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Shringla meets top US officials, discusses Afghan situation

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New York, Sep 4: In the wake of the disastrous pullout of US troops from Afghanistan, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla met several senior officials in Washington to discuss the situation in the war-torn nation.

The roster of officials Shringla met over Thursday and Friday and discussed the Afghanistan situation included Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer and Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

The meetings came amid unease among US partners and allies over the American retreat from Afghanistan and the chaos it has left behind.

Amid the uncertainties, Colin Kahl, the Undersecretary of Defence, reaffirmed at their meeting on Friday that “the strength of the defence relationship between the US and India”, which is the only designated US major defence partner, Pentagon spokesperson Eric Pahon said.

Pahon said that Shringla and Kahl “underscored their commitment to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation to sustain a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific regiona┬┐ and “a range of regional issues of shared interest”.

Defence cooperation in the Western Indian Ocean region, which stretches to Africa also figured in their talks, he added.

India and the US share fears and dilemmas over the capture of Afghanistan by the Taliban, which has had a hostile relationship with the two countries, and the shifts in the strategic situation that could potentially further China’s and Pakistan’s objectives in the region.

Shringla and Blinken reviewed the developments in Afghanistan when they met on Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

They also discussed the Indo-Pacific region, Covid-19 pandemic and discussed cooperation at the UN, where India is an elected member, and other regional and multilateral issues, the tweet said.

Sherman tweeted after her meeting with Shringla that she met him “to discuss shared priorities including coordination on Afghanistan, strengthening Indo-Pacific cooperation via the Quad, and addressing the climate crisis and the Covid-19”.

Bagchi said in a tweet that Shringla also met the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and the US-India Business Council.

He spoke to the USISPF on India’s economic recovery, the pandemic situation and measures to facilitate investments into India, Bagchi said in another tweet.

On Thursday, other senior Indian and US defence and diplomatic officials discussed the recent developments in the region and cooperation in counter-terrorism at a meeting that is regularly scheduled between the 2+2 ministerial-level meeting.

The Indian side at the dialogue was led by the Defence Ministry’s Joint Secretary, International Cooperation, Somnath Ghosh, and the External Affairs Ministry’s Joint Secretary, Americas, Vani Rao, and the US side by Assistant Defense Secretary for Indo-Pacific Affairs Ratner, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Ervin Massinga.

At the meeting, “Ratner expressed his confidence that the United States and India will continue to take their partnership to new heights as they jointly meet the challenges of this century”, Defence Department spokesperson Lt Col Martin Meiners said.

“Cooperation in new domains, such as space, cyber, and emerging technology areas” also figured in their talks, Meiners said.

The last 2+2 ministerial dialogue was held in New Delhi in October 2020 just before the US elections.

The US was represented by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper, both of whom are now out of office, and India by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

The next 2+2 is to be held later this year in Washington.

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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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