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Israeli PM arrives to Modi’s warm hug on six-day India trip

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday set aside protocol to personally receive his Israeli counterpart and “friend” Benjamin Netanyahu with a warm hug as he arrived here on a six-day visit to step up growing trade as well as military and strategic ties between the two countries.

As Netanyahu and his wife Sara stepped on the red carpet at the airport here, a smiling Modi embraced the Israeli leader and then shook hands with the couple.

“Welcome to India, my friend Netanyahu! Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close friendship between our nations,” Modi tweeted in English and Hebrew.

Netanyahu quickly responded. “Thank you to my good friend Narendra Modi for the warm welcome.”
“Very much appreciate the gesture,” the Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying.

Modi and Netanyahu, who have developed a close friendship, exchanging greetings on social media on various occasions and hugging each other heartily, will hold talks on a range of issues on Monday after President Ram Nath Kovind formally welcomes the Israeli leader at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The visit, which marks 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, comes six months after Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Jewish state in July last year.

Before embarking on the flight to India, Netanyahu said his trip was intended to strengthen bilateral relations “even more”.

“This visit is an opportunity to enhance cooperation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power,” he said. “Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit.”

He said strengthening relationship between Israel and “this important world power… helps us with security, the economy, trade, tourism and many other aspects”.

The Congress criticised Modi for what it called “hugplomacy”. It posted a video hashtagged “hugplomacy” on its official Twitter handle, capturing a few “awkward” moments in Modi’s meetings with world leaders including US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and also Netanyahu.

The Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the meme video, alleging that the opposition party had “lost its sense and balance” which “does not behove a mature political party”.

Union Minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said: “Modiji’s influence as world leader is increasing. Today only, a survey found him at No 3 in popularity as a world leader.”

In a sign of growing importance to the ties with Israel, the government on Sunday renamed Delhi’s Teen Murti Chowk as Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk after the Israeli city.

Modi and Netanyahu laid a wreath at the iconic Teen Murti war memorial where they were received by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.

The two leaders paid homage to Indian soldiers who fell in the battle of Haifa during World War I.

Netanyahu’s entourage includes the largest-ever delegation of Israeli business people of some 130.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, these businessmen include senior executives of Aeronautics Defense Systems — an Israeli drone maker currently under criminal investigation by the police’s international crimes division.

At least nine commercial agreements are expected be signed during the visit. These include memoranda of understanding on gas and oil, renewable energy, aviation, industrial research and development, cybersecurity, reciprocal investments, supplementary medicine, space research and joint movie productions, Haaretz said.

This is the first visit to India by an Israeli Prime Minister since Ariel Sharon came in 2003.

On Monday morning, Netanyahu will lay a wreath at Rajghat to pay homage to Mahatma Gandhi. On Tuesday, he will fly to Agra to view the iconic Taj Mahal.

Netanyahu and Modi will open the Raisina Dialogue, India’s annual geopolitical conference to be attended by people from around the world, including former US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman, in Delhi.

Netanyahu and Modi will also visit the Indian Prime Minister’s home state Gujarat where they will go to the Centre of Excellence in Agriculture at Vadrad.

Netanyahu will interact with business leaders in Mumbai and meet representatives of Bollywood. He will return to Israel on Friday afternoon from Mumbai.

India

North Eeast Border Row: Protesters block highway to Mizoram for 2nd day

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Assam Mizoram Border Row

Silchar/Aizawl: The Assam-Mizoram border trouble continued for the second day on Thursday as the agitators in southern Assam refused to withdraw their blockade of National Highway 306, the lifeline of Mizoram, demanding the withdrawal of its security personnel from Assam’s territory.

Assam’s Additional Director General of Police, Law and Order, Gyanendra Pratap Singh, who is camping in southern Assam since Wednesday, held a series of meetings to normalise the situation but despite his appeal, over a hundred people refused to withdraw their blockade at Lailapur, leaving more than 250 goods-laden vehicles stranded on the either side of the border.

Singh, after visiting the agitation site, told the media that the Assam government would approach the Centre to probe the October 22 bomb blasts in a school located at Khulicherra area near the Assam-Mizoram border.

“The blast at the school was possibly triggered by the miscreants to frighten the border residents. Senior police officials are closely watching the situation and the security along the inter-state borders was further tightened,” he said.

“The demarcated inter-state boundary should be respected by everyone. Necessary statutory provisions are being exploited and interactions with the Central government are being done on a regular basis,” he added.

The picketers were demanding withdrawal of Mizoram’s forces from Assam’s territory in Cachar and Karimganj districts.

“In the series of high-level meetings during the last two weeks, Mizoram officials had agreed to gradually withdraw their forces from the areas inside Assam territory. But, they are yet to withdraw,” a senior Cachar district police official said.

Mizoram ferries all its essentials, food grains, transport fuel and various other goods and machines through NH 306 which connects Vairengte in its Kolasib district to southern Assam.

