International

China might drop a Nuclear Bomb on Taiwan, predicts war game experts

Taipei [Taiwan]: Taiwan has actually become a hot spot amid the Russia-Ukraine war. China could end up by dropping a nuclear weapon if it attacks Taiwan. Experts are worried. The war game experts are researching and investigating the Russia’s failed intrusion of Ukraine and are of opinion that China might use nuclear bomb against Taiwan.

The original insigts are  that China would certainly try to attain a speedy decapitation of Taiwan’s leadership. In doing so, it would pre-emptively assault US bases in Japan and also Guam.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and China’s President Xi Jinping shake hands. China will get full support from Russia if it attacks Taiwan.

The US would likely react by hitting Chinese ports and activating its allies, in the war-game scenario. This would cause further acceleration as well as China taking extreme procedures, reported Taiwan News.
” Neither Beijing nor Washington is likely to have the upper hand after the initial week of the dispute, suggesting that it would at some point end up being a lengthy conflict,” NBC Information mentioned CNAS experts as stating. “The war game demonstrated exactly how quickly the conflict might escalate, with China as well as the United States going across red lines.” (ANI).

PM Modi in Lumbini: India, Nepal to sign five agreements

Kathmandu [Nepal]: India and Nepal will be signing five Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lumbini on Monday.

” In presence of prime ministers of the two nations, 5 MoU’s will be signed which will deepen the century-old traditional as well as cultural ties,” according to a source inside Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The Kathmandu University and also the Indian Institute of Technology Madras will also sign two MoUs, the resource stated. The Prime Minister is set up to arrive in Lumbini at 10:40 am (NST) on an Indian Air force helicopter on Monday.

He will reach Lumbini on the occasion of celebration of Buddha Jayanti to hold bilateral talks with Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Sher Bahadur Deuba, his partner Arzu Rana Deuba, Council of Ministers will receive Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the airport built near the Lumbini International Buddhist Reflection Center and Assembly Hall.

Upon arrival, he will certainly pray at Mayadevi temple at 11 am as well as take part in Bhumi Pooja at 11:30. After that, he will meet with PM Deuba as well as Foreign Minister Dr. Narayan Khadka from 12:20 to 12:40 pm. He will also engage with various delegations afterwards.

At 1:30, Deuba will host lunch for Prime Minister Modi. The lunch will certainly be followed by PM Modi’s conference with eminent people of Nepal.

PM Modi will participate in Buddha Jayanti events from 3:30 pm onwards and is scheduled to fly back to Delhi at around 5 pm.

His entourage will consist of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra, couple of joint-secretaries and also others officials.

Previously in 2014, Prime Minister Modi visited Nepal two times on different occasions  and also two times in 2018.

During the last check out to Nepal in May of 2018, PM Modi had visited Janakpur as well as Muktinath, one of the revered religious as well as social sites of Nepal.

US president Joe Biden calls to end domestic ‘terrorism’, Change in ‘Law’

Washington [US]: United States President Joe Biden revealed condolences to the households of 10 people that were eliminated in a shooting event at a grocery store in the American city of Buffalo as well as asked for “every initiative to finish domestic terrorism”.

In a White House statement, Biden said: “We grieve for the family members of 10 individuals whose lives were senselessly taken as well as everyone that is enduring the physical and also psychological wounds of this terrible shooting. We are grateful for the valor of members of law enforcement as well as various other initial -responders who took instant activity to attempt to safeguard as well as save lives. The First Lady and also I are praying for the victims and also their family members, and hearts all throughout this nation are with the people of Buffalo.”

A man is detained following a mass shooting in the parking lot of TOPS supermarket, in a still image from a social media video in Buffalo, New York, U.S.

” Any act of residential terrorism, including an act committed in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideological background, is antithetical to whatever we mean in America. Dislike should have no risk-free harbour. We need to do every little thing in our power to end hate-fueled residential terrorism,” he said further.

The mass-shooting is an increasingly alarming issue in the USA. Many people have lost lives in recent years.

Police has a tough challege while controlling frequent shoot outs at crowded localities.

An 18-year-old putting on armed forces gear as well as livestreaming with a helmet video camera opened fire with a rifle at a supermarket in Buffalo, eliminating 10 individuals and injured many others on Saturday (local time), ABC news reported pointing out authorities.
On April 11, Biden introduced further actions to attend to weapon physical violence, including stopping the proliferation of ghost weapons and also a detailed record on weapon trafficking, as per records.

US Shooting: FBI says ‘racially motivated hate crime’, 10 dead in Firing

New York [US]: The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) suspects that the shooting in the city of Buffalo, where ten people were killed and three others were injured, was a racially motivated hate crime, Stephen Belongia, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Buffalo field office said on Saturday.

“We are investigating this incident as both a hate crime and a case of racially motivated violent extremism,” Belongia said during a briefing, reported Sputnik media.
According to the official, the perpetrator is now in custody. As per a tweet from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo police responded to the scene of an “active multiple shooting event” at the Tops Markets on Jefferson Street in the city.

Buffalo Police Department gave out the information regarding the incident in a tweet and urged people to avoid the area. “BPD on scene of a mass shooting at the Tops in the 1200 block of Jefferson Avenue,” it tweeted adding, “Police say multiple people have been struck by gunfire. The shooter is in custody. Motorists and residents are urged to avoid the area.”

Expressing condolence in a tweet after the incident, Erie County Sheriff’s Office stated that Sheriff John Garcia “has ordered all available resources and personnel to assist” police, as per the media portal.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said that she is taking stock of the situation. In a tweet, she wrote, “I am closely monitoring the shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo. We have offered assistance to local officials. If you are in Buffalo, please avoid the area and follow guidance from law enforcement and local officials.” (ANI)

 

UAE: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed elected as UAE president

Dubai [UAE]: Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan was elected as the president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the UAE official WAM news agency reported on Saturday. The Federal Supreme Council convened today to elect the president, who will hold office for a five-year term before being eligible for re-election. The new president was selected from among the members of the Federal Supreme Council, Khaleej Times reported.
According to it, Sheikh Mohamed has also served as the Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces since January 2005. He is known for playing a key role in developing the UAE Armed Forces in terms of strategic planning, training, organisational structure and promoting defence capabilities. Under his leadership, the UAE Armed Forces have emerged as a leading institution that is widely admired by international military organisations.

The rulers of the United Arab Emirates’ seven sheikhdoms made the decision at a meeting. It comes after the late President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who had been in office since 2004, died at the age of 73 after a long illness on Friday.

The Ministry of Presidential Affairs announced that there will be 40 days of official mourning with flags at half-mast and three days of closure of ministries and official entities at the federal and local levels and the private sector,” the agency wrote on Twitter on Friday.

“The Ministry of Presidential Affairs condoles the people of the UAE, the Arab and Islamic nation and the world over the demise of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the UAE,” Emirates News Agency, also known as WAM, said in a statement. (ANI)

Russia suspends electricity supply to Finland, NATO to support Finland PM Sanna Marin

Moscow [Russia]: Russia’s largest electricity company RAO Nordic has suspended electricity supply to Finland from Saturday, owing to non-payment for the supplied electricity.

According to the RAO Nordic Oy, there were certain problems pertaining to receiving electricity payments, owing to which they decided on suspending the supplies, reported TASS.
Finnish national electricity transmission grid operator Fingrid Oyj also said in a statement on Friday that RAO Nordic Oy will suspend imports of electricity to Finland at 1:00 a.m. local time on Saturday.

“According to RAO Nordic, further direct or bilateral sales of electricity imported from Russia will be halted until further notice due to problems in receiving payments for electricity sold on the market,” Fingrid said.

“RAO Nordic Oy has been importing electricity from Russia to Finland and selling it to Nord Pool exchange for many years. Unfortunately, we are forced to note that for the volumes which have been sold on Nord Pool exchange since the 6th of May funds have not yet been credited to our bank account. This situation is exceptional and happened for the first time in over twenty years of our trading history,” said the company.

“Unfortunately, in the current situation of lack of cash income, RAO Nordic is not able to make payments for the imported electricity from Russia. Therefore, we are forced to suspend the electricity import starting from 14th of May,” they added.

However, RAO Nordic Oy has confirmed that the lack of electricity import from Russia will be compensated by Sweden. Furthermore, more electricity will be generated in Finland, reported TASS.

“Finland’s self-sufficiency in electricity generation is constantly improving. In particular, the amount of Finnish wind power generation is increasing every year. This year alone, an additional 2000 megawatts of new wind power is expected to come online. Finland is expected to become self-sufficient in electrical energy in 2023,” said Fingrid.

Meanwhile, RAO Nordic Oy is optimistic that the situation will improve quickly and that the electricity trade with Russia will resume soon enough. (ANI)

 

Chinese social media abuzz with rumours of Xi Jinping stepping down for Covid-19

Beijing [China]: Chinese social media is buzzing with speculations that President Xi Jinping might step down from his position following the mismanagement of the stringent Covid-19 lockdowns accompanied by the economic slump in the country.

The rising rumours about Xi Jinping stepping down started after a meeting of the party politburo standing committee, which is the collective leadership group that rules China. Further, a video made by a Canadian-based blogger was doing the rounds on social media before China censored it.
According to the blogger, until a major party meeting was organized in the latter part of the year, Xi Jinping would be forced to step aside from the Chinese Communist Party. The current Premier Li Keqiang will be assuming the place on Jinping’s behalf to take over daily management of the party and government.

To curb the spread of the Covid 19 virus, the Chinese President ordered to “resolutely fight” those who try to question the strict zero-Covid policy. However, extensive lockdowns have hampered businesses across the country. As per a senior Chinese official, “the pandemic is a ‘stumbling block’ for economic and social development.”

In another press conference, Han Wenxiu, the Deputy Director at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee office for financial and economic affairs had spoken that the pandemic should be contained with scientific precision, by stabilizing the economy, and keeping the country’s development secure, instead of targeting only one aspect.

Strict Covid restrictions have also put a stop to industrial production resulting in the disruption of the supply chains for the first time. The manufacturing activity witnessed a steady decline, reaching its lowest since February 2020.

Further, as the period of lockdowns in Shanghai drags on, analysts from various investment banks have also cut their forecasts for the country’s economic growth rate. In the month of April, the yuan currency of China dipped by over 4 per cent, the biggest monthly drop in 28 years.

Moreover, stock markets have also been severely affected which is likely to impact the global recovery as the intensive lockdowns will impact companies’ sales in China and also affect the supply chain.

Reportedly, all these reasons have caused widespread discontentment in China as the Chinese people have been losing faith in Jinping’s governance over the tough conditions and botched management under his rule. (ANI)

North Korea facing biggest challenge in history over Covid-19

Pyongyang [North Korea]: North Korea is facing the biggest challenge since the foundation of the republic over the spread of COVID-19, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said, as quoted by the state-run KCNA news agency.

According to KCNA, Kim said that the country must focus on implementing the anti-coronavirus measures and boost them to stop the spread of the disease, Sputnik News Agency reported on Saturday.
The country has reported 17,400 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total number of infections to 520,000, according to the KCNA news agency.

Notably, 21 new fatalities were also reported due to the coronavirus cases, according to Sputnik News Agency.

North Korea reported the first coronavirus deaths on Friday. At least six persons were confirmed dead yesterday in the country.

Kim Jong Un has accepted that country is facing a crisis because of Covid

On Thursday, the country announced a “major national emergency” after reporting its first case of COVID-19 Omicron variant and put in place a “maximum emergency” virus control system with leader Kim Jong Un vowing to “eliminate” the virus.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), top officials, including the country’s leader Kim Jong Un, held a crisis politburo meeting to discuss the outbreak and announced they would implement a “maximum emergency” virus control system.

With this North Korea’s coronavirus-free claim has come to an end, reported the Yonhap News Agency.

Reportedly in a meeting conducted to discuss North Korea’s “most critical emergency” antivirus system that had been “firmly maintained” for more than two years, Kim pledged that the “unexpected crisis” shall be overcome. He further instructed all the officials to block every possibility to stop the spread of the virus.

Further, the North Korean leader ordered stricter vigilance along the borders on all fronts, the air, and sea to prevent a “safety vacuum” in the national defence of the country, reported the Yonhap News Agency. In addition, North Korean authorities stated that samples that were collected from patients suffering from fever indicated that they were identical to the omicron variant.

However, North Korea asserted that it has aimed to manage and also prevent the spread of the virus. It has further mentioned that it will provide treatment to the omicron-detected patients to “root out the source of transmission in the shortest period possible” the country’s state media reported. (ANI)

 

Ukraine Crisis: Japan bans exports of hi-tech goods to Russia

Tokyo [Japan: Japan has decided to ban the exports of high-tech goods – such as quantum computers, 3D printers and electron microscopes – to Russia, the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Friday.

“Amid the international situation around Ukraine, our country is making a contribution to the international efforts for ensuring peace in the whole world, for settling this issue, as well as imposes a ban on the exports of high-tech goods (quantum computers and 3D printers) to Russia in line with the government’s decision as of May 10. These measures enter into force on May 20,” the ministry said.
The list of the goods, banned for the exports to Russia, includes oil refining equipment, quantum computers and their components, electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, 3D printers and their consumables, equipment for the production of organic light emitting diodes, equipment for the production of microelectromechanical circuits, equipment for the production of high-efficiency solar cells for hydrogen fuel and renewable energy, vacuum pumps, refrigeration equipment designed for extremely low temperatures, materials that make it difficult to detect electromagnetic waves, and other equipment.

Japan has joined the sanctions campaign against Russia after the latter launched the military operation in Ukraine on February 24.

 

Biden won over Trump as people wanted ‘less drama’: Musk slams US President

Washington [US]: Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Thursday (local time) said that US President Joe Biden is wrong to think that he was elected to transform the country and that he won over his rival candidate Donald Trump only because people wanted “less drama”.

Musk also said that he prefers a less divisive candidate in the 2024 election than former President Donald Trump. “Even though I think a less divisive candidate would be better in 2024, I still think Trump should be restored to Twitter,” Musk wrote on Twitter on Thursday evening.

Musk has been very critical of Biden’s few policies

“Biden’s mistake is that he thinks he was elected to transform the country, but actually everyone just wanted less drama,” he added.

Musk said earlier this week that Twitter’s decision to ban Trump was a mistake and he would reverse it if his acquisition of the social media company is successful.

Twitter recently agreed to be acquired by Musk in a deal worth USD 44 billion, although it is still subject to shareholder approval. (ANI)

 

New PM Wickremesinghe vows to uplift Sri Lanka’s economy

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Shortly after being appointed as Sri Lankan Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday said he has taken up the challenge of uplifting the island nation’s crisis-ridden economy and added that ties with India will get much better under his government.

Wickremesinghe, who is the leader of the United National Party (UNP), was sworn in as the prime minister by Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo today. He had previously served as the Sri Lankan prime minister on five occasions.
“I have taken on a challenge of uplifting the economy and I must fulfill it,” Wickremesinghe told reporters.

Answering a question on India-Sri Lanka ties after his appointment, he said, “It will become much better.”

“They should stay. We want them to stay. If they want to talk, yes,” Wickremesinghe when asked about the protesters.

The Indian High Commission in Colombo reiterated the country’s commitment to the people of Sri Lanka after Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as the prime minister.

“High Commission of India hopes for political stability and looks forward to working with the Government of Sri Lanka formed in accordance with democratic processes pursuant to the swearing-in of Hon’ble @RW_UNP as the Prime Minister of SriLanka,” the high commission said in a tweet.

“India’s commitment to the people of Sri Lanka will continue,” it added.

Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down as the prime minister on Monday, following violent incidents reported between pro-government groups and anti-government protesters. (ANI)

Heightened security for ballots: Nepal all set to vote in local polls

Kathmandu [Nepal]- One can see an unusual scene in Kathmandu city hall: Workers are erecting metal barricades inside which votes will be counted after voting in local elections on Friday.

Alerted by incidents in the past, the Election Commission has come up with the idea of barricading the entire area with metal bars forbidding anyone except the vote-counting officials to reach up to the casted ballots.
“We are more concerned about the security aspects this time. We have installed Closed Circuit Camera and set up metal barricades which would enable representatives from political parties to see the counting procedure but not let them reach up to the casted ballots. It would fortify the area for the protection of papers and the officials. This change has been incorporated for the vote count this time,” Prem Kumar Shrestha, Spokesperson at Office of the Electoral Officer, Kathmandu told ANI.

The incident of tearing of ballots at Bharatpur in Chitwan District at the time of vote count in 2017 election has prompted the electoral body to heighten security at vote counting centres. Cadres of Maoist Centre at that time had torn and ate some of the ballots at that time forcing a re-election in the area.

The Election Commission had wanted to install Close Circuit Television (CCTV) Cameras at all 753 vote counting centres across the country for the local elections but was able only to execute it in around 300 places only.

Whenever CCTV monitoring is not possible, officials will be asked to keep video records of the counting process so that they can be used whenever any dispute arises.

Apart from security for ballots, a large number of security personnel are being deployed in the Himalayan Nation with a population below 20 million for local polls of Friday. As per the Home Ministry, 2,60,000 security persons are providing security for Friday’s franchise.

Among them 100,000 are the Myadi (temporary) police persons. More than 65,000 Nepal Police personnel, over 32,000 Armed Police Force (APF) personnel and 71,000 Nepali Army personnel are mobilized for securing the election.

Security is provided in three cordons. In the first cordon are the Nepal Police and Myadi police personnel. In the second cordon are the APF personnel and the Nepali Army personnel are mobilized in the third (outer) cordon, the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

As per the Election Commission, a total of 17,733,723 voters are enlisted to exercise their voting right on Friday’s election. There are a total of 10,756 polling stations and 21,955 polling booths for it.

There are 10,756 polling stations and 21,955 polling centres in 753 local bodies. Of them, 2,946 polling centres are highly sensitive and 4,423 have been listed as sensitive. The polls will open at 7 AM (Local Time) and close at 5 PM (Local Time) on Friday. (ANI)

 

25 injured after plane catches fire on runway in China’s Chongqing

Beijing [China]:  As many as 25 people were injured after a passenger plane veered off the runway during take-off and caught fire at an airport in southwest China’s Chongqing on Thursday, lcoal media reported.

The passenger plane operated by Tibet Airlines was carrying 113 passengers and nine crew members were on board, Xinhua reported citing airport sources as saying.
All passengers aboard the plane were evacuated and the injured were rushed to the hospital for treatment.

The cause of the incident remains unknown.

Further details are awaited. (ANI)

India ‘categorically’ denies reports of sending troops to Sri Lanka

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: The Indian High Commission on Wednesday “categorically” denied media reports about New Delhi sending its troops to Colombo, stating that the country is fully supportive of Sri Lanka’s democracy, stability and economic recovery.

Sri Lanka is struggling with acute food and electricity shortages, forcing the country to seek help from its neighbours. The economic situation has led to huge protests with demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
“The High Commission would like to categorically deny speculative reports in sections of media & social media about India sending her troops to Sri Lanka. These reports and such views are also not in keeping with the position of the Govt of India,” the Indian mission said in a Tweet.

“The Spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs of India clearly stated yesterday that #India is fully supportive of Sri Lanka’s democracy, stability and economic recovery,” it said in another tweet.

Yesterday, India denied rumours circulating in sections of media and social media that certain Sri Lankan political persons and their families have fled to India.

In view of the current situation in Sri Lanka, India earlier today said it is fully supportive of the democracy, stability, and economic recovery of the island nation.

Sri Lanka on Tuesday ordered the country’s armed forces to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others following a day of violent clashes.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also urged people to remain calm, and refrain from violence and acts of revenge against others.

A number of violent incidents have been reported in the country after pro-government groups clashed with anti-government protesters on Monday, leaving eight people dead and over 200 injured.

