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US sanctions declaration of economic war : Moscow

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vladimir putin

Moscow Aug 12 : Washington is poised to slap new and powerful sanctions in the  economic and trade field in a move Moscow views as the declaration of an “economic war”.

The US State Department said on Wednesday that Washington will impose new sanctions on Russia on or around August 22 over the alleged poison attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury in March.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US restrictions will possibly include a ban on foreign assistance to Russia and sale of military and dual-use items to the country, as well as renunciation of providing state loans and other financial aid.

US State Department officials estimated that the sanctions may affect hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports, dealing a blow to some 70 per cent of the Russian economy which may result in an approximately 40 per cent fall in workforce.

“All I can say is: if they ban banking operations or the use of any currency we will call it the declaration of an economic war,” Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday.

“And we’ll have to respond to it – economically, politically or in any other way, if need be. Our American friends should make no mistake about it,” he warned.

News about the upcoming US sanctions has thrown Russian ruble to a record low since 2016. The currency traded 67.72 per US dollar on the spot market at the Moscow Exchange on Friday.

Russian stocks also tumbled on Friday, with the ruble-denominated MOEX Russia Index falling 1.5 per cent and the US dollar-denominated RTS Index dropping 3.68 per cent.

Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov attributed the ruble depreciation partly to the new US sanctions. But he added that the unstable situation on developing markets are also to blame.

Despite the volatility, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia’s financial system is “fairly stable” and it has proved its resilience in difficult times.

Russia’s broader economy is recovering from years of recession. The Russian federal service for state statistics said Friday that the country’s GDP grew 1.8 per cent in the second quarter of the year, up from 1.3 per cent in the first three months.

Russia’s trade surplus surged 78 per cent year on year in June to reach 15.5 billion dollars, the Russian Central Bank said Friday.

On August 5, Russia started imposing additional import tariffs of 25-40 per cent for a range of US goods, including road construction, oil and gas industry, metal processing machinery as well as fiber-optics.

The volume of the new Russian tariffs, in retaliation for US extra tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and of 10 per cent on aluminum starting March 23, will amount to $87.6 million a year.

The US also seeks to contain Moscow’s energy sector, which the Russian economy heavily depends on.

Medvedev on Friday criticized Washington for forcing European countries to buy more US liquefied natural gas (LNG) and complicating the construction of a new Russian gas pipeline to Europe.

Russia’s Nord Stream 2 will expand the existing Nord Stream main gas pipeline by linking Russia and Germany via the Baltic seabed, bypassing Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and other eastern European and Baltic countries.

US President Donald Trump lashed the German government for agreeing on the project last month at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, saying that the pipeline will make Germany dependent on Russia.

Peskov said Trump’s criticism was aimed at promoting sales of US LNG to Europe and the Kremlin considered this to be a manifestation of unfair competition.

India

India, China are partners not rivals: Chinese Ambassador

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H E Sun Weidong and JP Nadda

New Delhi, July 10 : Amid ongoing tension along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, Chinese Ambassador to India, H.E. Sun Weidong, on Friday said that India and China should be partner and not rivals.

Weidong released a video message talking about the recent stand-off between the two countries in Galwan region in eastern Ladakh.

The Ambassador said that the June 15 violent clash in Galwan Valley, which caused casualties on both sides, was not seen as coming by either China, or India.

Weidong also said that Chinese frontline troops were disengaging from the ground in accordance with the consensus reached.

On July 5, China”s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and India”s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had talked over the phone and reached a positive consensus on easing the border tension.

The Ambassador added that some quarters in India have raised doubts about the consensus reached by the leaders and have a wrong perception about China-India ties.

These have brought disruptions in the bilateral relations. “In this regard, it is imperative for us to clarify some fundamental points,” he said.

He pointed out that India and China should be partners rather than rivals, and both the countries have a history of friendly exchanges of more than 2,000 years.

