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Joe Biden tells Modi will work to strengthen India ties alongside Harris

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Joe Biden, who will take over as United States President in January, has told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that alongside Kamala Harris he wants to strengthen and expand relations between their countries.

Working closely on the Covid-19 pandemic figured in their phone call on Tuesday, Biden’s transition organisation’s readout of the conversation said.

“The President-elect thanked the Prime Minister for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership alongside the first Vice President of South Asian descent” Kamala Harris, according to the readout.

“The President-elect noted that he looks forward to working closely with the Prime Minister on shared global challenges, including containing Covid-19 and defending against future health crises, tackling the threat of climate change, launching the global economic recovery, strengthening democracy at home and abroad, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” it added.

Absent from the readout is any mention of cooperation in counter-terrorism.

The readout mentions maintaining a secure Indo-Pacific, which was the centrepiece of President Donald Trump’s administration’s strategic involvement with India.

Biden, who started speaking to international leaders starting on November 10, finally got around to speaking with Modi.

Also on Tuesday, Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israeli, one of the closest allies of the US. Netanyahu has been considered close to President Donald Trump like Modi.

Modi was among the first leaders to recognise Biden as the winner of the presidential election that is still being questioned by Trump and votes are being counted.

He and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted their congratulations to Biden shortly after the US media declared him the winner based on their projections of the results.

Modi recalled in his congratulatory tweet that Biden’s contribution as the vice president “to strengthening Indo-US relations was critical and invaluable.”

He added, “I look forward to working closely together once again to take India-US relations to greater heights.”

Biden has met Modi during his visit to Washington in 2014 and co-hosted along with then-Secretary of State John Kerry a luncheon in his honour.

At the luncheon, Biden had said, “You campaigned on some of the very goals we hope to achieve in this relationship: greater investment in India’s economy, a modernized defence sector, inclusive growth for both of our peoples. And your support for economic reform paves the way for the expansion of our nearly $100 billion in trade on a yearly basis.”

In what could be relevant in 2021, had added, “This work will not be easy. It demands us both making tough choices, but I think that we have an incredible opportunity before us.”

Although Harris has described herself as of Indian descent and her mother an immigrant from India, Biden and his organisation have hesitated to acknowledge her Indian descent.

The South Asian identification could appeal to an expanded base or not attract the attention of the anti-Indian elements in the left-radical segment of the party.

It could also project an image of objectivity where India is involved.

When he spoke at a victory rally on November 7, Biden also referred to her as “first woman of South Asian descent.”

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Farmers protest: Noida-Delhi border closed for vehicles as farmers from western UP head for Delhi

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Even as more farmers from Punjab and “khaps” from Haryana are making their way to the National Capital to join the protest against the new farm laws, another group of protesting farmers is continuing with its sit-in at the Noida-Delhi border for the second day on Wednesday. This has led to the closure of one of the most important routes that connect Uttar Pradesh with Delhi.

This route is used daily by thousands of commuters by both private vehicles and public transport.

In view of the situation, the Noida Traffic Police has advised commuters travelling to Delhi to avoid the Chilla route and instead take the DND or Kalindi Kunj route.

“The Chilla route is obstructed due to the farmers’ sit-in demonstration at the Noida-Delhi border. Kindly use alternative routes (DND or Kalindi Kunj) to reach your destination,” the Noida Traffic Police tweeted.

The Noida Traffic Police have also shared a Helpline number: 9971009001.

According to the sources, the farmers who are sitting-in at the Delhi-Noida border, belong to various districts of western Uttar Pradesh and have converged to enter Delhi to join the main protest launched by farmers of Punjab and Haryana.

Hundreds of farmers affiliated to the Bharatiya Kisan Union and other groups had gathered at the border Tuesday evening where heavy security has been deployed on both Noida and Delhi sides which has prevented them from proceeding further.

Meanwhile, the Centre, on Tuesday, had sought farmers’ objections and suggestions in writing on the farm laws that are at the centre of the protest.

The first round of talks between the leaders of the farmers’ groups and the government held yesterday was unproductive.

An Agriculture Ministry statement said, “It has been suggested by the government to the representatives of farmers’ union to identify the specific issues related to farm reform acts and share with the government on December 2, 2020 for consideration. These issues will be discussed during the fourth round of meeting to be held on December 3, 2020.

“Various issues related to farm reform acts were discussed at length and talks were held in a cordial atmosphere.”

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Brazil Covid-19 death toll tops 173,000

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With 287 new coronavirus fatalities reported in Brazil in the last 24 hours, the country’s death toll has increased to 173,120, the second highest in the world after the US, according to the Health Ministry.

Besides the new fatalities on Monday, the country also registered 21,138 new cases, which took the overall tally to 6,335,878, Xinhua news agency.

Brazil’s caseload is the third highest after the US and India.

Also on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced deep concern over a sharp increase in infection and fatality rates in Brazil.

“I think Brazil has to be very, very serious,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference in Geneva.

The South American country managed to flatten the curve between September and November, but statistics rose again after lockdown measures were eased.

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Approach with ‘open heart’, not with preconditions: Farmers reject Amit Shah’s proposal for discussion

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The protesting farmers on Sunday have rejected home minister Amit Shah’s proposal for an early discussion on their grievances.

The farmers said the government should have approached with “an open heart” and not put preconditions. The farmers’ decision came after a meeting this morning to discuss the Home Minister’s offer.

It is to be noted that Amit Shah had said that if the farmer unions want talks with the government before December 3, they have to shift to the grounds at Burari to hold their protest in a structured manner.

The farmers’ decision comes hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his Mann ki Baat show said, “The new farm laws have opened the doors of opportunity for the Indian farmers.”

He said that the demands that the framers ‘made over the years’ which every government had promised to meet has ‘finally been met.’

Before the PM’s address, state president of Punjab Kisan Union, Ruldu Singh had said, “We will discuss on how to engage in talks with the centre. We are ready for talks with the centre only if they invite us for the same.”

He added that apart from the farm laws, they also want withdrawal of electricity amendment bill (2020).

“We firmly know that the union government will not agree to all our demands. While getting the three farm laws revoked is our primary demand, we also want withdrawal of electricity amendment bill (2020). If government insists on farm laws, then we will push for legalising MSP for the purchase of every crop,” he said.

A group of farmers, walking with tractors carrying stocks of food and essential supplies, tried to enter Delhi from multiple points, defying barricades.

Haryana police had dug trenches at various crossing points in order to stop the marching farmers.

Delhi Police used water cannon and tear gas shells to disperse protesting farmers at Tikri border near Delhi-Bahadurgarh highway.

Farmers were seen clashing with security forces, as they tried to head towards Delhi as part of their protest march.

Delhi Police had seek permission from Delhi Government to convert nine stadiums into temporary prisons, in view of ongoing protest. However, the permission by denied.

Protesting farmers were allowed to enter the national capital. They will have the permission to protest at the Nirankari Samagam Ground in the Burari area, Delhi Police Commissioner had said.

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