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Modi, Trump Agree To Intensify Fight Against Terrorism

By Deepak Arora

WASHINGTON D.C., June 26: US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday agreed to enhance cooperation to destroy radical Islamic terrorism.

Addressing a joint press conference along with Prime Minister Modi at the Rose Garden of the White House, President Trump said "the security partnership between the US and India is incredibly important. Both our nations have been struck by the evils of terrorism and we are both determined to destroy terrorist organisations and the radical ideology that drives them. We will destroy radical Islamic terrorism."

Echoing similar sentiments, Modi said "both US and India have been struck by evils of terrorism. We discussed the problems arising due to terrorism and radicalisation. Fight against terrorism and their safe havens will be an important part of our cooperation."

After his first meeting with Trump, Modi said the talks were an important moment in the cooperation between our nations. "We held talks on wide range of issues pertaining to the India-USA relationship."

While saying that both India and USA were global engines of growth, Modi said "my vision of 'New India' and your vision of 'Make America Great Again' have synergies."

Modi also said "we agreed to work closely on boosting maritime trade and cooperation."

Modi said the two leaders discussed regional issues and problems in Afghanistan were issues of common concern.

The two leaders also discussed trade, commerce and investments. Modi said technology, innovation and knowledge economy were also areas the two were actively looking at.

In his remarks at the press conference soon after after the delegation-level talks, Trump said "I have always had a deep admiration for your country and your people, the rich culture and traditions. It's great honour to welcome the leader of the world's largest democracy. You have a true friend in the White House...our ties have never been stronger and better."

He said India was the fastest growing economy in the world. "We hope we will be catching up you very soon. You have a big vision for improving infrastructure and fighting corruption," said Trump.

Trump said he was proud to say that PM Modi and he were world leaders in social media.

The President said PM Modi has invited his daughter Ivanka to lead US delegation to the global entrepreneurship in India, and he believed she has accepted it.

Earlier, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

After being received by Trump and the First Lady in the South Portico of the White House, the two leaders had a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office.

An hour-long meeting of the delegates of the two countries was held in the cabinet office of the White House. The US side was represented by US Vice President Mike Pence, defence secretary James Mattis, secretary of state Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Lt Gen. H.R. McMaster. India’s NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna are accompanying the Prime Minister.

US Names Hizbul Chief Salahuddin Global Terrorist

WASHINGTON D.C., June 26: The US Department of State has declared Syed Salahuddin, chief of the terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Syed Salahuddin, 71, has been operating out of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

"It does vindicate India's longest-standing position that cross border terrorism behind disturbance created in Kashmir since last year. The outfits that Syed Salahuddin leads, they have perpetuated, from the territory of Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, cross border terrorism against India including in Kashmir for a number of years," foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said welcoming the notification.

It also underlines that both India and US face threat of terrorism and "are working together to counter this threat, not in particular sector but globally also as terrorism knows no boundaries. Terrorism is a global menace", added Baglay.

"In September 2016, Salahuddin vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir valley "into a graveyard for Indian forces" said the US State Department in a statement, explaining the action.

The US move is seen to signal that the Trump administration will take a tougher stance on Pakistan harbouring terror groups.

New Delhi sees the specific mention of turning Kashmir "into a graveyard for Indian forces" as an unequivocal statement in India's support and a validation of India's moral authority on the Kashmir issue.

Monday's order would prohibit US nationals from engaging in transactions with Salahuddin. Also, all of Salahuddin's property and interests in property subject to United States jurisdiction are blocked.

The US statement said that the Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which injured 17 people.The designation of terrorist individuals and groups expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and result in denial of access to the US financial system. It can also complement the law enforcement actions of other nations.

A native of Budgam district in central Kashmir, Salaluddin had shifted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir around 1989 from where he played a key role in fueling militancy in Kashmir for 27 years; training and arming youth before sending them back to the Kashmir valley. He also heads the United Jihad Council, the umbrella body set up in the mid-1990s to oversee terror outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing a public rally in Lahore last year, Syed Salaluddin had threatened Home Minister Rajnath Singh against travelling to Islamabad for the Saarc meeting of home ministers. Hafiz Saeed had followed up on this threat, with a statement announcing nation-wide protests against Rajnath Singh's visit.

It is not clear how the US order will impact the Hizbul chief who operates out of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and has the support of the Pakistani government and its agencies. In 2014, the US had similarly placed the Pakistan-based Hafiz Saeed-run Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the list of banned foreign terrorist organisations.

Two years earlier, in 2012, the US announced a $10 million bounty for information leading to Hafiz Saeed arrest for his involvement in terrorist attacks, including the 2008 strike on Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.

In victory for Trump, US Supreme Court revives his travel ban

WASHINGTON, June 26: The US Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his temporary ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees to go into effect for people with no strong ties to the United States while agreeing to decide this fall the legality of the order.

