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Taiwan, India natural partners: Ambassador Chung-Kwang Tien

By Deepak Arora

NEW DELHI, Oct 10: Republic of China (ROC) Ambassador Chung-Kwang Tien has said that Taiwan and India are natural partners.

Speaking at a reception here to celebrate the 107th National Day (Double Tenth) of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Ambassador Tien said “we share the same values of peace, freedom, democracy, rule of law and market economy.”

The Ambassador said the bilateral trade volume between Taiwan and India increased 27 per cent year-on-year to US $ 6.4 billion in 2017. India is Taiwan’s 16th trading partner in 2017 with a relatively balanced trade.

In terms of investment, he said a ground breaking ceremony for the Technology Innovation International Park (TIIP) was held in Bangalore on July 11 last. “We expect an ICT industry cluster will soon be in shape when more and more Taiwan’s high-tech industries open branch companies there in responding to Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiatives.”

Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India (TECC) hosted the reception on Tuesday and it was attended among others by Ronald Sapa Lau, MP of Rajya Sabha; Sunil Kumar Jakhar and Meenakshi Lekhi, MPs of Lok Sabha. They wished Taiwan continued success and prosperity.

Ambassador Tien informed that under the leadership of the President Tsai Ing-wen, the first woman president in the Chinese-speaking world who was sworn-in in May 2016, the ROC (Taiwan) has initiated a number of significant reforms while pursuing a new economic model for sustainable developments that accelerated Taiwan’s economic growth to a three-year high in 2017.

He said Taiwan’s exports increased to a 7-year high in 2017, making it the 18th largest exporter and importer worldwide. Taiwan also managed to cut its unemployment rate to 3.66 per cent, a 17-year low, in the first half of 2018.

Implementing President Tsai’s New Southbound Policy (NSP) that looks to deepen Taiwan’s relationships with South Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, he said Taiwan boosted it external trade with these NSP countries by 15.61 per cent to US $ 110.9 billion last year.

Ambassador Tien said the New Southbound Policy synergizes with the “Act East Policy’ initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, thus creating many potentials for cooperation between Taiwan and India.

The Ambassador said over 5,000 Indian students have taken mandarin language courses at the Taiwan Education centres in India. Currently, 1,500 Indian students are studying in Taiwan, an increase of 15 per cent than last year.

To enhance cultural exchanges and better understanding between Taiwan and India, he said a special exhibition of Mahatma Gandhi and the world heritage of India were inaugurated on October 2 in Taichung City and a plan to set up a permanent Gandhi museum in Taiwan is underway.

Building on existing achievement, Ambassador Tien said he firmly believed Taiwan and India would further enhance the close partnership in the fields of economic development, people-to-people contacts and cultural, educational and scientific cooperation.

Lauding the willingness for further cooperation between India and Taiwan, Ronald Sapa Lau (Member of Parliament) said the two countries have build up cordial and friendly relationship in areas such as economic cooperation, cultural and educational exchanges.

Expressing happiness on celebrations of 107th Double Ten Day, Ms Meenakshi Lekhi (MP) said it reminds us of good political relationship India has with Taiwan. “We share same values of democracy, trade, commerce and culture.”

She said the relationship between the two countries is very strong as the governments of the two countries invest in democratic values and ethos and happiness of the people.

In conclusion, Ms Meenakshi Lekhi said “we all value friendship with Taiwan. This the better moment and the best is yet to come.”

Sunil Kumar Jakhar (MP) said “Taiwan has been bulwark of real human values. Taiwan has shown to the world that progress can be achieved without compromising on human dignity, liberty and value of life.”

The celebration was started by a group of Fo Guang Shan sramanera’s vigorous lion dance which won thunderous applause from more than 350 guests.

A 10-minute video titled “People Centered, Joint Happiness” was screened to introduce Taiwan’s achievements in cultural integration, economy, international cooperation and technological innovations etc. over the past year.

