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India, US, Japan, Australia reiterate call for free, prosperous Indo-Pacific

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Trump and Abe hail US-Japan alliance

New Delhi, June 7 : The quad comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia met in Singapore on Thursday and reiterated their call for a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific and to promote a rules-based order in the region.

According to an External Affairs Ministry statement here, foreign ministry officials of the four countries met on the sidelines of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Senior Officials Meeting in the southeast Asian city state.

It said the four nations considered ways to pursue shared objectives in the areas of connectivity and development, regional security, including counter-terrorism and non-proliferation, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and maritime cooperation.

The Indian side, which was represented at the Joint Secretary-level, highlighted India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific Region as outlined in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore earlier this month.

In his speech on June 1, Modi said that India’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region is that of a free, open and inclusive region that embraces all in a common pursuit of progress and prosperity.

“India does not see the Indo-Pacific region as a strategy or as a club of limited members,” Modi said while delivering the keynote address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Track I annual inter-governmental security forum organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) think tank.

According to the External Affairs Ministry statement, in Thursday’s meeting of the quad that was revived on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in the Philippines in November last year, the participants reaffirmed their support for a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region.

“They also confirmed their common commitment, based on shared values and principles, to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

“The participants reaffirmed their strong support for Asean centrality and Asean-led mechanisms in the regional architecture for the Indo-Pacific,” it stated.

“They agreed to partner with all countries and institutions in the region to promote the shared vision of a peaceful, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific, including through such plurilateral formats.”

The quad’s views reflect New Delhi’s stand that the 10-nation Asean regional bloc is central to peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.

The idea is for the four countries to promote free trade and defence cooperation across a stretch of ocean from the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa.

The emerging quadrilateral is seen to counter China’s aggressive maritime expansion under its Belt and Road Initiative. China’s plans would cement a sphere of influence for Beijing well beyond Asia.

During French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to India in March this year, both sides announced a broadbasing of their ties through a joint strategic vision for cooperation in the region that agreed on the need to establish an open, inclusive and transparent cooperation architecture for peace, security and prosperity there.

Though France is not against the quad of India, the US, Japan and Australia, Paris would rather like to work with New Delhi bilaterally in the Indian Ocean Region given that there are around two million French citizens in its territories in the region.

Thursday’s meeting in Singapore came ahead of Modi’s bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Qingdao, China, on June 9 on the margins of this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

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Alabama woman who joined IS should not return to US: Trump

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Donald Trump Trade War

Washington, Feb 21: President Donald Trump on Wednesday said that he directed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to allow Hoda Muthana, an Alabama woman who left in November 2014 to join IS, to return to the US — despite her recent public plea to come back and stand trial in America.

“I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!,” Trump tweeted.

Hours earlier, Pompeo declared that Muthana, who is detained in a Kurdish refugee camp, is not an American citizen, reports CNN.

“Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a US citizen and will not be admitted into the US. She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the US,” Pompeo said in a statement.

Muthana, now 24, was a college student when she travelled to Syria over four years ago to join IS — eventually marrying three fighters and calling for the killing of Americans on Twitter.

In a series of interviews this week from a sprawling camp in northern Syria with her infant son, she expressed deep remorse.

“When I left to Syria I was a naive, angry, and arrogant young woman,” she said in a handwritten statement provided to CNN by a representative. “To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly.”

Hassan Shibly, a family representative for Muthana, denied that she was not a citizen, and called the move by the Trump administration to claim otherwise “very dangerous.”

According to Shibly, Muthana was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1994.

“The Trump administration continues its attempts to wrongfully strip citizens of their citizenship,” Shibly said in statement.

“Hoda Muthana had a valid US passport and is a citizen. She was born in Hackensack, NJ in October 1994, months after her father stopped being diplomat,” he added before later tweeting a picture of what he claimed is Muthana’s birth certificate, that appeared to confirm her place and date of birth.

Asked about Muthana’s case on Tuesday, State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino noted that “the situation of American citizens or possible American citizens in Syria is by definition extremely complicated and we’re looking into these cases to better understand the details.”

