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ASEAN Summit: PM Modi Pitches For Closer Ties with 10 Nations

Modi announces a contribution of $1 million to Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pitched for convergence of approach between India and the 10-nation ASEAN in ensuring a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific, a region that has witnessed renewed global focus in view of China’s expansionist behaviour.

At a virtual summit, India and the ASEAN also deliberated on the situation in the South China Sea and affirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, safety and security in the region besides ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said.

The summit also welcomed the adoption of a new ASEAN-India Plan of Action for 2021-2025 to boost overall cooperation in various areas.

In the summit, Modi announced a contribution of US $1 million to Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund and stressed on leveraging strong ties between the two sides in the battle against the pandemic.

In the previous ASEAN-India summit in Bangkok last year, Modi had proposed a new framework called “Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative” to create a safe and secure maritime domain in the Indo-Pacific, indicating India’s readiness to play a bigger role in the region.

In his address, Modi also underscored the importance of greater physical and digital connectivity between ASEAN and India and re-iterated India’s offer of US $1 billion Line of Credit to support ASEAN connectivity, secretary (East) in the MEA Riva Ganguly Das said at an online media briefing about the summit.

The summit took place amid China’s aggressive behaviour in the disputed South China Sea, Indo-Pacific region as well as in eastern Ladakh. A number of ASEAN countries have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

The secretary said the discussions also covered regional and international issues of common interest and concern, including South China Sea and terrorism.

“Both sides noted the importance of promoting a rules-based order in the region, including through upholding adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea).

“The leaders affirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, safety and security in the South China Sea in particular freedom of navigation and overflight,” she said.

“There is ample closeness between India’s “Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative” and ASEAN’s “Outlook on Indo Pacific”‘ We firmly believe that a cohesive and responsive ASEAN is essential for security and growth for all in the region,” Modi said in his opening remarks.

“Speeding up all types of connectivity initiatives between India and ASEAN – physical, economic, social, digital, financial, maritime – is the top priority for us.

“We have come very close in all these areas in the last few years,” he said.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is considered one of the most influential groupings in the region, and India and several other countries including the US, China, Japan and Australia are its dialogue partners.

The ties between India and ASEAN have been on an upswing in the last few years with focus being on ramping up cooperation in the areas of trade and investment as well as security and defence.

In his address, Modi said the ASEAN Group is the core of India’s Act East Policy since the very beginning.

Ganguly Das said Modi noted that a cohesive, responsive and prosperous ASEAN is central to India’s Indo-Pacific Vision and contributes to ‘Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR)’.

“The Prime Minister underscored the importance of strengthening convergence between India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific to ensure a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region. He invited the ASEAN countries to take the lead on various pillars of our Oceans Initiative,” she said.

On trade and investment, she said the review of ASEAN-India trade in goods agreement has been long pending and added that Modi called for an early review of the pact.

Ganguly Das said the Prime Minister underlined the importance of diversification and resilience of supply chains for post-Covid economic recovery.

On the approach by the ASEAN leaders on Indo-Pacific, she said they also underlined the convergence between “ASEAN Outlook” and India’s approach.

“Overall it was a fruitful exchange with ASEAN leaders and the summit was successful in bringing out the convergence between the two sides,” the official said.

She said ASEAN-India strategic partnership stands on a strong foundation of shared geographical, historical and civilisational ties.

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SC comes to the rescue of DU law student, gives her shot at career in law

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Delhi University

The past two years have been tumultuous for law student Ankita Meena. Amid several legal adversities, she continued to put a brave face and cleared all the hurdles in finishing her law studies at Delhi University.

In second year, she was not allowed to write her exams, as she missed classes due to the advanced stage of her pregnancy. Her miseries were quadrupled after her results for fourth, fifth and sixth semesters were also withheld. Yet she did not give up and continued the battle in the top court, which reached its finality on Friday. The Supreme Court has now directed the Delhi University to declare the fifth semester results, which would allow her to have a shot at a career in law.

On Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “The IA (intervention application) and the SLP (special leave petition) are disposed of, directing the university to declare the fifth semester supplementary examination results of the petitioner and issue the provisional degree along with necessary certificates, provided she had passed the examinations, subject to the petitioner clearing the other formalities.”