Jamal Khashoggi's Fiancée Pens Obituary-Style Op-Ed For Missing Saudi Writer

By Carla Herreria

NEW YORK, Oct 14: Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée to the Saudi journalist who has been missing for nearly two weeks, has written an obituary-style op-ed on Jamal Khashoggi, which was published Saturday by the New York Times.

Unlike a Washington Post op-ed she published earlier this week, which called on President Donald Trump to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance, Cengiz wrote frankly Saturday of her fiancé’s possible death.

Cengiz also didn’t just call for an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance, she urged for the responsible party, “irrespective of their political positions,” to be punished.

“When we arrived at the consulate, he went right in,” Cengiz, a doctoral student in Instabul, wrote of her and Kashoggi’s visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

“Had I known it would be the last time I would see Jamal, I would have rather entered the Saudi consulate myself,” she added. “The rest is history: He never walked out of that building. And with him, I also got lost there.”

Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist who was formerly close to Saudi Arabia’s royal family but had grown critical of Saudi policies in recent years.

He had been living in a self-imposed exile in Washington D.C. for over a year when he went to the Saudi consulate on October 2 to obtain a document that would allow him to marry Cengiz.

“Since then, I have been thinking that Jamal and I are no longer in the same world,” Cengiz wrote for the Times. “I keep asking the same questions to myself: Where is he? Is he alive? If he is alive, how is he?”

Many experts presume Khashoggi has been murdered.

According to the Post, U.S. intelligence documents revealed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently attempted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, top Turkish authorities have told U.S. news organizations that they believe Khashoggi was assassinated at the consulate on orders from Saudi Arabia’s royal court.

One Turkish official told the New York Times that Khashoggi had been killed by a team of Saudi agents within hours of arriving at the Saudi consulate and an autopsy expert helped dismember his body.

The Saudi government has denied they were involved in Khashoggi’s disappearance. In a “60 Minutes” interview, President Donald Trump said the incident was “being investigated” and warned that “there will be severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia was involved with Khashoggi’s death.

In her op-ed for the Times, Cengiz mourned Khashoggi while celebrating his life’s work.

“If the allegations are true, and Jamal has been murdered by the errand boys of Mohammed bin Salman, he is already a martyr,” Cengiz wrote.

“Jamal spoke up against oppression, but he paid for the Saudi people’s demand for freedom with his own life,” she continued. “His voice and his ideas will reverberate, from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, and across the world. Oppression never lasts forever. Tyrants eventually pay for their sins.”

US warns Yameen against disrupting democratic process in Maldives

WASHINGTON, Oct 13: The United States has warned of “appropriate measures” against anyone who tries to undermine the peaceful transfer of power in the Maldives and directly pointed to “troubling actions” by outgoing president Abdulla Yameen, who has challenged the election result in a dramatic turnaround.

After accepting the results of the September election, in which Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party posted a decisive victory, Yameen mounted a legal challenge to the verdict earlier this week and alleged rigging and unfair practices.

“The United States is concerned by troubling events in Maldives that threaten to undermine the will of the Maldivian people, including a Supreme Court complaint filed by president Yameen contesting the election results, and reports of serious threats to member of the election commission,” state department spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a video post on Twitter on Friday.

“The United States will consider appropriate measures (which might be in the nature of sanctions) against anyone who undermines democracy, the rule of law or free and fair electoral process in Maldives,” he said.

Palladino laid down the rules that the US and the international community will view with concern any attempt to undermine the democratic process, including delaying the inauguration scheduled for November 17.

The blunt message came from the US just a day after Alice Wells, the head of the state department’s south and central Asia bureau issued a similar but more conciliatory message in the nature of an appeal from Maldives which she was visiting.

“This was a decisive victory (for president-elect Solih) and President Yameen did the right thing when he acknowledged his loss and he said he would be a responsible opposition candidate,” Wells said of the September election results in an interview to a local TV network.

There is no doubt who won the election and the United States expects “President Yameen will accept the voice of his citizens”, the diplomat added.

Yameen had promised to, but has since gone back on his word.