The case represents a major test of presidential powers. The justices, in their unsigned decision, granted parts of the Trump administration's emergency request to put the order into effect immediately while the legal battle continues.

The court, which narrowed the scope of lower court rulings that had completely blocked his March 6 executive order, said it would hear arguments in October on the lawfulness of one of Trump's signature policies in his first months as president.

The March 6 order called for a 90-day ban on travelers from Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen and a 120-day ban on all refugees to enable the government to implement stronger vetting procedures. It was blocked by federal judges before going into effect on March 16 as planned.

Both bans are now due to partly go into effect in 72 hours, based on a memorandum issued by the Trump administration on June 14.

Even before the Supreme Court action the ban applied only to new visa applicants, not people who already have visas or are US permanent residents, known as green card holders. The executive order also made waivers available for a foreign national seeking to enter the United States to resume work or study, visit a spouse, child or parent who is a US citizen, or for "significant business or professional obligations." Refugees "in transit" and already approved would have been able to travel to the United States under the executive order.

The case is Trump's first major challenge at the Supreme Court, where he restored a 5-4 conservative majority with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, who joined the bench in April.

US Defence Secretary, Secretary of State call on Modi

WASHINGTON D.C., June 26: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held talks with US Defence Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, ahead of his meeting with President Donald Trump.

Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was also present at the meetings.

“First engagement of the day. Jim Mattis, Secretary of Defence,” MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay tweeted.

“Preparing the ground for the meeting between the leaders. Mr. Rex W. Tillerson, Secretary of State calls on PM,” said another tweet.

Defence and counter terrorism issues are likely to be among the major topics to be discussed during the Modi-Trump meeting.

The Prime Minister is to meet President Trump and the First Lady at the White house. The leaders will address the media from the Rose Garden.

On Sunday, in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal, Modi said that defence is a mutually beneficial sphere of the Indo-US partnership.

“We are already working together to address the existing and emerging strategic and security challenges that affect both our nations – in Afghanistan, West Asia, the large maritime space of the Indo-Pacific, the new and unanticipated threats in cyberspace,” he said in the article.

Modi interacts with American CEOs

WASHINGTON, June 25: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday met and interacted with 20 top American CEOs at a roundtable meeting in Washington DC.

Welcoming the CEOs, the Prime Minister said that the world is focused on India's economy. He said a young population and a rising middle class are among factors which generate global interest in the Indian economy, especially in areas such as manufacturing, trade and commerce, and people to people contacts.

He said that in the last three years, the Union Government in India has focused on improvement in quality of life of the people.

The Prime Minister said this requires global partnership. And therefore, he added, the Union Government in India is working on principles such as Minimum Government, Maximum Governance.

The Prime Minister spoke of the recent reforms, and noted that the Union Government alone has initiated 7000 reforms. He said this indicates India's quest for global benchmarks. He mentioned the Government's emphasis on efficiency, transparency, growth and benefit for all.

On GST, the Prime Minister said that this is becoming a reality after years of effort. He added that its implementation is a complex task that may well be the subject of future case-studies. He added that this shows India can take big decisions and implement them swiftly.

CEOs appreciated the Prime Minister for his policy initiatives and the work done in recent times towards ease of doing business. Initiatives such as Digital India, Make in India, Skill Development, Demonetization and the thrust towards renewable energy came in for much appreciation from a number of CEOs.

Several CEOs showed their willingness to be partners in skill development and education initiatives. They also mentioned social initiatives being undertaken by their companies in India, in spheres such as women empowerment, digital technology, education and food processing. Themes such as infrastructure, defence manufacturing and energy security also came up for discussion.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister thanked the CEOs for their observations. Looking forward to his meeting with President Trump tomorrow, he said India and the US have shared values. He said if America becomes stronger, India will be a natural beneficiary. He also added that India believes that a strong America is good for the world.

He sought enhanced attention from the CEOs in areas such as women empowerment, renewable energy, startups and innovation. He suggested linking sanitary practices, products and technologies with the requirements of school going girls. He reiterated that his primary interest is improving the quality of life in India.

Modi interacts with Indian Community in Washington DC

WASHINGTON, June 25: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday interacted with the Indian community in Washington DC.

He said that the Indian diaspora rejoiced whenever there was good news from India, and wanted India to scale newer heights. He appreciated the role played by the diaspora in contributing towards the American economy. The Prime Minister said that people in India are now getting opportunities and the right environment. He expressed confidence that soon, they would transform the country.

The Prime Minister asserted that in the last three years, there has not been a single allegation of corruption on the Union Government.

The Prime Minister spoke of the role of technology in reducing corruption.
Elaborating on the benefits of Direct Benefit Transfer, he said this has helped in better targeting of subsidy and eliminated leakage to a large degree. The Prime Minister complimented families which have given up their LPG subsidy. He laid out the vision of providing LPG connections to 5 crore poor households. "When I think of a developed India, I think of a healthy India, particularly the good health of the women and children of our nation," he added.

