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China ‘warns’ US after its warship sails through Taiwan Strait

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A US warship sailed through the Taiwan Strait in what the American military described as a “routine” passage Wednesday, but enraging China, which claims sovereignty over the island and surrounding seas.

Ties between Beijing and Washington have deteriorated in recent months, over issues including trade and Hong Kong, with the self-ruled island of Taiwan a long-running source of tension.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry passed through the Strait on October 14, according to a statement by the US Pacific Fleet.

“The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

“The US Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows,” it added.

Any US Navy operations in the Taiwan Strait, which separates China from the island, provoke a strong response from Beijing, which considers Taiwan to be an inviolable part of its territory.

In an angry riposte, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army said it tracked the USS Barry by sea and air “throughout the entire process.”

“We warn the US to stop its words and deeds that provoke trouble and disturb the situation in the Taiwan Strait,” Eastern Theatre Command spokesman Colonel Zhang Chunhui said.

The island has been governed separately since the end of a civil war in China in 1949.

Taiwan has its own flag, currency and military, but it is not recognized as an independent nation by the UN.

Washington ended its diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 in order to improve ties with China, but the US remains the island’s most powerful ally and its main arms supplier.

The Chinese have threatened to use force if Taipei proclaims independence or if there is foreign intervention.

Beijing views the passage of foreign vessels through the Strait as a violation of its sovereignty.

Washington and many other countries, on the other hand, see the waterway as part of international waters and therefore open to all.

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Amid backlash, Union Minister assures country will be given free COVID vaccine

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Union Minister Pratap Sarangi on Sunday said that all people of the country will be given free COVID vaccine, amidst the demand by opposition parties in the country for it and not only in poll-bound Bihar as announced by the BJP.

The BJP announcement of free COVID vaccine for Bihar, where assembly polls begin this week, had kicked up a controversy with the opposition parties tearing into the NDA government alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political reasons.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the announcement was in order as it was an election manifesto announcement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that all people will be provided free of cost vaccines. An estimated ₹ 500 odd will be spent on vaccination of each person, Mr Sarangi told reporters after addressing a campaign meeting for the November 3 assembly by-poll in Balasore.

PM Modi had in a televised adddress to the nation on October 20 said that Indian scientists are in the process of developing several vaccines that are at different stages of clinical trials and the results seem encouraging.

Mr Sarangi, the union minister of state for animal husbandry, dairy, fisheries and micro, small and medium enterprises spoke in reply to question raised by Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister, RP Swain.

Mr Swain had earlier in the day sought clarification from Dharmendra Pradhan and Sarangi, the two union ministers from Odisha questioning them for their silence on their party BJP’s stand on free COVID-19 vaccination for the people of the state along the lines of the one being promised in Bihar.

The governments of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Puduchchery have already announced free of cost COVID vaccines for the people of their states, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded free vaccine for all citizens across the country.

Mr Swain had tweeted “I am asking questions to two Odisha union ministers from Balasore soil to clarify as to why the people of the state will not get free of cost COVID vaccine. The union ministers should clarify BJPs stand on the corona vaccination in Odisha.”

On the state governments steps for vaccination, Mr Swain said it has signed an agreement with a vaccine manufacturer and is committed to extend the facility to all people of the state.

He, however, did not say whether the state government will provide the vaccine to the people free of cost.

BJP deputy leader in Odisha Assembly Bishnu Charan Sethi said the Centre has been supporting Odisha fully during the pandemic and has granted ₹ 22,000 crore for the purpose.

“But large scale lapses have been detected in the utilisation of the fund,” he alleged.

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‘Looking forward to collaborate closely with India’: US ahead of 2+2 dialogue

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The third edition of the 2+2 dialogue between India and USA is set to begin as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper are on their way to New Delhi.

Ahead of the important talks, the US State Department said the country welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power.

“As outlined in our National Security Strategy, the United States welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power. The United States looks forward to collaborating closely with India during its upcoming term on the UN Security Council,” the US said, reported NDTV.

“Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations,” Mike Pompeo tweeted last night.

The top US leaders will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold discussions with other government and business leaders on ways to advance the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, the State Department said.

US said that the subjects to be covered included regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions and defence trade.

“We have made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement – the Exchange and Cooperation Agreement or BECA,” senior officials of the Trump administration said last week in an online news briefing.

“This agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces. We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign defence ministries and that figures prominently in what we are trying to accomplish in the information-sharing space,” they added.

The relations between US and India have been strengthening in last few months as the Quadrilateral grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia are sending their warships for the Malabar Exercise next month.

Quadrilateral grouping, which experts say is to be mirroring NATO, has already been criticized by China many times.

In another major development in direction of strengthening the ties, New Delhi and Washington are also stepping up efforts to conclude the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting on October 26-27.

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‘CM stayed indoor when migrants walked home; steps out only to get votes’: Tejashwi Yadav

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RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav launched scathing attacks on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar during an election rally in the state’s Nawada district on Friday.

The attack was Covid-specific coming hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appreciated the Bihar CM for tackling the century’s major health crisis.

He criticized Kumar for staying put at home for more than four months because of the Covid threat and only coming out to ask for votes.

“Nitish Kumar stayed inside the CM house for 144 days. But now he is out of his house. Why? Tab bhi corona tha, ab bhi corona hai. But now he wants your vote, so he has to step out,” he said.

In the month of June when migrant crisis surfaced in the country and most migrants were from Bihar itself, Nitish Kumar had faced widespread criticism over his decision to remain indoors and avoid public interaction.

In early June, after spending 84 days inside, he finally stepped out to drive 20 meters to the official secretariat.

Back then also, Tejaswi Yadav had mocked him in a tweet, telling him “if you are afraid (to step outside), I will go along with you”.

“Did Nitish Kumar give you jobs in 15 years, did he eradicate poverty? What happened to the promised government jobs? What happened to the factories?” Yadav asked.

“I welcome Modiji to Bihar, now tell us what happened to the Bihar package?” he asked.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday at his first rally in Bihar for the election praised Chief Minister Nitish Kumar government for his “quick response” to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

“If Bihar’s Nitish Kumar government had not acted fast, there would have been many more coronavirus deaths and unimaginable mayhem,” PM said.

“But today Bihar, having battled Covid, is now celebrating the festival of democracy,” PM said.

“But today Bihar, having battled Covid, is now celebrating the festival of democracy,” he said.

PM was addressing a joint rally in Sasaram with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

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