He was widely expected to rig the elections himself in a bid to cling to power despite a massive groundswell of opposition to him and his policies, chiefly engineering a precarious economic dependence on China. The US had then warned of “appropriate measures” against anyone who undermined the free and fair election.

Yameen’s actions since the election cast a doubt on whether he will allow a peaceful transfer of power.

In her meetings with President-elect Solih and other members of the newly elected government, Wells had assured them of deeper and all-round US engagement with the Maldives, with enhanced economic cooperation and help in fighting corruption, improving governance in the larger context of America’s own evolving strategy for the Indo-Pacific.

Canada set to become largest country with legal marijuana sales

Delta (British Columbia), Oct 10: Mat Beren and his friends used to drive by the vast greenhouses of southern British Columbia and joke about how much weed they could grow there.

Years later, it’s no joke. The tomato and pepper plants that once filled some of those greenhouses have been replaced with a new cash crop: marijuana. Beren and other formerly illicit growers are helping cultivate it. The buyers no longer are unlawful dealers or dubious medical dispensaries; it’s the Canadian government.

On October 17, Canada becomes the second and largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace. Uruguay launched legal sales last year, after several years of planning.

It’s a profound social shift promised by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and fuelled by a desire to bring the black market into a regulated, taxed system after nearly a century of prohibition.

It also stands in contrast to the United States, where the federal government outlaws marijuana while most states allow medical or recreational use for people 21 and older. Canada’s national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis, online ordering, postal delivery and billions of dollars in investment; national prohibition in the US has stifled greater industry expansion there.

Hannah Hetzer, who tracks international marijuana policy for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, called Canada’s move “extremely significant,” given that about 25 countries have already legalized the medical use of marijuana or decriminalised possession of small amounts of the drug. A few, including Mexico, have expressed an interest in regulating recreational use.

“It’s going to change the global debate on drug policy,” she said. “There’s no other country immediately considering legalising the non-medical use of cannabis, but I think Canada will provide almost the permission for other countries to move forward.”

At least 109 legal pot shops are expected to open across the nation of 37 million people next Wednesday, with many more to come, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces. For now, they’ll offer dried flower, capsules, tinctures and seeds, with sales of marijuana-infused foods and concentrates expected to begin next year.

The provinces are tasked with overseeing marijuana distribution. For some, including British Columbia and Alberta, that means buying cannabis from licensed producers, storing it in warehouses and then shipping it to retail shops and online customers. Others, like Newfoundland, are having growers ship directly to stores or through the mail.

Federal taxes will total $1 per gram or 10 percent, whichever is more. The feds will keep one-fourth of that and return the rest to the provinces, which can add their own markups. Consumers also will pay local sales taxes.

Some provinces have chosen to operate their own stores, like state-run liquor stores in the US, while others have okayed private outlets. Most are letting residents grow up to four plants at home.

Canada’s most populous province, Ontario, won’t have any stores open until next April, after the new conservative government scrapped a plan for state-owned stores in favor of privately run shops. Until then, the only legal option for Ontario residents will be mail delivery — a prospect that didn’t sit well with longtime pot fan Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver.

“Potheads are notoriously very impatient. When they want their weed, they want their weed,” he said after buying a half-ounce at an illicit medical marijuana dispensary in Toronto. “Waiting one or two three days for it by mail, I’m not sure how many will want to do that.”

British Columbia, home of the “B.C. Bud” long cherished by American pot connoisseurs, has had a prevalent marijuana culture since the 1970s, after US draft-dodgers from the Vietnam War settled on Vancouver Island and in the province’s southeastern mountains. But a change in government last year slowed cannabis distribution plans there, too, and it will have just one store ready next Wednesday: a state-run shop in Kamloops, a few hours’ drive northeast of Vancouver. By contrast, Alberta expects to open 17 next week and 250 within a year.