The Prime Minister said that through technology-driven governance, a modern India is being created. He said that when appropriate policies and governance are in place, the aspirations of the people of India can be achieved.

The Prime Minister spoke about terrorism, and said the world has now understood the threat it poses. In this context, the Prime Minister spoke of the surgical strikes carried out by India recently.

The Prime Minister also appreciated the role of the Ministry of External Affairs, and in particular, the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in helping people in distress, across the world.

Trump aide Kenneth Juster set to be next US ambassador to India

WASHINGTON, June 23: Kenneth Juster, 62, who is the deputy assistant to the US president for International Economic Affairs and Deputy Director of his National Economic Council, would replace Richard Verma if nominated and confirmed by the Senate.

Senior White House official Kenneth Juster will be the next US ambassador to India, ending a months-long search that saw several Indian-Americans in the mix. An announcement, however, is not expected in time for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US starting later this week.

“Ken Juster’s move to Indian Ambassador is because he is extremely qualified for the position,” White House deputy spokesperson Lindsay E Walters.

“Ken has a strong and positive relationship with everyone in the White House, including the president,” Walters added.

When asked if the Washington Post story was confirmed, another White House official, Michael Short, told Hindustan Times: “No, we have no announcements to make at this time.”

While the Post report also said India had endorsed the appointment, sources in New Delhi pushed back, saying the formal stage of “agremont”, a diplomatic process in which the host country’s assent is sought before announcing the nomination of the envoy, had not been reached yet.

Juster is currently serving as a deputy assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council in the White House. He had been a regular on the meeting list of senior Indian officials in DC for their first meetings with the Trump administration.

Juster, a lawyer from Harvard, is an experienced India hand. As deputy secretary of commerce in President George W Bush’s administration — a position roughly the equivalent of minister of state in India — he had launched the High Technology Cooperation Group to promote trade in sensitive dual-use goods and technology.

Others in the race had included Shalli Kumar, an Indian American businessman from Chicago who had emerged as one of major donors to the Trump campaign and who had been instrumental in the Republican nominee’s unprecedented outreach to the Indian American community.

Another Indian American, Ashley Tellis, who had played a crucial role in the finalisation of the landmark India-US civil nuclear cooperation deal as a member of the Bush administration, had also figured in the speculation.

He fully endorsed Juster’s reported selection, telling Hindustan Times: “He is an excellent choice.”

Trump administration may expand drone strikes to Pakistan, curb aids to crack down on terrorism: Report

WASHINGTON, June 19: President Donald Trump’s administration appears ready to harden its approach toward Pakistan to crack down on Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan, according to US officials.

Potential Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding US drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some US officials, however, are skeptical of the prospects for success, arguing that years of previous US efforts to curb Pakistan’s support for militant groups have failed, and that already strengthening US ties to India, Pakistan’s arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.

US officials say they seek greater cooperation with Pakistan, not a rupture in ties, once the administration finishes a regional review of the strategy guiding the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The White House and Pentagon declined to comment on the review before its completion. Pakistan’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The United States and Pakistan continue to partner on a range of national security issues,” Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump said.

But the discussions alone suggest a shift toward a more assertive approach to address safe havens in Pakistan that have been blamed for in part helping turn Afghanistan’s war into an intractable conflict.

Experts on America’s longest war argue that militant safe havens in Pakistan have allowed Taliban-linked insurgents a place to plot deadly strikes in Afghanistan and regroup after ground offensives.

Although long mindful of Pakistan, the Trump administration in recent weeks has put more emphasis on the relationship with Islamabad in discussions as it hammers out a the regional strategy to be presented to Trump by mid-July, nearly six months after he took office, one official said.

“We’ve never really fully articulated what our strategy towards Pakistan is. The strategy will more clearly say what we want from Pakistan specifically,” the US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other US officials warn of divisions within the government about the right approach and question whether any mix of carrots and sticks can get Islamabad to change its behaviour. At the end of the day, Washington needs a partner, even if an imperfect one, in nuclear-armed Pakistan, they say.

The United States is again poised to deploy thousands more troops in Afghanistan, an acknowledgment that US-backed forces are not winning and Taliban militants are resurgent.

Without more pressure on militants within Pakistan who target Afghanistan, experts say additional US troop deployments will fail to meet their ultimate objective: to pressure the Taliban to eventually negotiate peace.

“I believe there will be a much harder US line on Pakistan going forward than there has been in the past,” Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the United States, told Reuters, without citing specific measures under review.

Pakistan fiercely denies allowing any militants safe haven on its territory. It bristles at US claims that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, has ties to Haqqani network militants blamed for some of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan.

“What Pakistan says is that we are already doing a lot and that our plate is already full,” a senior Pakistani government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The source doubted the Trump administration would press too hard, saying: “They don’t want to push Pakistan to abandon their war against terrorism.”

Pakistani officials point towards the toll militancy has taken on the country. Since 2003, almost 22,000 civilians and nearly 7,000 Pakistani security forces have been killed as a result of militancy, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, which tracks violence.

