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Amid row with France, Blinken says US ‘strongly supports’ Paris-New Delhi ties

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New York, Sep 24: The US strongly supports France strengthening ties with India, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said amid a diplomatic row between Washington and Paris over their roles in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Both France and the US have very strong interests in strengthening even more our respective relationships with India. This is something that we strongly support,” Blinken said here on Thursday.

He made the statement in reply to a reporter who referred to a phone call between French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked if the US would welcome a “nuclear submarine alliance” between New Delhi and Paris.

But he did not directly address the issue, saying only: “I’m not going to get into any specific hypotheticals about the future.”

There has been speculation that France may want to sell India nuclear-powered submarines, which the US has reportedly refused citing the likelihood of opposition to the sale from Congress.

India is a member of the Quad along with the US, Australia and Japan, which promotes security and development in the Indo-Pacific region and aims to stand up to Chinese aggressiveness, but it also has strong ties with France.

France’s dispute with US and Australia arose over Washington’s offer of nuclear-powered submarines to Canberra that resulting in it scuttling a deal worth about $50 billion to buy French diesel-powered submarines.

In a very strong reaction, France withdrew its ambassadors from the US and Australia in protest.

India is already a major defence customer of France, buying 36 Rafale fighter jets worth about $8 billion as well as anti-tank missiles.

India has an indigenously built nuclear-powered submarine and in the past had leased them from Russia.

It may want to augment the locally developed submarines with more advanced models.

The Washington-Canberra submarine deal coincided with the announcement of a defence pact between Australia, the UK and the US (AUKUS) that further alienated France which saw it as an attempt to curtail its role in the region.

At the news conference, Blinken tried to make amends to Paris by praising a French-driven European strategy for the Indo-Pacific unveiled last week.

“We very much welcome European engagement and French engagement and leadership in the Indo-Pacific, and that’s a point that bears emphasis,” he said.

“The European Union strategy that came out on the Indo-Pacific a few days ago, a strategy in which France played a leading role in developing, is one that we very, very strongly welcome… One area where we will look to deepen our cooperation and collaboration is in the Indo-Pacific.”

On the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, Blinken said that “there is very strong unity of approach and unity of purpose” among the members of the Security Council and “well over 100” nations in insisting that it follow certain norms.

The expectations set in a Council resolution include freedom of travel; making good on commitments to not allow Afghanistan to be used as a launching pad for terrorism; upholding basic rights, including for women and girls and minorities; allowing and indeed protecting humanitarian assistance, and having inclusive governance, according to Blinken.

The international community is looking to the Taliban to make good on these commitments, he said.

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Air India goes to Tata Sons, Ratan Tata tweets, Welcome Back!

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New Delhi: Finally, Air India has gone to Tata Group which emerged the highest bidder. This was a much-awaited deal for the Government of India which wanted to sell this national career from a very long time. Welcome back, Air India, tweets Ratan Tata on Tata Sons winning the bid for Air India.
An SPV of Tata Sons – the holding company of conglomerate – has emerged as successful bidder, Tuhin Kanta Pandey, secretary to the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) — the government department responsible for privatisation, said.

The international service was among the first public-private partnerships in India, with the government holding 49 per cent, the Tatas keeping 25 per cent and the public owning the rest. In 1953, Air India was nationalised. The government is selling 100 per cent of its stake in the state-owned national airline, including Air India’s 100 per cent shareholding in AI Express Ltd and 50 per cent in Air India SATS Airport Services Private Ltd.

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Powerful earthquake in Japan injures 32, disrupts train services

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Tokyo, Oct 8: Authorities in Japan said on Friday that a powerful earthquake which jolted the country the previous day left 32 people injured, while also disrupting train services in the Tokyo area, affecting around 368,000 passengers in total.

The earthquake that struck the capital region at 10.41 p.m. on Thursday night reached upper 5 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in parts of Tokyo and Saitama prefecture, reports Xinhua news agency.

The last time that people in central Tokyo faced such an intense jolt was during the massive quake of March 11, 2011, which devastated northeastern Japan and triggered a tsunami and nuclear disaster.

According to East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), the strongest earthquake for the Japanese capital in a decade caused services on the Shinkansen bullet train and 16 local train lines cancelled or delayed from late night Thursday to about 3 p.m. (local time) on Friday, resulting in many late-night train passengers stranded and a commuter disruption in the morning.

JR East have resumed train services, but many passengers were forced to wait at stations due to delays.

After a train derailed in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, one of the areas hit hardest by the temblor, the operation of the Nippori Toneri Liner, a driverless guideway transit system in Tokyo, might remain suspended for several days, according to its operator.

The Japan Transport Safety Board has sent officials to investigate the derailment.

According to a tally by the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, two in Saitama Prefecture and one in Chiba Prefecture sustained severe injuries among the 32.

Around 250 houses in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward briefly experienced power outages due to the earthquake, and water stoppages and leaks were reported in central Tokyo.

The earthquake also caused 28 cases of people being trapped in elevators in Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures, but all cases have been cleared according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism.

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India to showcase its art, culture, tradition and business prospect in Dubai

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Dubai: India is out to showcase to the world its arts and culture, rich history and tradition and opportunities that exist for individuals and corporates with its biggest pavilion of the 192 participating countries in the Expo 2020 Dubai.

The six-month-long Expo kicked off on October 1 with Dubai expecting a large number of visitors despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. With the number of daily infections now well below 200 for the past week, the city has opened itself to the world. Most of the visitors are allowed to travel with a valid negative RT-PCR test within 72 hours.

However, India is still in the category that requires a valid negative PCR test certificate (with a QR code) for a test conducted within 48 hours, and a rapid PCR test report with a QR code for a test conducted at the departure airport within six hours of departure. The pavilion features a kinetic facade of 600 individual colourful blocks. The panels rotate and the facade presents a different look with each rotation, a unique representation of the country’s theme at the Expo, ‘India on the Move’.

The Indian pavilion was officially inaugurated by Piyush Goyal, Minister for Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, and Textiles who said the Pavilion “shows an India on the move, it describes a new India rejuvenated, reinvented and revitalised, which can convert any adversity into an opportunity”.

As the country comes out a deadly second wave of the pandemic, India is eager to make an impression on the world and the Expo is a great platform. Aman Puri, Consul-General of India in Dubai, said: “India at Expo 2020 Dubai will present a new and dynamic India with its never-ending opportunities.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given us a clarion call for action to all stakeholders to give a renewed push to boosting exports and Expo 2020 will provide an important platform in driving forward this national agenda.”

While art and culture has always been a staple of India’s exhibitions in foreign countries, there is a big push for innovation and industries in Dubai. The India Innovation Hub, a specially designed mobile platform, was recently launched. It showcases innovations by Indian startups and corporates across various cutting edge fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning, mobility, robotics and space. As many as 15 states and eight Union Territories are taking part in the Expo, most of them displaying food, art & culture and business opportunities. Also, present and various ministries, like textile, space and energy, as well as some of the leading business houses like Tata, Reliance, L&T and Adani.

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