There is no immediate crackdown expected for the dozens of illicit-but-tolerated medical marijuana dispensaries operating in British Columbia, though officials eventually plan to close any without a license. Many are expected to apply for private retail licenses, and some have sued, saying they have a right to remain open.

British Columbia’s ministry of public safety is forming a team of 44 inspectors to root out unlawful operations, seize product and issue fines. They’ll have responsibility for a province of 4.7 million people and an area twice as large as California, where the black market still dwarfs the legal market that arrived in January.

Chris Clay, a longtime Canadian medical marijuana activist, runs Warmland Centre dispensary in an old shopping mall in Mill Bay, on Vancouver Island. He is closing the store Monday until he gets a license; he feared continuing to operate post-legalization would jeopardize his chances. Some of his eight staff members will likely have to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

“That will be frustrating, but overall I’m thrilled,” Clay said. “I’ve been waiting decades for this.”

The federal government has licensed 120 growers, some of them enormous. Canopy Growth, which recently received an investment of $4 billion from Constellation Brands, whose holdings include Corona beer, Robert Mondavi wines and Black Velvet whiskey, is approved for 5.6 million square feet (520,000 square meters) of production space across Canada. Its two biggest greenhouses are near the U.S. border in British Columbia.

Beren, a 23-year cannabis grower, is a Canopy consultant.

“We used to joke around all the time when we’d go to Vancouver and drive by the big greenhouses on the highway,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh man, someday. It’d be so awesome if we could grow cannabis in one of these greenhouses.’ We drive by now and we’re like, ‘Oh, we’re here.’“

Next to Canopy’s greenhouse in Delta is another huge facility, Pure Sunfarms, a joint venture between a longtime tomato grower, Village Farms International, and a licensed medical marijuana producer, Emerald Health Therapeutics. Workers pulled out the remaining tomato plants last winter and got to work renovating the greenhouse as a marijuana farm, installing equipment that includes lights and accordion-shaped charcoal vents to control the plant’s odor. By 2020, the venture expects to move more than 165,000 pounds (75,000 kg) of bud per year.

Some longtime illegal growers who operate on a much smaller scale worry they won’t get licensed or will get steamrolled by much larger producers. Provinces can issue “micro-producer” licenses, but in British Columbia, where small-time pot growers helped sustain rural economies as the mining and forestry industries cratered, the application period hasn’t opened yet.

Sarah Campbell of the Craft Cannabis Association of BC said many small operators envision a day when they can host visitors who can tour their operations and sample the product, as wineries do.

Officials say they intend to accommodate craft growers but first need to ensure there is enough cannabis to meet demand when legalization arrives. Hiccups are inevitable, they say, and tweaks will be needed.

“Leaving it to each province to decide what’s best for their communities and their citizens is something that’s good,” said Gene Makowsky, the Saskatchewan minister who oversees the province’s Liquor and Gaming Authority. “We’ll be able to see if each law is successful or where we can do better in certain areas.”

British Columbia safety minister Mike Farnworth said he learned two primary lessons by visiting Oregon and Washington, US states with recreational marijuana. One was not to look at the industry as an immediate cash cow, as it will take time to displace the black market. The other was to start with relatively strict regulations and then loosen them as needed, because it’s much harder to tighten them after the fact.

Legalisation will be a process more than a date, Farnworth said.

“Oct. 17th is actually not going to look much different than it does today,” he said.

Indo-Canadian MP moves bill to mark October as Hindu Heritage Month

TORONTO, Oct 6: A bill has been introduced in Canada’s House of Commons to designate October as Hindu Heritage Month in the country.

“I am honoured to have introduced this bill in recognition of the important role played by Hindu Canadians in our country’s economic growth and social development,” said Indo-Canadian MP Deepak Obhrai.

“Hindu Canadians are a vital link in Canada’s fabled multicultural mosaic. They are part of the success story that has made Canada one of the best countries in the world...It will be an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate,” said the MP from Calgary Forest Lawn in the province of Alberta.