Experts say Pakistan’s policy towards Afghanistan is also driven in part by fears that India will gain influence in Afghanistan.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan won the status as a major non-NATO ally in 2004 from the George Bush administration, in what was at the time seen in part as recognition of its importance in the US battle against al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents.

The status is mainly symbolic, allowing limited benefits such as giving Pakistan faster access to surplus U.S. military hardware.

Some US officials and experts on the region scoff at the title.

“Pakistan is not an ally. It’s not North Korea or Iran. But it’s not an ally,” said Bruce Riedel, a Pakistan expert at the Brookings Institution.

But yanking the title would be seen by Pakistan as a major blow.

“The Pakistanis would take that very seriously because it would be a slap at their honor,” said a former U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Lisa Curtis, senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council, co-authored a report with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to Washington, in which they recommended the Trump administration warn Pakistan the status could be revoked in six months.

“Thinking of Pakistan as an ally will continue to create problems for the next administration as it did for the last one,” said the February report.

It was unclear how seriously the Trump administration was considering the proposal.

The growing danger to Afghanistan from suspected Pakistan-based militants was underscored by a devastating May 31 truck bomb that killed more than 80 people and wounded 460 in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul.

Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency said the attack - one of the deadliest in memory in Kabul - had been carried out by the Haqqani network with assistance from Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Washington believes the strikes appeared to be the work of the Haqqani network, US officials told Reuters.

US frustration over the Haqqani’s presence in Pakistan has been building for years. The United States designated the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization in 2012. US Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top US military officer, told Congress in 2011 that the Haqqani network was a “veritable arm” of the ISI.

The potential US pivot to a more assertive approach would be sharply different than the approach taken at the start of the Obama administration, when US officials sought to court Pakistani leaders, including Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

David Sedney, who served as Obama’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia from 2009 to 2013, said the attempt to turn Islamabad into a strategic partner was a “disaster.”

“It didn’t affect Pakistan’s behavior one bit. In fact, I would argue it made Pakistan’s behavior worse,” Sedney said.

Pakistan has received more than $33 billion in US assistance since 2002, including more than $14 billion in so-called Coalition Support Funds (CSF), a US Defense Department program to reimburse allies that have incurred costs in supporting counter-insurgency operations.

It is an important form of foreign currency for the nuclear-armed country and one that is getting particularly close scrutiny during the Trump administration review.

Last year, the Pentagon decided not to pay Pakistan $300 million in CSF funding after then-U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter declined to sign authorization that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network.

US officials said the Trump administration was discussing withholding at least some assistance to Pakistan.

Curtis’ report also singled out the aid as a target.

But US aid cuts could cede even more influence to China, which already has committed nearly $60 billion in investments in Pakistan.

Another option under review is broadening a drone campaign to penetrate deeper into Pakistan to target Haqqani fighters and other militants blamed for attacks in Afghanistan, US officials and a Pakistan expert said.

“Now the Americans (will be) saying, you aren’t taking out our enemies, so therefore we are taking them out ourselves,” the Pakistan expert, who declined to be identified, said.

Pakistan’s army chief of staff last week criticized “unilateral actions” such as drone strikes as “counterproductive and against (the) spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan”.

White House says Trump ‘looking forward’ to meeting Modi

WASHINGTON D.C., June 12: The leaders of the world’s two largest democracies, US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will meet on June 26 at the White House. for the first time.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the maiden meeting between President Trump and PM Modi would “set forth a vision” to expand the US-India partnership in an ambitious way.

The two leaders would discuss a gamut of bilateral issues including terrorism and India’s concerns over possible changes in H-1B visa rules.

“I think you can expect the two of them to set forth a vision that will expand the US-India partnership in an ambitious and worthy way of both countries’ people,” said Sean Spicer at his daily news conference on Monday.

The Indian external affairs ministry in New Delhi said that meeting would provide a new direction for a deeper bilateral engagement “on issues of mutual interest and consolidation of multi-dimensional strategic partnership.”

Modi was invited to Washington when he rang Trump in January to congratulate the new president on his inauguration.

“The president and the prime minister have had a number of positive phone conversations, and expect to further that discussion ... whether it’s economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism, expanding our cooperation as major defence partners,” Spicer said in response to a question.

The bilateral talks appear to be no bed of roses as they come amidst thorny issues like US’ plans to reduce the number of H-1B visa slots that are mainly used by Indian IT workers, and its withdrawal from the historic climate accord.

The White House said that the US-India trade has grown six-fold since 2000, from USD 19 billion to USD 115 billion in 2016, despite the recent hiccups over the H-1B visa issue.

Modi’s US visit, which would begin on June 25, comes in the backdrop of Trump’s announcement to withdraw the US from the historic Paris Climate Agreement signed by over 190 other countries.

In his announcement of the decision for which he received a global condemnation, Trump had blamed India and China for the US withdrawal.

