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Indonesia, India can learn inter-religious harmony: Envoy



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New Delhi, Aug 10: Ahead of the first India Indonesia Interfaith Dialogue (IIID) to be held in the Southeast Asian nation in October, Indonesian Ambassador to India Sidharto R. Suryodipuro said that both countries can learn about inter-religious harmony from each other.

“Both of us have something to share in terms of how we manage pluralism while we strengthen tolerance, inter-religious harmony,” Suryodipuro said in response to a question by IANS during an interaction with a group of journalists here organised by the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents.

“Both India and Indonesia are countries that are quite successful in managing pluralism in a democratic setting,” he said.

Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. The first IIID will be held from October 3 to 5 in the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta.

Observing that both Indonesia and India have a complex ethnic make-up, Suryodipuro said: “We also can learn from each other on what we are doing to strengthen this.”

He was also of view that both countries can also have a message that can be sent to the international community on how to manage pluralism and tolerance.

“Out of this dialogue, we can also have something concrete come out in terms of what we should be doing internally, what we should be doing with our youth and others,” he said.

The Ambassador said that in Indonesia itself, there are over a dozen or more such kind of dialogues.

“And we have been undertaking it since the early 2000s,” he said.

Suryodipuro also said that Indonesia and India are enjoying one of the best periods of bilateral ties in 70 years of their diplomatic relationship.

Bilateral trade stood at $20 billion last year, the highest ever.

The Ambassador said that while half a million Indians visited Indonesia last year, 40,000 Indonesians visited India.

He also said that both India and Indonesia share the same view on the Indo-Pacific regional architecture and recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Track I annual inter-governmental security forum organised by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), think tank in Singapore in June.

In his speech, Modi highlighted the centrality of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indonesia is the largest country in the 10-nation regional bloc.

In terms of defence cooperation, Suryodipuro said that both Indonesia and India are in the process of laying down the groundwork.

“For example, we have been holding the coordinated patrol between Andamans and North Sumatra for over a decade,” he said.

“But that had not expanded. Now, it is starting to expand into naval exercises as well as the other services of the armed forces.”

The Ambassador said that both sides are looking at other than exercises, how they can exchange information better, how the members of the respective services can be sent for training in each other’s countries.

Also underlining the importance of the soft side in the bilateral relationship, he identified things like “connectivity, infrastructure, trade, people-to-people connectivity and more student exchanges.”



Nepal bans use of Indian currency notes



India Rupee

New Delhi, Dec 14: The Nepal government has declared the use of Indian currency notes of Rs 2,000, Rs 500 and Rs 200 denominations illegal in the country.

So, the government has decided to ban the use of high denomination Indian currency notes and use only Rs 100 notes in the country now onwards, according to a report in the Kathmandu Post.

The decision was announced by Nepal government’s spokesperson and Minister for Information and Communications Gokul Prasad Baskota.

The decision, which will affect middle and low-income Indian tourists, was taken at the last Cabinet meeting, said Gokul Baskota.

The Nepal government has urged the people of its country to refrain from keeping or carrying Indian bank notes higher than Rs 100 notes as it has not legalised the India bank notes of denomination Rs 200, Rs 500 and Rs 2000, the report said.

When the Indian government introduced the new denominations in the months following demonetisation in 2016, the Nepal government did not make any announcement on the status of the new currency notes. The new denominations were being used freely in Nepal over the last two years, but the latest decision will affect Nepalese labourers working in India, as well as Indian tourists frequently visiting Nepal.


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Kim Jong-un face mask stirs controversy



kim jong un nuke masks
Thousands of controversial "nuke masks" have been sold in South Korea. (Image Credit-5149/Instagram)

Seoul, Dec 14: A South Korean fashion and cosmetics firm has stirred controversy with a facial mask featuring Kim Jong-un prompting many stores to pull the product of the shelves.

The so-called “nuke masks” were created by 5149, a South Korean fashion and cosmetics company. It said it has sold more than 25,000 “unification moisture nuclear masks” since June, the BBC reported.

Many South Korean stores, though, halted the sales amid a public backlash and concerns over the masks’ legality.

In South Korea, it is illegal to speak favourably of the North Korean government, though the law is rarely enforced.

Dozens of Koreans have posted pictures of themselves on social media with the masks, which cost 4,000 won, the BBC said.

Propaganda-style slogans claim the masks contain mineral water from Mount Paektu, the sacred, active volcano, which is the birthplace of Dangun, founder of the first Korean kingdom more than 4,000 years ago, according to Korean mythology.

“Personally, I don’t like merchandise promoting a certain political agenda,” Irene Kim, a South Korean skincare expert, told the South China Morning Post.

“A few years ago, North Korea was the largest threat to our country… Kim Jong-un was seen as a dictator and a tyrant who would stop at nothing to disrupt world peace, now he’s become the face of a popular face mask,” she added.

The North Korean leader and his regime have been criticised by the UN for “systematic, widespread” human rights abuses.

Both North and South Korea are still technically at war, but leaders from both countries attended talks this year over denuclearisation.

In an interview with the New York Times, 5149 CEO Kwak Hyeon-ju said she wanted the masks to celebrate the “once in a lifetime” Korean summits held earlier this year.

Kim has led North Korea since the death of its former dictator, his father Kim Jong-il, in 2011.

The country’s communist regime has been criticised by the UN and human rights groups for “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations”.


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Bomb Threats Across United States – reports




Law enforcement authorities around the United States were reponding to a wave of bomb threats, many of them sent by email NBC reported.

A spokesman for the Oklahoma City police told NBC News that individuals in and around that city have gotten 10 to 13 specific email bomb threats, with specific addresses.

Bronx Science said it evacuated its building at 11 a.m. after it received a bomb threat by phone. The school said students were “currently well supervised at neighboring schools.”

The New York police department confirmed it received a call about the threat and responded to the school. The department later tweeteed it was monitoring “multiple bomb threats that have been sent electronically to various locations throughout the city.”

Nearly a dozen threats were received at businesses throughout South Florida, including in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. At least three others were reported in Orlando.

Massachusetts State Police are investigating after multiple bombs threats were allegedly mailed to “numerous businesses in the state.” Authorities said the MSP Fusion Center is tracking the activity.

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