A nationwide curfew was imposed from Monday until Wednesday and the military was deployed to maintain law and order.

Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned as Sri Lanka’s PM on Monday as violent protests broke out. (ANI)

Sri Lanka issues shoot-on-sight orders as protests intensify

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Sri Lanka tri forces have been ordered to shoot all those who plunder public property or cause personal harm, local media reported on Tuesday as large-scale protests continue to take place across the island nation.

The comes nationwide protests against the government have intensified over the past few days resulting in an increase in incidents of clashes with the security forces deployed at protest sites.
“The Ministry of Defence has ordered the tri-forces to open fire on anyone looting public property or causing harm to others,” Army Spokesman told Daily Mirror.

Protests have been identified in the country have people have resorted to burning houses of ministers and MP.

Anti-government protesters also set on fire the official residences of Sri Lanka’s Moratuwa Mayor Saman Lal Fernando and the MPs Sanath Nishantha, Ramesh Pathirana, Mahipala Herath, Thissa Kuttiarachchi and Nimal Lanza.

A large number of protesters were out on the streets and attacked the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna MPs. Even some Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) offices were set ablaze, Daily Mirror reported.

Former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and some of his family members have been shifted to Trincomalee Naval Base, a day after he resigned following violent protests that led to a nationwide curfew.

Helicopters were seen leaving the capital city today with VVIPs and some speculated that they were members of the Rajapaksa family, Colombo Gazette reported.

Earlier today, a group of protestors attacked s senior police officer in the Western Province on Tuesday in Colombo.

Police said that the Senior DIG come under attack near Beira Lake in Colombo. They said the group had also caused damage to the DIG’s vehicle.

The US on Monday said that it is closely monitoring the volatile situation in Sri Lanka after the protestors burned the houses of Ministers.

“Closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka. We are deeply concerned by the violence against peaceful protesters and innocent bystanders, and are urging all Sri Lankans to focus on finding and enabling long-term solutions to the country’s economic and political challenges,” tweeted US State Department Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA).

Sri Lanka PM Mahinda Rajapaksa resigns, Protests continue

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, who tendered his resignation on Monday, has recommended the formation of an all-party interim government in his letter to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Uncertainty looms over who will take over the post of the Prime Minister in the island nation going through one of its most difficult phases, with the principal opposition party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), confirming earlier that its leader Sajith Premadasa will not accept the PM’s post in an interim government.
“Effective immediately I have tendered my resignation as Prime Minister to the President,” Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a tweet.

Srilanka is facing an economic crisis

The developments come even as nationwide protests against the government have intensified over the past few days resulting in an increase in incidents of clashes with the security forces deployed at protest sites.

More than a hundred protestors were injured on Monday at the Galle Face protest site during violent clashes resulting in nationwide curfew in the country.

“While emotions are running high in #lka, I urge our general public to exercise restraint and remember that violence only begets violence. The economic crisis we’re in needs an economic solution which this administration is committed to resolving,” Mahinda Rajapaksa said in a tweet shortly before resigning.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since independence with food and fuel shortages, soaring prices and power cuts affecting a large number of the citizens, resulting in massive protests over the government’s handling of the situation.

The recession is attributed to foreign exchange shortages caused by a fall in tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as reckless economic policies, like the government’s move last year to ban chemical fertilizers in a bid to make Sri Lanka’s agriculture “100 per cent organic”.

Due to an acute shortage of foreign exchange, Sri Lanka recently defaulted on the entirety of its foreign debt amounting to about USD 51 billion.

The economic situation has led to huge protests with demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Russia Invades Ukraine : UK to allocate additional USD 1.6 billion in aid to Ukraine

London [UK]- British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has confirmed an additional funding package for Kyiv in the amount of 1.3 billion pounds (USD 1.6 billion), The Sunday Times reports.

The funds will be taken from the Treasury’s emergency reserves and will come in addition to the United Kingdom’s existing 1.5 billion-pound support to Ukraine, the newspaper said on Sunday.
Sunak confirmed the additional aid following pressure from UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, The Sunday Times said.

Russia is hitting Ukrainian Cities with missiles

Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, after the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) appealed for help in defending themselves against Ukrainian provocations. Russia said that the aim of its special operation is to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the goal is to protect the people of Donbas, “who have been subjected to abuse, genocide by the Kyiv regime for eight years.” In response to Russia’s operation, Western countries have rolled out a comprehensive sanctions campaign against Moscow and have been supplying weapons to Ukraine. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Taliban : Women to wear burqa in Afghanistan, violation to attract punishment

Kabul [Afghanistan]:  Taliban has issued a decree ordering the Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa at public places, adding that if violated a male member of the family will be improsned for three days. Furthermore, if the woman found guilty again, her guardian will be sent to court for further punishment.

Moreover, female public employees will be fired if they do not wear hijab. Morover, male employees in government offices will be suspended from their jobs if female members of their families do not wear hijab.

Taliban today issued a decree ordering the Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa in public.

 

Taliban came to power with many promises

Though the decree is new, the Taliban have been forcing women to cover themselves up since returning to power in August. Earlier, the Taliban’s religious police put up posters around the capital Kabul ordering Afghan women to cover up.

Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice pasted the poster on cafes and shops. The posters had an image of the face-covering burqa. Along with the picture, a message on the poster read, “According to Sharia law, Muslim women must wear the hijab.”
Taliban during its regime in the 1990s made it mandatory for women to wear a burqa. Women in Kabul already cover their hair with headscarves, though some wear modest western clothing. However, outside Kabul burqa remained common, as per the media outlet.

Women without Burqa will be punished.

Now, the Taliban with this new decree is enforcing every woman in Afghanistan to wear the all-covering burqa. Last year in December, the Taliban issued another repressive directive that Afghan women seeking to travel long distances by road should be offered transport only if accompanied by a male relative.

Moreover, the worldwide condemnation of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan had heightened after the Taliban decided to close all secondary schools for girls. Several activists and political parties have urged the Taliban to reconsider the ban on secondary schools for girls.

Psychologists have said that the Afghan girl students above grade six, banned from going to schools by the Taliban, are undergoing mental stress due to this move. According to HRW, women and girls are blocked from accessing health care as well. Reports suggest that women and girls facing violence have no escape route. (ANI)

Pakistan: Govt warns anarchy won’t be allowed, Imran Khan’s rally in Islamabad

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Ahead of ex-PM Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) mega rally in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Saturday warned that the government won’t allow an anarchy-like situation to persist in the country.

This comes in the wake of the Mianwali rally, where PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that the public rally of millions of nationals could not be stopped by anyone, including the ‘murderer of 18 people’ Rana Sanaullah or PM Shehbaz Sharif.
The Interior Minister slammed the ex-PM for inciting and misleading the public against the ruling government. Addressing the media outside the Lahore sessions court, Sanaullah said, “They will have to give [the government] assurances that the march will be peaceful, political, and democratic.”

His remarks came as he attended a hearing of a drug case filed against him by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF), reported Dawn.

“Even yesterday, he told his supporters not to spare anyone. I am warning you for the last time, not as a minister, but as the president of PML-N Punjab. If you don’t let go of these tactics and keep encouraging your supporters to disrespect members of other parties, you will face the same fate too. You won’t be able to escape from it,” he said.

This was in response to Imran Khan’s remarks in the address he made at the party’s Mianwali rally where he told his workers that neither containers placed on the route could stop them from their march to Islamabad nor the interior minister’s threats.

During the rally, Imran Khan accused Minister Sanaullah of committing 18 murders. In a war of words, the Interior Minister said that the PML-N too would instruct its workers to “catch and beat them up”.

“This is your misconception that you will be able to create anarchy or chaos in the country. Nothing will happen,” Sanaullah told Imran adding, “They [the supporters] will become human beings after a few thrashings.”

“You told people that this march will be bloody. I am warning you to take your words back or I won’t let you step out of your house,” he added, as per the media outlet.

Talking about the incident in Masjid-i-Nabwi, Saudi Arabia, the Minister rebuked PTI saying, “We know they were your people. They have been identified. Take action against them.”

Reacting to this, PTI leader Farrukh Habib, in a tweet wrote, “This is a fascist government which is threatening to destroy the peace and order of the country. It wants civil war in the streets.” (ANI)

 

Alina Kabaeva included in proposed EU sanctions list, She is Putin’s Girlfriend!

Washington [US]: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, is included in the sixth proposed package of European Union sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

According to two European diplomatic sources, Kabaeva, who has been romantically linked to Putin was included in proposed EU sanctions list, reported CNN.
At this stage, names can be taken off or added at member states’ discretion and is expected to be a point of negotiation when any new sanctions package is proposed, an EU Commission source told CNN.

The EU has not officially signed off on the draft proposal. “Discussions are going on. It’s not a piece of cake, but we have to wait and see,” one of the diplomatic sources told CNN on Friday morning.

Kabaeva, who was born in 1983, was first linked to Putin more than a decade ago, while she was a medal-winning gymnast. Putin, who is divorced, has denied a relationship

She has been very close to putin since last many years

with her.

Kabaeva and Putin reportedly met when she was a young gymnast who won multiple medals domestically at European competitions and at the Olympic Games. She was awarded the gold medal for rhythmic gymnastics at the Athens Games in 2004.  Widely known in her home country, she was chosen as one of the torch bearers when Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014, an event that took place shortly before Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, reported CNN.   In April, the Wall Street Journal reported that US officials had been debating whether or not to place sanctions on Kabaeva, with concerns that such a move might increase tensions further because it could be an extreme personal blow to Putin.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is also among the individuals who are included in the proposed sixth round of EU sanctions, according to two sources who have seen the full documents, reported CNN.

The proposed sanctions are out of touch with “common sense,” Russian Orthodox Church spokesperson Vladimir Legoida said Wednesday, according to Russian state news agency TASS.

Alina is a popular gymnast

“The more indiscriminate (these) sanctions become, the more they lose touch with common sense and the harder it becomes to reach peace, which is what the Russian Orthodox Church prays for at every service with the blessing of His Holiness the Patriarch,” Legoida said in a Telegram post.

“Only those completely ignorant of the history of our Church can seek to intimidate its clergy and believers by compiling some lists,” Legoida said.

The EU has been ratcheting up its economic action against Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. Most recently, the bloc has proposed a ban on Russian oil imports, something that would have a major impact on Russia’s economy, though Hungary, an EU member state with close links to Putin, is likely to scupper any such plans. (ANI)

India highlights food, energy, security challenges emanating from Ukraine war at UNSC

New York [US]- Highlighting the food and energy security challenges emerging as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine, India at United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday (local time) highlighted the “disproportionate impact on the Global South and developing countries” of the ongoing disruptions.

Speaking at the UNSC briefing on Ukraine, India’s permanent representative to the UN, TS Tirumurti, said, “The conflict is having a destabilizing effect with broader regional and global implications.”
“Oil prices are skyrocketing and there is a shortage of food grains and fertilizers. This has had a disproportionate impact on the Global South and developing countries,” Tirumurti said.

“The food security challenges emanating from the conflict require us to respond by going beyond constraints that bind us presently. Energy security is equally a serious concern and needs to be addressed through cooperative efforts,” Tirumurti further said.

Tirumurti reiterated India’s consistent calls for “complete cessation of hostilities (in Ukraine) and for pursuing the path of dialogue and diplomacy as the only way out.”

“However, the conflict has resulted in loss of lives and countless miseries for its peoples, particularly for women, children and elderly, with millions becoming homeless and forced to take shelter in neighbouring countries,” he said.

“India has strongly condemned killing of civilians in Bucha and supported the call for an independent investigation,” Tirumurti further said.

The Indian envoy also welcomed the presence and remarks of the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the briefing.

“We acknowledge the efforts made by the Secretary-General, particularly the findings of the Global Crisis Response Group Task Team. We welcome their recommendation for exempting purchases of food by WFP (World Food Programme) for humanitarian assistance from food export restrictions with immediate effect,” Tirumurti said.

“It is important that similar exemptions are provided to all member states and relevant stakeholders, who are contributing to this global humanitarian effort,” he added.

India also welcomed the recent visit of Guterres to Moscow and Kyiv and his engagement with the leadership of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

“We agree that the immediate priority is of evacuation of innocent civilians from areas witnessing intense fighting. We appreciate the efforts of the United Nations in evacuating civilian population from Mariupol. We hope these efforts will extend to other areas as well,” Tirumurti said.

Speaking earlier, Guterres had expressed hope that the UN’s continued coordination with the governments of Russia and Ukraine will help facilitate humanitarian aid efforts.

“I hope that the continued coordination with Moscow and Kyiv will lead to more humanitarian pauses to allow civilians safe passage from the fighting and aid to reach those in critical need,” Guterres said.

Talking about India’s humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, Tirumurti said, “India has been sending humanitarian supplies to Ukraine and its neighbours, which include medicines and other essential relief material. We are also providing more medical supplies to Ukraine.”

He added that India supports calls for guarantees of safe passage to deliver essential humanitarian and medical supplies through humanitarian corridors.

“Humanitarian action must always be guided by the principles of humanitarian assistance, i.e., humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence. These measures should never be politicized,” Tirumurti emphasized.

“Let me conclude by reaffirming that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of states,” Tirumurti said. (ANI)

German President holds talks with Zelenskyy after diplomatic scandal: Reports

Berlin [Germany]:  German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier held a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, during which the counterparts discussed “misunderstandings of the past,” media reported on Thursday, citing the German president’s office.

It was a first phone conversation between the presidents since a series of political and diplomatic scandals broke out between Berlin and Kiev after the Ukrainian authorities refused Steinmeier a visit in April. After that, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that he was not yet planning visits to Ukraine.
Steinmeier and Zelenskyy discussed “misunderstandings of the past” during the conversation, and Zelenskyy personally invited Scholz and the entire German leadership to visit Kiev, the DPA news agency said.

According to Spiegel, the conversation lasted 45 minutes, and Steinmeier assured Zelenskyy of Germany’s full support for Ukraine. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Social media exposes China’s blatant human rights violations in Shanghai amid Zero-COVID policy

Beijing [China]: Shanghai residents, at the hands of China’s Zero-Covid policy, are being subjected to unprecedented neglect, mistreatment, and abuse, with leaked videos on social media confirming blatant human rights violations.

Disguised as “pandemic prevention”, these violations have exposed the cruel and inhumane side of Communist China’s system. It also brings to light China’s rigid and ineffective governance of the country, reported National Review, a US-based magazine.
Many leaked videos on social media show President Xi Jinping’s enforcers in white medical-isolation gowns beating people up, taking them away, or welding doors and shutting entryways with metal bars. Tens of thousands of people are being detained in makeshift quarantine camps.

These so-called pandemic rules have inflicted great misery on Shanghai residents. Men and women, adults and children, are crowded together under one roof, with insufficient food and a lack of other basic necessities.

The cruel treatment by the Chinese government has raised awareness in people in regard to their political and civil rights. Not only in Shanghai, but across the country people are now speaking out for themselves and their communities.

Beijing’s brutality caused many people to protest for their rights and stand up against the government. In the video ‘Voice of April’, Shanghai residents depict the endless suffering of people under the zero-Covid policy.

The video went viral and unveiled China’s censorship of its own citizens. Moreover, a Shanghai-based rapper Astro released a song, “New Slave,” to condemn China’s abuse of power and its neglect of human life.

These inhumane actions taken by China had more and more people come out to sing the national anthem, in particular, the line “Arise! Ye who refuse to be bond slaves!”

China with a view to suppressing the voice of its citizens, ironically, had to censor its own national anthem. Expressing concern and condemnation of the government’s stern Zero-COVID policies, Shanghai residents have formed a self-assistance and self-governance commission, unequivocally demanding democracy and freedom, and urging mass civil disobedience.

Xi Jinping has paid no regard to the sufferings of the people and has only acted upon his own will and interests. According to the media outlet, the Biden administration should condemn the CCP’s violence and not remain silent about Beijing’s gross human rights violations during the pandemic.

It urged the United States and the international community to stand up and speak out in support of the people of Shanghai and China and aim to stop the Communist Party’s atrocities. (ANI)

 

PM Modi holds talks with French President Macron, discusses defence cooperation

Paris [France]:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday (local time) held talks with the newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron, discussing a range of bilateral issues including defence, space, civil nuclear cooperation and people-to-people linkages, as well as regional and global issues.

The two leaders held talks at Elysee Palace, the official residence of the President of France, in Paris.
Addressing a press briefing, shortly before the departure of PM Modi back to India, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that the two leaders who are also good friends held “extensive discussions on a range of issues of bilateral, regional and global importance.”

“The two leaders held wide-ranging discussions on all the key areas of bilateral engagement, including in defence, space, civil nuclear cooperation and people-to-people linkages. They also discussed regional and global issues, including developments in Europe and the Indo-pacific,” the Foreign Secretary informed.

Kwatra also informed that this was the first visit of PM Modi to France since August 2019.

“The two leaders have stayed in regular touch through calls and letters. They also met on the sidelines of the G20 summits last year. India and France are strong strategic partners. The two leaders are also good friends,” Kwatra said.

Talking about the re-election of the French President, Kwatra said that the renewed mandate of President Macron will allow the two countries to build on the existing strength and success of the strategic partnership.

“President Macron’s renewed mandate and the conversations between Prime Minister Modi and the President today allow us to build on existing strength and success of India-France strategic partnership and also chart out the blueprint for its next phase,” Kwatra said.

The Foreign Secretary also emphasised that “India and France see each other as key partners in the Indo-pacific.”

On the sidelines, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also met his French counterpart, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian during PM Modi’s visit.

Following the talks, the French President also hosted a dinner for the Indian Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in France on Wednesday on the final leg of his three-day Europe visit and was warmly welcomed by members of the Indian diaspora in Paris.

Members of the Indian community were present outside the hotel where PM Modi reached after his arrival in Paris. Children were present in sizeable numbers and many of them sought autographs from the Prime Minister. People reciprocated the greetings of the people.

PM Modi said in a tweet after his arrival in Paris that France was one of India’s strongest partners.

“Landed in Paris. France is one of India’s strongest partners, with our nations cooperating in diverse areas,” he said.

PM Modi reached Paris on the final day of his three-day Europe visit, after his engagements in Germany and Denmark. (ANI)

PM Modi arrives in Paris to meet French President Macron

Paris [France]- Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in the French capital Paris on Wednesday on the final leg of his three-nation visit.

During his visit, PM Modi will meet the newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron.

PM Modi’s visit to France is third on the list of the three-nation visit, which included Germany and Denmark.

Earlier, in a statement, PM Modi said, “I will stopover in Paris to meet my friend, President Macron. President Macron has very recently been re-elected, and my visit just ten days after the result will not only allow me to convey my personal congratulations in-person, but also reaffirm the close friendship between the two countries.”

PM Modi further stated, “This will also give us the opportunity to set the tone for the next phase of the India-France Strategic Partnership.”

He said that both the leaders will share assessments on various regional and global issues and will take stock of ongoing bilateral cooperation.

“It is my firm belief that two countries that share such similar vision and values for the global order, must work in close cooperation with each other,” he added. (ANI)

 

PM Modi invites Nordic companies to invest in Sagarmala project

Copenhagen [Denmark]: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday invited Nordic companies to invest in the Blue Economy sector, including the Sagarmala project and asked the sovereign wealth funds of the Nordic countries to invest in India.

As a part of Sagarmala Programme, more than 800 projects at an estimated cost of around Rs 5.48 lakh crore have been identified for implementation.
Sagarmala projects include projects from various categories such as modernisation of existing ports and terminals, new ports, terminals, inland waterways, lighthouse tourism and skill development, etc.

PM Modi made this pitch at the 2nd India-Nordic Summit. This summit saw the participation of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir of Iceland, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store of Norway, Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden and Prime Minister Sanna Marin of Finland.

