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Cross-border terror among key challenges for Saarc: Jaishankar

Jaishankar was addressing an informal virtual meeting of foreign ministers of the eight-member grouping, whose functioning has stalled because of differences between India and Pakistan

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Cross-border terror, blocking connectivity and obstructing trade are the key challenges that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) must overcome to ensure lasting peace and security in the region, external affairs minister S Jaishankar said on Thursday.

Jaishankar made the remarks while addressing an informal virtual meeting of foreign ministers of the eight-member grouping, whose functioning has stalled because of differences between India and Pakistan.

The meeting of the foreign ministers is an annual event held on the margins of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York that has been marked by testy exchanges between India and Pakistan in recent years.

Also read: India needs to invest in regional disaster relief mechanisms | Opinion

“Cross-border terrorism, blocking connectivity and obstructing trade are three key challenges that SAARC must overcome,” Jaishankar said in a string of tweets highlighting the contents of his speech.

“Only then will we see enduring peace, prosperity and security in our South Asia region,” he added.

In his speech, he said: “Over the last 35 years, Saarc has made significant progress. But our efforts towards collective collaboration and prosperity have been hampered by acts of terrorism and threats to national security.

“Such an environment impedes our shared objective of realising the full potential of our collective endeavour. It is, therefore, crucial that we collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage it.

“This will generate the much needed trust and confidence to collectively build a stronger and prosperous Saarc.”

Though he didn’t name any country, it was obvious he was referring to Pakistan.

India has accused Pakistan of backing cross-border terror, especially in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).

After India created an emergency coronavirus disease (Covid-19) fund for Saarc states earlier this year, Pakistan asked for it to be placed under the grouping’s secretariat.

Jaishankar said he had also reaffirmed India’s commitment to its “neighbourhood first” policy and towards building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia.

He also highlighted India’s Covid-19-related cooperation efforts, including a commitment of $10 million to the emergency fund for the region, the supply of essential drugs, medical consumables, and protection and test kits to the region, and a video conference of health professionals from the region to share information and best practices on the pandemic.

India had also launched a Covid-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX) to facilitate exchange of specialised information, helped the development of an innovative website by the Saarc Disaster Management Centre to provide reliable information and updates on the evolving situation, and activated the Saarc Food Bank mechanism to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, he said.

“And where we brought back our own people from afar, we had space both on the plane and in our hearts for our neighbours,” Jaishankar said.

He also pointed to India’s support for neighbours, such as the extension of $150 million (m), $200 m and $400 m foreign currency swap support for the Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, respectively.

In his address, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi spoke of his country’s “willingness to host the 19th SAARC Summit and for obstacles created in its way to be removed for SAARC to function as an effective instrument of regional cooperation”.

The summit was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 2016 but was called off after an attack on an Indian Army camp at Uri in Kashmir that was blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists.

Since then, Saarc has largely been dormant.

Qureshi said Pakistan attaches great importance to Saarc and its charter, which upholds the principle of sovereign equality as the basis for meaningful regional cooperation.

He also reiterated the need for a regional approach to stop the spread of Covid-19.

In March, the Pakistani representative at a video conference of Saarc leaders on the Covid-19 situation had triggered a controversy by raising the Kashmir issue. That event had been organised at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion. At the time, Indian officials had said Pakistan’s move was unwarranted and an attempt to politicise a humanitarian issue.

India

‘Not allowed to meet anyone’: Delhi riots accused Umar Khalid tells court

Khalid was arrested under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the communal violence that took place in Northeast Delhi in February this year.

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Umar Khalid

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid, who is in judicial custody in connection with his alleged role in Delhi riots, on Thursday claimed that he is not being allowed to step out of his cell or meet anyone, alleging that it is a form of solitary confinement.

“Security does not mean that I should be punished like this,” Khalid told a Delhi court during a hearing. He said that this is being done on the orders of additional jail superintendent.

Khalid also said that he is not well from the last few days and due to the orders to keep him confined to the cell all the time, he is feeling discomfort, not just physical but also mental.

The court then summoned the jail superintendent, and posted the matter for further hearing on Friday.

On October 17, the court had directed the Delhi Police to give adequate security to Khalid. The order came on a petition filed by the JNU student seeking adequate security because of his “ideological differences and dissenting opinion”.

