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PM Modi to focus on counter terrorism in Brussels

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Narendra Modi-wefornews

Counter-terrorism cooperation in the wake of the March 22 terror attacks in Brussels will be the starting point of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s engagements as he lands in Belgium, the US and Saudi Arabia.No words are enough to salute the resilience and spirit of the people of Belgium,” Modi said in a pre-departure statement.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the wake of the horrific attacks in Brussels and share the grief of those who lost their loved ones.”

At least 35 people, including an Indian national, were killed in twin explosions at Zaventem airport and one at a metro station in the Belgian capital on March 22.

During his stay in Brussels on Wednesday, Modi will attend a bilateral summit with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and also the 13th India-European Union (EU) Summit.

At a pre-departure media briefing, Nandini Singla, joint secretary (Europe West) in the external affairs ministry, said that the issue of terrorism will be the starting point of the India-Belgium bilateral summit.

“The recent attacks in Brussels will of course be a very important part of the discussions. They will be the starting point of the engagement,” she said.

In his statement, Modi said that within the EU, Belgium was India’s second largest trading partner.

“My meeting with the prime minister aims to expand trade, investment and high technology partnership with this important EU member.”

Modi and Michel will also remote activate the India-Belgium ARIES (Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences) telescope at Devasthal near Nainital.

Singla said that during the bilateral summit meeting, India and Belgium would discuss cooperation in renewable energy, biotechnology, shipping, and information and communication technology (ICT) and taxation.

Belgium is India’s second largest trading partner in the European Union (EU).

Modi would also interact with members of the Indian community in Belgium.

There are around 20,000 Indians in Belgium and many of them are engaged in diamond trading in Antwerp.

On Wednesday evening, Modi will attend the 13th India-EU Summit.

Modi, in his statement, said the EU was a vital trading partner and the biggest export destination for India.

“This summit will advance our multifaceted engagement across a whole range of domains,” he said.

While in Brussels, Modi would also meet members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Indologists, Belgian CEOs as well as a cross section of the Indian diaspora in Belgium.

“I would also interact with the Board Members of the Association of Diamond Traders in Belgium,” he said.

There are a large number of Indians in Belgium’s diamond trading hub of Antwerp.

After Belgium, Modi will be in Washington DC on March 31 to participate in the two-day Fourth Nuclear Security Summit, being hosted by US President Barack Obama.

“The summit would deliberate on the crucial issue of threat to nuclear security caused by nuclear terrorism. Leaders would discuss ways and measure through which to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture, especially to ensure that non-state actors do not get access to nuclear material,” the prime minister stated.

On his way back, Modi will visit Saudi Arabia on April 2 and 3 at the invitation of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to the Gulf kingdom after then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2010.

“India’s ties with Saudi Arabia are special,” Modi said.

World

He’s always going to be for us: Trump on Kanye’s prez bid

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Donald Trump

Washington, July 10 (IANS) US President Donald Trump has brushed off reports of American rapper Kanye Wests bid for the November presidential election and his subsequent comments that he no longer supported the President, according to media reports.

“He is always going to be for us, and his wife is going to be for us,” The Hill news website quoted Trump as saying on Thursday in a Fox News interview, referring to West and reality TV star Kim Kardashian West.

Trump brushed off comments that West made earlier this week, telling Forbes that he was “taking the red hat off”, referring to the President” signature red “Make America Great Again” campaign baseball caps.

The President maintained that he thought the rapper will support him in his re-election bid.

“(He”s a) very good guy. He is a person that I get along with very well,” Trump said.

“At the end I think he would support us over anyone else, we have to stop the radical left from taking over our country.”

In a tweet on July 4, the 21-time Grammy winner said: “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States… #2020VISION.”

It was not immediately clear which party the 21-time Grammy winner would pick in his apparent challenge to Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

While there is no official deadline to enter the presidential race, candidates must meet certain filing requirements under Ballot Access Laws that vary by state.

The deadline to add independent candidates to the ballot has not yet passed in many states, including California.

But while speaking to the Forbes magazine earlier this week, West said that he should be allowed extra time due the coronavirus pandemic.

“I”m speaking with experts, I”m going to speak with Jared Kushner, the White House, with Biden,” The Hill news website quoted West as saying to Forbes.

The rapper has sparked speculation over the years that he would potentially enter the presidential race one day, most recently in November 2019, when he said he planned to run in 2024, according to a report by the Daily Mail newspaper.

In 2018, he visited Trump at the White House, wearing the “Make America Great Again” cap and delivered a speech in which he discussed alternate universes and his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, which he said was actually sleep deprivation, the report added.

Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian has also met the President on more than one occasion lobbying for criminal justice reform.

–IANS

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Middle East

Targeted killing of Iran’s Soleimani unlawful: UN report

According to the report, the strike near the Baghdad airport on January 3 was in violation of the UN Charter with insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack.

