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UN vote set aside, stage set for Modi-Bibi tango

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New Delhi, Jan 13: With Israel asserting that its relationship with India is much stronger than one vote in the UN, the stage is set for for the arrival here on Sunday of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu on a six-day trip to give a fillip to 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

This is the first prime ministerial visit from Israel to India since the visit of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The visit comes less than a month after New Delhi voted in the UN General Assembly against US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

However, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon, at a media briefing here, set at rest all speculation over this saying, “I think the relationship is much stronger than one vote in the UN here and there.”

He also added: “Sometimes it is India that comes to Israel with a request and sometimes Israel comes to India with a request. We cannot always fulfil those requests. That is why we are two countries, two members of the UN.”

B. Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary (WANA) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told the media that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Netanyahu will sit for a bilateral summit here on January 15, both sides “will be discussing a lot of issues”.

Netanyahu’s visit also assumes significance as it comes just over six months after the visit of Modi to Israel, the first ever Indian prime ministerial visit to the West Asian nation

Stating that bilateral cooperation has been expanded to several areas, Bhaskar said: “It all started with agriculture, now we have large areas of cooperation predominantly dominated by technology collaboration, innovation, R&D, science, space, so these are actually very qualitative engagements characterised by technological collaboration and innovation.”

According to Carmon, though cooperation in agriculture and water were the highlights of Modi’s visit to Israel in July last year, this time innovation will top the agenda.

“Innovation that would, you know, touch any of the areas in which we cooperate. Innovation could be in the field of defence, innovation could be in the field of agriculture, innovation could be in the field of IT, of R&D,” he said.

The Ambassador described innovation as a “cross-cutting issue” and said this would be reflected in the discussions between Modi and Netanyahu.

Carmon referred to Netanyahu’s scheduled visit to the iCreate Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and said that the centre “has a big clement of Israeli ecosystem in innovation”.

Bhaskar said the ties between the two countries have been expanding in the areas of agriculture, water, innovation, entrepreneurship development, space, education, culture, homeland security and defence.

“We have upgraded our relationship to the strategic level with a special focus on agriculture and water,” he said.

He said the bilateral commerce between the two countries stood at $5 billion in 2016-17 which did not include defence trade.

There is speculation about the revival of talks on India’s purchase of 8,000 Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel that was cancelled last year.

Carmon, on his part, said that the Spike project is an example of Israel engaging in the Make in India programme.

Stating that the project would be a boost to India’s economy, the Ambassador said: “If there is a problem, I hope it would be solved.”

Apart from the summit-level meeting, the second India-Israel CEOs Forum will be held as also a series of other meetings between both sides in New Delhi and Mumbai during the course of the visit. Netanyahu will be accompanied by a delegation of 130 Israeli business leaders.

Asked about the status of the India-Israel free trade agreement (FTA), Carmon said that “the FTA is definitely on our agenda”.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to visit a Centre of Excellence in Agriculture at Vadrad, Gujarat, that has been set up with Israeli assistance.

Carmon said that by the end of this month, there will be 22 centres of excellence set up with Israeli aid up and running across India.

These centres cover areas like vegetables, citrus fruits, dates, mangoes, flowers, beekeeping, he said, adding that “we are now starting work on a dairy farm in Haryana”.

Netanyahu will also be accompanied by Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Moshe, who was only two years old then, will visit Chabad House, where his parents were killed.

Another major highlight of Netanyahu’s visit will be his participation in this year’s Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics.

IANS

India

India, US need to jointly confront China’s threats to security: Pompeo in New Delhi

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday in the national capital said that India and the US need to jointly confront China’s threats to security in the Indian subcontinent and the Indo-Pacific

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday in the national capital said that India and the US need to jointly confront China’s threats to security in the Indian subcontinent and the Indo-Pacific.

Speaking at the third India-US 2+2 ministerial dialogue in New Delhi, amidst the ongoing face-off between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, Pompeo discussed several issues from “cooperating on defeating the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom, to promoting peace and stability throughout the region”.

As per an official statement of the US government, Indian Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar at the meeting raised the issue of security threat India is facing from China. “In the area of defence we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders,” he said at the bilateral dialogue.

The meeting assumes significance because the US secretaries of the Trump administration travelled to New Delhi amidst Coronavirus pandemic even as an intense ongoing campaigning for the Presidential elections due on November 3 was underway in the US.

“Our friendship and commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific was clearly, clearly highly on display when we were in Tokyo this past week and a half for the Quad meeting that Minister Jaishankar and I had with our Australian and Japanese friends earlier this month,” Pompeo told his counterpart.