PM Modi and his counterparts from Nordic countries agreed to work together to fight and address climate change and protect the natural environment in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

The Summit provided an opportunity to review the progress of the India-Nordic relations since the 1st India-Nordic Summit, which was held in 2018 in Stockholm.

“Discussions were held on multilateral cooperation in post-pandemic economic recovery, climate change, sustainable development, innovation, digitalization, and green and clean growth. Discussions were also held on cooperation in maritime sector with a focus on sustainable ocean management. Prime Minister invited Nordic companies for investing in the Blue Economy sector, especially in India’s Sagarmala project,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a press release.

The Prime Ministers agreed to work together to fight and address climate change and to protect the natural environment in accordance with the Paris Agreement, according to a joint statement.

The Summit noted that the acceleration of the global green transition to combat climate change is one of the greatest and most imminent global challenges.

“At the same time, successful transition to sustainable economy offers huge opportunities including new jobs. The need for setting ambitious goals for reducing emissions and concrete implementation plans was underlined, which will facilitate business actors’ contribution to accelerating the transition,” the JOINT statement read.

The Prime Ministers welcomed the international agreement at COP26 on the need for accelerated climate action for holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degree above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degree above pre-industrial level.

According to the statement, India and the Nordic countries are committed to ambitious cooperation on renewable energy, energy diversification, smart grids and energy efficiency.

The leaders furthermore discussed collaboration on environmental sustainability including clean water, clean air and circular economy, which is critically important, not only to maintain and support biodiversity, water and wildlife, but also as a basis for food security, human health and prosperity.

The statement said that India and Nordic countries are also committed to adopting the ambitious Post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework in the upcoming 2nd Part of COP15 of Convention on Biological Diversity to be held at Kunming, China and work together in its implementation.

The Prime Ministers agreed that the blue economy can deliver economic growth, new jobs, improved nutrition, and increased food security, if managed sustainably.

“As leading ocean nations, India and the Nordic countries agreed on the benefits of partnering on transforming the shipping industry towards a low carbon future through exchange of good practices and technology transfers,” the statement read. (ANI)

Pakistan: Imran Khan demands early elections under ‘neutral’ CEC

Islamabad [Pakistan]- Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said that general elections must be held in the country under the supervision of a neutral chief election commissioner (CEC), reported local media.

Claiming that the “selected” government has been imposed on the masses through planning and plotting, he said that an election must be held as soon as possible, otherwise, democracy will suffer a huge blow, reported Geo News.
Khan, however, added that the polls should be conducted under the supervision of a suitable chief election commissioner (CEC). Notably, this comes after last week he called CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja PML-N’s agent.

Dismissing the allegations of his government being incompetent, he said, “We had been hearing those remarks for three-and-a-half years. My only demand is to conduct the election under the chairmanship of a neutral CEC. Let the people decide [the country’s fate].”

Further, reiterating that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) government was toppled through a conspiracy, he said that a commission should be formed under the chairmanship of the chief justice of Pakistan to probe the matter.

“A sitting prime minister has been ousted through a conspiracy, therefore, all state institutions should look into the matter as it has turned out to be a huge setback for the country,” the media outlet quoted him as saying.

Speaking on the involvement of the US in ensuring his ouster through the no-confidence motion, he said that he is not anti-America or any other country.

“The United States often instigates regime change for its own benefits, not for the benefit of the countries involved,” he said, claiming that he knows every character involved in the conspiracy.

“I have proof against people who had been frequently visiting the US embassy in Pakistan. Hussain Haqqani had a meeting with Nawaz Sharif in London where they hatched this conspiracy,” he added.

Notably, PTI has staged several protests across the country against the United States for an alleged “foreign conspiracy” to oust Imran Khan from power who has been unseated after the no-confidence vote initiated by the Opposition was carried in the National Assembly. (ANI)

 

PM Modi meets Danish PM Mette Frederiksen in Copenhagen

Copenhagen [Denmark]: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday took a private tour of the residence of his Danish counterpart Mette Frederiksen in Copenhagen after he reached the Danish capital for a one-day visit that will include several engagements including talks with leaders from Nordic countries.

“Walking the talk PM @narendramodi and @Statsmin PM Mette Frederiksen at Marienborg. The bonhomie between the two leaders mirrors the close ties between India and Denmark,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a tweet.
The Prime Minister was accompanied by the Danish PM during the tour. “Conversations in Copenhagen aimed at boosting India-Denmark friendship. PM Frederiksen welcomed PM @narendramodi at Marienborg,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) tweeted.

This visit started to Denmark shortly after concluding his Berlin visit on Tuesday.

During his one-day Germany visit, PM Modi met with German chancellor Olaf Scholz. This was their first engagement since Chancellor Scholz assumed office in December 2021.

The one-on-one meeting between the two leaders was followed by the Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC), the plenary session of which was co-chaired by PM Modi and German chancellor Scholz.

Addressing a press briefing, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that the economy, ecology, trade, investment linkages, and green partnership between India and Germany were the central pillars on which the discussions focussed.

In a joint statement, Germany made an advance commitment to provide 10 billion euros of new and additional developmental assistance in India until 2030 under the Joint Declaration of Intent (JDI) on Green and Sustainable Development Partnership signed between the two countries. (ANI)

Ukraine crisis, a lesson for US to prepare for Chinese invasion of Taiwan

Washington [US]: The Ukraine-Russia conflict has become a guide for the United States to prepare a strategy to defend Taiwan against a possible attack by China, according to an analysis.

The US military has in a report on the strategic assessment of the Ukraine crisis detailed the need to prepare a strategy on how to defend Taiwan in case of a possible attack by China, air superiority is the deciding factor in defence against the Chinese forces.
Notably, the US did not agree to the Ukrainian request for enforcing a no-fly zone over its air space as that would have brought it into direct combat with Russia. However, Taiwan is not Ukraine as it is in a far more vulnerable position, The Hong Kong Post reported citing a military analysis website DefenseOne.

“No matter what other idea guides the defense of the island republic, air superiority will be critical. Washington and Taipei must prepare now to ensure this air superiority….planning for Taiwan’s air defense must be grounded in hard truth, the media outlet quoted the website as saying.

However, according to American military experts, Taiwanese airspace is “much more difficult to defend” than that of Ukraine as Taiwan is separated from US bases by thousands of miles of open Pacific waters and the closest supply routes are through “the Philippine Sea, south along the Ryukyus, or north from Luzon” and all these regions are beyond Taiwanese territory and its Exclusive Economic Zone.

Thus, approving a no-fly war zone over Taiwan means a large territory beyond the island of Taiwan will need to be defended. However, Seth Cropsey, a naval officer and former US Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy, has come up with a four-point strategy that is being discussed within the military circles.

According to this strategy, the US must ensure its naval and aerial superiority in the Ryukyu archipelago which can be turned into an anti-air nest, packed with forward-deployed US Marines and Air Defense Artillery. Further, the US should have an “integrated air defense network” to protect Taiwan from Chinese “missile bombardment”.

The US should also obtain more tanker aircraft as a “no-fly zone would require air combat over Taiwan and near the Taiwan Strait which is extremely close to Chinese territory. Lastly, the US must begin the fight with a significant numerical advantage as according to the naval officer, the fight will boil down to numerical superiority of either force.

In a comparison of the Russia-Ukraine situation to that of China-Taiwan, Cropsey laments US’ casual attitude toward Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on the other Black Sea targets.

“Had we (Americans) taken more seriously (Vladimir) Putin’s attacks on such other Black Sea targets as Georgia and Crimea and acted with greater resolve years ago to help Ukraine defend itself, war might have been averted. Xi Jinping and his predecessors’ declared intent to subdue Taiwan–if needed, by force–is clear as blue skies. Those skies must be defended over Taiwan if the US is to remain the Pacific’s pre-eminent power and our friends and allies in the region are to continue casting their lot with us,” the media outlet quoted him as saying. (ANI)

 

Putin to undergo cancer treatment, handover power to loyalist Nikolai Patrushev

Moscow [Russia]:  Russian President Vladimir Putin might undergo cancer surgery while temporarily handing over power to the secretary of the country’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, unverified media reports claimed.

Putin has reportedly been told by doctors that he must undergo an operation, the New York Post reported citing a Telegram channel purportedly run by a former Russian Foreign Intelligence Service lieutenant general.
The anticipated surgery and recovery are expected to incapacitate Putin for “a short time,” the report said.

Referring to Putin’s supposedly “sickly appearance and uncharacteristically fidgety behaviour in public” in recent times, the report said that the Russian President has been rumoured to suffer from cancer and a host of other serious maladies, including Parkinson’s disease.

However, a US official said that the media reports could not be verified with Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby saying on Monday that “I have seen nothing that could help us corroborate that,” New York Post reported.

A few days ago, Putin allegedly had a two-hour “heart-to-heart” conversation with Nikolai Patrushev, the report said citing a Telegram post.

“We know that Putin signalled to Patrushev that he considers him to be practically his only trusted ally and friend in the government,” the post claimed. “Additionally, the president promised that if his health takes a turn for the worse, actual control of the country will temporarily pass into Patrushev’s hands.”

“Patrushev is an outright villain. He is no better than Vladimir Putin. Moreover, he is a more cunning, and I would say, more insidious person than Vladimir Putin. If he comes to power, Russians’ problems will only multiply,” the owner of the Telegram channel which claimed about Putin’s cancer surgery said.

“Putin is unlikely to agree to hand over power for a longer period of time,” the Telegram channel further claimed, adding that the control of the country will likely be in Patrushev’s hands for no more than two to three days.

Russia’s Security Council, of which Patruchev is the secretary is an influential body that answers directly to Putin and issues guidance on military and security issues within Russia, the New York Post reported, adding, that, most of the council’s power is vested in Patrushev, who is widely seen as a staunch Putin ally.

Like Putin, Patrushev is a career Russian intelligence agent, first with the Soviet KGB, then later with the Russian FSB, the report said citing Moscow Times.

Last week, in a rare interview with state-run Russian paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Patrushev accused America and Europe of backing neo-Nazi ideology in Ukraine and seeking to draw the conflict out “to the last Ukrainian,” the report said.

“Using their henchmen in Kyiv, the Americans, in an attempt to suppress Russia, decided to create an antipode of our country, cynically choosing Ukraine for this, trying to divide essentially a single people,” he reportedly said.

Questions over the Russian President’s health have been raised in recent weeks, especially after he was seen tightly gripping a desk during his meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu last month. (ANI)

 

PM Modi, German Chancellor sign green and sustainable energy partnership

Berlin [Germany]- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday signed the green and sustainable energy partnership at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin.

This was signed after the sixth Inter-Governmental Consultations, a unique biennial format which India conducts only with Germany.
IGC is a unique mechanism which brings together several ministers and officials from both sides to engage in bilateral discussions culminating in a plenary session which is chaired by the two leaders.

It reviews cooperation between the two countries across a range of areas as also to identify fresh areas of partnership. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the IGA will encompass a broad spectrum of areas of mutual interest.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said the Inter-Governmental Consultation between India and Germany illustrates the special nature of this friendship. “Prime Minister @narendramodi, Chancellor Scholz and top Ministers from India and Germany meet in Berlin,” PMO said in a tweet.

Earlier today, PM Modi held a bilateral meeting with Chancellor Scholz. This was their first engagement since Chancellor Scholz assumed office in December 2021.

Discussions covered key areas of bilateral cooperation under the overall strategic partnership, as well as regional and global developments.

The Prime Minister was accorded a ceremonial guard of honour on his arrival in Germany. He arrived in Germany on the first leg of his three-day Europe visit and got a rousing welcome from the Indian diaspora in Berlin.

PM Modi is also scheduled to visit Denmark on Tuesday to hold talks with leaders from Nordic countries. He will also make a stopover in Paris on Wednesday and meet the newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. (ANI)

PM Modi in Germany for 1st in-person talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz

Berlin [Germany]: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day visit to Europe, is set to arrive in Germany on Monday and will hold his first in-person meeting with the newly appointed Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

PM Modi and Olaf Scholz will co-chair the 6th India-Germany Inter-Governmental Consultations (IGC). India has the IGC only with Germany, which is held every two years. The 6th IGC will be followed by a high-level roundtable where PM and Chancellor Scholz will interact with the top CEOs of both countries. PM Modi will also interact and address the Indian diaspora in Germany.
In his departure statement ahead of the three-nation visit, the Prime Minister said his visit to Berlin will be an opportunity to hold detailed bilateral discussions with Chancellor Scholz.

“I see this IGC as an early engagement with the new government in Germany, within six months of its formation, which will be helpful to identify our priorities for the medium and long term,” he said.

India and Germany have had a ‘Strategic Partnership’ since 2001, which has been further strengthened with three rounds of Intergovernmental Consultations (IGC). The last IGC was co-chaired by PM Modi and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel who visited India. The fifth round of IGC was held from October 31-November 1, 2019. The consultations were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting the long-standing commercial ties between India and Germany, the Prime Minister informed that he will also jointly address a business roundtable with the goal of energising industry to industry cooperation, which will help strengthen the post-Covid economic recovery in both the countries.

PM Modi’s three-nation visit will have a substantial and comprehensive agenda during his bilateral and multilateral meetings.

PM Modi is also scheduled to visit Denmark on Tuesday to hold talks with leaders from Nordic countries, along with other high-level interactions, the visit will conclude with a stopover in Paris on Wednesday where the Prime Minister will meet the newly re-elected French President Emmanuel Macron. (ANI)

CIA appoints Indian-origin Nand Mulchandani as first-ever CTO

Washington [US]: Nand Mulchandani, an Indian-origin man with more than 25 years of experience in Silicon Valley as well as the Department of Defense (DoD), has been appointed by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the first-ever Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

The CIA Director William J. Burns made the announcement of Mulchandani’s appointment on April 29. Glad about Mulchandani’s appointment to the top post, said the CIA Director Burns, adding “since my confirmation, I have prioritized focusing on technology and the new CTO position is a very important part of that effort”. I am delighted Nand has joined our team and will bring his extensive experience to this crucial new role, he added.
Mulchandani brings substantial private sector, startup, and government expertise to the Agency, the CIA said in a media statement.

Upon getting aboard as the new CTO of the CIA, Mulchandani said, “I am honoured to join CIA in this role and look forward to working with the Agency’s incredible team of technologists and domain experts who already deliver world-class intelligence and capabilities to help build a comprehensive technology strategy that delivers exciting capabilities working closely with industry and partners.”

In his new role, Mulchandani will ensure the Agency is leveraging cutting-edge innovations and scanning the horizon for tomorrow’s innovations to further the CIA’s mission.

Prior to joining the CIA, Mulchandani most recently served as the CTO and Acting Director of DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). He also co-founded and was CEO of several successful startups such as Oblix (acquired by Oracle), Determina (acquired by VMWare), OpenDNS (acquired by Cisco), and ScaleXtreme (acquired by Citrix).

Mulchandani holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from Cornell University, a Master’s in Science and Management from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, and a Master of Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. (ANI)

 

Erdogan pushes limit with US, NATO; strives to mend ties with S Arabia, UAE

Nicosia [Cyprus]: Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently been pushing the limit with his US and NATO allies in the war in Ukraine, while at the same time, due to the dire economic situation facing Turkey, he is trying to mend relations with oil-rich former adversaries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In the war between Russia and Ukraine, as Turkey maintains good relations with both countries, Erdogan is trying a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, he strongly criticized Moscow’s invasion but refrained from implementing the sanctions imposed by most Western countries, claiming that he opposes sanctions on principle.

As Turkey continues to buy Russian oil and keeps its airspace open to Russian civilian flights – whereas 31 countries on the European continent have closed their airspace to Russian companies- probably with a view to deflecting criticism, Erdogan tried to play the role of mediator between Ukraine and Russia and hosted an unsuccessful meeting in Antalya between the Foreign Ministers of Ukraine and Russia.

Turkey also indicated that it is ready to be a guarantor of a future deal between Ukraine and Russia. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Turkey to be a “guarantor” in any future agreement with Russia, along with the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members which include Russia and Germany.

Russia may accept Turkey as a mediator, but at the same time is angry because Turkey has supplied its drones to the Kyiv government, which helped Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion and reportedly played a decisive role by providing precise targeting information to the Ukrainian Neptune missiles that sank the “Moskva”, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. So, Ankara has good reasons to fear the wrath of Moscow.

Soner Cagaptay, of the Washington Institute, points out: “Turkey fears a Russian defeat only slightly less than it fears a Russian victory…If Putin has a list of countries he will punish for supporting Ukraine after the war, Turkey is close to the top of that list after the Baltic states, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Erdogan’s ultimate goal is to avoid a showdown with Putin, who could use economic leverage or even cyber-attacks to derail the Turkish President’s re-election prospects.”

Ankara’s mediation efforts and its offer to be one of the guarantors of an agreement between Ukraine and Russia have certainly improved its relations with Washington, that in recent years had been steadily deteriorating. The worsening of relations between the two countries was mainly due to the purchase by Turkey of the Russian S-400 missile system, for which last December the US imposed sanctions on the head of Turkey’s military procurement agency Ismail Demir and other top officers.

But the crisis concerning the S-400, although put on the back burner due to the war in Ukraine, maybe far from over, as Ismail Demir said last Tuesday that Turkey was still talking with Russia about purchasing a second batch of S-400 despite the war in Ukraine. Demir also repeated Turkey’s position that it wanted to maintain good relations with Moscow during its invasion of Ukraine.

Although Erdogan has embarked in the past few months on “a charm offensive”, trying to improve relations with European countries, and has scored some success in this respect, he suddenly makes some moves that destroy the whole effort.

For example, Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had announced during their talks on March 13 that they decided to improve the relations between the two countries.

Despite this, on April 24, when Greek Orthodox people celebrated Easter day, Turkish F-16 fighters made 17 violations of Greek airspace. The violations continued on Easter Monday, while last Wednesday Turkish F-16 made 126 violations of Greek airspace.

Another example is the case of Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, who was sentenced last week to life imprisonment, allegedly for trying to overthrow the government by financing the Gezi Park protests in 2013. Two years ago, the European Court of Human Rights decided that Kavala should be released immediately, but the Turkish Court ignored the decision. Now infringement proceedings will be initiated, which could end in Ankara’s suspension from the Council of Europe.

On April 27, Germany summoned the Turkish Ambassador over the sentencing of Kavala and Ankara responded immediately by summoning the German Ambassador and reminding him of the principle of not meddling in internal affairs.

Last October, Erdogan caused a major diplomatic row when he threatened to expel the ambassadors of the US, France, Germany and other seven European countries after they reiterated the need for Turkey to respect the ECHR ruling.

As Turkey is passing through one of its worst economic crises in recent history, Erdogan who is facing a tough election next year is making feverish efforts to boost the faltering economy of his country, trying to improve economic relations with the oil-rich Gulf States, as well with Israel and Egypt.

Having succeeded to mend ties with the United Arab Emirates and securing a promise by Abu Dhabi to set up a USD 10 billion fund to support investments in Turkey, Erdogan on Thursday travelled to Saudi Arabia and had meetings with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

It should be noted that ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia were strained after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Erdogan had accused the “highest levels” of the Saudi government of giving the orders but Ankara has since sharply softened its tone.

Just three days before Erdogan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, a Turkish prosecutor decided to transfer to the Kingdom the case of 26 Saudi suspects tried in absentia, removing in this way a thorn in the relations between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters on his return from Riyadh, Erdogan said, “We agreed with Saudi Arabia to reactivate a great economic potential through organizations that will bring our investors together.” (ANI)

18,000 soldiers will participate in military drills : Poland declares amid Russia -Ukraine war

Warsaw [Poland]: The Defender Europe 2022 (DE22) and Swift Response 2022 (SR22) military exercises will be held on the territory of nine European countries starting May 1 with the participation of 18,000 military personnel, the Polish Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

“Between 1 and 27 May, the exercises Defender Europe 2022 (DE22) and Swift Response 2022 (SR22) with the participation of Polish soldiers will be conducted on the territory of Poland and 8 other countries. There will be approximately 18 000 participants from over 20 countries training together in both exercises,” the ministry said in a statement.
Apart from Polish troops, military personnel from the United States, France, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, and the United Kingdom will participate in the exercises, according to the statement. The 5th Corps of the US Armed Forces is reportedly responsible for the command.