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Soleimani

Geneva, July 10 : Without an actual imminent threat to life, the targeted killing of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike earlier this year was unlawful, according to a latest UN report.

Presenting the report to the UN Human Rights Council Thursday on the use of force under drones technology, Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the US action constituted an arbitrary killing, reports Xinhua news agency.

“In light of the evidence that the US has provided to date, the targeting of General Soleimani, and the deaths of those accompanying him, constitute an arbitrary killing,” Callamard said in her report.

According to the report, the strike near the Baghdad airport on January 3 was in violation of the UN Charter with insufficient evidence provided of an ongoing or imminent attack.

No evidence has been provided that General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, specifically was planning an imminent attack against US interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified, the report said.

Also no evidence has been provided that a drone strike in a third country was necessary or that the harm caused to that country was proportionate to the harm allegedly averted, the report added.

Besides Soleimani, the US airstrike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq”s Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces.

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India

Cattle smuggling on Bangladesh border to go up before Eid: Intel

So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF’s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.

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New Delhi, July 9 : With just three weeks to go for Eid-ul-Adha, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, the Border Security Force (BSF) has deployed more force on India-Bangladesh border apprehending surge in cattle smuggling — an annual affair, but which dropped by 96 per cent last year.

As the festival — which is also called ”Qurbani Eid” — will be celebrated on July 31 this year, the BSF’s intelligence wing has alerted its border units about activities of cattle traffickers, considering the rising demand from Bangladesh.

The BSF, which guards the India-Bangladesh border, said the price of animals is higher than before this time due to rains being in full force and high water level in rivers flowing along the border.

Every year, a BSF official said, incidents of animal trafficking increase before Eid-ul-Adha along the 4,096 km India-Bangladesh border, the fifth-longest in the world, and spanning Assam (262 km), Tripura (856 km), Mizoram (180 km), Meghalaya (443 km), and West Bengal (2,217 km).

The business of cattle smuggling has been flourishing in West Bengal since many years because influential people are said to be involved. But since last year, the BSF”s South Bengal Frontier has almost stopped cattle trafficking.

It has been learned from reliable sources that the process of licensing ”Cattle Haats” in the border areas of Bangladesh is going to be completed soon. These ”Cattle Haats” see trade of most of the cattle smuggled from India.

The price of cattle in Bangladesh has increased significantly during this time of the year. At present, a buffalo of large size which is available in India for Rs 50,000 is priced in Bangladesh at about Rs 1.50 lakh and a bull of large size at Rs 80,000, an official said.

“Cattle smugglers who are involved in this nefarious and illegal business have several hundred crores (rupees) and put the lives of many poor, illiterate and unemployed youths at stake by luring them for a few thousand rupees,” the officer said.

Another officer said the more strict the border, the more money is paid to these youths who are called ”Rakhals” in the local language.

For every head of cattle taken across the international border, a ”Rakhal” gets Rs 8,000-10,000. For this money, the kingpin cattle smuggler puts the life of ”Rakhal” at stake.

Many of these ”rakhals” lose their lives while doing these illegal acts by drowning during floods, getting bitten by snakes, hit by lightning, being trampled by cattle, getting killed in a gang war or in BSF firing, BSF spokesperson Krishna Rao told IANS.

Rao said the BSF have made all their preparations to meet the challenge of cattle smuggling this year in the run-up to Eid.

“Border Security Force battalions deployed in Malda and Baharampur sectors have completed their preparations and are committed to thwart the nefarious designs of smugglers,” the officer said.

In the most vulnerable Border Out Posts (BoPs) such as Neem Teeta, Harudanga, Madanghat and Sovapur in Malda and Murshidabad districts, additional troopers and resources have been deployed, he said.

“In fact, the Ganga river enters Bangladesh from India under the responsibility of these border posts. When the water is released from the Farakka Dam, this river gets flooded which is exploited by cattle smugglers,” the officer said.

Explaining the method, the official said, the traffickers put the cattle in the river upto 8 to 10 km upstream.

“Before putting them in the river, they tie the legs of the cattle, put a bandage over the eyes and finally tie two banana stems on either side of the animal to keep it afloat.”

The BSF top brass took several calibrated measures to curb the menace last year as the trade promotes an approximate Rs 10,000 crore beef export industry of Bangladesh.

During this rainy season, the BSF has increased the deployment of night cameras, tractors, and speed boats to prevent animal trafficking before Eid-ul-Adha.

”Rakhals” of India and Bangladesh, at times, try to smuggle up to 400-500 heads of cattle, and attack the border guards with sharp-edged weapons, sticks and stones and bricks. Many times, they also fire with home-made firearms and hurl explosives

So far in 2020, 16 personnel of BSF’s South Bengal Frontier have been injured in various scuffles with trans-border criminals.

Its new Inspector General, Ashwani Kumar Singh has given clear instructions that attack on BSF personnel by these smugglers would not be tolerated and that trans-border crimes will be stopped at any cost.

(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])

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