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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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6 states show Covid surge; India’s total cases touch 1.11 crore

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Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat have shown a surge in new Covid-19 cases contributing to 87.25 per cent of 15,510 fresh infections reported in a day, pushing India’s tally to 1,11,12,241 on Monday, while 106 fatalities mounted the death toll to 1,57,157 the Union Health Ministry said.

India’s total number of active Covid-19 cases was recorded at1,68,627, comprising 1.52 per cent of the total infections, the ministry said highlighting five states that account for 84 per cent of the total active cases in the country.

Maharashtra alone accounts for 46.39 per cent of India’s total active cases, followed by Kerala with 29.49 per cent.

The positivity rate too has been rising gradually, pushing it to 1.52 per cent. As per the Ministry’s data, there are 1,68,627 active cases at present after 11,288 patients were discharged in a day.

The experts have expressed a number of possibilities which could be due to lax attitude of people towards following Covid protocols to “mutations and new strains” causing the surge, sources in the health ministry said.

This trend is alarming as in mid February the average daily new infections oscillated between 9,000 to 12,000 while the deaths were between 78 to 120.

Delhi adds 175 cases, 1 death:Delhi today recorded 175 new coronavirus infections and one fatality, even as the positivity rate rose to 0.44 per cent, according to the Delhi government’s latest health bulletin. The city’s Covid toll climbed to 10,911, the health bulletin said.

The new cases took its coronavirus infection tally to 6,39,464. These cases came out of 39,733 tests conducted the previous day.

The active Covid cases in the national capital rose to 1,404 from 1,335 the previous day, according to the bulletin.

source: The Statesman

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SUV with 20 gelatin sticks found dumped near Mukesh Ambani’s house

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In a shocking development, an SUV filled with at least 20 gelatin sticks was found abandoned outside Antilia, the lavish multi-storied home of billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, here on Thursday evening, officials said.

“A Scorpio vehicle with 20 gelatin sticks was found near Mukesh Ambani’s Mumbai residence. The Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police is investigating the entire matter and the truth will emerge soon,” Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said late on Thursday evening.

Late in the night, Mumbai Police spokesperson DCP S. Chaitanya said that a letter has been found inside the vehicle, but declined to reveal its content.

“The registration number displayed on the said vehicle (SUV) matches with the registration number of a vehicle in Mukesh Ambani’s security detail. The SUV has been seized by the police for investigation,” Chaitanya said.

The SUV was noticed at around 3 p.m. after which some people from the vicinity alerted the local police, who rushed to the spot and cordoned off the entire area, sending the state government and the police into a tizzy.

Top police officers, including Joint Commissioner of Police Vishwas Nangre-Patil, a team of explosives experts, sniffer dog squad, bomb detection and disposal squad and others rushed to the spot and inspected the SUV in which the gelatin sticks were kept.

Minister of State for Home, Shambhuraj Desai, told mediapersons that he has instructed the top police officers to probe the matter thoroughly and ensure that the culprits are brought to book.

Desai added that if required, the government would consider other measures, including enhancing the security at the Antilia building and also around the Ambani family, even as the entire locality was brought under a high alert.

CCTV footages of the area revealed that the SUV with a couple of unidentified persons in it was driven and parked beside a tree on the Carmichael Road at around 1 a.m.

The suspicious persons seemed to have fled after deserting the SUV there, but strangely, it was noticed only after another 12 hours.

Chaitanya said that the gelatin sticks recovered in the SUV were “not an assembled explosive device” but details of the risks they posed would be known only after a thorough probe.

Efforts are on to trace the persons who parked the vehicle there, from where they came, what were their diabolic motives, who or what were the exact targets etc., officials said.

Antilia and the south Mumbai neighbourhood house the who’s who of the Indian corporate world, top politicians, official or private residences of various bigwigs, government officials, diplomats, people from the glamour industry and others.

source: The Statesman

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U’khand: 136 missing ‘presumed dead’

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The Indo-Tibetan Border Police, SDRF and other sister organisations on Tuesday launched an operation at the artificial lake, which was formed after the recent flash flood-triggered landslide blocked flow of the Rishiganga river, in Chamoli. To increase the volume of water at the Rishiganga near Muranda, the team removed tree trunks that were blocking the flow.

The artificial lake continues to be a hot topic of debate among scientists and administrators and an object of fear among locals. A team of ITBP, SDRF and other agencies are presently camping at the lake site. The administration is on alert after the Indian Meteorological Department forecast for light rainfall on 24, 25 and 26 February and moderate rainfall at Tapovan area on 27 February.

Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government has issued a notification authorising officials to declare “presumed dead” 136 people still missing after the flash flood in Chamoli district over two weeks ago. Sixty-eight bodies have so far been recovered after the February 7 disaster possibly triggered by an avalanche.

~With inputs from PTI~

source: The Statesman

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