“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions of dollars from developed countries,” he had said.

Strongly rejecting Trump’s contention, India said it signed the Paris deal not under duress or for lure of money but due to its commitment to protect the environment.

Apart from ways to enhance trade and business cooperation, Modi and Trump are expected to discuss defence ties.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis has already made it clear that his country recognises India as a major defence “partner partly out of respect” for New Delhi’s “indispensable role” in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region.

The US was exploring “new ways” to address new challenges as well from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia, Mattis has said.

Regional security situation including Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and other international issues are expected to figure prominently during the meeting of the two leaders.

US lawmaker Steve Scalise shot at, critical

ALEXANDRIA (Virginia), June 15: Congressman Steve Scalise, the No. 3 Republican in the US House of Representatives, was in critical condition on Wednesday night after he and three others were shot as they practised for a charity baseball game.

The gunman, who had posted angry messages against President Donald Trump and other Republicans on social media, opened fire on a group of Republican lawmakers and colleagues at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington. He was wounded in a gunfight with Capitol Hill police at the scene and later died.

Scalise was shot in the left hip, suffering broken bones, injuries to internal organs and severe bleeding.

He underwent surgery but would need further operations, the MedStar Washington Hospital Center said.

“Rep. Steve Scalise, one of the truly great people, is in very tough shape - but he is a real fighter. Pray for Steve!” Trump said on Twitter after visiting the hospital on Wednesday night.

The gunman, identified by police as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, fired repeatedly at the men playing on the baseball field on Wednesday morning.

Congressmen at the ballpark described hearing loud noises like the sound of firecrackers and 15 to 20 people lying on the ground and realizing they had only baseball bats to defend themselves against bullets.

“When he started shooting, he was shooting to kill people. And thank God he wasn’t a very good shot,” said Representative Joe Barton, the Republican team’s manager.

Also wounded were a congressional aide and one former aide who now works as a lobbyist, officials said. One Capitol Hill police officer suffered a gunshot wound and another officer twisted an ankle and was released from a hospital, police said.

“It was not only chaotic but it was a combat situation,” Alexandria Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters.

While police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was too early to determine whether it was a deliberate political attack, the shooting intensified concerns about the sharp divide and bitter rhetoric in U.S. politics.

FBI special agent Tim Slater declined to comment on whether the gunman had a vendetta against Republicans.

“We continue to actively investigate the shooter’s motives, acquaintances and whereabouts that led to today’s incidents,” Slater told reporters. No one else was in custody, he said.

The gunman was believed to have been in the Alexandria area since March, Slater said. Investigators believe that the suspect had been living out of his vehicle.

Wednesday’s shooting revived debate about gun rights in America. Virginia’s Democratic governor, Terry McAuliffe, urged gun control measures.

Scalise has been a strong opponent of gun control measures.

Hodgkinson had raged against Trump on social media and was a member of anti-Republican groups on Facebook including, “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Terminate The Republican Party,” and “Donald Trump is not my President,” a search of his Facebook profile showed.

As businessman Trump rose to become the Republican nominee in the 2016 presidential election, his brash style and outspoken views on immigration and other policies led to mass protests, including on the weekend of his inauguration in January.

The charity ballgame between a Republican team and a Democratic team will go ahead as scheduled on Thursday at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team.

Representative Tim Ryan, who early on Wednesday was practicing for the ballgame with fellow Democrats, told reporters that Washington politicians needed to cool their rhetoric.

“We’ve got to get back to ... where things aren’t so personal and we’re so judgmental of each other. It’s got to stop. A member of the US Congress got shot because they didn’t like (his) political views,” Ryan said.

Trump, who announced the gunman’s death, called for unity. “We are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good,” he said.

In a show of bipartisanship, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the floor of the House: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The House’s top Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, echoed Ryan’s message.

The shooting happened shortly after 7 a.m. There were 20 House members and two senators present, and the shooting lasted about 10 minutes, said Barton.

Two lawmakers who were at the scene, Representatives Ron DeSantis and Jeff Duncan, indicated there might have been a political motive in the attack.

Duncan said that as he left the field, the man who would later open fire approached him in the parking lot. “He asked me who was practicing this morning, Republicans or Democrats, and I said: ‘That’s the Republicans practicing,’“ Duncan told reporters. DeSantis gave a similar account.

Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, said he had been told that Hodgkinson had served as a volunteer with his campaign.

“Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” Sanders said.

Ryan, the House speaker, is reviewing rules on how rank-and-file lawmakers can increase their personal security, according to several lawmakers.

“Members get threats on a regular basis and have trouble determining which are real,” House Democratic whip Steny Hoyer told reporters.

The shooting took place at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, across the Potomac River from Washington.

Representative Mo Brooks told CNN that during batting practice, he heard a “bam” and then a quick succession of shots and saw the gunman shooting through the holes in a chain link fence.