Festering since October 9, the situation along the 164.6-km Assam-Mizoram border took an ugly turn with around 20 shops and houses being burnt and over 50 people injured in the attacks and counter-attacks by people on either side on October 17.

Union Home Ministry’s Joint Secretary (North East), Satyendra Kumar Garg had held a meeting with the Home Secretaries of Assam and Mizoram last week where it was agreed that both sides will maintain the status quo and hold regular talks to prevent any untoward incident.

After these meetings, over 300 stranded Mizoram-bound essential goods laden vehicles went to the neighbouring state.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah also spoke to Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Mizoram CM Zoramthanga several times last week to defuse the crisis. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla held a meeting, through video conference, with the Chief Secretaries of Assam and Mizoram.

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Cities

Rs 1,752 cr disbursed to 3 MCDs till Oct 26: Sisodia

Sisodia said the Delhi government paid MCDs their due share of taxes, but it has also paid a large sum over and above as loan.

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Manish Sisodia

New Delhi: Amid war of words over unpaid dues of healthcare workers in the hospitals run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Thursday wrote a scathing letter to three Mayors of MCDs alleging petty politics by them over the issue of delayed salaries to healthcare workers.

Sisodia claimed that it’s the MCD which owes money to the Delhi government.

The three Mayors had earlier protested in front of the CM’s residence claiming a large amount of balance payment from Delhi government to the MCDs.

Countering the claims made by the Mayors, Sisodia presented facts showing that not only had Delhi government paid all the funds due to the MCDs as per the Fifth Delhi Finance Commission, it has paid over and above the required amount resulting in a huge outstanding loans.

“As for the amount owed by the government of Delhi to the MCDs for the current financial (2020-21), as per the Fifth Delhi Finance Commission calculations, a total of Rs 1965.91 crore was due until October 26, 2020, of which Rs 1752.61 crore has already been paid,” Sisodia wrote in the letter.

“MCDs have outstanding loans from Delhi government to the tune of Rs 6008 crore, they also have arrears of Rs 2596 crore to the Delhi Jal Board. Hence, in all, they owe over Rs 8600 crore to the Delhi government,” said the letter.

Sisodia urged the three Mayors to rise above petty politics and focus on the real issue of corruption and financial mismanagement in each of the three MCDs. He urged the Mayors to demand the unpaid amount of Rs 12,000 crore from the Central government.

“I am writing this letter with much anguish and disappointment over your actions as the three Mayors of Delhi (NDMC, EDMC, SDMC) with regard to the unpaid salaries of doctors and healthcare workers in MCD hospitals.

“From your actions, it is clear that rather than finding a viable solution to the matter using all administrative options available to the MCDs, you are only interested in peddling lies and indulging in shameful politics over this issue.

“In the process, you have caused unprecedented pain to the families of thousands of healthcare workers and lowered the prestige of the national capital at a time when the entire country has united in the fight against Corona,” the letter said.

Sisodia said the Delhi government paid MCDs their due share of taxes, but it has also paid a large sum over and above as loan.

As on April 1, 2020, a total of Rs 6,008 crore loan is outstanding from the three MCDs, as per the records of the Urban Development Department. This includes Rs 1,977 crore outstanding loan from EDMC, Rs 3,243 crore from NDMC and Rs 788 crore from SDMC.

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India

PDP’s Srinagar Office Sealed After Protests Against Land Laws

Under the new land law, no domicile or permanent resident certificate is required to purchase non-agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir.

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Mehbooba Mufti

Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir Thursday foiled a protest march by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the new land law and detained several leaders from the party.

The party had organized a protest rally from the party headquarters in Srinagar to the Press Enclave. However, soon after the leaders reached the party headquarters, they were detained by the police force that was already deployed there. The police detained party members including Khurshid Aalam, Waheed Parra, Suhail Bukhari, Mohit Bhan.

The party had lodged a similar protest in Jammu on Wednesday.

The PDP president and former chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti in a tweet stated that the party office in Srinagar has been sealed by the administration and workers have been arrested for organizing a peaceful protest.

“PDP office in Srinagar sealed by J&K admin & workers arrested for organising a peaceful protest. A similar protest was allowed in Jammu so why was it thwarted here? Is this your definition of ‘normalcy’ that’s being showcased in the world?” Mehbooba tweeted.

“PDP’s @parawahid, Khurshid Alam, Rouf Bhat, @MohsinQayoom_& @buttkout were arrested by J&K police for protesting against the settler colonial land laws thrusted upon people of J&K. We will continue to raise our voice collectively & wont tolerate attempts to change demographics,” she tweeted.

Under the new land law, notified on October 27 by the Union Government, no domicile or permanent resident certificate is required to purchase non-agricultural land in the UT. Earlier, Article 35-A of J&K Constitution which was revoked on August 5, placed prohibitions on the sale of land to those who were not state subjects.

The central government has even empowered an Army Commander to declare any area in J&K as strategic for operational and training requirement of the armed forces.

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