Palladino would not speak to the specific case, but said that in cases involving “American citizens or potential American citizens or alleged American citizens,” US policy “would be to repatriate them, and it’s what we call on all countries to do who have (foreign terrorist) fighters in Syria too.”

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70 dead in massive Dhaka fire

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Dhaka Fire
Photo Credit-IANS

Dhaka, Feb 21: Seventy people have lost their lives and 56 are injured in a massive fire in Bangladesh that has engulfed several multi-storey buildings in the Chawkbazar area of Old Dhaka.

According to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) registrar nine of the injured with significant burn injuries were currently admitted to the hospital. The death toll was expected to rise.

The fire had begun at a chemical storehouse on the ground floor of the building. The narrow roads of the old town and the concentration of chemical and plastic factories and storages turned into firefighters’ nightmare late on Wednesday as they tried to limit casualties after the fire began at 10.35 p.m.

The fire-fighters managed to douse the flame by 3 a.m. nearly five hours after it broke out and engulfed the Haji Wahed Mansion at Nanda Kumar Lane in Chawkbazar’s Churihatta, Dhaka Tribune said.

The devastation was so huge that the mansion housing a warehouse of plastic products appeared to be tilted around 1.45 a.m., the media report said.

Earlier, a Fire Service Control Room official Mahfuz Riben confirmed the death of 69 people to the newspaper. “We have so far recovered all 69 bodies,” Riben had said, an hour before one more body was recovered.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police said the blaze spread rapidly due to multiple chemical godowns situated in the area. Fire Service Deputy Director Dilip Kumar Ghosh confirmed that the fire was finally doused completely around 3 a.m.

The death toll in the devastating inferno will rise, warned fire officials, who have been working throughout the night to douse the devastating blaze that first broke out in a three-storey building situated at the intersection of roads leading to Rahmatganj, Churihatta and Chawkbazar areas.

Numerous people, including women and children, were also injured and admitted to nearby hospitals, including Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) and Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital (Mitford Hospital).

“Our priority right now is to douse the fire completely and tend to the wounded,” Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon said.

Khokon and MP Haji M. Salim who had rushed to the spot, however, did not respond to questions about the warehouses in the buildings in Old Dhaka where chemicals are kept in unsafe conditions.

Wednesday night’s fire reminded many Old Dhaka residents of the Nimtoli fire tragedy that took place barely one kilometre from the spot on June 3, 2010 and killed at least 124 people.

In the last nine years though there has been little progress made in addressing the issues that led to the Nimtoli fire, or many smaller subsequent fires that took place, the media report added.

IANS

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Putin warns US over deploying missiles in European nations

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Moscow, Feb 20 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he would deploy missiles capable of striking the US if Washington decides to station missiles in European nations within striking distance of Russia.

Giving his annual address to the Parliament, Putin said he was not looking for a confrontation with the US and nor would his country be the first to deploy missiles once Donald Trump’s administration completes the process of withdrawing from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

But he warned of tit-for-tat measures in the case of an escalation by Washington, Efe news reported.

“Russia would be obliged to manufacture and station weaponry that could not only be used against territories where the direct threat comes from but also decision-making centres,” Putin told lawmakers. “We know how to do it and we would put these plans into effect as soon as such a threat became a reality,” he added.

Russia announced it would withdraw from the INF at the beginning of February following Washington’s unilateral decision to break away from the pact, a process that is set to be completed in six months’ time. Either country can backtrack during that period.

Washington and Moscow both accuse each other of breaching the agreement.

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 between the then Soviet Union and the US on the elimination of intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles.

Putin previously said that Russia’s response to the US withdrawal would be “symmetrical” but that nevertheless, Moscow would still refrain from deploying weapons with a range between 500 km and 5,500 km in European Russia and other global regions, so long Washington also agreed not to.

The Russian President questioned Washington’s justifications for pulling out of the treaty. “Our US partners should have been honest about it instead of using thought-up accusations to justify their unilateral exit from the treaty,” he said.

“They should have done it the same way they quit the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2004 when they simply pulled out, openly and honestly.”

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