When Scalise was shot, he went down on the infield between first and second base, then dragged himself into the grassy outfield as the incident unfolded, leaving a trail of blood, Brooks said.

Two Capitol police officers who were there to provide security for the lawmakers engaged the gunman with pistols, Brooks said.

“But for the Capitol police and the heroism they showed, it could very well have been a large-scale massacre. All we would have had would have been baseball bats versus a rifle. Those aren’t good odds,” Brooks said.

Wednesday’s attack was the first shooting of a member of Congress since January 2011, when Democratic Representative Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt at a gathering of constituents in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed. Giffords resigned from Congress and became an activist for gun restrictions.

San Francisco: UPS warehouse shooting leaves four dead including gunman

SAN FRANCISCO, June 15: A man dressed in a UPS uniform and armed with an “assault pistol” opened fire at a United Parcel Service Inc package sorting hub in San Francisco, killing three people before turning the gun on himself, police said.

Police did not identify the suspect or say if he was a UPS employee. They told a news conference the incident was not terrorism-related and they recovered two firearms from the scene.

Two other people were shot and have been taken to an area hospital, police said.

The shooter and the victims were all drivers, said Steve Gaut, head of investor relations at UPS. The incident took place while the workers were gathered for their daily morning meeting before going out on their routes, he added.

Gaut said the facility’s employees have been released from work and he believes most have left the building. The company is providing trauma and grief counseling to employees.

Live video showed a massive police presence near the facility, with workers being led out and embracing each other on the sidewalk outside.

“The company is saddened and deeply concerned about affected employees, family members and the community we share. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those touched by this incident,” UPS said in a statement.

Victims were taken to the Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, spokesman Brent Andrew said. He said he could not say how many patients were taken to the hospital or give their conditions.

In 2014, a man shot and killed two of his supervisors before turning the gun on himself at a UPS distribution center in Birmingham, Alabama. The gunman had recently been fired from the facility.

Pakistan more of a threat than an ally: Top US think tank

WASHINGTON, June 6: Pakistan is still a sanctuary for the Taliban and the Haqqani network and more of a threat than an ally, a top US think tank has said, while asserting that the Trump administration should make it clear to Islamabad that it will face sanctions if it continues to support them.

"Afghanistan is currently doing badly both in the fighting and in its civilian politics, governance, and poverty. Pakistan is still a sanctuary for the Taliban and Haqqani network+ and more of a threat than an ally," the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a report released yesterday.

Authored by Anthony H Cordesman, CSIS's Arleigh A Burke, chair in strategy, the report said there has to be a better strategy and a better approach to both the military and civil dimensions of the war to provide a reason to stay.

"No commitment should be open ended. The Afghans have to do far more, and do it far better, to justify each future year of US commitment," the report said.

"The United States should make it clear to Pakistan that it faces a total end to aid, and the imposition of sanctions, if it continues to support the Taliban and tolerate the Haqqani network," it said.

Russia should be told that any end to US sanctions will depend on it not supporting the Taliban, and the Unites States should reach out to China to make it clear that Chinese cooperation in dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan can serve both Chinese and American interests, the report said.

CSIS said the US should make it totally clear that it will conduct a public annual review of its commitments to Afghanistan and the Afghan performance.

"It should make it clear that it can and will leave in the face of Afghan failure. If necessary, the United States should make good on such a threat," it said.

"It should send a clear message to all 'partner states' that they must meet reasonable standards of performance. The United States should never bully its allies, but it also should not be bullied - or let nations slip into the kind of overdependence that ultimately undermines rather than aids them," the CSIS said.

Isolating Qatar 'beginning of end of terrorism': Trump

WASHINGTON, June 6: US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his trip to the Middle East was "already paying off" as regional leaders followed through on their promise to take a hard line on funding militant groups.

"So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!" Trump said in a series of Twitter posts.

Trump said the leaders he met on a Middle East trip had warned him that Qatar was funding "radical ideology" after he had demanded they take action to stop financing militant groups.

The comments on Twitter - Trump's first about the rift between Qatar and major Arab nations over alleged support of Iran and Islamist groups - came as the leader of Kuwait was to meet in Saudi Arabia to try to mediate the dispute.

Qatar vehemently denies the accusations against it, calling them baseless. Ordinary Qataris, however, were to be found crowding into supermarkets to stock up on goods against the crisis.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed relations with Qatar and closed their airspace to commercial flights on Monday, in the worst split between powerful Arab states in decades.

"During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!" Trump tweeted.

The comments lent credence to a view held by some analysts that Trump in his Middle East trip emboldened the Arab nations to take action even though Qatar is a US ally and hosts a US military base.

Gulf Arab officials said Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber al-Sabah will meet with Saudi Arabia's King Salman later in the day, hoping to heal the damaging rift which has affected global oil prices, hit travel plans and sown confusion among bankers and businesses in the region.

The split among the Sunni states erupted last month after Trump attended a summit of Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia where he denounced Shi'ite Iran's "destablising interventions" in Arab lands, where Tehran is locked in a tussle with Riyadh for influence.