The text of the Bill notes that its passage into an Act will recognise the "important role played by Hindu Canadians from coast to coast while providing an opportunity for all Canadians to reflect on, celebrate and educate others about the role that Hindu Canadians play in communities across the country."

October is already designated Hindu Heritage Month in the province of Ontario and by the Toronto District School Board. A similar Bill to designate April as Sikh Heritage Month, moved by Sukh Dhaliwal, an MP from the province of British Columbia, is currently before the House.

India inks $5.43 billion deal for S-400 missiles from Russia

NEW DELHI, Oct 5: India inks $5.43 billion (Rs 40,000 crore) deal for five advanced S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile squadrons with Russia

The deal has been signed despite the looming threat of US financial sanctions. S-400 can track and destroy hostile strategic bombers, jets, missiles and drones at a range of 380 km.

The deal has been an issue of much speculation after US President Donald Trump's administration's law — Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) — came into effect in January.

Another deal for space cooperation has been signed between Russia and India. An Indian monitoring station will be built near the Russian city of Novosibirsk in Siberia.

As Modi received Putin at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi, the two leaders warmly shook hands and hugged each other obliging cameramen.

Around 20 agreements are expected to be signed between the two sides.

Putin, who arrived in New Delhi late Thursday, was also set to discuss with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi further agreements worth some $3 billion for Russian naval ships and military helicopters.

Russia building its second nuclear power plant in India is on the table too, as is the training of Indian astronauts in Russia for New Delhi's first crewed space mission in 2022.

India, walking a tightrope between Russia and the United States while keeping a wary eye on China, is expected to seek sanctions waivers but President Donald Trump's administration has signalled this is unlikely.

However, Washington is in a difficult position when it comes to New Delhi, seeking to bolster ties with India to counter China's growing assertiveness while maintaining pressure on Russia.

Washington and New Delhi announced plans last month for joint military drills in 2019, and agreed on the exchange of sensitive military information. The US is now India's second biggest arms supplier.

India, Russia to sign S-400 air defence systems deal during Vladimir Putin’s visit: Kremlin aide

MOSCOW, Oct 2: Russian President Vladimir Putin will oversee the signing of a $5 billion deal this week to supply Delhi with S-400 air defence systems, a top Kremlin aide said on Tuesday ahead of Putin’s trip to India.

“The president is leaving for India on October 4,” Putin’s top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters.

“The key feature of this visit will be the signing of the agreement to deliver S-400 air defence systems,” he said. “The value of the contract will be more than $5 billion.”

Moscow has been negotiating to sell the S-400 long-range surface-to-air missiles to India for months.

The sale has irked India’s defence partner Washington, which has wanted to wean India off Russian technology, and a senior Pentagon official said in August that sanctions against India would come under consideration if its purchase goes through.

India has signalled it will ask Washington for a special waiver from sanctions, though a US official last week said there is no guarantee it would do so.

Indonesia quake, tsunami death toll climbs to 1,347

PALU, Oct 3: The death toll from an earthquake and tsunami on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia has climbed to 1,347, according to the country's disaster management agency, as rescue teams scramble to search for survivors buried in the rubble from the deadly disaster.

Authorities and aid workers struggled to reach the affected areas made inaccessible by damaged infrastructure on Tuesday, four days after the disaster hit Palu, a small city about 1,500km northeast of the capital, Jakarta, and other parts of Sulawesi Island.

Some remote areas have been largely cut off after Friday's magnitude 7.5 quake triggered massive tsunami waves, destroying roads and bridges; their losses have yet to be determined.

"The team is racing against time because it's already D+four," Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, told reporters in Jakarta on Tuesday, referring to four days since the quake.

More than 65,000 homes have been damaged and at least 60,000 people have been displaced and are in need of emergency help, according to the government.

"Experts here say that just by looking at the devastation, one must expect the number of those dead to rise in the coming days because many areas remain unreachable and the full extent of the devastation has yet to be realised," said Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan, reporting from Makassar, a port city in eastern Sulawesi.

Earlier, President Joko Widodo called for reinforcements in the search for survivors, saying everyone had to be found.

