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Modi, Biden launch ‘new chapter’ in India-US ties to face tough challenges

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“We’re launching a new chapter in the history of US-Indian ties and taking on some of the toughest challenges we face together,” President Joe Biden said on Friday as he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi began their summit in a fast-changing world throwing up problems and new issues at dizzying speeds.

After their meeting, Modi tweeted: “Had an outstanding meeting with @POTUS @JoeBiden. His leadership on critical global issues is commendable. We discussed how India and USA will further scale-up cooperation in different spheres and work together to overcome key challenges like COVID-19 and climate change.”

Speaking before the formal start of their meeting, Modi told Biden: “I find that under your leadership, the seeds have been sown for the Indo-US relations to expand, and for all democratic countries in the world, this is going to be a transformative period. I can see that very clearly.”

The shared democratic values of the two countries was a thread weaving them together.

“Democratic values, traditions to which both countries are committed, I find that importance of these traditions will only increase further,” Modi said.

Biden said: “Our partnership is more than just what we do. It’s about who we are. It’s rooted in our shared responsibility to uphold democratic values, our joint commitment to diversity.”

Both leaders spoke of the Indian diaspora, another factor that is binding the two nations together.

India-US relations are “about family ties, including four million Indian-Americans who make the United States stronger every single day”, Biden said.

Modi said: “You mentioned, there are more than four million Indian Americans who are participating in the journey of progress of America. When I look at the importance of this decade, and the role that is going to be played by this talent of the Indian Americans, I find that the people-to-people talent will play a greater role and Indian talent will be a full partner in this relationship. And I see that your contribution is going to be very important in this.”

The two leaders mentioned Gandhi Jayanti that comes up next week. “As the world celebrates Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday next week, we’re all reminded that his message of nonviolence, respect, tolerance matters today maybe more than it ever has,” Biden said.

“Mahatma Gandhi always used to talk about the principle of trusteeship, trusteeship of the planet,” Modi said turning to environment, a subject dear to Biden.

“It means that the planet that we have, we have to bequeath it to the following generations, and this sentiment of trusteeship is going to assume more and more importance globally, but also between the relations between India and the United States, and it is these ideals that Mahatma Gandhi espoused,” he said. “The responsibility of global citizens is only going to go up.”

Biden referred to the Quad summit where they will be joined by Prime Ministers Yoshihide Suga of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia, and said: “The Prime Minister and I are going to be talking today about what more we can do to fight Covid-19, take on the climate challenges that the world face, and ensure stability in the Indo-Pacific, including with our own Quad partners.”

Modi profusely thanked Biden for his efforts to continue building relations with India and recalled that their meeting in 2014 while Biden was Vice President and discussed the ties between the two countries.

He said: “You had laid out a vision for India-US relationship in great detail. And really, that was a vision that was inspirational. And today, Mr. President, as President, you are making all efforts and taking initiatives to implement that vision.”

“I see is that this is the third decade of the 21st century, this is the first year of the third decade. And I see that when I look at the entire decade, I find that under your leadership the seeds have been sown for the Indo-US relations to expand,” Modi said.

International News

Syria, Lebanon discuss plan to repatriate 15,000 refugees per month

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Syrian and Lebanese officials have discussed ways to facilitate the monthly return of 15,000 Syrian refugees to their home country.

Syrian Minister of Local Administration and Environment Hussein Makhlouf held a meeting in Damascus on Monday with visiting Lebanese Minister of the Displaced Issam Charafeddine, during which they touched upon measures taken by Syria to secure a safe and quick home return for the refugees based on a timeline set by both countries, Xinhua news agency reported citing local media reports.

“Lebanon and Syria agree on the necessity to facilitate the return of all refugees to their homeland, not just 15,000 monthly, as stated in the plan presented by the Lebanese side,” Makhlouf told a joint press conference with the Lebanese Minister.

The Syrian government has pledged to secure basic services including transportation, accommodation, medical care, and education for all the Syrian refugees who want to come back, said Makhlouf.

He said the Syrian army has restored security and stability to large swathes of territories over the past few years, and the government has so far enabled the home return of 4 million internally displaced people and 1 million refugees overseas.

He also called on UN organisations to be “an active partner in the return of the displaced, especially when Syria is open to cooperation with Lebanon and others to facilitate the return of all the displaced, allowing them to have an active role in the reconstruction process”.