In a sign of the potential consequences for the Qatari economy, a number of banks in the region began stepping back from business dealings with Qatar. Saudi Arabia's central bank advised banks in the kingdom not to trade with Qatari banks in Qatari riyals, sources said.

Oil prices also fell on concern that the rift would undermine efforts by OPEC to tighten production.

Qatar and the other Arab states fell out over Doha's alleged support for Islamist militants and Shi'ite Iran.

Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV that Qatar will not retaliate, hoping Kuwait will help resolve the dispute. It wants to give Kuwait's ruler the ability to "proceed and communicate with the parties to the crisis and to try to contain the issue".

Qatar's leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, spoke by telephone overnight with his counterpart in Kuwait and, in order to allow Kuwait to mediate, decided to put off a planned speech to the nation, the foreign minister said.

Qatar has for years parlayed its enormous gas wealth and media influence into a broad influence in the region. But Gulf Arab neighbours and Egypt have long been irked by its maverick stances and support for the Muslim Brotherhood, which they regard as a political enemy.

Yemen, Libya's eastern-based government and the Maldives - close allies of Qatar's adversaries in the spat - also cut ties.

Tightening pressure, Saudi Arabia's aviation authority revoked the license of Qatar Airways and ordered its offices to be closed within 48 hours, a day after the kingdom, the UAE and Bahrain closed their airspace to Qatari commercial flights.

Flight tracker websites showed Qatar Airways flights taking a circuitous route mostly over Iran to avoid their neighbours.

Some Saudi Arabian and UAE commercial banks were also shunning Qatari banks, holding off on letters of credit, banking sources said on Tuesday.

With an estimated $335 billion of assets in its sovereign wealth fund and its gas exports earning billions of dollars every month, Qatar, however, has enough financial power to protect its banks.

Qatar's stock market rebounded in early trade on Tuesday after plunging the previous day but the Qatari riyal fell against the US dollar.

Kuwait's emir, who has spent decades as a diplomat and mediator in regional disputes, hosted Sheikh Tamim last week as the crisis began brewing.

Monday's decision forbids Saudi, UAE and Bahraini citizens from travelling to Qatar, residing in it or passing through it, instructing their citizens to leave Qatar within 14 days and Qatari nationals were given 14 days to leave those countries.

The measures are more severe than during a previous eight-month rift in 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha, again alleging Qatari support for militant groups.

US recognises India as major defence partner: James Mattis

WASHINGTON, June 4: The US recognises India as a major defence partner partly out of respect for New Delhi’s indispensable role in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region, secretary of defense James Mattis has said.

The US is exploring ways to address new challenges as well from maritime security to the growing threat posed by the spread of terrorism in Southeast Asia, Mattis said in his remarks at the Shangri-La Dialogue.

“For example, we recognise India, the most populous democracy in the world, as a major defence partner. We did so in part out of respect for India’s indispensable role in maintaining stability in the Indian Ocean region,” he said according to a Defense Department transcript.

Mattis called upon all countries to contribute sufficiently to their own security.

“At the same time, we encourage them to actively seek out opportunities and partnerships with other like-minded nations as we do the same to sustain and maintain the peace. We will continue to engage closely with our partners, building on recent progress,” he said.

Mattis said one of the top priorities of the Defense Department is to empower countries in the region so they can be even stronger contributors to their own peace and stability.

“The Pacific region countries represented here are obviously critical to strengthening and transforming the underlying security structure that has enabled tremendous regional prosperity. For we don’t take that peace or prosperity for granted,” he said.

INOC USA Elects Shudh Parkash Singh As New President

By Deepak Arora

ShudhNEW YORK, June 1: Veteran leader Shudh Parkash Singh has been unanimously elected as the National President of INOC USA at a meeting of the National Executive Committee and Chapter Committees in Queens in New York.

The Indian National Overseas Congress members unanimously elected the veteran leader Mr. Shudh Parkash Singh as the National President of INOC USA on May 27. Shudh will serve as President of INOC for second time. A few other candidates were in talks but Shudh emerged as the only consensus choice.

Indian National Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi congratulated the new President.

Dr. Karan Singh, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Department of the AICC, in his official communique, congratulated INOC USA for a unanimous election. Complimenting
Shudh, Dr Karan Sing said “This is a recognition of the valuable services that you have rendered to the INOC (I) over many years. This being the only recognised organisation by the Indian National Congress in the United State, its functioning has a special significance."

The First Lady of Punjab, Mrs. Preneet Kaur, expressed her pleasure over the elections and hoped “Shudh will continue to work with same dedication and serve as the goodwill ambassador of Punjab to spread the word on the good work being done by the Punjab government at a rapid pace.”

Complimenting Sudh, President of Punjab Pardesh Congress Committee Sunil Jakhar said “Shudh hails from my constituency. We are proud of him.”

