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Nuclear, defense, bullet train bond fast-track India-Japan ties (Roundup)

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Japan on Saturday committed itself to billions of dollars of investments in India, including a $12-billion loan at negligible interest for the much touted “Bullet Train” and another $12 billion for “Make in India” initiative, besides inking far-reaching pacts on defense and nuclear energy — as part of what has been termed as the “Power of 16” agreements.

The 16 agreements came during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India, during which he also attended the annual bilateral summit on the “special strategic and global partnership” with his host and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

“Today, we have scaled new summits in our shared journey,” a visibly pleased Modi told the media after his delegation-level talks with the visiting Japanese side, led by Abe. “The partnership between India and Japan has infinite potential. I’m convinced of that,” Abe, on his part, added.

The Indian side was particularly elated with the package for the high-speed train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, as it comes with an interest of a mere 0.1 percent, a duration of as many as 50 years and a moratorium on repayments up to 15 years.

Modi also thanked Abe for the “Japan-India Make-in-India Special Finance Facility” of up to 1.5 trillion yen ($12 billion approximately) to promote investments from the Asian giant, mainly in infrastructure that need long-gestation funding.

With India assuring Japan that it will become a full member in the four international nuclear export control regimes, Tokyo also moved forward and decided to ink pact with New Delhi to cooperate on peaceful uses of nuclear energy after finalizing the technical details.

“This is a shining symbol of a new level of mutual confidence and strategic partnership in the cause of a peaceful and secure world,” Modi said, adding the pact envisaged on nuclear energy cooperation would extend beyond commerce and clean energy.

Modi also said India will extend to the Japanese people visa on arrival from March 1 next year, and forge better ties in the defense sector, including the potential purchase of equipment such as the US-2 amphibian aircraft for the Indian armed forces.

Similarly, Abe said in the next five years Japan would like 10,000 young Indian talents to visit his country under such frameworks as students exchange, IT training and short term programmes, and hoped that this will provide solid bonds for future relations.

The two sides also took their ties forward on maritime issues, in both bilateral and regional context. On the one side, both leaders welcomed Japan’s regular participation in the India-US Malabar Exercises, while also expressing concerns over challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

Without making a direct reference to the concerns among some countries about China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, Modi also said India stood strongly for ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight, and unimpeded maritime commerce.

Starting the day with a meeting with business leaders, the warmth between the two “friends” was visible when Modi and Abe used the Bullet Train (Shinkansen in Japan) as an analogy to praise each other.

“Prime Minister Modi’s economic policies are like Shinkansen — high speed, safe and reliable and carrying many people along,” said Abe. Modi’s counter point: “India and Japan should move ahead together, not just in the sphere of high-speed trains, but also for ‘high-speed growth’.”

Modi said India and Japan will shape an Asian century as they realize Vision 2025 of their ties.

“No friend will matter more in realizing India’s economic dreams than Japan,” said the Indian prime minister. “I cannot think of a strategic partnership that can exercise a more profound influence on shaping the course of Asia and our interlinked ocean regions more than ours.”

wefornews bureau

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Parliamentary panel summons Facebook, Twitter officials on Jan 21

Earlier, the committee had summoned Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan over the issue of political bias on the social media platform.

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New Delhi, Jan 18: The Parliamentary Committee on Information Technology has issued summons to officials of Facebook and Twitter for January 21, to question them over misuse of the social media/online news platforms.

The schedule of meeting on the Lok Sabha website read: “Evidence of representatives of Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and to hear the views of the representatives of Facebook and Twitter on the subject safeguarding citizens’ rights and prevention of misuse of social/online news media platforms including special emphasis on women security in the digital space.”

Earlier, the committee had summoned Facebook’s India head Ajit Mohan over the issue of political bias on the social media platform.

The allegations of a Facebook bias towards the BJP were reported in The Wall Street Journal in August 2020 and had claimed that Ankhi Das, the platform’s then India Policy Head had opposed the idea of removing hate posts by BJP leaders, warning that this could hamper their “commercial interests”.

Das has now quit Facebook.

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CAIT moves SC against WhatsApp, Facebook

The CAIT will not allow any corporate or conglomerate to enforce its ‘obnoxious policies and sinister designs’ to make profit in an unethical manner by firing from the shoulder of the people of India, added its petition.

