhancing bilateral defence and security cooperation through expanded naval cooperation in anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.


At the 6th India-South Korea Joint Commission Meeting in Seoul, co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his counterpart Yu Myung-hwan, the two sides noted that they had already exchanged drafts of an Inter Governmental Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Energy.


The two Ministers agreed to launch negotiations between the two countries, at an early date, for the conclusion of such an agreement, an official press release said after the meeting.


It said Mr Krishna stressed the potential for expanded cooperation in defence production including through transfer of technology, joint ventures and co-production.


The visit of Defence Minister A K Antony to South Korea later this year is expected to give a further boost to such cooperation. Mr Krishna met with South Korean Defence Minister Kim Tae-young later in the day today.


The release said the Joint Commission reviewed all aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries, particularly developments since the landmark state visit to India of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in January this year, when he was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations.


The two sides noted with satisfaction that the progress achieved in bilateral ties over the past few years resulted in its elevation to a Strategic Partnership. It was agreed that more high-level visits between the two countries would be encouraged. The importance of exchanges and contacts between the Parliaments of the two countries was discussed.


The meeting discussed the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries since January 1 this year. Mr Krishna stressed that economic cooperation was the bedrock of the bilateral relationship. The meeting noted that bilateral trade had jumped by a robust 70 per cent in the first four months of the year and expected this trend to continue in the coming months, providing confidence that the trade target of $ 30 billion by 2014 could be achieved.


In this context, Mr Krishna pointed out the need for expanded but balanced trade growth and made a strong case for greater access to the Korean market for Indian pharmaceuticals, IT-enabled services and agro-products.


Extenal Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna with Yu, Myung-hwan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Republic of Korea on 18th June 2010.
Extenal Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna with Yu, Myung-hwan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Republic of Korea on 18th June 2010.

The External Affairs Minister underscored the importance of the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, including through the launch of Korean satellites on Indian launch vehicles.


He proposed that the establishment of the dedicated Joint Science & Technology Fund of $ 10 million (with a contribution of $ 5 million by each side) to promote joint research between scientists and technologists of the two countries be expedited. In this context, he invited the Korean Minister for Education, Science and Technology to visit India soon.


According to the release, the meeting discussed details of the "Year of India" in Korea and the "Year of Korea" in India in 2011, including cooperation in showcasing Indian culture and arts in Korea.


Mr Krishna suggested the installation of a bust of Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore at a prominent location in Seoul in 2011, the 150th birth anniversary of the poet. Tagore is well known in Korea after having described it as the "Lamp of the East" in one of his poems.


Expanding people-to-people exchanges including through greater tourism, student exchanges and youth delegations were discussed in the meeting.


Both sides agreed that an open and inclusive Asian regional architecture based on the principles of mutual benefit and shared opportunity was in the interest of both countries. They agreed to work closely towards this goal within the East Asia Summit framework. The Indian side welcomed the fact that the G20 Summit will be held in Seoul in November this year.


The two sides signed three MoU during the visit. They are:


(i) An MoU between the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises of India and the Small and Medium Business Administration of South Korea on cooperation in the field of small and medium enterprises.

(ii) An MoU for Cooperation between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Korea Foundation.

(iii) An MoU for Cooperation between Indian Council for World Affairs (ICWA) and the Institute for Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) in Seoul.


Mr Krishna also addressed a large gathering of eminent scholars, researchers and diplomats at IFANS and suggested a six-pronged strategy for strengthening the India-South Korea Strategic Partnership for the 21st century.


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