DE22 and SR 22 are regular defensive exercises that are not related to the current geopolitical situation in the region, the ministry stressed.

The troops will train in various combat situations, including long-distance marches, bridging rivers, and fire training, the statement said. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Pakistan gets USD 8 billion package from Saudi Arabia amid sinking economy

Islamabad [Pakistan]- Pakistan, which is grappling with an economic slump, has secured a “sizeable package” of around USD 8 billion from Saudi Arabia during the visit of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, reported local media.

The USD 8 billion package includes a doubling of the oil financing facility, additional money either through deposits or Sukuks, and rolling over of the existing USD 4.2 billion facilities, reported The News International.
“However, technical details are being worked out and will take a couple of weeks to get all documents ready and signed,” the media outlet quoted the top official sources privy to the development as saying.

Notably, Shehbaz Sharif and his official entourage have left Saudi Arabia but Pakistan Finance Minister Miftah Ismail is still staying there to finalize the modalities of the increased financial package.

“Just said goodbye to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other colleagues at Jeddah Airport, who are on their way to Islamabad after a brief stopover in Abu Dhabi to meet Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Zayed. I remain in SA to meet Saudi officials and start technical-level talks,” tweeted Ismail.

According to the official, Pakistan’s proposal of doubling the oil facility from USD 1.2 billion to USD 2.4 billion was accepted by Saudi Arabia, which also agreed that the existing deposits of USD 3 billion would be rolled over for an extended period up to June 2023.

“Pakistan and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia discussed an additional package of over USD 2 billion either through deposits or Sukuk and it is likely that even more money will be provided to Islamabad,” the media outlet quoted the official sources which added that the size of the total package would be determined after additional money was finalized.

Earlier in December 2021, Saudi Arabia had provided USD 3 billion deposits to the State Bank of Pakistan and also provided Pakistan with USD 100 million to procure oil after the Saudi oil facility was operationalized in March 2022.

Under the Imran Khan government, Saudi Arabia provided Pakistan a package of USD 4.2 billion, including USD 3 billion deposits and a USD 1.2 billion oil facility for one year.

Meanwhile, amid a combination of internal and external challenges of unpredictable tenure in Pakistan, the Ministry of Finance on Friday forecasted tough days ahead — including rising inflation, expanding current account deficit, higher fiscal deficit and dampening economic growth prospects.

According to the Finance Ministry, high international commodity prices not only keep inflation elevated, but they are also a burden on Pakistan’s external account and hence on its foreign exchange reserves, Dawn reported.

Moreover, economic activities in Pakistan’s main trading partners continue to remain slightly above the trend as some slowdown has been observed due to geopolitical uncertainty and a surge in commodity prices. If these tensions continue, the country’s growth may be affected as well. (ANI)

 

Biden fumbles on word ‘kleptocracy’ during address to Congress, Twitter flooded

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden fumbled on the word “kleptocracy” during an address to the US Congress on Thursday, when he was seeking an additional $33 billion in aid to Ukraine and following the lapse, Twitter was flooded with reactions to his stuttering.

Tom Cotton, US Senator for Arkansas posted a clip of the speech on his Twitter handle, and captioned it as “Alarming”. In the clip, Biden can be seen fumbling with the word kleptocracy. After, two or three attempts he seemingly gets it correct. The video has garnered about 37,000 likes and over three million views on Twitter.
“We’re going to seize their yachts, their luxury homes, and other ill-begotten gains of Putin’s kleptoc- yeah – kleptocracy and klep- the guys who are the kleptocracies,” said Biden while addressing the US Congress.

Earlier, the US President mistakenly used the word “accommodate” while mentioning the Russian oligarchs. Still fumbling with words, Biden said that the US will “make sure we take their – take their ill-begotten gains.”

Twitterati were divided in their opinions. While some pointed out Biden’s speech defect and mocked at him, a few of them were defensive.

Exec Director of America Matters & former Army Special Forces Weapons, Jim Hanson responded to Tom Cotton, with the caption “America deserves better” in a tweet. Another Twitter user also agreed with the Senator that Biden’s speech was indeed alarming.

However, another Twitterati slammed Cotton by giving a befitting replying to his tweet which reads that a Senator mocking a President is even more alarming.

“A senator mocking someone’s stutter? Yeah, that is pretty alarming. Thanks for showing everyone quite clearly who you are,” the user commented.

“You know he has a speech impediment, right? It’s pretty publicly known. Are you mocking that?” wrote a third Twitter user. (ANI)

 

ED attaches Rs 5551.27 cr of Xiaomi Technology under FEMA

New Delhi [India]: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has seized Rs 5551.27 crore of Xiaomi Technology India Pvt Ltd– a wholly-owned subsidiary of China-based Xiaomi group– under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) in connection with illegal remittances made by the firm in February this year, the agency said on Saturday.

The seized amount of Rs 5551.27 crore is lying in the bank accounts of Xiaomi Technology India Pvt Ltd, which started its operations in India in 2014 and started remitting the money in 2015.
The Company has remitted foreign currency equivalent to Rs 5551.27 crore to three foreign-based entities which include one Xiaomi group entity in the guise of Royalty, said the ED.

“Such huge amounts in the name of Royalties were remitted on the instructions of their Chinese parent group entities. The amount remitted to other two US-based unrelated entities were also for the ultimate benefit of the Xiaomi group entities,” said the ED.

Xiaomi India is a trader and distributor of mobile phones in India under the brand name MI. Xiaomi India procures the completely manufactured mobile sets and other products from the manufacturers in India.

“Xiaomi India has not availed any service from the three foreign-based entities to whom such amounts have been transferred. Under the cover of various unrelated documentary facade created amongst the group entities, the company remitted this amount in the guise of royalty abroad which constitutes a violation of Section 4 of the FEMA,” said the federal agency.

ED further added that Xiaomi India also provided misleading information to the banks while remitting the money abroad. (ANI)

Mass graves with 900 bodies found at different places in Kyiv Oblast: Ukrainian President

Kyiv [Ukraine]: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that the mass grave with 900 bodies had been found in different places in Kyiv Oblast.

Ukraine’s The Kyiv Independent earlier said that the Ukrainian President said a mass grave with 900 people was found in Kyiv Oblast. But after that, the media outlet issued a correction and said that Zelenskyy had been referring to the total number of people found in different mass graves in Kyiv Oblast.
“Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the region by Russian troops,” the media outlet reported.

On Friday, The Kyiv Independent reported that three Russian missiles hit Kyiv Oblast.

The missiles hit undisclosed infrastructure sites near the city of Fastiv in Kyiv Oblast, according to Oleksandr Pavlyuk, head of the Kyiv Oblast Military Administration, said the media outlet.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, during his visit to Ukraine’s Borodyanka, described the ongoing war “an absurdity” and stated that he imagines his family in one of the rooms which has now been destroyed.

“I imagined my family in one of those houses that is now destroyed and black,” he said. “I see my granddaughters running away in panic, part of the family eventually killed. So, the war is an absurdity in the 21st century. The war is evil,” Guterres was quoted as saying by OCHA (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) Ukraine.

The UN Chief arrived in Ukraine on Wednesday after his visit to Moscow. Taking to Twitter, UN Chief said that he will continue their work to expand the humanitarian support to Ukraine and will also secure the evacuation of civilians from conflict zones.

Notably, Russia launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, which the West has termed an unwarranted war. As a result of this, the western countries have also imposed several crippling sanctions on Moscow. (ANI)

“Gharial’ delivers 760 kg of medicines to Sri Lanka amid crisis

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: With the overarching aim of providing critical medical aid to Sri Lanka during the ongoing economic crisis, Indian Naval Ship Gharial, as part of Mission SAGAR IX, arrived at Colombo on Friday and delivered over 760 kilograms of 107 types of critical lifesaving medicines.

The shipment was received by Health Minister of Sri Lanka, Channa Jayasumana, and would be supplied to the University of Peradeniya Hospital.

Taking to Twitter, Indian Embassy in Sri Lanka wrote, “From #India for their brethren in #Srilanka!!! A consignment of drugs and medical supplies was handed over by High Commissioner to Hon’ble Minister #ChannaJayasumana in #Colombo today. INS Gharial was deployed for ensuring expeditious delivery of the consignment to Sri Lanka.”

In line with the Government of India’s vision of SAGAR – Security And Growth for All in the Region – the Indian Navy undertakes several deployments titled ‘Mission SAGAR’ to assist friendly IOR littorals.

Since May 2020, the Indian Navy has successfully concluded eight such missions, deploying ten ships to 18 Friendly Foreign Countries. With a steadfast intent of delivering a high quantum of humanitarian assistance to our neighbours, personnel from ships and shore organisations of the Indian Navy have invested close to a million man-hours to bring succour to our friends, overseas.

Sri Lanka is now facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948. The recession is attributed to foreign exchange shortages caused by a clampdown on tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic. It left the country unable to buy enough fuel, with people facing an acute scarcity of food and basic necessities, fuel, and gas.

In February, New Delhi provided a short-term loan of USD 500 million to Colombo for the purchase of petroleum products through the Ministry of Energy and the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation on behalf of the Government of Sri Lanka.

Three months before that, in November 2021, India gave 100 tonnes of nano nitrogen liquid fertilisers to Sri Lanka as their government stopped the import of chemical fertilisers.

The total fuel delivered to the people of Sri Lanka, over the last 50 days, amounts to nearly 200,000 MT including a consignment of 40,000 MT, by Indian Oil Corporation, outside the line of credit facility, in February 2022. Energy Minister Gamini Lokuge thanked the Government of India for the fuel consignments.

India announced another USD 1 billion as a credit line to Sri Lanka to help shore up the sinking economy of the island nation. New Delhi also provided the stock of 11,000 MT of rice to Colombo. (ANI)

 

US abandoned over USD 7 bn military equipment in Afghanistan

Kabul [Afghanistan]: American troops left behind USD 7.12 billion worth of military hardware in Afghanistan after they pulled out from the war-ravaged country, in August last year, the US Department of Defense said.

The US provided a sum of USD 18.6 billion in military hardware to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) for 16 years. Out of them, equipment worth USD 7.12 billion consisting of air-to-ground munitions, aircraft, military vehicles, weapons, and other military gear remained in Afghanistan, after the US’s withdrawal from the country, the CNN reported citing the DoD.
Putting an end to the tedious evacuation process, the US military had has confirmed that they will not return to the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan either to destroy or to retrieve the equipment.

The hefty amount of equipment left behind in Afghanistan will serve to refocus attention on the chaotic departure of the US from the war-torn country which has been widely condemned by politicians of both parties. As per the report issued by the DoD, almost all of the equipment that remained in Afghanistan required special maintenance.

Rob Lodewick, army major of the US Defence Department assured, that all the equipment left in the Afghan territory belonged to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). He added that the military supplies that the U.S. military used in the war were either destroyed or retrograded before the US departed from the Afghan lands. The amount of USD 7.12 billion was not a part of the figure, reported CNN.

Further, aircraft worth USD 923.3 million which was left behind in Afghanistan were demilitarized and rendered inoperable before the departure of the US. Apart from air-to-ground munitions, valued at USD 6.54 million, and about 40,000 military vehicles, other equipment which were left behind included night vision, surveillance, “biometric and positioning equipment” and explosive ordinance disposal and demining equipment.

Earlier, on August 31, the final few US military planes left Afghanistan after they concluded their chaotic mission of evacuating American citizens, helpless Afghan civilians, and third-country nationals from the unprovoked war and seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban. (ANI)

 

Xi Jinping set to secure historic third-term as China’s President

Beijing [China]: The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Congress is likely to re-elect General Secretary Xi Jinping for a historic third term, setting a new precedent for the country.

President Xi Jinping, who has been occupying the top post since 2012, was unanimously chosen as a delegate to the ruling party’s 20th national congress at the CPC Guangxi regional meeting on April 22.
“The announcement of Xi’s unanimous election won a burst of sustained and warm applause at the regional congress on Friday morning,” Xinhua reported the same evening.

CPC leaders are effectively chosen in China, and Xi’s appointment as a delegate was more like a formality, Policy Research Group (POREG), a think tank said in a report.

“This may not mean that his election as the general secretary is 100 per cent certain, but it is a very firm step,” Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy was quoted as saying.

Earlier, Hu Jintao was also chosen as a representative to the 18th National Congress in 2012 when he handed over the baton to Xi.

In April 2017, Xi was chosen as a delegate to the CPC’s 19th National Conference by a unanimous majority at the 12th CPC Guizhou provincial congress. Thereafter, Xi’s selection of Guangxi as a delegate is important, as Guangxi was one of China’s poorest regions until 2017, the report said.

During the upcoming National Congress, CPC’s Central Committee, the party’s top governing body delegates will go to vote, during the congress, which is held every five years for the party’s elite.

The committee’s 200 or more members will vote on who will be seated on the Politburo and its Standing Committee, the Communist Party’s highest decision-making body.

Xi’s proteges make up the majority of the 25 members of the CCP’s Standing Committee of the CCP Politburo. As a result, a political battle over personnel issues at the party’s core is quite improbable. While there has been speculation of pushback from former Premier Zhu Rongji and his allies, their impact will remain limited, the report said.

Xi administration has made several modifications to the party’s statutes, as well as significant personnel changes. The majority of the newly appointed province leaders are no longer members of the Political Bureau’s Standing Committee, the report added.

However, the majority of the Xi administration’s roster will stay unchanged in 2022, the report said, adding that Xi’s stock of subordinates from his time in the provinces is nearly depleted.

Given the increased difficulty of picking proteges in the future, a new framework for personnel selection, including the nomination of a successor, is required, the report further said, adding, only after that, Xi’s successor and the Chinese Communist Party’s new leadership structure will materialize. (ANI)

 

Switzerland aligns with new EU sanctions on Russia that ban coal, caviar

Bern [Switzerland]: Switzerland adopted on Wednesday a fifth package of EU sanctions against Russia that ban import of caviar, seafood, coal, timber and cement in a bid to punish Russia for a military operation in Ukraine.

“This implements the Federal Council’s decision of 13 April to adopt the EU’s latest package of sanctions. The measures come into force at 6pm on 27 April 2022,” the Swiss government said in a statement.
The new measures ban export of industrial robots, certain chemical products and other goods that can help strengthen Russia’s industrial capacities.

An exemption will be made for export of military-grade equipment that protects from nuclear, biological or chemical hazards, under a request from the UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In the financial sector, Switzerland prohibited support for Russian entities in public ownership and registration of trusts for Russian nationals or residents.

The Council also extended the ban on export of banknotes and sales of securities in Swiss francs and euros to Belarusian nationals and entities to cover all official EU currencies. The same measure is planned for Russia. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Sanath Jayasuriya requests India for medicines amid Sri Lanka’s crisis

Colombo [Sri Lanka]:  Former Sri Lanka cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya met with Indian High Commissioner of Sri Lanka Gopal Baglay and asked for assistance to obtain essential medicines for the island nation.

During his meeting with High Commissioner Baglay, the ace cricketer appreciated India’s support in the form of essential supplies, including medicines.
“High Commissioner met cricket legend @Sanath07 and hailed his many achievements for the sport and #SriLanka. The ace cricketer appreciated India’s support in the form of essential supplies, including medicines,” the Indian mission in Sri Lanka tweeted.

Sanath had made the request during a meeting with the Indian High Commissioner today, Sri Lanka’s Newswire reported citing sources.

Sri Lanka cricketer has requested Indian aid to obtain medical supplies, which has become a major issue due to the current economic crisis in the island nation.

Sanath Jayasuriya also requested essential cancer medicines and other life-saving drugs.

Earlier this month, the former cricketer had lauded “big brother” India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sending help to the island nation as it battles the worst economic crisis since independence.

Sri Lanka is facing one of its worst economic crises resulting in widespread protests against the Rajapaksa family leaders, including President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and PM Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The recession is attributed to foreign exchange shortages caused by a fall in tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as reckless economic policies, which have resulted in the country being unable to buy enough fuel, and people facing an acute scarcity of food and basic necessities, fuel, and gas.

The World Bank this week agreed to provide Sri Lanka with USD 600m in financial assistance to help meet payment requirements for essential imports.

“The World Bank has agreed to provide $600 million in financial assistance to address the current economic crisis,” the Sri Lankan president’s media division had said in a statement on Tuesday. (ANI)

 

Biden to visit S Korea, Japan next month for talks on trade, security

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden will visit South Korea and Japan from May 20 to May 24 for bilateral discussions on trade and security matters, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press release.

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. will visit the Republic of Korea and Japan from May 20-May 24 to further deepen ties between our governments, economies, and people,” Psaki said on Wednesday.
Biden will have bilateral meetings with newly-elected South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, the release said. Biden will discuss with each leader ways to bolster security and economic ties, the release added.

Biden, while in Tokyo, will also meet with the leaders of the Quad group consisting of Australia, Japan, and India, according to the release.

More details about the Biden’s trip will be shared by the White House soon, the release said.

 

Xi asks Chinese officials to enter economic race with US

Washington [US]: Chinese President Xi Jinping has instructed officials to ensure that the country’s economic growth outpaces that of the US this year.

The issue of the China-US competition has been raised in recent weeks in Xi’s meetings with senior officials in the economic and financial bloc, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Tuesday, citing sources familiar with the discussions.
This comes as investors are ditching China due to growing business risks, and rising interest rates elsewhere. China witnessed USD 17.5 billion worth of portfolio outflows last month, an all-time high, CNN reported citing the data from the Institute of International Finance (IIF).

The US-based trade association said that this capital flight by overseas investors “unprecedented.”

Amid the growing economic insecurity, the Chinese leader said that ensuring stability and economic growth is extremely important, as the US is declining both politically and economically.

The relevant Chinese government agencies are discussing plans to accelerate the implementation of large construction projects, as well as to issue coupons for individuals, designed to stimulate consumer spending, WSJ’s sources said.

In the final quarter of 2021, the US economy outpaced China, growing 5.5 per cent year-on-year compared to China’s 4.0 per cent.

US President Joe Biden claimed that the American economy grew faster than the Chinese for the first time in 20 years. According to WSJ, this caused discontent among a number of senior Chinese officials.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slightly downgraded its forecast for economic growth in China to 4.4 per cent this year and to 5.1 per cent in 2023.

According to the IMF forecast, the zero-COVID strategy pursued in China entails an increase in restrictive measures that have a negative effect on China’s private consumption and overall economic growth.(ANI)

 

Three Chinese nationals among 4 killed in Karachi blast

Karachi [Pakistan]: Three Chinese nationals were among the four persons killed in a car explosion inside the premises of the University of Pakistan in Karachi on Tuesday, according to media reports citing sources.

As per Geo TV, the blast took place at 1:52 pm in a van near Confucius Institute — a Chinese language teaching centre at Karachi University.
Following the blast, rescue and security agencies reached the location and cordoned off the areas, initiating rescue operations, the media outlet reported.

As per Geo TV, the deceased Chinese nationals have been identified as the director of the Confucius Institute Huang Guiping, Ding Mupeng, Chen Sai, and their Pakistani driver Khalid.

Two of the injured have been identified as Chinese national Wang Yuqing and a guard named Hamid. Meanwhile, three people are said to be in critical condition, as per sources.