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Saturday filed a petition in the Supreme Court with the prayer to direct WhatsApp to withdraw its new privacy policy which is encroaching upon various fundamental rights of the citizens granted by the Constitution of India.

CAIT has also prayed that the Union of India must frame guidelines to govern big technology companies like WhatsApp and frame policies which would protect the privacy of citizens and businesses.

The petition especially highlights the difference of approach in EU and India countries with respect to the privacy policy of WhatsApp and how the data of Indian users can be misused by such big tech companies. The petition has been drafted by Advocate Abir Roy and settled and filed in Supreme Court by Advocate on Record Vivek Narayan Sharma.

CAIT National President B.C. Bhartia and Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal charged that WhatsApp has adopted the approach of ‘my way or high way’ which is arbitrary, unjustified, unconstitutional and cannot be accepted in a democratic country like India. WhatsApp has been fraudulently collecting personal user data.

At the time of its launch, WhatsApp attracted users based on the promise of non-sharing of user data and strong privacy principles. In 2014, after the acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook, when the users had started doubting the privacy of their data and were in fear that their personal data will be shared with Facebook, WhatsApp promised that nothing would change in the privacy policy after the acquisition. However, in August 2016, WhatsApp retracted from its promise and introduced a new Privacy Policy which severely compromised the rights of its users and made the privacy rights of users completely vulnerable, CAIT said.

Under the new privacy policy, it allowed the sharing of personal data with Facebook and all its group companies for commercial advertising and marketing. Since then, the company has been altering its policies to collect and process a wider range of information, and share the same with the third party applications.

The CAIT will not allow any corporate or conglomerate to enforce its ‘obnoxious policies and sinister designs’ to make profit in an unethical manner by firing from the shoulder of the people of India, added its petition.

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Mobile numbers of WhatsApp on Web users found on Google Search

According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on Web has not been addressed so far by the either Facebook-owned platform or Google.

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New Delhi, Jan 16 : As WhatsApp faces intense scrutiny over its upcoming data and privacy policy in India and elsewhere, another user data violation has been reported, this time on the WhatsApp on Desktop (Web) application, allegedly exposing personal mobile numbers via indexing on Google Search.

Although WhatsApp is primarily a mobile app, currently being used by over 400 million users in India, some working professionals also use the instant chat app on their desktops and PCs via the Web version.

Independent cybersecurity researcher Rajshekhar Rajaharia on Friday shared some screenshots with IANS showing indexing of personal mobile numbers of WhatsApp users via Web version on Google Search.

“The leak is happening via WhatsApp on Web. If someone is using WhatsApp on laptop or on an office PC, the mobile numbers are being indexed on Google Search. These are mobile numbers of individual users not business numbers,” Rajaharia told IANS.

Earlier this week, concerned at private group chat links being available on Google Search, WhatsApp said that it had asked Google not to index such chats and advised users not to share group chat links on publicly accessible websites.

Google had indexed invite links to private WhatsApp group chats, meaning anyone can join various private chat groups with a simple search. The indexed WhatsApp group chat links have now been removed from Google.

“Despite WhatsApp advising users and telling Google to remove the earlier exposed group chat links, the mobile numbers via WhatsApp Web application are now being indexed on Google Search,” Rajaharia noted.

A WhatsApp spokesperson said in an earlier statement that since March 2020, WhatsApp has included the “noindex” tag on all deep link pages which, according to Google, will exclude them from indexing.

“We have given our feedback to Google to not index these chats. Links that users wish to share privately with people they know and trust should not be posted on a publicly accessible website,” the company spokesperson said.

The issue was first cropped up in February last year when app reverse-engineer Jane Wong found that Google has around 470,000 results for a simple search of “chat.whatsapp.com”, part of the URL that makes up invites to WhatsApp groups.

According to Rajaharia, the latest leak of personal mobile numbers via WhatsApp on Web has not been addressed so far by the either Facebook-owned platform or Google.

The revelation comes at a time when WhatsApp is changing its privacy policy and users will have to “agree and accept” if they plan to keep using the app post-February 8.

On Friday, a single judge bench of the Delhi High Court recused from hearing a petition against the WhatsApp’s upcoming data and privacy policy, on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy of citizens of India.

The plea will now be listed before another bench and would come up for hearing on January 18.

–IANS

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