Ashok Tanwar, President of HPCC observed, “our party needs good brilliant leaders like Shudh Ji.” Haryana Pardesh Congress will facilitate Shudh Ji on his next visit to India.

Dr. Daman Singh, INOC media coordinator in India, said “Shudh Ji’s election will bring new era of cooperation between NRIs and the Govt of Punjab. His ideas are inspiring and we look forward to work under his leadership.”

INOC President of U.K. Kamalpreet Singh and INOC Canada President Amarpreet Aulakh also congratulated Shudh on his becoming President again.

“Shudh Ji is the only leader I will support to be our next National President. He has worked hard and long for congress party”, spoke Punjab Chapter President Gurmit Singh Mulanpur while moving a formal motion to vote for President.

General Secretary Rajender Dichpally seconded the motion saying “Shudh is regarded highly by all across the membership. I am supporting the motion as we will like our next President to be a consensus choice to avoid infighting.”

All other chapter presidents and senior leaders gave a resounding yes to the vote and Shudh Parkash Singh was elected unanimously without a single dissent. It is unprecedented in the long 17 years history of INOC that a President has been elected unanimously.

In his acceptance speech Shudh reiterated his commitment to the congress party and loyalty to its leaders Rahul Gandhi and Dr. Karan Singh. He said “My main goal will be to coordinate NRIs and Govt of Punjab so the needy farmers can be helped and poorest children can be educated. I wish to work closely with congress party leaders specially Capt. Amarinder Singh to assist him in bringing the change he is trying. Punjabis all over the world are looking for it."

Ravi Chopra, National Vice President, said "No one else here in USA has more experienced or capability to be our leader. We support him unequivocally.”

Senior leaders like Kalathil Varghese and Phuman Singh already had initially supported the idea of electing Shudh as President again.

Phuman Singh said, “Shudh is the most capable man to lead us”.

Kalathil announced that entire Kerala Chapter with 16 sub chapters nationwide admire leadership style of Shudh Ji. We all want him to be the President.”

Dr. Rajender Jinna, President of Telangana chapter, sent in his greetings to the new President.

Charan Singh, President of Haryana Chapter said "I feel so proud by electing a President unanimously that other organizations can learn from ours.”

Sher Madra, Chairman Haryana chapter, expressed his admiration and support to Shudh Ji for President.

Gurmeet Singh Gill, Gurminder Talwandi, Pappi Badesha felt that the INOC(I) needed good direction and leadership at this critical juncture and felt that the best choice for the post of President would be Shudh Parkash Singh.

All members agreed and requested Shudh to become President again.

Rajender Dichpally spoke on the need to build a stronger INOC(I) to counter Overseas BJP and spread the message of the Congress Party amongst the diaspora.

All leaders from senior Vice President to all Chapter heads one by one spoke and congratulated the new President Shudh Parkash Singh.

It may be mentioned that the INOC meeting started with a two-minute silence in remembrance of the INOC(I) immediate past President late Lavika Bhagat Singh.

Rajender Dichpally General Secretary opened the meeting and invited Shudh Ji to talk about his recent visit to India and share with the members of his meetings with Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and Dr Karan Singh.

The Pre and Post meetings were attended thru telephone by Presidents of Overseas Congress from London, Toronto and also California Chapter.

Gurmeet Singh Gill spoke and moved the resolution to unanimously elect Shudh Parkash Singh as new President of INOC USA.

Rajender Dichpally seconded the motion to request Shudh Jasuja to be President. Everybody raised hands in yes and gave a resounding approval with a big applause. Shudh Ji agreed after all members spoke the need of his leadership.

All leaders from senior Vice President to all Chapter heads one by one spoke and congratulated the new President.

Shudh Parkash Jasuja thanked all members for their support and told that he will work harder to build a stronger Overseas Congress. He said that all new EC members and Office bearers will be appointed in a couple of weeks after due discussions.

It was decided to hold a big event for inauguration of new team of INOC USA. Dr. Karan Singh Ji or Chief Minister Punjab or his representative from Punjab should be invited for inauguration.

Shudh Singh appointed Gurmeet Singh Gill as Chairman of Disciplinary Committee and said that all issues regarding indiscipline in Overseas Congress will be dealt strongly going forward.

Attendees at the meeting were Shudh Parkash Singh Jasuja, Phuman Singh, Ravi Chopra, Gurmeet Gill, Rajender Dichpally, Rajender Taneja, Amar Singh, Charan Singh, Balbir Singh, Gurminder Singh Talwandi, Gurnam Singh, Kulwant Deol. Rajinder Singh, Vineet Nagpal, Yudh Vir Singh, Gurwant Pannu, Gurmeet Buttar, Gurnam Singh, Baldev Singh. Via Phone: Sukhi Chahal, Amarpreet Aulakh from Canada, Kamal Dhaliwal from England Kalathil Varghese, Dr. Rajender Jinna, Sushil Goyal and Sher Madra.

 

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