He also said that during the Wuhan Informal Summit in 2018, President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had stressed that the two countries provide each other with development opportunities instead of posing threats, which the two sides should adhere to.

“This is the fundamental judgment on China-India relations charting the course for the development of our bilateral relations,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that he has noticed some emerging opinions in recent days, which repudiate the essence of China-India relationship due to the border-related incidents, make false assumptions about China”s intentions, exaggerate conflicts and provoke confrontation.

He said, “It is not the fact. It is harmful indeed and not helpful. China and India have jointly advocated the five principals of peaceful coexistence and uphold independent foreign policies. We should naturally see each other as positive factor in the changing global landscape and as well as partners in realising our respective dream of development.”

The Ambassador said that the two countries should not allow differences to interfere with bilateral relations.

He added that since the boundary question has been left by history, it is now necessary to find a fair and reasonable solution that is acceptable to both countries through consultation and negotiations.

“In the absence of the ultimate solution, both the countries agreed to maintain peace and tranquility in the border area,” he said.

The Ambassador pointed out that for China, peace was of paramount importance.

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India

Etihad Begins Special Flights From 6 Indian Destination Between July 12-26

All passengers must have ICA approval from the government of Abu Dhabi before they travel and will not be permitted to check-in without the necessary approvals.

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New Delhi, July 10 (IANS) Etihad Airways will resume a limited number of special flights from six Indian gateways to Abu Dhabi from July 12 to 26.

The announcement comes a day after partial lifting of international flight restrictions by Indian authorities to allow outbound travel.

“During this period, the airline will operate services to Abu Dhabi from Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai to Abu Dhabi,” the company said in a statement.

“All passengers must have ICA approval from the government of Abu Dhabi before they travel and will not be permitted to check-in without the necessary approvals.”

On Thursday, the Centre announced civil aviation authorities of India and the UAE have agreed to operate special repatriation flights between the two countries during July 12-26.

As per the arrangement, chartered flights operated by UAE carriers to bring back Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry ICA (Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship) approved UAE residents to their native country on their return leg.

Further, Indian carriers operating repatriation flights to bring back Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry the ICA-approved UAE residents on their onward journey from India to the Gulf country.

“As part of the close strategic partnership between the governments of India and UAE , and with a view to assisting UAE residents who are presently in India to return to UAE, the Civil Aviation Authorities of both countries have agreed to operationalise a special arrangement,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had tweeted.

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Industry

Google empowers 5,000 Cloud employees in ethical AI

Google recently released a version of this training as a mandatory course for customer-facing Cloud teams and 5,000 Cloud employees have already taken it.

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New Delhi, July 10 : Google has trained over 5,000 employees who were part of its customer-facing Cloud teams in asking critical questions to spot potential ethical issues, such as whether an AI application might lead to economic or educational exclusion or cause physical, psychological, social or environmental harm.

In addition to launching the initial ”Tech Ethics” training that over 800 Googlers have taken since its launch last year, Google developed a new training for AI Principles issue spotting.

“We piloted the course with more than 2,000 Googlers, and it is now available as an online self-study course to all Googlers across the company,” the company said on Thursday.

Google recently released a version of this training as a mandatory course for customer-facing Cloud teams and 5,000 Cloud employees have already taken it.

“Our goal is for Google to be a helpful partner not only to researchers and developers who are building AI applications, but also to the billions of people who use them in everyday products,” said the tech giant.

The company said it has released 14 new tools that help explain how responsible AI works, from simple data visualizations on algorithmic bias for general audiences to ”Explainable AI” dashboards and tool suites for enterprise users.

The global efforts this year included new programmes to support non-technical audiences in their understanding of, and participation in, the creation of responsible AI systems, whether they are policymakers, first-time ML (machine learning) practitioners or domain experts, said Google.

“We know no system, whether human or AI powered, will ever be perfect, so we don”t consider the task of improving it to ever be finished. We continue to identify emerging trends and challenges that surface in our AI Principles reviews,” said Google.

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