Meena joined the three-year LLB course at Law Centre II, Faculty of Law, Delhi University, in August 2016. By the time she joined the course, she was already married for about five months. She completed the first three semesters without any hindrance. However, she fell short of the required attendance mark during the fourth semester, due to two difficulties: One, she gave birth to a baby in February 2018; and second, the teachers’ association went on strike in middle of March, hence classes were impacted.

In May 2018, when she was in second year, the top court declined to give her permission to write her exams as she had missed her classes due to her pregnancy. The court noted that it was “very uncomfortable” to pass an order at 1 pm on her plea to sit in the exam scheduled an hour later.

In October 2018, the top court permitted her to attend classes at her own risk on completion of the required formalities.

In February 2019, the court directed the university to permit her to attend the classes for sixth semester as per its October 2018 order. On July 5, 2019, the Supreme Court directed the university to permit her to appear in the fifth semester supplementary examination scheduled the next day.

In July 2020, the apex court directed that her results for fourth and sixth semesters be declared. Following these orders, Meena appeared for fourth, fifth and sixth semester exams.

The university had declared the results of the fourth and fifth semester examinations, but did not declare the results for the fifth semester supplementary examination. The top court noted that Meena has completed the course in entirety and the results of all the semester examinations except the fifth semester supplementary examination have already been declared.

Directing the university to declare the fifth semester results, the top court said: “This order is passed under the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case.”

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CWC meet: Senior leaders engage in verbal spat over internal elections

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Ashok Gehlot

The Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting on Friday witnessed some heated exchange of words among Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, senior leader Anand Sharma and several other dissenters over internal elections, party sources said.

According to a party source, Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Azad and P. Chidambaram raised the issue of the elections for the CWC post.

Following the issue of the elections, Gehlot ticked off the dissenters without naming them and said that a few party leaders keep on demanding for the organisational elections instead of discussing how to deal with the BJP.

The source also said that the Rajasthan Chief Minister has stated that party leaders are wasting time discussing irrelevant issues like party elections.

“We should leave the matters and decisions to the party’s president,” Gehlot said.

He also questioned the party leaders: “If they don’t believe the party leadership (Sonia Gandhi) or not?”.

Gehlot was backed by senior party leader Ambika Soni, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, Tariq Anwar and former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.

Hitting back at Gehlot, Sharma said that few members of the party keep on disrespecting the senior leaders.

Following the ugly verbal spat among the senior leaders, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi intervened to placate both the groups.

However, party leaders at a press conference maintained that there was no such verbal war in the CWC, which is the highest decision making body of the party.

After the CWC meet, Congress General Secretary (Organisation) K. C. Venugopal said that the party will have an elected president by June this year at any cost.

“The CWC discussed the schedule of Congress president’s elections in May-end, proposed by its election authority. All CWC members unanimously requested Congress president that the internal elections should not interfere with the Assembly polls,” Venugopal said.

Congress national media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said that “don’t get misguided and don’t fall for rumours”.

“The leaders whose names have been taken are not dissenters — they are our respected leaders and they are our family members. And we all were unanimous that the party election schedule be postponed for a month,” Surjewala said at a press briefing after the meeting.

Responding to the question of senior leaders sparring over the organisational election issue, Venugopal said, “There was no big debate in the CWC. We will conduct party election as per its constitution. And the schedule will be out very soon.”

“Some change in schedule was required due to coming Assembly elections (in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, West Bengal, and Puducherry) and that was taken into consideration; the party will announce the election schedule accordingly,” he said.https://df6bd6113aa2538c990afac925a9dc43.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

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11th round of talks breaks down, deadlock on farm laws continues

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Farmers

The eleventh round of talks between the government and representatives of the farmers Union ended on Friday without any solution in sight as Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar urged the Union leaders to rethink about rejecting the government’s proposal to suspend the new farm laws for one and half years.

No date for the next round of talks has been decided and the meeting will be held whenever farmer leaders are ready for a dialogue on the proposal given by the government in the 10th round of talks, on January 20.

After the meeting, Parminder Singh Palmajra, a Bharatiya Kisan Union leader from Punjab, said the farmers will now further intensify the agitation. The ministers present in the talks — Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, Railways, Commerce and Food Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash — will shortly address the media about the dialogue.

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