About 1,700 homes in one Palu neighbourhood were swallowed up, with hundreds of people believed buried, the national disaster agency said.

Among those killed in the area were 34 children at a Christian bible study camp, a Red Cross official said.

There was also mounting concern over Donggala, a region of 300,000 people north of Palu and closer to the epicentre, and two other districts - with a combined population of about 1.4 million.

Initial reports from Red Cross rescuers who had reached the outskirts of Donggala district were chilling.

"The situation in the affected areas is nightmarish," Jan Gelfand, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) office in Jakarta, said in a statement.

"The city of Palu has been devastated and first reports out of Donggala indicate that it has also been hit extremely hard by the double disaster," Gelfand said.

India, Uzbekistan sign 17 agreements

NEW DELHI, Oct 1: India and Uzbekistan set an annual bilateral trade target of $1 billion to be achieved within two years and agreed to boost connectivity as the two sides signed 17 agreements across a range of sectors following delegation-level talks led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in New Delhi on Monday.

The two sides also agreed to further strengthen their Strategic Partnership which will be a boost to India’s increasing engagements with Central Asia.

“We have agreed to strengthen trade and investment ties and have set a bilateral trade target of $1 billion by 2020,” Modi said in a joint address to the media with Mirziyoyev following the the talks.

“We have also decided to start negotiations for a preferential trade agreement,” he said.

India-Uzbekistan bilateral trade stands at around $350 million now and the new target represents a six-fold increase over this.

Modi also said that India has decided to extend a line of credit (LoC) of $200 million to Uzbekistan for housing and other social infrastructure projects.

“Apart from this, we will welcome Uzbekistan’s proposals under $800 million line of credit and buyer’s credit from Exim Bank,” he said. “We have proposed to help Uzbekistan in the areas of space, human resource development and information technology.”

Modi said that in Monday’s talks, they discussed ways to boost connectivity.

In this connection, he stressed on the importance of Chabahar port in Iran that is jointly being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan.

He also expressed gratitude to Uzbekistan for its support in India becoming a member of the Ashgabat Agreement, which seeks to establish an international transport and transit corridor between Iran, Oman, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, earlier this year.

“We are happy that Uzbekistan has agreed to be a part of the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC),” he said.

The INSTC is a 7,200-km-long multi-modal network of ship, rail and road routes for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

Modi said that during the talks, both sides shared their vision and plans to further strengthen the Strategic Partnership that they share. The India-Uzbekistan relationship was elevated to that of a Strategic Partnership during the visit of then Uzbek President Islam Karimov to India in 2011.

“Meaningful discussions were also held on regional issues of importance that are linked to our security, peace, prosperity and cooperation,” Modi said.

He said that both sides also agreed to deepen cooperation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisatin (SCO) and other international forums.

India was made a member of the SCO, a Eurasian inter-governmental organisation, last year.

In terms of defence cooperation, the Prime Minister said that India and Uzbekistan discussed joint military exercises and military education and training among other areas.

Stating that both India and Uzbekistan seek a secure and prosperous external environment, he said that a stable, democratic, inclusive and prosperous Afghanistan will be beneficial for the whole region.

“We also discussed issues of e-visa, tourism, academic exchanges and air connectivity,” Modi said.

On his part, Mirziyoyev said that the India-Uzbekistan Strategic Partnership is very important for Tashkent’s foreign policy. He said that Uzbekistan supports India’s bid for permanent membership in the UN Security Council.

“We discussed the fight against terrorism, extremism, and narcotics trafficking,” the Uzbek President said.

“We are very concerned about the conflict in Afghanistan and feel that the only solution is a dialogue between the Afghan government and the opposition.”

Following the talks, 17 agreements were signed between the two sides, including in the areas of tourism, military training, law and justice, agriculture, science and innovation, health, and pharmaceuticals.

Earlier in the day, Mirziyoyev was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also called on the visiting dignitary and discussed cooperation in trade and investment, development cooperation, education, renewable energy, connectivity and tourism.