As per police sources, there were seven to eight people in the van; however, the exact number of casualties is yet to be reported.

Last year, nine Chinese nationals were killed in a blast in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa.

Pakistan’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) has claimed to have arrested two men for their alleged involvement in the blasts on a bus carrying Chinese nationals in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhawa in August and in Lahore’s Johar Town in the last week of June 2021.

Beijing has also stepped in to probe this bus attack. The Chinese forces were allowed to investigate this matter despite the fact that the previous Imran Khan government repeatedly stated that it won’t allow foreign security set up on its land. (ANI)

 

US President appreciates Bhavana for inventing Virus Combat Robot-VCR to Fight Covid

US President Joe Biden has written a letter of appreciation to 14 yrs old Bhavana Katta who is a class nine student at Flower Mound Marcus in North Texas, USA. She has created a Robot to fight infections or clean surfaces with UV light and disinfectant amid covid pandemic. She has invented the first version of,  the Virus Combat Robot, or VCR for short. This bot is having a boxy body sitting atop wheels, a white head with a human-like face on top, and two large foam arms falling at its sides with high-tech looking fingertips. The arms were made using old pool noodles and controlled by her key pad. This robot uses the UV lights and disinfectant sprayer to clean and disinfect any surface.  This unique VCR uses two web cameras, one in the head and the other in the body, to help the user navigate it remotely from a tablet computer. It can then roll through areas and spray a sanitizing disinfectant from its fingertips onto objects like furniture, surfaces, and walls – really anywhere you’d need to disinfect. She has designed the mechanical components of the VCR all the way down to the web-based controls she uses to navigate it. Katta also included speakers on the VCR so the user can talk to people who may be in an area that needs to be sanitized, as well as a hand sanitizer dispenser in the bot’s belly so they can de-germ themselves on the way out the door. 

In an exclusive interaction with our editor, Rajesh Vatsa, she explains her journey and achievement. Her family is equally excited.  

  •  Tell us something about your VCR.
Bhavana:  VCR stands for Virus Combat Robot. The robot is controlled by the web and I have the web control user friendly and easy to access. The robot is about 5 ft height, moves on wheels and also has speed control, and has 2 arms. So, the head is 3D printed and it can tilt and pan (2 DOF). And, it does this because the camera is in the head so when the user needs to look down from the camera at the ground, they can. The left arm goes 2 degrees of freedom (DOF) and in the left hand the middle finger is where the disinfectant sprayer comes out and the index and ring finger have UV lights so you can see where the disinfectant solution is going and the light kills bacteria. The right arm just gives a shake hand. In the middle there is screen. This robot is also a telepresence robot meaning that one person stands in front of the robot and the user stays where they are, and they can communicate through Jitsi (two way video and audio mobile conference). At the bottom there is a mobile touchless hand sanitizer dispenser. Finally, at the back there is an emergency stop button if something goes wrong.
  • From where and How the idea to create VCR came into your thoughts.
Bhavana:  The reason why I built this robot is because I saw some of my staff members at school disinfecting desks, chairs, and other furniture. And, the disinfecting solution is dangerous and harmful to the human body. So, my idea is that the staff member controls the robot at a far distance, staying safe.
US President Joe Biden has send this letter of appreciation to Bhavana.
  • What kind of role does Technology could play in our lives in the future?
Bhavana: Technology plays an important role in our lives today and in the future because our daily life is based on what technology does for us and we can’t live without it. Recently, technology is growing faster and it surrounds us everywhere we are. So, we should be aware of technology and how dependent we live off of it.
  • Which are your favorite subjects at the school?
Bhavana: Physics, Math, Electrical, Robotics, and Computer Programming are the subjects I like the most. I always love to read about science. Anything related with Computers always excited me.
  • Who else has helped you to create VCR?
Bhavana: My Dad, my Mom, and my little Brother have helped me to create this. They are equally excited to see that its working fine and now President Sir has appreciated our invention.
  • How do you feel after receiving the recognition from the US President and Vice President?
Bhavana: I feel proud and surprised to get that type of honor. I didn’t expect to get anything from creating VCR, but after receiving the letter I feel very prominent and grateful. This will motivate me to do better and I am working on it to improve it further.
  • VCR kind of innovations could help humanity at large. What else are you thinking of inventing in the future?
Bhavana:  Another idea that I am planning to create in the future is a robot that alerts students at school when a bus has arrived, this is because teachers don’t have to stand outside in the hot or cold while doing bus duty. I am working on this.
Bhavana with her VCR and Family members
  • What kind of support do you get from your teachers and family?
Bhavana:  Everyone supports me in everything I do, they all encourage me and give me recognition for what I create and what I am talented in. My parents are very caring and understanding, they support me in all the decisions I take. My little brother is smart, and I am a thankful elder sister.
  •  In which college would you like to join after school?
Bhavana: I would like to go to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to study electrical engineering and computer science. This is my goal to achieve further. I would like to invent things which our people can use and benefit.
  • Who is your inspiration?
Bhavana: My inspirations are based on what incidents happen around the community and I find ways to solve those problems and make them better. I like to read about great scientists and new inventions, new technology.
Bhavana with her younger Brother
Her father Mr. Srinivas Katta and Mother Mrs Gayatri Katta are so happy for Bhavana. They belong to Amalapuram, East Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh, southern state in India. Gayatri Katta admires her daughter, “She is a God’s gift and I am filled with gratitude for her. Bhavana is an amazing daughter.” For her father, she is very smart and innovative, she is amazing. He says that Bhavana is very helpful in nature and is independent. 
#Bhavana #katta #VCR #Virus #covid #fightingcovid #indianGirlinUS #PrideofAP

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warns of World War III

Moscow [Russia]: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday warned against an imminent World War III looming in the forefront as Ukraine fails to comply with the peace talks.

Lavrov spoke with various Russian news agencies where he criticized Ukraine’s approach to the peace talks, reported The Moscow Times. He said: “Goodwill has its limits. But if it isn’t reciprocal, that doesn’t help the negotiation process.”
On the recent meeting between Russia and Ukraine, held in Istanbul, Turkey, Lavrov mentioned that Kyiv had presented a draft agreement which marked a departure from its previous stand.

Further, Lavrov asserted that Russia will continue to engage in negotiations with the team assigned by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But, he added that Zelenskyy was pretending on peace talks.

Lavrov warned that the danger of World War III is as real as it sounds.

“The danger is serious, it is real, you can’t underestimate it,” the Russian Foreign Minister quoted by The Moscow Times. (ANI)

 

Death toll rises to 110 in Nigeria’s illegal refinery explosion

Abuja [Nigeria]: The death toll from an explosion last Friday at an illegal refinery in south Nigeria’s Imo state has risen to 110, local authorities said on Monday.

Addressing reporters in Owerri, the state capital, Ifeanyi Nnaji, head of the National Emergency Management Agency’s operations office in Imo, said the remains of more victims have been recovered near the scene of the blast in a forest in the Egbema local government area, and that more victims died in hospital.
Arrangements are being made to carry out a mass burial of the deceased, he said.

Nnaji called for enabling environment for genuine business to flourish in the oil-producing communities in Imo and to discourage youths from engaging in illegal activities.

He also urged oil companies in the area to help the government create jobs for their host communities.

In a statement issued on Sunday, President Muhammadu Buhari directed the country’s armed forces, security and intelligence agencies to intensify the clampdown on illegal refineries to safeguard the lives of citizens. (ANI/Xinhua)

 

Biden congratulates France’s Macron on re-election

Washington [US]:  US President Joe Biden on Monday congratulated French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on his re-election and expressed readiness for further cooperation on areas including the Ukraine issue and climate change.

“Congratulations to Emmanuel Macron on his re-election. France is our oldest ally and a key partner in addressing global challenges. I look forward to our continued close cooperation — including on supporting Ukraine, defending democracy, and countering climate change,” Biden tweeted.
Macron won in the second round of the presidential election with 58.55 per cent of the votes, while his rival, far-right presidential candidate, leader of the National Rally party Marine Le Pen got 41.45 per cent.

Congratulatory messages poured in from world leaders for Macron who won the French presidential election with 58.8 per cent of the votes on Sunday.

European Council President Charles Michel said, “We can count on France for five more years.”

Taking to Twitter, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz shared a photo with Macron and said, “I am happy that we will continue our good cooperation.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson called France “one of our closest and most important allies”.

“Congratulations to @EmmanuelMacron on your re-election as President of France. France is one of our closest and most important allies. I look forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter most to our two countries and to the world,” Johnson tweeted.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “looking forward to continuing our work together on the issues that matter most to people in Canada and France — from defending democracy, to fighting climate change, to creating good jobs and economic growth for the middle class”. (ANI)

India suspends tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals

Montreal [Canada]: India has suspended tourist visas issued to Chinese nationals, International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a circular for its members.

IATA issued a circular on Wednesday for its member carriers regarding entry into India and said, “Tourist visas issued to nationals of China (People’s Republic) are no longer valid.”
It further reads that the nationals of Bhutan, India, Maldives and Nepal, passengers with a residence permit issued by India, passengers with visas or e-visa issued by India are allowed to enter India.

According to the circular, passengers with an overseas citizen of India card or booklet like those who have a Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card and those with a diplomatic passport are also allowed to enter India.

The IATA also said that tourist visas with a validity of 10 years are no longer valid.

The IATA is a global airlines body with around 290 members that comprise more than 80 per cent of global air traffic.

India has been raising with China the problems of Indian students studying in China who have not been allowed to return to that country citing COVID-19 restrictions.

After talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar hoped that China will take a non-discriminatory approach to the issue since it involves the future of many young people.

“I also took up strongly the predicament of Indian students studying in China who haven’t been allowed to return citing COVID restrictions. We hope China will take a non-discriminatory approach since it involves the future of many young people,” Jaishankar said.

These students had to leave their studies in China and come to India when the Covid-19 pandemic began at the beginning of 2020. (ANI)

 

Taliban in a fresh order bans co-education in varsities

Kabul [Afghanistan]:  After imposing stringent rules upon the Afghan civilians, the Taliban have now segregated weekdays of male and female university students, at two institutes to put an end to co-education.

In a bid to end co-education, the Taliban Ministry of Higher Education has announced the allocation of specific days in a week for male and female students to attend universities separately. This diktat, for now, will be followed at Kabul University and Kabul Polytechnic University, reported Khama press.
According to the new timetable, three days will be assigned for the female students of the universities where no males will be allowed. Similarly, the other three days will be appointed solely to the male students where no presence of a girl is permitted.

In a video clip, Ahmad Taqi, the spokesperson of the ministry said that this decision was taken following the suggestion of the University of Kabul who emphasized that separated weekdays of male and female students will enable them to have enough time for practical activities and scientific research.

For now, this decree will only be implemented at the University of Kabul and Kabul Polytechnic University, coming into effect in May, reported Khama press.

Earlier, the Taliban had ended co-education in universities, separating morning classes for girls and afternoon classes for boys. The Taliban had also banned secondary education for female students. Although this decision has been withdrawn, they are yet to be reopened. (ANI)

 

Zelenskyy wants Asian countries to ‘change their attitude’ towards Ukraine

Kiev [Ukraine]: As the Russia-Ukraine war rages on, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is hoping Asian countries will “change their attitude” towards Ukraine as Europe has done.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Zelensky said that NATO’s decision not to accept Ukraine as a member was a “gross mistake” and that some of the alliance’s European member states had underestimated the country.
Ukraine’s “strength” against Russia’s military operation “managed to change the attitude of the alliance and the European member states” toward the country, he added.

“I want very much want the Asian countries to change their attitude to Ukraine as well,” Zelensky was quoted as saying by The Hill.

Without naming any country, Zelenskyy singled out nations that are closer to Russia due to their past ties to the Soviet Union.

“Therefore, after the fall of the Soviet Union they historically were close to, the Russian Federation was the successor of the Soviet Union and the biggest country as part of former the Soviet Union, that’s why their relations remain strong with Russia,” he said.

These remarks come as the US and other Western allies are attempting to pressure India to join them in condemning its close defence partner Russia.

India has called for a cessation of violence but refrained from joining any US-led sanctions against Russia.

Meanwhile, China has refused to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine and has accused the US of exacerbating the whole situation by supplying arms to Ukraine. (ANI)

 

Sri Lanka asks for USD 1.5 billion credit from India amid economic crisis

Washington [US]: Sri Lanka has asked for another one billion US dollar credit from India for imports as well as a 500 million US dollar loan for oil imports, Finance Minister Ali Sabry said as the country faces dire economic situation.

“The talks with India are very successful,” Sri Lankan Finance Minister Ali Sabry told reporters in an online briefing speaking from Washington on Friday.
“In talks at the official level with the Honorable Finance Minister of India (Nirmala Sitharaman) it has been agreed to give 500 million US dollar facility for oil. In addition, we have asked for another billion US dollars for imports which they are considering,” he said, according to Economy Next, a Sri Lanka news outlet.

India has already announced another USD 1 billion as a credit to Sri Lanka to help shore up the sinking economy of the island nation. The USD 1 billion line of credit to Colombo will help in keeping their food prices and fuel costs under check.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka is looking for investors that can bring in more than two billion US dollars into the central bank, Xinhua reported citing Finance Minister Ali Sabry.

Addressing the press from Washington on Friday, Sabry said that the next few months will be difficult for Sri Lankans.

“There is a need to attract investments in US dollars into Sri Lanka’s central bank,” he said, adding that the government is talking with several countries to get funds as soon as possible.

“If that effort is successful and money comes to the central bank, it will help stop the depreciation and stabilize the rupee,” he said, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Last week, the Sri Lankan government decided to suspend repayment for all debts for an interim period till it has an orderly and consensual debt restructuring programme supported by the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lanka is now facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence in 1948.

The recession is attributed to foreign exchange shortages caused by a clampdown on tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic. It left the country unable to buy enough fuel, with people facing an acute scarcity of food and basic necessities, heating fuel, and gas. (ANI)

 

US warns Solomon Islands PM over security pact with China

Washington [US]: The United States on Friday raised “significant concerns” about the security pact signed between Solomon Islands and China and warned that should Beijing maintain any military presence there, the US would “respond accordingly”.

China and Solomon Islands have signed a framework agreement on security cooperation that neighbours of the South Pacific archipelago fear could open the door to a Chinese naval base in the country.
On April 22, a high-level US delegation visited Honiara, Solomon Islands and met for 90 minutes with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, along with two dozen members of his cabinet and senior staff. This visit to Solomon Islands was the final leg of the delegation’s trip across the Pacific.

In the meeting with Solomon Islands’ Prime Minister Sogavare, the US delegation reiterated the key priorities animating the trip and also outlined steps Washington would take to advance the welfare of the people of Solomon Islands.

“The United States respects the right of nations to make sovereign decisions in the best interests of their people. The two sides engaged in substantial discussion around the recently signed security agreement between Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Solomon Islands representatives indicated that the agreement had solely domestic applications, but the U.S. delegation noted there are potential regional security implications of the accord, including for the United States and its allies and partners,” the White House statement read.

Outlining areas of concern with respect to the purpose, scope, and transparency of the agreement, the US delegation said, “If steps are taken to establish a de facto permanent military presence, power-projection capabilities, or a military installation, the delegation noted that the US would then have significant concerns and respond accordingly.”

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin had said the security deal would involve cooperating with Honiara on maintaining social order, protecting people’s safety, aid, combating natural disasters and helping safeguard national security.

Speaking at a press briefing, Wenbin defended the signing of security cooperation with the Solomon Islands and said the agreement “does not target any third party.” (ANI)

 

Afghanistan mosque bombing leaves 33 dead, 43 injured

Kunduz [Afghanistan]: A blast occurred in the mosque of Afghanistan’s Imam Sahib district of Kunduz, killing at least 33 people including children and 43 wounded, Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban said.

“At least 33 people including children were killed and 43 were wounded in the mosque attack in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz, Islamic Emirate spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Twitter. Condemning the attack, he said efforts are ongoing to bring the perpetrators to justice,” TOLOnews reported.
A blast took place on Friday at the Mawlawi Sekandar Mosque in the Imam Sahib district of northern Kunduz province in Afghanistan.

Hafiz Omar, police chief of Imam Sahib district of Kunduz, said that this afternoon a blast took place at the Mawlawi Sikandar Mosque in the district, TOLOnews reported.

Earlier, security sources and eyewitnesses said that over 30 people were killed and injured in the incident, TOLOnews reported.

The victims were taken to the district hospital.

Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, blasts and attacks have become a regular affair.

 

US not in talks with Russia about lifting sanctions: White House

Washington [US]- (ANI/Sputnik): The United States is currently not in discussions with Russia about the prospect of lifting Western sanctions imposed on Moscow, US Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh said on Thursday.

“We have channels of communication that are still open, but we’re not at the point at which we’re talking about sanctions relief,” Singh said during a virtual panel discussion with the Bretton Woods Committee.
Singh said Western sanctions will have profound impact on Russia’s supply chains and its productive capacity over time, including its military industrial complex.

The advisor also said that creating leverage through sanctions matters when it comes to negotiations for a diplomatic solution in Ukraine.

Any sanctions relief talks with Russia will be led by Ukraine, not the United States, and must include certain security guarantees, Singh said.

The United States and its allies and partners have imposed a wide range of sanctions against Russian persons and entities, including banks, military industrial complex institutions, shipbuilding industry, commercial airlines, among other sectors, but have largely excluded the energy sector. This Western sanctions are in response to Russia undertaking a special military operation in Ukraine. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Israel carries out airstrikes on military facilities in Gaza strip

Gaza [Palestine]: The Israeli Air Force has struck several military facilities of the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, a Sputnik correspondent reported from the site.

“The Israeli Air Force has carried out airstrikes on facilities of the Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip this night,” the correspondent said.
A spokesperson for the Hamas Islamist movement, which is controlling the Gaza Strip, told Sputnik that these airstrikes would boost the Palestinian people’s determination to continue the struggle against the Israeli occupation.

The security situation in Israel has deteriorated in recent weeks. Since mid-March, 14 residents of the country have become victims of attacks and terrorist acts. In recent days, serious riots have taken place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Russia warned Sweden, Finland about consequences of joining NATO

Moscow [Russia](ANI/Sputnik): Russia has warned Sweden and Finland about consequences of joining NATO via bilateral diplomatic channels, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

“We have issued all our warnings both publicly and through bilateral channels. They [Sweden and Finland] know about it, they will have nothing to be surprised about, they were informed about everything, what will it lead to,” Zakharova told the Rossiya 24 broadcaster. (ANI/Sputnik)

Ukraine receives fighter planes, spare parts to increase fleet size: Pentagon

Washington [US]:  Ukraine has received additional aircraft and spare parts to increase its fleet size amid the conflict with Russia, US Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby said on Tuesday (local time).

“They have received additional platforms and parts to be able to increase their aircraft fleet size,” Kirby said during a press briefing, adding that “platform is an airplane in this case. They have received additional aircraft and aircraft parts to help them get more aircraft in the air.”
Kirby also said that the United States has not delivered any whole aircraft to Ukraine.

According to White House spokesperson Jen Psaki, US has said that it will continue to provide them more ammunition and military assistance.

“We will continue to provide them more ammunition as we will provide them more military assistance,” Psaki said in a statement.

She added: “There’s obviously more money we can provide from the approved drawdown package, and the specifics of that are being worked through with the Department of Defense and our national security team.”

Russia urged the United States to abandon its “futile policy” of blockade and sanctions in foreign policy, the Russian Embassy in Washington said on Tuesday (local time).

The diplomatic mission’s comment was timed to the announcement of a new round of high-level dialogue between the United States and Cuba on migration on April 21. The Russian Embassy welcomed the step.

“Dialogue is always better than its absence. It is high time for the #US to abandon the futile policy of blockade and sanctions in foreign affairs,” the embassy tweeted.