Khalid was arrested under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in connection with the communal violence that took place in Northeast Delhi in February this year.

A Delhi court had on September 24 sent Khalid to judicial custody till October 22. At the end of the custody today, the police moved an application to keep Khalid in the judicial custory for another month.

The court will hear the matter on Friday and is expected to pass the order of Delhi Police’s petition.

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India

Govt restores all existing visas, barring electronic, tourist and medical categories

This includes flights operated under ‘Vande Bharat’ mission, air transport bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation

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Indian Passport

New Delhi, Oct 22 : The government on Thursday decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic, tourist and medical categories, almost eight months after their suspension following the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent imposition of a nationwide lockdown

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also announced giving permission to all Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) and Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card holders and all other foreign nationals to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa

The ministry said in a statement that in view of the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government had taken a series of steps to curtail the inward and outward movement of international passengers since February, 2020

The government has now decided to make a graded relaxation in visa and travel restrictions for more categories of foreign nationals and Indian nationals who wish to enter or leave India

Under this graded relaxation, the government has decided to restore with immediate effect all existing visas, except electronic visa, tourist visa and medical visa, the statement said

If the validity of such visas has expired, fresh visas of appropriate categories can be obtained from Indian mission or post concerned

Foreign nationals intending to visit India for medical treatment can apply afresh for a medical visa, including for their medical attendants

Therefore, this decision will enable foreign nationals to come to India for various purposes such as business, conferences, employment, studies, research, medical purposes etc

The government has also decided to permit all OCI and PIO card holders and all other foreign nationals intending to visit India for any purpose, except on a tourist visa, to enter by air or water routes through authorised airports and seaport immigration check posts

This includes flights operated under ‘Vande Bharat’ mission, air transport bubble arrangements or by any non-scheduled commercial flights as allowed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation

All such travellers will, however, have to strictly adhere to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare regarding quarantine and other health/COVID-19 matters

While the restrictions on visas were imposed following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in February, commercial flight operations were suspended when the nationwide lockdown came into effect on March 25

However, the government has been allowing limited operations of Air India flights under the ‘Vande Bharat’ mission for certain categories OCI and PIO card holders and those Indians who were stuck due to COVID-19 outbreak since June.

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Business

Economy not circus lion that responds to ringmaster’s stick: Chidambaram

Chidambaram said the economy was largely determined by the market, by the laws of demand and supply, and by the purchasing power and the sentiments of the people, which are missing currently

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P Chidambaram

Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday criticised the Centre for its claims on reviving the economy. He said the economy was largely determined by the market, by the laws of demand and supply, and by the purchasing power and the sentiments of the people, which are missing currently.

“Unless the government puts money in the hands of the bottom half of the families and puts food on the plates of the poor, the economy will not revive smartly,” he added.

The Congress leader said if the government doubted about what he say, then “just listen to the voices of the voters of Bihar on their existential crisis — no work or not enough work, no income or little income, and their thoughts are on surviving, not on spending.

He also said that RBI Governor, SEBI Chairman and the DEA Secretary should tell the FM, in unison, that the vast majority of the people do not have the money or the inclination to buy goods and services.

“Is it not intriguing that the RBI Governor, the SEBI Chairman and the DEA Secretary should speak on the same day on the same subject? All three have tried to ‘talk up’ the economy. I wish the economy was a circus lion that would respond to the stick of the ringmaster!” Chidambaram mocked.

The former Finance Minister was criticising the statements made by the RBI Governor and the Economic Affairs Secretary.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das said on Wednesday that India is at the doorstep of a revival process from the ongoing pandemic.

Speaking at an event, he said that it is very important that the financial entities have adequate capital to support the growth. He noted that many of them have already raised capital while others are planning to do the same.

He said that after the pandemic is contained, the government will have to spell out a fiscal roadmap for the country.

Secretary, Economic Affairs, Tarun Bajaj on Wednesday said the Centre is open for further measures to boost the economy.

Participating at a CII event, he said that the government has received suggestions from various ministries and sectors on the needed measures.

Bajaj also said that while preparing the next Union Budget, the government would be looking at expenditure for this year and the requirements of various ministries.

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