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India, Egypt to elevate relations to strategic partnership, take bilateral trade to $12 bn

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that India and Egypt have decided to elevate their bilateral relations to the level of a “strategic partnership”.

He further said that both the nations have decided to take bilateral trade to $12 billion in the next five years.

In his remarks after discussions with visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Modi said, “At one side of the Arabian Sea is India and on the other side is Egypt. Strategic cooperation between the two countries will help in promoting peace and prosperity in the entire region. So in today’s meeting, President Sisi and I decided to elevate our bilateral partnership to the level of ‘Strategic Partnership’. We have decided that under the India-Egypt Strategic Partnership, we will develop a long-term framework of greater cooperation in political, security, economic and scientific fields.”

He said that both he and President Sisi closely observed the adverse effects on healthcare infrastructure and global supply chains during the Covid pandemic.

“President Sisi and I have remained in close contact during this challenging period, and both countries have sent each other immediate assistance in times of need. Today, we have held extensive discussions on strengthening the food and pharma supply chains affected by Covid and the Ukraine conflict. We also agreed on the need to increase mutual investment and trade in these areas,” Modi said.

He also said that India and Egypt are worried about the spread of terrorism happening around the world.

“We are unanimous in the opinion that terrorism is the most serious security threat to humanity. Both countries also agree that concerted action is necessary to end cross-border terrorism. And for this, together we will continue to try to alert the international community,” the Prime Minister said.

Modi further elaborated that “there is also immense potential for enhancing security and defence cooperation between us”.

“In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in joint exercise training and capacity building between our armies. We have also decided in today’s meeting to further strengthen cooperation between our defence industries, and enhance the exchange of information and intelligence related to counter-terrorism,” he said.

Modi said that during his meeting with the Egyptian President, the issue of misuse of cyber space to spread extremist ideologies and radicalisation was discussed, and therefore it was decided that both the countries would extend cooperation against this also.

Sisi, who arrived on Tuesday on a three-day official visit to India, would be the chief guest during the Republic Day function on Thursday.

International News

Pakistan Senate divided over condolences for Musharraf

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The Pakistan Senate was sharply divided over the idea of offering prayers for late President Pervez Musharraf, as the treasury side strongly opposed it while PTI insisted on it and later praised him, and PPP lawmakers condemned the former leader for undermining the Constitution.

Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani asked JI Senator Mushtaq Ahmad to offer prayers for victims of earthquake in Turkey, Syria and Lebanon, and Musharraf, who had passed away in Dubai on Sunday, The News reported.

The House echoed with slogans of “no, no” raised by the members from the treasury benches while Mushtaq Ahmad, who sits on the opposition side, also straight away said there will be no prayers for Musharraf and Sanjrani sensed the majority was opposed to it and accordingly urged him to skip him in prayers.

Leader of the Opposition Shahzad Wasim, who was a member of then Musharraf’s cabinet, as state minister for interior and PML-Q senator from 2003-06, wondered what was the harm in offering prayers for him, prompting JI legislator to retort, “he was a certified traitor who broke the Constitution twice” and was responsible for conflagration in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, this could not quiet the leader of opposition and he continued with defending the former military ruler while members from the government rose in their seats and gathered around the chairman’s podium.

PPP Senator Moula Bux Chandio rose to insist that the one who breaks the law is a traitor and argued those defending Musharraf were also traitors.

“You are sitting in the Parliament and have taken oath under the Constitution. You should adopt the path which leads to democracy,” he contended.

He recalled how Musharraf’s indictment in treason case had to be put off for the third time in January 2014, when he went to a military hospital instead of appearing before the court to face the charge, The News reported.

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7.8-magnitude quake kills over 125 in Turkey, Syria

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Over 125 people were killed and more that 400 others injured in Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck a wide area near the two countries’ border, according to authorities.

Ankara/Damascus, Feb 6 : Over 125 people were killed and more that 400 others injured in Turkey and Syria after a massive earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale struck a wide area near the two countries’ border, according to authorities. The US Geological Survey said the tremor occurred at 4.17 a.m. at a depth of 17.9 km near the Turkish city of Gaziantep, reports the BBC reported.

Addressing reporters, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleymon Soylu said the 10 cities of Gaziantep, Kahramanmaras, Hatay, Osmaniye, Adiyaman, Malatya, Sanliurfa, Adana, Diyarbakir and Kilis were affected. While Malatya province, north-east of Gaziantep, at least 23 people were killed, in Sanliurfa, to the east, there were 17 deaths, the Minister said, adding that the rest of the fatalities were reported in in Diyarbakir and Osmaniye.

About 440 people were injured.

The initial quake was followed by another one measuring 6.4 on the Richter scale at 4.26 a.m., Xinhua news agency quoted Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), as saying. At least 50 successive earthquakes were recorded with a maximum magnitude of 6.6, said AFAD.

Widespread damage was reported in at least 10 provinces in southern and southeastern Turkey, it added. Turkey lies in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

In 1999, more than 17,000 people were killed after a powerful tremor rocked the north-west of the country. In a more recent quake, 117 people died when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the city of Izmir on October 30, 2020.

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Pakistan’s oil industry faces collapse amid liquidity crunch

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Pakistan’s oil companies have warned that the industry is on the “brink of collapse” as the dollar liquidity crisis persists and their cost of doing balloons due to the Pakistani rupees (PKR) devaluation.

To meet the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) demand, the government removed the dollar cap, resulting in the rupee falling to a historic low of 276.58 PKR in the interbank market, Geo News reported.

In a letter to the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and Energy Ministry, the Oil Companies Advisory Council (OCAC) said that the “sudden depreciation” of the local rupee has caused losses worth billions of rupees to the industry as their letters of credit (LCs) are expected to be settled on the new rates, “whereas the related product has already been sold”.

The government has also restricted LCs due to dwindling foreign exchange reserves, which fell to $3,086.2 million as of January 27, and are enough for just 18.5 days, Geo News reported.

Pakistan is facing a balance of payments crisis and the plummeting value of the rupee is pushing up the price of imported goods.

Energy comprises a large chunk of Pakistan’s import bill.

Pakistan typically meets more than a third of its annual power demand, using imported natural gas, prices for which shot up following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

These losses, the OCAC said, not only have an impact on the profitability of the sector, which is already under severe pressure, but also on its viability since these setbacks in some cases might exceed the “entire year’s profit for the sector”, Geo News reported.

“It is requested to urgently revise this mechanism and ensure that exchange losses of the sector are fully reimbursed if the viability of the industry and supplies to retail outlets are to be ensured,” the OCAC told the authorities.

The letter mentioned that OGRA has adopted the practice of not fully passing on the impact of the rupee depreciation and instead putting an immense burden on the sector.

Due to the challenges still being faced by the sector of previous exchange rate adjustments and the enormous impact of the current depreciation, the OCAC said it is crucial that OGRA passes the impact of the exchange rates in one go and not stagger this compensation, Geo News reported.

The council added that due to an increase in oil prices and successive depreciation of the Pakistani rupee over the last 18 months, the trade finance limits available from the banking sector to the industry have become inadequate.

As a result of the recent devaluation alone, the LC limits have overnight shrunk by 15-20 per cent, the OCAC said.

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