Earlier, there were reports that the US is looking at designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“We’re taking a close look at the facts. We’re taking a close look at the law,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said during an interview with CNN on Monday.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged US President Joe Biden to impose the designation on Russia that would impose some of the most significant sanctions at the Biden administration’s disposal, Sputnik News Agency said citing media reports.

Notably, US President Joe Biden has no plans to visit Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, as per White House.

The US earlier had announced to provide Ukraine with an additional 800 million US dollars’ worth of military aid including heavy artillery as Washington anticipated a “wider assault” by Russia in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden will hold a video call with US allies and partners on Tuesday to discuss providing support for Ukraine and restrictions on Russia, as per White House. (ANI)

 

Sri Lanka: 1 dead, 20 injured in clash between protesters, police

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: One person died and over 20 people were injured from the gunshot after the protesters and police clashed in Rambukkana town of Sri Lanka on Tuesday afternoon.

The protesters were agitating in Rambukkana against the decision of increasing the fuel prices again, Daily Mirror reported.
According to the publication, in the videos, the protestors were seen carrying the wounded people and rushing them to the hospital.

A protestor, in a video, also blamed the police for this incident. They have surrounded the Rambukkana Police Station and are hurling stones at the building, as reported by Daily mirror.

Earlier, Sri Lankan police had shot tear gas at the protesters to disperse them after the 15-hour protest against the fuel price hike, the report added.

On Monday, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPP) decided to increase fuel prices. A litre of petrol 92 octane has been increased by Rs 84 while a litre of petrol 95 octane by Rs 90, a litre of Auto Diesel by Rs 113 and a litre of super diesel has been increased by Rs 75. (ANI)

Russian forces start battle for Donbas but we will fight till end : Zelenskyy

Kyiv [Ukraine]:  Russian forces have started the battle for Donbas, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said in a video address, adding that Kyiv will defend itself.

“Russian forces have started the battle for Donbas for which they’ve been preparing for a long time and a considerable amount of the Russian forces are concentrated and focused on that offensive,” Zelensky said, according to CNN.
“No matter how many Russian servicemen they’re bringing into that area, we will keep on fighting and defending and we will be doing this daily. We will not give up anything that is Ukrainian but we don’t need anything that is not ours,” Zelenskyy added.

According to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Russian forces had launched an effort to break through Ukrainian front lines in three regions.

Today, almost along the entire front line of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kharkiv regions, the occupiers tried to break through our defenses,” he said in remarks on television, CNN reported.

“Fortunately, our military is holding on, and only in two cities they (the Russians) have passed: Kreminna and another small town. But the fighting continues, we are not surrendering our territories and the attempt to start an active phase has begun this morning,” he said.

Meanwhile, the US has sent four planes loaded with security assistance to Ukraine over the weekend and made one more delivery on Monday.

“There were four planes that arrived of military assistance over the course of the weekend, another one is supposed to arrive today if it hasn’t already from the USD 800 million package the President announced,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said during a press briefing today.

Moreover, the US Department of Defense said that America wants to see Ukraine as a winner in a fight against Russia, and Pentagon is doing everything possible to do that.

“We want Ukraine to win this fight (with Russia) and we are doing everything we can here, at the Department of Defense, to make sure they have the capabilities to do that,” US Department of Defense press secretary John Kirby told CNN, as per Sputnik.

On February 24, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine after the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk requested help to defend them from intensifying attacks by Ukrainian troops. (ANI)

 

 

Sri Lanka: Protesters seek resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa amid crisis

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Amidst the ongoing economic crisis in Sri Lanka, a string of protests marked the island nation as the citizens demanded the immediate resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for his inability to curb the crisis.

Sri Lankan citizens staged a protest outside the President’s house which was aggravated further when Gotabaya Rajapaksa declared all the protesters as extremists, arresting many of them, reported NUS, a flagship university.
Students, farmers, and judiciary members all joined the protest against Rajapaksa and his family and voiced the slogan of “No more Rajapaksas”. Upon the spread of the protest on social media, the regime took down the internet, infuriating the protesters even more for suppressing their democratic rights, resulting in the use of virtual private networks to access the same.

Fearing the people’s uprising, some of the family members of Rajapaksa and their financiers have even fled the country. Citizens demand Rajapaksa to step down as the President, calling for an election process to be conducted, not complying to which will lead to complete anarchy.

The flagship university NUS reported the resignation of Cabinet Ministers. But the demand from the protestors for a new leadership made the newly elected Finance Minister Ali Sabry to resign as well.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka has befallen into a dire economic crisis due to debt troubles, liquidity problems, and minimum foreign reserves leading to long power outages, and scarcity of fuel impacting manufacturing industries and the middle class. (ANI)

 

Russia-Ukraine War : Five ‘powerful’ missiles strike Lviv city

Lviv [Ukraine]:  The western city of Lviv in Ukraine was hit by five powerful missile strikes this morning, killing six civilians as heavy smoke billowed through the air, reported Russian media outlet The Kyiv Independent.

According to Lviv Mayor, Andriy Sadovy, the Russian military fired five missiles at Lviv on the morning of April 18. The damages are still being clarified, said the news outlet in a statement. The count of the injured remains at eight whereas the death toll continues to rise.
The residents of the Lviv region are asked to remain in shelters as air raid warning is still in place, reported the local media.

The city of Lviv received the largest number of refugees in Ukraine when Russia first invaded the country. Many people from Kharkiv, Kyiv, Kherson and other places came to the city with their families to save their lives.

Explosions were reported for the first time on March 13 in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv after the Russian forces struck the city without any extensive details.

On February 24, Russia began a special military operation in Ukraine after the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics requested help in defending themselves.

Russia has been facing immense pressure from the international community to stop its military operations in Ukraine which has created an immense humanitarian crisis with thousands of refugees from Ukraine fleeing to the neighbouring countries to the West. (ANI)

 

1.7 billion people could face poverty, hunger resulting from Ukraine-Russia War

New York [US]: The Ukraine crisis could plunge more than one fifth of humanity, or up to 1.7 billion people, into poverty and hunger, according to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“We all see the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. But beyond its borders, the war has launched a silent assault on the developing world. The crisis could plunge up to 1.7 billion people, more than a fifth of humanity, into poverty and hunger on a scale not seen in decades,” Guterres said in an interview with the Czech Seznam Zpravy publication, published on Sunday.
Ukraine and Russia account for 30 per cent of world production of wheat and barley, a fifth of all corn and more than half of all sunflower oil, Guterres said, specifying that Russia and Ukraine account for over a third of the wheat imported to the 45 least developed countries.

The UN Secretary-General said that the Ukraine crisis is blocking grain exports and disrupting supply chains, causing prices to skyrocket. Since the start of 2022, wheat and corn prices have gone up by 30 per cent, Brent crude oil prices have risen by more than 60 per cent, while gas and fertilizer prices have more than doubled.

Guterres called for global reforms that would change the world’s financial system “that makes the rich richer, and the poor poorer.”

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday that the Ukraine conflict will downgrade forecasts for 143 economies this year, which collectively make up 86 per cent of the world’s GDP.

The chiefs of the IMF, the World Bank, the World Food Program (WFP), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a joint statement on Wednesday calling for urgent, coordinated action to address food security amid the fallout of the Ukraine crisis, which is adding to the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Pennsylvania shooting: Two teenagers dead, 9 wounded

Pennsylvania [US]: Two teenagers died and nine other people were injured as a result of a shooting incident in Pittsburgh in the US state of Pennsylvania, the police said on Sunday.

According to the results of the initial investigation, the incident took place at an Airbnb property, which was rented out to hold a party with as many as 200 people attending, many of them minors. Up to 50 shots were fired inside the premises and several more gunshots were made outside.
“Two male victims, both juveniles, were pronounced deceased in the hospital. There are at least 11 gunshot victims at the time of writing, including the deceased,” the police said in a statement.

When police units arrived at the scene, they heard additional gunshots in the vicinity and saw people leaving the area on foot and by vehicle.

The police are investigating other details of the shooting. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Sri Lanka: Opposition party SJB will join protests at Galle Face

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Sri Lanka’s Opposition party, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) five MPs (Members of Parliament) will join the hundreds of protesters at Galle Face, the ongoing protests which erupted in the city of Colombo a few days back, if the need arises.

The five MPs name Harin Fernando, Manusha Nanayakkara, Mujibur Rahman, Kavinda Jayawardena and Hector Appuharmy, Daily Mirror reported.
“We are willing to forget party politics and join the protesters if the need arises,” MP Fernando said.

“We will back the protesters, especially if the government tries to suppress their rights,” he added.

The MPs appealed to the protesters to not get discouraged by the acts of the government.

The Sri Lankans are protesting against the government’s handling of the economic situation. At the time when the nationals were celebrating their new year, a massive protest erupted in the Galle Face Green area. Protesters have been accusing Rajapaksa’s government of corruption and misrule.

Meanwhile, SJB will hold a meeting today to decide their next move regarding the no-confidence motion against the ruling government and impeachment motion against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The SJB party said that it is planning to hand over the impeachment motion and the no-confidence motion to the Speaker when the parliament convenes on April 19 after the New Year holidays, Colombo Page reported.

The Leader of the Opposition, and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa, on Wednesday, signed the impeachment motion against the President and the no-confidence motion against the government.

Sri Lanka is battling a severe economic crisis with food and fuel scarcity affecting a large number of the people in the island nation. The economy has been in a free-fall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sri Lanka is also facing a foreign exchange shortage, which has, incidentally, affected its capacity to import food and fuel, leading to the power cuts in the country. The shortage of essential goods forced Sri Lanka to seek assistance from friendly countries. (ANI)

 

40 civilians including children killed in Pak airstrikes in Afghanistan

Kabul [Afghanistan]: Over 40 Afghan civilians, including children, were killed after Pakistani aircraft launched airstrikes in different parts of Khost and Kunar provinces on Friday night, according to Habib Khan, a journalist and the founder of Afghan peace watch, Afghanistan’s independent peace watchdog.

Condemning the incident on Twitter, Khan said, “For the first time ever, Pakistani military aircrafts bombarded Afghan soil under the Taliban, killing more than 40 civilians. Though, Pakistan has been killing Afghans through her proxy forces, the Taliban and Mujahideen, for decades.”
Khan also shared a picture of the corpses of the people killed in the incident and called the International criminal court and Amnesty International to take note of Pakistani war crimes in Afghanistan.

The local officials on Saturday of the Khost and Kunar provinces confirmed that the Pakistani aircraft launched the airstrikes on different parts of the provinces.

Following the incident, the Taliban summoned Pakistan’s ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan to convey concerns to the Pakistan government over the incident.

According to the country’s foreign ministry, the Afghan acting minister of foreign affairs, Amir Khan Muttaqi and the acting deputy defence minister Alhaj Mullah Shirin Akhund were present in the meeting and condemned the attacks by Pakistani forces.

“Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, today. Along with the IEA Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, the session also included Deputy Defense Minister Alhaj Mullah Shirin Akhund where the Afghan side condemned the recent,” it tweeted.

Meanwhile, according to analysts, the attacks indicate Pakistan’s direct interference and violation of Afghan national sovereignty, reported ToloNews.

“The airstrikes and ground operations conducted by the Pakistan forces alongside the (Durand Line) in Khost and Kunar are an obvious violation and interference in Afghan airspace and territory,” the media outlet quoted Sadeq Shinwari, a political analyst, as saying. (ANI)

 

Chinese astronauts return after spending record 6 months in Space

Beijing [China]: Three Chinese astronauts returned to Earth safely on Saturday after spending six months aboard China’s new space station, doubling the previous stay of the country’s longest single flight in space.

The Shenzhou-13 crew have safely returned to Earth after their epic six-month orbital trip, which nearly doubled the previous record of China’s longest single-flight space mission of 92 days set by the Shenzhou-12, some eight hours after the manned spacecraft’s detachment from the Tianhe core module, Global Times reported.
It further said that the Shenzhou-13 return capsule conducted successful touchdown at 9:56 am Saturday in the Dongfeng landing site in Gobi Desert, North China’s Inner Mongolia region.

The medical team confirmed that the crew of three taikonauts are in good health, marking the full success of the Shenzhou-13 manned spaceflight mission, as per the Chinese media citing China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) yesterday.

The ground controlling team ordered the return by 9:06 am, and the return capsule separated with the Shenzhou-13 with success. After that, at 9:30 am, the return capsule detached from the propelling part, according to the CMSA.

Last year in 2021, three Chinese astronauts had completed their three-month Shenzhou-12 mission and returned to Earth safely.

A spacecraft carrying Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, touched down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The three taikonauts came out of the return capsule one hour and 40 minutes after the touchdown, Global Times had reported citing the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center.

Meanwhile, the Shenzhou spacecraft developer, China Academy of Spacecraft Technology (CAST) disclosed in a statement that the Shenzhou-13 mission also explored emergency mission mechanisms for the first time, with the Shenzhou-14 manned spacecraft and Long March-2F Y14 rocket in standby position right after the launch of the Shenzhou-13 and Long March-2F Y13, Global Times reported on Saturday.

Compared to the return trip of the Shenzhou-12 mission which took approximately 28 hours, the Shenzhou-13 carried out a rapid return manoeuvre which took just eight hours, Global Times reported.

The CAST explained that the Shenzhou-13 orbit plan was streamlined to five orbits compared to the 18 of the Shenzhou-12 mission, and it was designed to further enhance return efficiency, shorten the ground monitoring and make it more comfortable for the returning astronauts, it added. (ANI)

 

UK PM Boris Johnson to visit India next week, hold talks with PM Modi

London [UK]-  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit India next week and will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi to bolster close partnership and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

“The visit will begin from Ahmedabad on Thursday (21st April) to meet with leading businesses and discuss the UK and India’s thriving commercial, trade and people links. This will be the first time a UK Prime Minister will visit Gujarat, India’s fifth-largest state and the ancestral home of around half of the British-Indian population in the UK,” Downing Street said in a statement.
In Gujarat, Johnson is expected to announce new science, health and technology projects, as well as major investments in key industries in the United Kingdom and India.

“The Prime Minister will then travel to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (22nd April). The leaders will hold in-depth talks on the UK and India’s strategic defense, diplomatic and economic partnership, aimed at bolstering our close partnership and stepping up security co-operation in the Indo-Pacific,” the release added.

According to the British government, Johnson will use the upcoming visit to India to drive progress in the negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement, which is expected to boost bilateral trade by up to 28 billion pounds (USD 36.5 billion) annually by 2035.

“My visit to India will deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations – from job creation and economic growth, to energy security and defence,” Johnson said as quoted in the Sunday government statement.

Notably, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month and agreed to build a strong relationship between the two countries on trade, security and business in the coming days.

“Today @narendramodi and I spoke about the grave situation in Ukraine and agreed its sovereignty must be respected. The UK-India relationship continues to go from strength to strength, and we’ll build on our trade, security and business ties in the coming weeks and months,” Johnson had tweeted post the conversation.

During the conversation, PM Modi and Johnson had discussed issues of bilateral interests and agreed on the potential of further deepening cooperation in various areas including trade, technology, investments, defence and security besides people-to-people relations.

Last year, the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Modi agreed on a UK-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, announcing more than £530m in investment into the UK and committing to a deeper bilateral relationship across trade, health, climate, defence and security, and connecting our people.

India was identified as a priority relationship for the UK in the 2021 Integrated Review and was invited by the UK as a guest to last year’s G7 in Carbis Bay.

The UK is leveraging post-Brexit trade opportunities with India’s growing economy to drive down prices in key commodities for consumers, open opportunities for UK businesses in areas like green tech and services, and create high-wage, high-skill jobs.

Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK, which is expected to be boosted by upcoming announcements and a future free trade deal. (ANI)

Russia says it will increase missile strikes on Kyiv

Moscow [Russia]: Russia will increase missile strikes on sites in Kiev in response to any terror attacks or sabotage acts on its soil, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday, Russian media reported.

Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman, said in a statement that the Russian forces will strike decision-making centres if the Ukrainian army keeps attempting to carry out sabotage acts. “Russia will increase the number and scope of missile strikes on sites in Kyiv in response to any terror attacks or sabotage acts on its soil”, Major-General Igor Konashenkov said on Friday, TASS reported.
The Russian spokesman also said, “Overnight, Kalibr sea-launched long-range precision missiles delivered a strike against a military facility on the outskirts of Kyiv. As a result of the strike on the Zhulyany-based Vizar machine-building factory, the workshops of the production and repair of long-and medium-range surface-to-air missile systems and also anti-ship missiles were destroyed”

Taking to Twitter, a Ukraine local media outlet, The Kyiv Independent wrote earlier, “Mariupol authorities estimate that Russian shelling and airstrikes have already killed nearly 5,000 residents, including 210 children. The southeastern port city has been under siege since March 1.” After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, western nations have imposed tough sanctions on the country.

On February 24, Russia launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine, which the West has termed an unprovoked war. As a result of this, the Western countries have imposed several crippling sanctions on Moscow. (ANI)

 

Biden greets Jain community on occasion of Mahavir Jayanti

Washington [US]: US President Joe Biden on Friday extended wishes to the Jain community across the world on the occasion of Mahavir Jayanti and encouraged people to follow Lord Mahavir’s path of non-violence, truthfulness, and compassion.

Taking to Twitter, Biden sends his regards writing “Jill and I send warm greetings on Mahavir Jayanti to people of the Jain faith. This is a day to strive for peace, happiness, and the success of all. May we each pursue the values Mahavir Swami embodied: to seek truth, turn from violence, and live in harmony with each other.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also greeted people on the birth anniversary of Mahavir, the 24th Tirthankara of Jainism.

“Mahavir Jayanti greetings to you all. We recall the noble teachings of Bhagwan Mahavir, especially the emphasis on peace, compassion and brotherhood,” PM Modi tweeted.

Mahavir Jayanti is an important religious festival in Jainism that celebrates the birth of Lord Mahavir. The festival is marked with prayers and fasting.

The occasion marks the birth of the 24th and last Tirthankara, Lord Mahavir. This year, Mahavir Jayanti falls on April 14. (ANI)

Egypt approves India as wheat supplier, announces Piyush Goyal

New Delhi [India]: Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal announced that Egypt has approved India as a wheat supplier.

Taking to Twitter, Union Minister said, “Indian farmers are feeding the world. Egypt approves India as a wheat supplier. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government steps in as the world look for reliable alternate sources for a steady food supply. Our farmers have ensured our granaries overflow and we are ready to serve the world.”

The Egyptian delegation of the General Authority for Supply Commodities, Agriculture and Supply Ministry which is on an India visit, examined Indian grains which involved touring fields and grain warehouses as well as export warehouses in different Indian provinces including Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

Earlier in the day, the President of the Egyptian Council of Ministers posted a statement on their official Facebook account where it stated that their delegation discussed cooperation with the Indian Ministry of Agriculture, including the Egyptian agriculture exports to India.

Wael Mohamed Awad Hamed, Egyptian Ambassador to India was also present during their visit, according to the President of the Egyptian Council of Ministers’ Facebook post.

Egypt among the world’s biggest wheat importers was earlier dependent on Ukraine and Russia for wheat but now the government has been seeking alternative supplies from countries including India and France.

Though India is not among the top ten wheat exporters in the global trade, its rate of growth in exports has surpassed that of other countries, indicating the rapid strides it is taking in reaching new markets worldwide.

India’s wheat exports are mainly to neighbouring countries with Bangladesh having the largest share of more than 54 per cent in both volume and value terms in 2020-21. In 2020-21, India entered new wheat markets such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Qatar and Indonesia.

According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India accounts for even less than one per cent of world wheat export. However, its share has increased from 0.14 per cent in 2016 to 0.54 per cent in 2020. India is the second-largest producer of wheat with a share of around 14.14 per cent of the world’s total production in 2020.