On his part, Charafeddine said “we discussed our plan in detail with Syrian authorities who expressed readiness to receive all refugees, pledging to provide them with needed facilities”, according to Lebanon’s National News Agency.

The Lebanese officials intended to visit Syria soon to further coordinate their return with Syrian authorities, he added.

Charafeddine also held a separate meeting with Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad Khaled al-Rahmoun, during which the latter said the Damascus government allows holders of expired passports to return home and the registration of children who were born overseas.

Al-Rahmoun added that immigration centres at Syrian borders were all connected with the central database for civil affairs in order to provide the returnees with needed documents upon arriving in the country.

Earlier this month, Charafeddine had said that Lebanon would implement its plan regardless of the UN position as his country suffers from an unprecedented financial crisis and the influx of refugees has weighed heavily on the economy and infrastructure.

Lebanon remains the country hosting the largest number of refugees per capita in the world, with an estimated 1.5 million Syrians and some 13,715 of other nationalities.

The UNHCR representative in Lebanon has rejected the country’s plan, citing Syria is not safe for returning refugees.

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International News

Israel rejects appeal to free Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike

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 An Israeli military court has rejected an appeal to release a Palestinian prisoner whose health has been worsening amid his 165-day hunger strike in protest against his detention without trial or charge, a local daily reported.

Justice Eyal Yinon ruled that despite Khalil Awawdeh’s deteriorated medical condition, “the danger he poses still doesn’t allow his release”, Xinhua news agency quoted Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper as saying in the report.

The judge said that the improvement of Awawdeh’s health “rests on his own hands”, and the court can only hope he will end his hunger strike.

Ahlam Haddad, Awawdeh’s lawyer, confirmed the appeal was rejected and said that “the ruling poses a danger to her client’s life”, adding she plans to petition Supreme Court in an attempt to release him.

Awawdeh was evacuated to a hospital on August 10 after his health condition deteriorated.

Israel maintains that Awawdeh is a militant of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, while he denies the allegation.

The Islamic Jihad demanded his release during the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal with Israel, which ended the three-day deadly fighting in the Gaza Strip earlier this month.

The group did not however, identify him as a member.

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International News

Operating licence of Pak’s ARY News revoked, paves way for permanent closure

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In an unprecedented move, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) revoked the operating licence of ARY News after the security clearance of the channel was withdrawn by the Ministry of Interior, paving the way for its permanent closure.

In a notification, the Ministry said: “The NOC issued in favour of M/S ARY Communications Pvt Limited (ARY News) is cancelled with immediate effect and until further orders on the basis of adverse reports from agencies.”

The decision by Pemra was taken during its 172nd meeting which was chaired by re-appointed chief Saleem Baig, reports Dawn news.

Sources in the regulatory authority said Baig chaired the meeting in the presence of three other members, while four members, including the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) chairman, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman and the interior secretary joined the meeting via video link.

After detailed information and background regarding the renewal of the operating licence, the working paper of the meeting said: “Ministry of Interior vide letter dated 10.11.2021 had initially granted NOC/ security clearance for renewal of satellite TV licences of M/s ARY Communication Ltd. However, the Ministry has withdrawn the NOC in respect of M/s ARY Communication Ltd. (ARY News) vide letter dated 11.8.2022.

“Foregoing in view and based on the fact that the mandatory requirement of security clearance has not been fulfilled since NOC has been withdrawn by Ministry of Interior, the request of M/s ARY Communication Ltd. for renewal of licence for another term of 15 years may be regretted by the authority.”

The decision to shut down the news channel was met with disapproval across the board, Dawn news reported.

The ARY management condemned the ban, saying the network was being victimised by the federal government.

This move is akin to the “economic murder of more than 4,000 media workers associated with the news channel”, it said, adding that the Ministry’s notification will be taken to the courts as it was done without any due notice.

Association of Electronic Media Editors and News Directors (AEMEND) President Azhar Abbas condemned it as an “excessive measure” and said such moves have never worked. He urged the government to immediately withdraw the decision, Dawn reported.

PPP leader and former senator Farhatullah Babar tweeted that the use of state power “arbitrarily will backfire”.

“There may be 101 good reasons but question as to who is competent to cancel, how & whether due process followed must be answered… Effects of (the) law of diminishing returns already becoming apparent,” he tweeted.

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