The Uzbek President arrived here on Sunday on his first official visit to India since assuming office in 2016.

Pak chopper intrudes into Indian airspace, reports say PoK PM was aboard

JAMMU, Oct 1: A Pakistani helicopter crossed 700 metres into Indian air space along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch sector on Sunday afternoon. According to reports from Pakistan, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s prime minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan was travelling in this chopper.

Raja Farooq Haider Khan said that his civilian helicopter was fired upon by India. “The Indian army fired to show that Pakistan had violated their airspace,” Khan’s office said in a statement, but added “when the firing took place, we were within our own airspace”.

Khan claimed his helicopter was not armed in any way, and called for calm heads. “We do not want any war hysteria in this region,” he said.

Defence spokesman Lt Col Devender Anand said a white-coloured Pakistani helicopter had violated Indian airspace around noon on Sunday.

It entered around 700m inside the Indian territory and flew over Krishna Ghati sector before returning, he said.

Air sentries at forward locations had engaged it with small arms, a move intended to warn the pilot about the intrusion and force the chopper to turn back. The chopper wasn’t hit.

Defence sources said the chopper flew over Gulpur area across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir’s Krishna Ghati sector at 12:13 pm before returning to Pakistani airspace.

The incident comes at a time when relations between the two neighbours are at a low.

Indonesian quake, tsunami toll crosses 832

PALE, Oct 1: Two natural disasters — a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that unleashed a six meter wave — have turned parts of Palu, Indonesia and the surrounding strip of coastline into a graveyard.

As of Sunday evening, disaster mitigation officials said that at least 832 people had been confirmed killed.

The toll, which has more than doubled from Sunday morning, is expected to climb, with heavily populated areas outside the city still cut off from any assistance.

With the prospect that thousands may have been killed, questions have begun mounting as to why residents were not adequately warned, given the area’s long and deadly history of facing killer waves.

Pak minister shares stage with LeT founder Hafiz Saeed ‘on PM’s instructions’

ISLAMABAD, Oct 1: Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri, a member of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, shared the stage with Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed at an event in Islamabad that focused on the Kashmir issue.

Several pro-Jamaat-ud-Dawah Twitter handles quoted Qadri as saying that he attended the all-party conference organised by the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) on Sunday on the instructions of the prime minister as its agenda represented the “sentiments of the whole Pakistani nation”.

Qadri’s presence at the event came just a day after Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at the UN General Assembly that the country “will continue to strengthen our counter-terrorism frameworks and regimes”. Qadri was seen in photos and video footage seated close to Saeed.

Saeed, accused by India of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, carries a $10 million bounty on his head. The DPC is an alliance of some 40 religious and extremist groups.

Qadri told the gathering that Pakistan is an atomic power and will respond to any “mischief” by India in a befitting manner. “Our military is ready, don’t be under the impression that there won’t be any response to a surgical strike,” he was quoted as saying.

“I joined this conference on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he was quoted as saying. Reports said Qadri also signed a declaration adopted at the meeting to “declare India a terrorist state”.

Though Pakistan wants to resolve all political and territorial issues through dialogue, the Indian response was “stubborn”, he alleged. “They are reluctant to come across the table for negotiations,” he added.

Qadri said the government had highlighted Indian alleged involvement in terror activities in Pakistan at the UN General Assembly. India has dismissed foreign minister Qureshi’s allegations in this regard.

The meet was organised by the DPC to discuss alleged “Indian threats”, the situation in Kashmir and other issues.

In his address at the meet, Saeed alleged the BJP wants to fight next year’s general elections by “uniting the Hindu votes and oppressing Muslims” and on the “basis of enmity towards Pakistan”.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had mounted a frontal attack on Pakistan at the UN General Assembly on Saturday, calling it “an expert in trying to mask malevolence with verbal duplicity,” accusing it of funding and glorifying terrorists and warning of a “conflagration” if terrorism is not rooted out.

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