India produces around 107.59 Million MT of wheat annually while a major chunk of it goes towards domestic consumption. Major wheat growing states in India are Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and Gujarat.

The unit price of wheat plays an important role in international trade. While the unit export price of wheat has increased for all countries in the last five years, India’s unit export price is slightly higher than that of other countries. This is one of the factors adversely impacting wheat exports from India. (ANI)

 

Russian warship ‘Moskva’ sinks in Black Sea

Moscow [Russia]: Russian Defence Ministry on Thursday said that its warship Moskva has sunk in the Black Sea while being towed amid a storm as the warship was badly damaged by heavy fire and the following detonation of ammunition.

“During the towing of the Moskva cruiser to the designation port, the ship lost stability due to hull damage, sustained during the detonation of ammunition because of a fire. Amid the heavy storm, the ship sank,” the Ministry said, reported TASS.
Russia’s Moskva missile cruiser, the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet has been hit by heavy fire and the following detonation of ammunition, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

“As a result of the fire that hit the Moskva missile cruiser, the ammunition has detonated. The ship has been seriously damaged,” the ministry said in a statement, Sputnik reported.

The statement added that all the crew members had been safely evacuated, causes of the fire are being investigated.

The ship, whose initial name was “Slava,” was laid down in 1976 in Mykolaiv and commissioned in 1983, the news agency reported. (ANI)

 

Taliban smuggling weapons to Pakistan to be used against India

Kabul [Afghanistan]: Contrary to its claim that the Taliban will not allow Afghanistan or the weapons to be used for terrorism, the group has been reportedly accused of smuggling weapons to Pakistan, which eventually may be used in cross-border skirmishes against India.

“Taliban has been insisting that there are proper security checks to prevent any weapons smuggling because they are an improved Taliban. But the weapons market is thriving and the weapons that are being smuggled into Pakistan will eventually be used in cross-border skirmishes against India and make their way into India,” according to a Canada-based think tank, International Forum for Rights and Security (IFFRAS) said.
But before that Pakistan will have to pay a huge price if it does not control illicit arms trafficking. Ultimately it is going to suffer first when the separatist and terrorist organisations operating from its land get a hand on these weapons on a large scale, it warned.

In August 2021, the US left much of the military equipment and weapons at the disposal of the Afghan forces which eventually fell into the hands of the Taliban.

After capturing Kabul, Taliban not only took political control of Afghanistan but had also gained control of all the US-made weapons and military equipment that were left behind by the fleeing Afghan forces.

The US-made arms and military accessories are openly traded in shops by Afghan gun dealers. The traffickers are collecting the weapons from the abandoned Afghan army bases, and procuring them from the Afghan government soldiers and Taliban fighters. These weapons are then mostly sold in weapons markets or arms bazaar in tribal areas of the Afghan-Pakistan border, it added.

The arms smugglers in Pakistan’s borders are having a field day. The weapons from Afghanistan are smuggled into Pakistan in trucks carrying fruits and vegetables. The main points of entry through which the arms are smuggled are Torkham border crossing Torkham (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Chaman (Baluchistan), Ghulam Khan (North Waziristan) and Nawa Pass (Bajaur), it said.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan is the prime source of opium supply to the world drug markets and Pakistan is the transport hub with drug networks operating from the country using its drug routes to reach international markets, according to an article in Islam Khabar.

The article said the geographical location of Pakistan makes it one of the prominent drug transit points along the Southern route. It said Pakistan is also depending on the narcotic trade for sponsoring terror in India.

Pakistan shares 2400 kilometres of border with Afghanistan, which is largely porous. And this has served a transit corridor for drug traffickers. Forty per cent of Afghan drugs transit Pakistan before they reach the international markets.

Tonnes of opiates and meth are trafficked from Afghanistan to the Torkham border crossing, Ghulam Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, from where they are sent to Lahore and Faisalabad, reassembled into huge consignments, the article said.

Then they are transported to Karachi and Gwadar, and fishing vessels in Makran coast are used for drugs transport to the South Asian markets. Balochistan has also been an important drug transit route in Pakistan.

Islam Khabar said around 60 alternative drug routes are working through the Balochistan province alone, with major areas being Chaman, Noshki, Chagaghi, Dalbandeen, Panjgor, Turbat, Gawadar and Jeewani. (ANI)

On eve of Sri Lankan New Year, PM Rajapaksa offers to hold talks with protesters

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said on Wednesday that as the country’s prime minister, he is ready to speak with the protesters who have been protesting against the government at Galle Face in Colombo for five days over the economic and political crisis.

“Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has stated that he is ready for a discussion. Rajapaksa is likely to take the views of the protesters to deal with the current economic challenge faced by the country. If the protesters are ready for this discussion, they will inform the government about the group of the representatives who will speak on behalf of the protestors,” Sri Lanka Prime Minister’s office said.

Sri Lankans are set to celebrate Happy New Year on April 14. PM Rajapaksa has reached out to the protesters on the eve of the new year.

The island nation is facing its worst economic crisis since independence with food and fuel shortages, soaring prices and power cuts affecting a large number of the people in the island nation, resulting in massive protests over the government’s handling of the situation.

Sri Lanka’s economy has been in a free-fall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the crash of the tourism sector.

Sri Lanka is also facing a foreign exchange shortage, which has affected its capacity to import food and fuel. The shortage of essential goods forced Sri Lanka to seek assistance from friendly countries.

The economic situation has led to huge protests with demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Earlier, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in a special address to the nation on Monday requested people to remain patient and stop taking to the streets in order to enable the government to resolve the situation. (ANI)

US, Japan conducting exercises with nuclear aircraft carrier in Sea of Japan

Tokyo [Japan]: The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln is conducting joint exercises with the Japan self-defense forces in the Sea of Japan with a view to contain North Korea, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported on Wednesday.

According to the news agency, the US aircraft carrier proceeded along the Tsushima Strait to the east the day before yesterday. The US destroyer Spruance and the Japanese destroyer Inazuma were also seen in the region, Kyodo reported.
The decision to conduct the exercises was made amid fears of new missile launches by North Korea in anticipation of the 110th birth anniversary of the country’s late founding leader Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong Un, on Friday.

A US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has been observed in the Sea of Japan for the first time since 2017, when Pyongyang conducted atomic tests and launched an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In March, Washington also conducted training exercises involving the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier west of the Korean Peninsula in the Yellow Sea. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

French President intends to hold talks with Zelenskyy and Putin

Paris [France]: French President Emmanuel Macron intends to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and possibly with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days.

“I will again hold phone conversations with President Zelenskyy and, if necessary, with President Putin over the coming days,” Macron said on air of the France 2 broadcaster.
Another round of Russian-Ukrainian negotiations was held in Istanbul on March 29. Following the talks, Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said that the talks were constructive, with Moscow following up with an announcement that it will scale down its military activities in the Kiev and Chernihiv regions. Medinsky also said that Kiev demonstrated its will to adopt neutral status under a system of security guarantees from Germany, Canada, Poland, Israel and Turkey, as well as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, including Russia.

On February 24, Russia launched a military operation in Ukraine after the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk appealed for help in defending themselves against Ukrainian forces. In response, the US and the EU rolled out a comprehensive sanctions campaign against Moscow, which includes airspace closures and restrictive measures targeting numerous Russian officials and entities, media and financial institutions. (ANI/Sputnik)

 

Almost 60 per cent of Pakistanis happy with Imran Khan’s exit

Karachi [Pakistan]:  A survey in Pakistan found that 57 per cent of respondents were happy over the exit of Imran Khan as Prime Minister of the country.

The new Gallup Survey was conducted through telephonic and random digital dialing, from 1,000 households from April 10-11, reported The News International.
A polarising trend of opinion has emerged as a result of the survey with 57 per cent of respondents expressing happiness over the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government’s departure.

Of these, 71 per cent were happy with the change of government. They said that Imran Khan’s government caused record inflation and increased poverty.

The economy of Pakistan was in tatters as people had to burn purses to purchase daily food items. The country witnessed a shortage of flour, rocketing tomatoes prices, and sugar prices. Not only that, the rate of poverty was at its zenith under the Imran Khan regime.

Pakistan’s financial condition was in a precarious situation under the inefficient leadership of its Prime Minister Imran Khan.

As reported on February 28, the country’s former finance minister and well-known economist Dr Hafeez A Pasha disclosed that the current account deficit was heading towards a historic record by touching the USD 20 billion mark or 6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the current fiscal year.

As many as 10 per cent of this group hold the PTI government responsible for failure to provide relief to the poor, three per cent declared Imran Khan as not a good leader, two per cent thought the previous government was better, and another two per cent thought he failed to deliver on his promises, reported The News International.

One per cent of those thought he was not fit for the job and suggested him to quit politics. Another one per cent expressed happiness over his exit from the government for the gross mismanagement of the economy that led to an increase in fuel prices.

Meanwhile, another group of 43 per cent respondents have shown displeasure with Imran Khan’s departure.

Among the latter group, 25 per cent were upset over removing Imran despite his personal integrity, 18 per cent declared him as the best leader, another 15 per cent say they like Imran Khan, while 13 per cent were dismayed over not letting the PTI government complete its full constitutional term and 10 per cent of these thought that he did a good job for the country, reported The News International.

Four per cent said they were sad because they felt Imran Khan was a sincere leader, four were are grossly unhappy over the return of corrupt leadership into power, three per cent expressed satisfaction with the former PM for initiating welfare programmes for the poor and two per cent were upset over an ‘external power’ conspiring to remove a popularly-elected leader.

The Pakistani parliament ousted Imran Khan in a vote of no confidence in the early hours of Sunday, April 10.

As many as 174 lawmakers in the 342-strong lower house of parliament voted in favour of the no-confidence motion launched by opposition parties. (ANI)

 

Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to visit Saudi Arabia, China

Islamabad [Pakistan]:  Newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia and China on his first foreign trip after taking charge, a Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) leader has said.

According to the media outlet, Pakistan Prime Minister’s first foreign visit has often been to Saudi Arabia and China due to the country’s strategic relationship with both.
According to sources, PM Shehbaz Sharif during his visit to Saudi Arabia will perform Umrah and meet the Saudi leadership.

Saudi Arabia in the past has extended financial bailout packages to successive Pakistani governments, in fact, Riyadh gave former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government a USD 6 billion bailout package.

It is unclear if the new premier will also seek financial assistance, given that Saudi Arabia provided USD 3 billion dollars to Pakistan not long ago, The News International reported.

While after the Saudi visit, the premier is also expected to travel to China.

According to The News International, Shehbaz is known to enjoy a good reputation amongst the Chinese leadership because of his administrative qualities. During the previous PML-N tenure, Shehbaz played a central role in accelerating China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

Shehbaz Sharif took oath as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan on Monday after being elected by the National Assembly of the country. (ANI)

 

Pakistan: Ministers to be finalised by PM Shabaz Sharief, Bilawal to be Foreign Minister

Islamabad[Pakistan], April 12(ANI): Pakistan’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Shehbaz Sharif is likely to finalise his cabinet ministers by Tuesday night, local media reported.

According to The News International, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is likely to be appointed as the next foreign minister of Pakistan and slots are also being discussed for Shazia Marri.
Rana Sanaullah is expected to be given the portfolio of the Interior Ministry and Maryam Aurangazeb could be the next information minister.

Members of the Pakistan Muslim League, Khawaja Asif, Khurram Dastgir, Saad Rafique, Murtaza Javed, and Shaista Pervaiz Malik are some of the eminent personalities considered to be included in the cabinet with names like Aslam Bhootani and Mohsin Dawar doing the rounds as independent candidates.

The members of all the Opposition parties who voted against Imran Khan are also expected to represent Sharif’s cabinet. Before announcing his cabinet members, the Prime Minister will be meeting Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the chief of PDM, and other political leaders of the party, reported News International.

According to speculations Azam Nazir Tarar can be elected as the Leader of the House while either Sherry Rehman or Mustafa Nawaz one will gain a seat in the ministry.

The political party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam(JUI-F) has urged Prime Minister Sharif to elect someone from their party as the next governor of Balochistan, while Punjab’s governor should be elected from Pakistan People’s Party and that of Sindh from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan(MQM-P).

In his one of his first decisions as PM, Shehbaz Sharif scrapped two weekly offs for government offices and changed government office timings to 8 am instead of 10 am.

Shehbaz Sharif took oath as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan on Monday after being elected by the National Assembly of the country. (ANI)

 

Sri Lanka suspends servicing USD 51 billion foreign debt payments

Colombo [Sri Lanka]:  Amid the economic crisis in the country, the Sri Lanka government has temporarily suspended the payment of its foreign debts.

According to an interim policy released by the Finance Ministry regarding the servicing of the country’s external public debt, the government has announced that it would default on its USD 51 billion external debt pending a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The ministry has announced that the creditors, including foreign governments that had given loans to the island nation, were free to capitalize any interest payments due to them from Tuesday afternoon or opt for payback in Sri Lankan rupees.

Sri Lanka is battling a severe economic crisis with food and fuel scarcity affecting a large number of the people in the island nation resulting in massive protests over the government’s handling of the situation.

The economy has been in a free-fall since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic following the crash of the tourism sector.

Sri Lanka is also facing a foreign exchange shortage, which has affected its capacity to import food and fuel. The shortage of essential goods forced Sri Lanka to seek assistance from friendly countries.

Meanwhile, amid massive protests Sri Lanka Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Monday requested people to remain patient in order to enable the government to resolve the situation. (ANI)

Multiple people shot at New York subway station

New York [US]: Multiple people were shot at a subway station in New York’s Brooklyn on Tuesday (local time), the city fire department said.

Preliminary reports indicated that five people were shot, a law enforcement official said. The police were seeking a man with a gas mask and an orange construction vest, the official said, reported The New York Times.
The violent episode heightened simmering fears about public safety that have hindered New York City’s push to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The attack took place during the Tuesday morning rush at the 36th Street stop in Sunset Park.

Police officers were called to the 36th Street subway station, where the D, N and R lines pass through the Sunset Park neighbourhood, at around 8:30 a.m., a Police Department spokeswoman said. They had also received reports of smoke inside the station, reported The New York Times.

Transit officials said that trains on the D, N and R lines would be delayed because of an unspecified investigation.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the city’s subway, said no additional details were immediately available.

A spokesman for Mayor Eric Adams declined to comment as reports were still preliminary. (ANI)

 

Pakistan launches disinformation campaign to disturb harmony in India

New Delhi [India]: The Pakistani disinformation machinery has gone into overdrive with thousands of provocative tweets under various hashtags. The tweets, mostly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, aim at disturbing the peace and tranquillity of India.

Under the disinformation campaign, fake information is being posted on Twitter handles like @Babar_7860; @FMQureshipk; @ihtk1; @raufburrio; @ideowarrior; @zahrakhanpak911; @Abebeellan; @akhirhashmi159 and @rakibpatrkar to sow the seeds of hatred.

One such Twitter handle is that of Babar Malik (@Babar_7860) a Pakistani, who claims to be a journalist.

There is another Pakistani Twitter handle @fmqureshipk which has also been spewing venom against India.

Another account spreading similar lies is @ihtjk1.

All these posts are focused on provoking, disturbing the harmony of India.

Pakistan whose own house is on fire is leading the vicious campaign against India to deflect any questioning of misgovernance by its citizens.

Moreover, Pakistan, which has never shied away from denouncing other nations for atrocities against Muslims, has conveniently ignored the issue of violation of Uyghur human rights in Xinjiang.

It champions the cause of Muslims in India but has a dismal record of its own minorities in the country.

In Pakistan, minorities like Hindus, Christians, Ahmaddiyas, and Shias are frequently harassed and persecuted. The country has witnessed an unprecedented rise in attacks and arrests against the Shia minority, who make up between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of the Sunni-majority nation.

The United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani minorities has severely criticized the role of Islamabad in a steadily deteriorating human rights situation of minorities in the country.

A 67-page report, which called the human rights situation in Pakistan a national and international tragedy, highlighted all forms of atrocities that the minorities of Pakistan were being subjected to on an everyday basis.

It said that even after over seventy years of independence, abductions of minority girls, their forced conversions and subsequent marriages were a widespread phenomenon in Pakistan.

Also, there are numerous cases of the state brazenly defending those who have been involved in heinous crimes against minorities and going after the victims. And it is because of such a state of affairs in Pakistan that a number of experts around the world have said that Pakistan is the most unsafe country for women as well as minorities under the sun.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Minorities continue to face violence, discrimination, and persecution, with authorities often failing to provide adequate protection or hold perpetrators to account”. The authorities routinely use draconian counterterrorism and sedition laws to intimidate peaceful critics, reported Daily Times. (ANI)

Want good ties with India but no peace without Kashmir: Pakistan PM Shahbaz Sharif

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that his government wants good relations with India, but added that peace would not be possible without the resolution of the so-called “Kashmir issue”.

In his inaugural speech in the National Assembly soon after his election, Sharif touched on the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and said that Pakistan will offer “diplomatic and moral support” to “Kashmiri brothers and sisters” and also bringing up the matter at each global forum.
“Neighbours are not a matter of choice, it is something we have to live with. Unfortunately, our relations with India could not improve in the past,” Sharif said. “We want good relations with India, but peace can not be discussed without resolution of the Kashmir issue,” he said.

Sharif further said that there are economic challenges in both India and Pakistan, including unemployment, healthcare and education, and addressed Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying, “why do we want to disadvantage our coming generations? Let’s decide the Kashmir issue in accordance with the desires of the Kashmiri people, and let’s end the conflict on both sides, create employment, progress and happiness.”

Shehbaz Sharif, President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and former leader of the Opposition, was elected the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan by the National Assembly of the country on Monday following the ouster of Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government after a no-confidence motion late on Saturday.

Ahead of the voting on Prime Minister’s election, PTI legislators resigned en masse from the National Assembly and walked out of the National Assembly after a speech by former Foreign Minister and PTI candidate for the prime ministerial post, Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The younger brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was set to grab the top post after former Prime Minister Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government was ousted from power following the no-confidence motion against the regime. (ANI)

 

Shanghai’s stringent COVID lockdown puts megacity out of food

Beijing [China]: As Shanghai’s COVID-19 lockdown leaves residents struggling to access essentials, residents of the mega Chinese city are almost out of food and they are reeling under an acute food crisis.

They say that they “only eat one meal a day” and “don’t know how to live until May”, The HK Post reported. According to the report, the epidemic situation in Shanghai is still deteriorating, and the number of infected people is still high under the “zero lockdown” policy.
On April 3, the Chinese government announced the deployment of thousands of military personnel to Shanghai to assist in the mandatory testing of all 25 million residents for the virus that causes COVID-19. Later, Shanghai authorities said the city would indefinitely remain under lockdown – meaning that residents are not allowed to leave their homes – as it reviews results of the mass Covid testing.

Analysts have said China would not risk relaxing its zero-Covid stance before then, over fears of a destabilizing outbreak. Meanwhile, health experts have warned the virus could overwhelm health care systems, and put the elderly, who lag in vaccinations, at risk, CNN reported.

But even as Beijing sticks to its zero-tolerance approach, it is facing the possibility of multiple major outbreaks as Omicron spreads, the report added.

According to the authorities, Shanghai has had more than 130,000 COVID cases since 1 March, yet nobody has died and there is only one seriously ill person. Such statistics fly in the face of the rest of the world’s experience with COVID.

Wu Zunyou of China’s Center for Disease Control said death rates were minimal because of efforts to curb outbreaks early and China’s high vaccination rate. “Compared with overseas, our country’s COVID-19 death rate is low because of the various measures to prevent or reduce deaths.”