The US secretary of state said, “Today is real opportunity for two great democracies like ours to grow closer, as I said on my trip to India last year when I called for a new age of ambition in our relationship. I think we’ve delivered on that over this past year. There is much more work to do for sure.”

Together, India and the US are building a better future for “our people based on our shared set of values and our cultures, our defence ties, our scientific collaboration, and mutual prosperity. I thank you for your leadership to each of you to build what ought to be a defining partnership of democracies in the 21st century,” he added.

Jaishankar, at the 2+2 Dialogue said that as the global economy has taken a massive hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian government has to quickly make up for the losses as economic downturn will have both domestic and external consequences.

According to the US Department of State statement, Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper, at the meeting with his counterpart Defence Minister Rajnath Singh pointed out that Tuesday marked the 15th anniversary of the first US-India Defence framework.

“We have strengthened our defence and security partnership considerably since then, especially over the past year, during which we advanced our regional security, military-to-military, and information-sharing cooperation. Our focus now must be on institutionalizing and regularizing our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” he said.

The two sides discussed key opportunities to expand their efforts on “regional security concerns” and to advance their “defence priorities”, to include increasing information sharing and mutual logistics operations between their militaries.

Jaishankar in his remarks said that at a time when it is particularly important to uphold a rules-based international order, the ability of India and the US to work closely in defence and foreign policy has a larger resonance. “Together we can make a real difference when it comes to regional and global challenges, whether it is in respecting territorial integrity, promoting maritime domain awareness, counterterrorism, or creating prosperity,” he added.

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Air pollution ups COVID-19 deaths by 15% worldwide: Study

In a major global study, researchers have revealed that long-term exposure to air pollution may be linked to 15 per cent of COVID-19 deaths worldwide

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In a major global study, researchers have revealed that long-term exposure to air pollution may be linked to 15 per cent of COVID-19 deaths worldwide.

According to the study, published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, in Europe the proportion was about 19 per cent, in North America it was 17 per cent, and in East Asia about 27 per cent.

“Since the numbers of deaths from COVID-19 are increasing all the time, it’s not possible to give exact or final numbers of COVID-19 deaths per country that can be attributed to air pollution,” said study author Jos Lelieveld from Max Planck Institute in Germany.

“However, as an example, in the UK there have been over 44,000 coronavirus deaths and we estimate that the fraction attributable to air pollution is 14 per cent, meaning that more than 6,100 deaths could be attributed to air pollution,” Lelieveld added.

The researchers used epidemiological data from the previous US and Chinese studies of air pollution and COVID-19 and the SARS outbreak in 2003, supported by additional data from Italy.

They combined this with satellite data showing global exposure to polluting fine particles known as ‘particulate matter’ that is less than or equal to 2.5 microns in diameter (known as PM2.5) to create a model to calculate the fraction of coronavirus deaths that could be attributable to long-term exposure to PM2.5.

The results are based on epidemiological data collected up the third week in June 2020 and the researchers said that a comprehensive evaluation will need to follow after the pandemic has subsided.

Estimates for individual countries show, for example, that air pollution contributed to 29 per cent of coronavirus deaths in the Czech Republic, 27 per cent in China, 26 per cent in Germany, 22 per cent in Switzerland, 21 per cent in Belgium, 19 per cent in The Netherlands, 15 per cent in Italy and 14 per cent in the UK.

Referring to previous work that suggests that the fine particulates in air pollution may prolong the atmospheric lifetime of infectious viruses and help them to infect more people. Lelieveld said: “It’s likely that particulate matter plays a role in ‘super-spreading events’ by favouring transmission.”

According to the researchers, the particulate matter seems to increase the activity of a receptor on cell surfaces, called ACE-2, that is known to be involved in the way COVID-19 infects cells.

“So, we have a ‘double hit’: air pollution damages the lungs and increases the activity of ACE-2, which in turn leads to enhanced uptake of the virus by the lungs and probably by the blood vessels and the heart,” the authors wrote.

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Street vendors need assistance package, not loans: Priyanka Gandhi

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday said that street vendors and small traders need a special assistance package and not loans

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Priyanka Gandhi Election

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi on Tuesday said that street vendors and small traders need a special assistance package and not loans.

Reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interaction with vendors in UP, the Congress leader said that during the lockdown street vendors and small shopkeepers were hit hard.

“It became difficult for them to run their homes, their livelihoods were ruined,” Priyanka tweeted.

She said, “The street vendors, shopkeepers, small traders today need a special assistance package, not loans.”

The Prime Minister’s Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) scheme was launched on June 1 to help street vendors resume their livelihood activities after they were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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