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India To discuss PoK with Islamabad:Indian envoy

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High commissioner TCA Raghavan  said on Monday that the country was only prepared to discuss the part of Kashmir controlled by Islamabad in upcoming peace talks, presenting a potential stumbling block days after the dialogue was announced.

India’s representative to Pakistan  TCA Raghavan made the remarks about the disputed territory during a lecture in the Pakistani capital, after a breakthrough visit by India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at which the resumption of ministerial talks was announced.

High commissioner TCA Raghavan’s statement appears to be a potential stumbling block days after the dialogue was announced.

According to a joint statement, the two sides will talk about peace and security as well as territorial disputes including Kashmir. Each country occupies part of the territory but claims it in full.

Since independence from Britain in 1947 they have fought two wars over Kashmir.

Asked where the room for negotiation lay over the Himalayan territory, Raghavan said it was India which first petitioned the United Nations to intervene when the-then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was invaded by Pakistani forces in 1947.

“The first application was moved by India and it was on the grounds that a part of the state, which had acceded to India, is now under the illegal occupation of the Pakistan army.

“So when you say what is it that India is going to discuss or what is it discussing, it is really, if you ask most Indians, and what is our position – it is the part of that state which is still under the control of Pakistan.”

The remarks could create a diplomatic wrinkle for the two countries as they seek to go back to the negotiation table to undertake broad-spectrum talks for the first time since the election of prime ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif.

Badar Alam, editor of Pakistan’s political Herald magazine, said “I think it is a step back,” adding that Kashmir was viewed internationally as a disputed territory.

He added that given the fragile state of the dialogue, officials on both sides needed to tread “very cautiously and very carefully” to avoid a backlash.

New Delhi suspended all talks after Islamist terrorists attacked Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people. The attacks were later found to have been planned from Pakistan.

The countries agreed to resume the peace process in 2011 but tensions have spiked over the past two years, with cross-border shelling over the disputed border in Kashmir claiming dozens of lives since 2014.

A brief meeting between Sharif and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the UN climate change summit in Paris on November 30, followed by talks between the two countries’ national security advisers in Bangkok, appeared to have broken the ice.

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China lockdown may have prevented 7 lakh COVID-19 cases

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London, April 1 (IANS) Researchers claim that China’s control measures during the first 50 days of the novel coronavirus pandemic may have delayed the spread of the virus to cities outside of Wuhan by several days and, by interrupting transmission nationwide, prevented more than 700,000 infections across the country.

The study, published in the journal Science, could be useful to countries that are still in the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The number of confirmed cases in China by day 50 (February 19) of the epidemic, was around 30,000. Our analysis suggests that without the Wuhan travel ban and the national emergency response there would have been more than 700,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases outside of Wuhan by that date,” said study researcher Christopher Dye from the University of Oxford in the UK.

“China’s control measures appear to have worked by successfully breaking the chain of transmission — preventing contact between infectious and susceptible people,” Dye added.

For the findings, the researchers used a unique combination of case reports, human movement data and public health intervention information to investigate the spread and control of COVID-19.

They examined the movements of 4.3 million people out of Wuhan before the travel ban, the types and timing of control measures implemented across the cities of China and the numbers of COVID-19 cases reported each day in every city.

“One fascinating aspect of our work is that it shows the power of novel data streams such as cell phone mobility data,” said study researcher Ottar Bjornstad from Penn State University.

“Since the time period we studied included the Spring Festival holiday and Chinese Lunar New Year, we were able to compare patterns of travel into and out of Wuhan during the outbreak with cell phone data from two previous spring festivals,” Bjornstad added.

The analysis revealed an extraordinary reduction in movement following the travel ban of January 23, 2020.

The team’s model also analysed the specific effects of the Wuhan shutdown and found that it delayed the arrival of COVID-19 in other cities by several days.

“This delay provided extra time to prepare for the arrival of COVID-19 in more than 130 cities,” said Huaiyu Tian, Associate Professor of epidemiology, Beijing Normal University.

These cities banned public gatherings, closed entertainment venues and suspended public transport, among other actions. As a result, they reported 33 per cent fewer confirmed cases during the first week of their outbreaks than cities that did not implement a Level 1 Response.

While the control measures taken thus far have reduced the number of COVID-19 infections to very low levels, China is by no means out of the woods, the researchers noted.

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Russian doctor who met Putin last week diagnosed with coronavirus

The Kremlin said that Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that “everything is okay,” the RIA news agency reported.

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MOSCOW : A doctor who gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a tour of Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital last week said on Tuesday he had himself been diagnosed with the virus.

Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital last Tuesday where he chatted to the doctor, Denis Protsenko. Neither man was wearing protective equipment during their conversation, TV footage from the visit showed.

Protsenko, writing on Facebook said: “Yes, I have tested positive for coronavirus, but I feel pretty good. I’ve isolated myself in my office. I think the immunity I’ve developed this month is doing its job.”

The Kremlin said that Putin was being regularly tested for coronavirus and that “everything is okay,” the RIA news agency reported.

It has previously said that Putin is being protected from viruses and other illnesses “around the clock”.

Putin donned a hazmat suit and a respirator during his visit to the hospital last week when dropping in on patients. But he did not have his protective gear on during a meeting with Protsenko, with whom he was photographed shaking hands.

The Kremlin reported a coronavirus case in Putin’s administration on Friday, but said the person in question had not come into contact with the president and that all measures were being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Russian lawmakers on Tuesday granted the government powers to declare a national emergency over the coronavirus, and approved penalties for violations of lockdown rules including, in extreme cases, jail terms of up to seven years.

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Singapore court upholds gay sex ban

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Singapore, March 31 (IANS) A Singapore court has dismissed a bid to overturn a law that criminalises gay sex, dealing a blow to the city-states LGBT movement, a media report said.

The high court on Monday rejected appeals by three gay men who had argued the colonial-era law was unconstitutional, the BBC said in the report. The presiding judge said the law was “important in reflecting public sentiment and beliefs” in Singapore.

Under Section 377A, men found guilty of homosexual acts in public or private can be jailed for up to two years.

Speaking outside court, a lawyer for one of the complainants, M Ravi, said he was “very disappointed” by the ruling.

“It’s shocking to the conscience and it is so arbitrary,” the BBC quoted the lawyer as saying. The legal challenges were the latest attempts to repeal Section 377A, after an effort by a gay couple in 2014 was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Singapore’s authorities rarely enforce Section 377A, first introduced in 1938 by British colonial rulers. But the city-state’s leaders have refused to remove it, saying it reflects the conservative mores of the city state’s society, the BBC reported.

In Monday’s judgement, the court echoed that sentiment, saying non-enforcement of the law against consensual gay sex in private did not render it redundant.

The court concluded the law was constitutional because it did not violate articles regarding equality and freedom of speech.
Currently 70 countries criminalise same-sex relations.


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