When reporting deaths, there are strong incentives in China not to attribute them directly to COVID if alternative underlying conditions are available. Because of official obfuscation, it is simply impossible to know how many have died from COVID there. China also spends lots of time blaming imported frozen food and mail for spreading COVID.

Beijing claims a Zero-COVID policy must be followed because “Omicron can generate a higher mortality rate than Delta during the epidemic”. This assertion is verifiably false. Perhaps other reasons are more pertinent to the CCP’s choice of a Zero-COVID policy. (ANI)

 

Pakistan, Sri Lanka crises lessons for countries to not fall for China’s debt trap

Washington [US]: The over-dependence on China for economic development could be a miserable option for any country, and the latest examples of it, are Pakistan and Sri Lanka which have been facing a dire financial crisis at present, according to reports.

It is not a coincidence that these two countries have been the biggest beneficiaries of economic “assistance” from China. But instead of becoming more resilient, they folded up in the wake of the global economic crisis brought about by a pandemic many suspects originated in Chinese laboratories, Global Strat View reported.
China’s “Debt Trap” policy follows a similar global pattern. Pakistan, an “all-weather friend” of China, remains another example, which, according to a recent World Bank Report, now finds its place in the world’s 10 largest borrowers.

Pakistan owes most of its debt to China. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which aims to connect Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Baluchistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is a flagship project of China’s BRI.

Further, it has been argued by various analysts that China is using “debt-trap” diplomacy to gain access to strategic assets in Pakistan. The infrastructure projects in Pakistan were financed by Chinese banks.

Meanwhile, the crisis in Sri Lanka was apparent after the pandemic that dried up the international tourist traffic to the island nation, one of its main foreign exchange earners, the country’s debts spiralled and foreign exchange reserves shrunk as the end result of reckless borrowings from China to finance infrastructure projects, reported The Hong Kong Post.

With tourism hit by the pandemic, the economic structure of Sri Lanka, which was already tottering under the heavy burden of loans, crumbled. A major part of this debt was owed to China, which accounts for nearly USD 8 billion.

This debt burden was a result of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects like Hambantota Port and Colombo Port City for which Chinese agencies lent large amounts to Sri Lanka under stiff terms of repayment.

Notably, in 2021-22, Colombo’s debt repayment to Beijing amounted to nearly USD 2 billion. Further, Hambantota port has already been leased out to China for 99 years against USD 1.2 billion.

In the face of the deepening foreign exchange crisis, Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa sought China’s help in December 2021 as he requested a debt restructuring in a meeting with China Foreign Minister Wang Yi. However, Beijing has reportedly shown Colombo the door, according to the media outlet.

Ironically, the deeply pro-China Rajapaksa government dug its own grave as it had booted out the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) of the USA with its offer to extend developmental assistance grant to Colombo as the Board of Directors of MCC discontinued its USD 480 million contract with Sri Lanka in December 2020 “due to lack of partner country engagement,” the publication reported citing the US embassy.

Further, China-assisted projects in Sri Lanka are likely to deepen the indebtedness of the island nation.

Notably, China refused to assist Sri Lanka which appealed to reschedule its huge Chinese debt burden in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak that has adversely affected the tourism sector, said a media report.

Chinese loans have come at a hefty cost for Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The slow bleeding would have continued for a few more years without the extent of the damage being recognized by them. While the warnings by experts have been ignored by Colombo and Islamabad alike, the pandemic, followed by the Ukraine-Russia conflict, has exposed how vulnerable both economies had become due to indiscriminate borrowing from China.

Two countries going down almost the exact same way is not a coincidence. Other countries tempted by the Chinese-inspired dream of rapid economic progress need to think twice before embracing economic engagement with the dragon. Whether it will make them more resilient or vulnerable to shocks is the question they need to ask.

Countries like Madagascar, Maldives and Tajikistan are also reeling under Chinese debts. (ANI)

 

Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed sentenced to 31 years in jail by Pak court

Islamabad [Pakistan] : Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was on Friday sentenced to 31 years in jail by a Pakistan anti-terrorism court.

The court also imposed a fine of PKR 3,40,000 on the UN-designated terrorist who is co-founder of the Lashkar-e-Toiba terror outfit, local media reported.
The sentence was handed out by Ejaz Ahmad Buttar, Judge, Lahore Anti-Terrorism court under various sections of Pakistan’s Anti-terrorism Act, 1997.

“This is to authorize and require you, the said Superintendent to receive the said convict Hafiz Muhammad Saeed s/o Kamal Din into your custody in the said jail, with this warrant and to keep him there safely until you receive further warrant or order of this court, carrying into effect the order of the court according to law,” the warrant of commitment of sentence read.

Hafiz Saeed has been in Lahore central jail since his sentencing in 2020 in a terror funding case.

Pakistan has been on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for failing to check money laundering leading to terror financing.

Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the terror organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a United Nations designated terrorist, who is the mastermind of Mumbai terror attack in November 2008. He heads the Jamaat-ud-Dawa terror outfit. (ANI)

Russia admits ‘significant’ troop losses in Ukraine conflict

Moscow [Russia]: Russia on Thursday has admitted to suffering significant losses on the battlefield as a result of the conflict with Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov briefly admitted that Russia had suffered a “significant” loss of its troops in Ukraine, calling the casualties “a huge tragedy” for the country in an interview with Sky News.
“We have significant losses of troops. It’s a huge tragedy for us,” said Peskov while replying to Russian losses.

When asked about the Russian President ending up in a war crimes case, he said, “No, he is not. We don’t see any possibility for it.”

In the latest move by the international community, Russia has been suspended from the Human Rights Council (HRC) in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The UN General Assembly suspended Russia from the Human Rights Council in a 93-24 vote, with 58 countries abstaining.

Meanwhile, the European Union will commit a further 500 million euros (USD 543 million) in military support to Ukraine, European Commission President Charles Michel announced Thursday.

The pledge takes the EU’s military aid to Ukraine to a total of 1.5 billion euros (USD 1.63 billion) since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, he said in a tweet.

“Thanks and support to @JosepBorrellF for your proposal to top up the #EuropeanPeaceFacility with a further EUR500M. Once swiftly approved this will bring to 1.5 billion the EU support already provided for military equipment for #Ukraine. @ZelenskyyUa,” tweeted Michel.

The European Peace Facility, created in 2021, is an emergency fund of 5.69 billion euros that allows the EU to quickly finance military operations and “preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security,” according to the EU.

Moreover, The Kyiv Independent reported on Friday that the Sumy region is completely free of Russian forces.

Sumy Oblast Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky announced on Facebook that the region is clear of Russia’s forces, but that explosions may still be heard as rescue service workers dispose of ammunition left by the Russian military. (ANI)

Supreme Court declares Imran Khan Out, orders to face “No confidence’ on 9th, restores NA

Islamabad [Pakistan]: In a setback for Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday set aside the rejection of the no-confidence motion moved by the Opposition against his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in the National Assembly.

The court also set aside subsequent steps including the dissolution of the National Assembly and fixed 10 am on April 9 as the date for the no-confidence vote, local media reported.
According to Pakistan’s Samaa News, a bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the Deputy Speaker’s ruling on the no-confidence vote unconstitutional in a unanimous judgment.

The court set aside the ruling and the steps taken after it including the dissolution of the National Assembly, the report said.

According to Geo News, Pakistan Supreme Court said the Prime Minister was bound by Constitution and “therefore, he could not advise the president to dissolve assemblies”. (ANI)

US threatens China with sanctions if it supports Russia’s war in Ukraine

Beijing [China] & Washington [US]:  The US on Wednesday (local time) threatened China with sanctions if it supports Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman at a hearing on “Restoring American Leadership in the Indo-Pacific”, told the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that sanctions imposed on Russia over its war in Ukraine should give China a “good understanding” of the consequences it could face if it provides material support to Moscow and that Beijing eyeing Taiwan should “take away the right lessons” from the sanctions imposed on Russia.
Introducing the proceedings, Congressman Gregory Meeks, the Chairman lambasted China for using military aggression in the Indo-Pacific region and for failing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He said, “Russia’s pre-meditated and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine demonstrates its disdain for the rules-based international order, and China has woefully abdicated its self-proclaimed role as a responsible stakeholder by failing to condemn Russia’s illegal war and in the Indo-pacific, China routinely coarse our friends and allies, uses military aggression to gain upper hand in broader maritime and territorial disputes. It steals technology and bends the rules to protect its domestic industries. It commits human rights abuses on a grand scale through genocide in Xinjiang, destruction of Hong Kong’s autonomy or its surveillance and repression of citizens throughout the mainland.”

He urged US partners and allies to counter Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) aggression and preserve a free, open Indo-Pacific.

Deputy Secretary of State Sherman further said that the US is deeply concerned about the growing strategic alignment between Russia and PRC as represented in their February 4 statement.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin before the Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony issued a joint statement that voiced Russia’s support for China’s stance that democratically-governed Taiwan is an inalienable part of China and opposition to any form of independence for the island.

“We have expressed those concerns directly to PRC as have our allies and partners. A strong and coordinated response from the international community, including nations in the Indo-Pacific to Russia’s flagrant violation of international law and principles like sovereignty and territorial integrity, sends a strong signal that such actions will not go ignored,” said Sherman.

Answering Meeks’s question regarding the Biden administration’s assessment on whether China actively supported Russia and its invasion of Ukraine and US earlier warned President Xi of the consequences if China is found to be materially supporting Russia’s war effort, Sherman said that the sanctions imposed on Russia imply that what sort of action will come for Xi if help extended to Russia.

“President Biden has been very direct with President Xi. One only has to look at the range of sanctions to be announced today against Putin, against the Russian economy, against individuals who are enablers, against elites, oligarchs, export controls, designations, sanctions, that are not only from the US. But, in unprecedented fashion coordination with our allies and partners, not just in Europe but throughout the world gives President Xi, I think a pretty good understanding of what might come his way should he in fact support Putin in any material fashion. This is a very serious matter,” said Sherman.

She also said that the US was quite concerned over the joint manifesto of Russia and China that was signed before the Beijing Olympics.

“It increased the concern about what this partnership was about. PRC had said publicly that this is a partnership and not an alliance as part of Xi Jinping trying to distance himself some way from what President Putin had done with his premediated, unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine,” said Sherman.

The hearing chaired by Meeks was attended by the full committee parity in person and virtually. (ANI)

Situation in Sri Lanka will become disastrous if left unaddressed, says cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya

Colombo [Sri Lanka]: As the countrywide protests continue over the severe economic crisis, former Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya has come forward to extend support to the people in the island nation, who are raising their voices against the government.

In an exclusive conversation with ANI, Jayasuriya has called the country’s situation “unfortunate” and said the people of this country are going through this for a few months now and it has come to a breakpoint.
“The people can’t survive like this. This is why the people started to protest because there are fuel shortages, gas shortages, and electricity is not there for 10-12 hours sometimes. It is been really hard for the people of this country. That’s why people have started to come out and protest,” Jayasuriya told ANI.

The former cricketer cautioned if the situation is not addressed properly “it will be a disaster.” Jayasuriya said that he feels a lot of pain when his own people protest against their own government.

“I would like to say do protest peacefully, don’t do violently. It’s the protest by genuine people who come out and tell the government that they are suffering,” he told ANI.

People in the island nation including Sanath Jayasuriya are holding the present government responsible for the economic crisis.

“At the moment, the responsibility goes to the present government. Sri Lankan people had a lot of faith and trust. From last, three to four months have been not the best time for what is the present government has done. Unfortunately, all of this the people are blaming the present government,” he told ANI.

Jayasuriya, who himself has witnessed the worsening situation in the country, said Sri Lankan people are facing trouble in getting essential commodities for daily use.

Answering a question about the ongoing struggles of people due to the economic crisis, he said, “We don’t want to see these things happening. There are 3-4 kilometres of vehicles queueing for diesel, gas and for milk powder. …It’s really sad and people are hurt at the moment.”

“So that is why did the people have come out for their rights…. That’s why I said earlier if the situation is not addressing it properly, there will be a disaster,” he said.

The Sri Lankan rupee is fast depreciating against the dollar and foreign debt is mounting. The Sri Lankan government’s income has also taken a big hit due to a drop in tourism that has given rise to gas and fuel shortages, leading to massive power cuts. (ANI)

US, G7, EU impose severe financial sanctions on Russia

Washington [US]/Moscow [Russia]: The United States, along with the G7 nations and European Union (EU) has imposed severe and immediate economic costs on Russia for its “atrocities in Ukraine, including in Bucha”.

As per an official statement from the White House, as a part of mechanisms to hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine, the US has announced economic measures to ban new investment in Russia and imposed severe financial sanctions on Russia’s largest bank and several of its most critical state-owned enterprises and on Russian government officials and their family members.
These sweeping financial sanctions follow our action earlier this week to cut off Russia’s frozen funds in the United States to make debt payments, read the statement.

In the new economic cost, the US has announced full blocking sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institution, Sberbank, and Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank. This action will freeze any of Sberbank’s and Alfa Bank’s assets touching the US financial system and prohibit US persons from doing business with them.

The US has also prohibited new investment in the Russian Federation as President Joe Biden will sign a new Executive Order (E.O.) that includes a prohibition on new investment in Russia by US persons wherever located, aimed at isolating Russia from the global economy.

Further, full blocking sanctions on critical major Russian state-owned enterprises have been imposed, aimed at prohibiting any US person from transacting with these entities and freezing any of their assets subject to US jurisdiction.

The US has also imposed full blocking sanctions on Russian elites and their family members, including sanctions on Russian President Putin’s adult children, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s wife and daughter, and members of Russia’s Security Council including former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

The US Treasury has also prohibited Russia from making debt payments with funds subject to US jurisdiction. However, sanctions do not preclude payments on Russian sovereign debt at this time, provided Russia uses funds outside of US jurisdiction.

However, the US has expressed its commitment to exempting essential humanitarian and related activities from its sanctions.

Meanwhile, Biden on Tuesday authorized an additional USD 100 million in security assistance to Ukraine to meet a need for additional anti-armor systems. This brings the total US security assistance commitment to Ukraine to more than USD 1.7 billion since the beginning of Russia’s military operation in the war-torn country, according to the US state department. (ANI)

Pakistan President asks poll body to propose date for general elections

Islamabad [Pakistan]: Amid the ongoing political turmoil in the country, the President’s Secretariat has asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to propose dates for the general elections.

As per a press release shared by Pakistan President Arif Alvi on Twitter, in a letter dated April 5, the President’s Secretariat has asked the ECP to propose dates for holding general elections within ninety days from the date of dissolution of the National Assembly, that is April 3, in accordance with the provisions of the country’s constitution.
“ECP has been conveyed that clause 5 (A) of the Article 48 and clause 2 of Article 224 of the Constitution provide that the President shall appoint a date, not later than ninety days from the date of dissolution of the National Assembly, for holding general elections to the National Assembly,” read the release.

It further said that as per the Elections Act 2017, a consultation with the ECP is required to announce the date of general elections.

On Sunday, Alvi dissolved the Pakistani parliament following Prim Minister Imran Khan’s advice. Imran Khan made the proposal minutes after Parliament’s Deputy Speaker rejected a motion of no confidence in him as “unconstitutional.”

Meanwhile, Imran Khan will continue as the Prime Minister until the caretaker Prime Minister is appointed, said the President as the SC is looking into the matter of National Assembly dissolution. (ANI)

 

South Korea reports 286,294 new COVID-19 cases

Seoul [South Korea]: South Korea reported 286,294 new COVID-19 cases as of midnight Tuesday compared to 24 hours ago, raising the total number of infections to 14,553,644, the health authorities said Wednesday.

The daily caseload was up from 266,135 the previous day, but it was lower than 424,597 a week earlier, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
The spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant and its subvariant BA.2 drove the recent resurgence, especially in the Seoul metropolitan area.

Of the new cases, 52,430 were Seoul residents. The number of newly infected people living in Gyeonggi province and the western port city of Incheon was 76,899 and 14,844, respectively.

The virus spread also raged in the non-metropolitan region. The number of new infections in the non-capital areas was 142,099, or 49.6 per cent of the total local transmission.

Among the new cases, 22 were imported, lifting the total to 31,259.

The number of infected people who were in a serious condition stood at 1,128, up to seven from the previous day.

A total of 371 more deaths were confirmed, leaving the death toll at 18,033. The total fatality rate was 0.12 per cent.

The number of people who received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines was 44,504,308, or 86.7 per cent of the total population, and the figure for those getting booster jabs was 32,840,952 people or 64.0 per cent of the population. (ANI/Xinhua)

 

U.S. Oklahoma passes bill banning near-all abortions

Houston [US]: The state legislature in Oklahoma, a solid red state in south central United States, on Tuesday passed a bill that would make almost all abortions illegal.

Without debate, the state’s Republican-controlled House voted 70-14 to approve the bill, under which performing an abortion in the state would become a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a 100,000-U.S.-dollar fine. It allows only one exception for a medical emergency performed to save the life of the mother.
The bill, which passed the state Senate last year, is now awaiting Republican Governor Kevin Stitt’s final sign off. Stitt has previously said he would sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.

The bill follows the suit of a highly controversial Texas law taking effect last year that allows private citizens to sue anyone who performs, aids or abets an abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected (usually after six weeks of pregnancy) without exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

The number of U.S. states passing restrictive abortion laws has grown in recent years. Just in the past three weeks, Arizona and Kentucky state legislatures voted to approve a 15-week ban on abortions while Idaho Governor Brad Little signed a law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

States like South Dakota and Tennessee have also moved legislation that takes aim at medication abortion, requiring women to make multiple trips to their doctor’s office in order to receive the two-dose regimen, said The Hill report.

The Guttmacher Institute found that approximately 862,320 abortions occurred in the United States in 2017, resulting in an abortion rate of 13.5 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. (ANI/Xinhua)

 

Twitter to appoint Elon Musk to company’s Board of Directors, declares CEO Parag Agrawal

Washington [US]: Microblogging site Twitter on Tuesday announced that it is appointing Tesla CEO Elon Musk to the company’s board of directors.

The announcement was made by Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal.
“I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board,” Agrawal said in a tweet.

“He’s both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term. Welcome, Elon! I’m excited to share that we’re appointing @elonmusk to our board! Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board,” Agrawal added.

In response, Musk tweeted he is “looking forward to working with Parag and Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!”

A day earlier, Musk had disclosed that he had taken a nine per cent stake in the social media platform.

Twitter said in a regulatory filing on Tuesday that it plans to appoint the Tesla and SpaceX CEO to its board for a term that ends in 2024. As part of the deal, Musk has agreed not to acquire more than 14.9 per cent of the company’s shares while he remains on the board, CNN reported. (ANI)

Pakistan: SC seeks record of NA proceedings on no-confidence motion against Imran Khan

Islamabad [Pakistan]- Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the record of National Assembly (NA) proceedings conducted on the no-confidence motion filed against interim Prime Minister Imran Khan as it resumed its hearing on the legality of the ruling by the deputy speaker dismissing the no-trust vote.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and including Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, is hearing the case, Dawn newspaper reported.
On Sunday, Pakistani President Arif Alvi dissolved the Pakistani parliament following Imran Khan’s advice. Imran Khan made the proposal minutes after parliament’s deputy speaker rejected a motion of no confidence in him as “unconstitutional.”

Pakistan media and opposition parties criticised this decision saying that it violated all rules governing proceedings in the House.

According to the ECP official, procurement of election material, arrangement for ballot papers and appointment and training of polling staff were also among the challenges. He said that under the law, ballot papers with watermark were to be used which were not available in the country and would have to be imported.

He revealed that the ECP had proposed to amend the law to provide for ballot papers with “security features,” instead of “watermark”.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan will continue as the Prime Minister until the caretaker Prime Minister is appointed, said the President as the SC is looking into the matter of National Assembly dissolution. (ANI)

 

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