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US sending Covid vaccines to India, Kamala Harris tells Narendra Modi

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US Vice President Kamala Harris has told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the US will be sending Covid-19 vaccines to India, following which Modi thanked her for the support from the US government and the Indian diaspora, in what was likely their first interaction.

The electronic conversation took place as US President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that India will receive Covid vaccines directly from the US stockpile, the White House said.

Modi tweeted, “I deeply appreciate the assurance of vaccine supplies to India as part of the US Strategy for Global Vaccine Sharing. I also thanked her (Harris) for all the support and solidarity from the US government, businesses and Indian diaspora.”

Biden, who has faced international and domestic pressure to share surplus vaccines, said he is releasing the first set of 25 million doses of which six million will be shared between India, South Korea, Mexico and Canada.

The six million “will be shared directly with countries experiencing surges, those in crisis, and other partners and neighbours,” he said without giving a breakdown of how many doses will go to India.

His spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the vaccines could go out as soon as Thursday “as we are working to operationalise this, which is kind of a historic Herculean effort.”

Harris has spoken to several international leaders, but till Thursday there had been no mention by the White House of a conversation with Modi, whom she had criticised in the past.

Although Harris has refrained from criticising him since assuming office, her nice Meena Harris has attacked Modi.

Calling Modi about the vaccine supply gives her clout while speaking to him.

The White House said that she also spoke to Presidents Andres Manuel Lapez Obrador of Mexico, and Alejandro Giammattei of Guatemala, and Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad, who is also the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

She “notified each of the leaders that the Biden-Harris administration will begin sharing the first 25 million doses of Covid vaccines to their respective countries and others, as part of the Biden-Harris administration’s framework for sharing at least 80 million vaccines globally by the end of June”, to which they thanked her and “agreed to continue working together to address Covid-19 and advance our mutual interests around the world”, the White House said.

Modi tweeted that they “discussed ongoing efforts to further strengthen India-US vaccine cooperation, and the potential of our partnership to contribute to post-Covid global health and economic recovery”.

The Quad — made up of India, the US, Japan and Australia — had announced a plan in March for India to manufacture one billion vaccines with US and Japanese financing to be distributed to Asian countries using Australian logistics.

Biden said in his announcement that seven million doses will be earmarked for South and Southeast Asia, but did not specify the recipients.

These will be distributed through COVAX, the international consortium for providing vaccines to developing countries.

COVAX will also get six million doses earmarked for Latin America and the Caribbean, and five million for Africa.

Biden said that the US would share more vaccines from its stockpile.

“In the days to come, as we draw on the experience of distributing the vaccine doses announced today, we will have more details to provide about how future doses will be shared,” he said.

“The United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus,” Biden said.

Several members of the Congress in the US, including Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal, had asked Biden to send vaccines to India, which is facing a deadly second wave surge of the pandemic.

Psaki had indicated that the vaccines would be shared by several countries.

“Our approach will be to ensure that it is distributed in an equitable manner around the world,” she said on Wednesday.

While most of the requests for sending vaccines to India focused on the 60 million AstraZeneca product in the US stockpile, Psaki said that the vaccines being donated will be a mix of those approved for use in the US — the products of Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer.

Psaki said that the administration was waiting for FDA approval to send the AstraZeneca vaccines abroad.

Biden had so far resisted sharing vaccines globally — except with Canada and Mexico — because he wanted to be sure that under any eventuality, there would be enough for all Americans.

That was in contrast to India, Russia and China which made diplomatic headway by donating vaccines and it led to domestic criticism of Biden.

Now nearly half the population of the US has been vaccinated, according to the Centres for Disease Control, giving Biden breathing space.

But the country is battling resistance to vaccinations from a sizeable part of the population.

While there is a global clamour for vaccines, the US is battling resistance to vaccinations from a sizeable part of the population.

Authorities across the US are running lotteries with million-dollar prizes and scholarships and companies are giving out beer and pastries to coax those avoiding vaccinations to get their jabs.

According to some media reports, the US may have as many as 500 million surplus doses of vaccines in the coming months.

Former President Donald Trump had taken the risky step of ordering millions of doses of vaccines — far beyond the national requirement — from several companies under his Operation Warpspeed even before the vaccines were being tested to ensure that there would be enough of any that obtained approval for use to cover the population.

This has led to the huge surplus.

Referring to the 25 million doses that the US has committed to send abroad, Psaki said, “That is five times the number of doses any other country is committed to sharing.”

However, India has sent abroad 66 million vaccine doses before stopping donations and exports last month when it was overwhelmed by the pandemic.

International News

Nuke talks should be fruitful, says Iranian FM

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The negotiations to revive the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), should be “productive and fruitful”, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said.

Making the remarks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Amir Abdollahian said on Friday that currently, Iranian delegation does not have any negotiation on the JCPOA with the remaining parties to the deal, reports Xinhua news agency.

“We have held talks with different parties individually and bilaterally. When the review of the JCPOA dossier is completed in Iran, the materials and views will be exchanged at the negotiating table,” he was quoted as saying.

“We are examining approaches to the issue of returning to negotiations, and we will return to the negotiating table at the earliest opportunity,” the Minister added.

Amir Abdollahian’s remarks on Friday came just two days after he said that the new government of President Ebrahim Raisi will resume the nuclear talks, without giving a scheduled date.

The JCPOA Joint Commission, attended by the US delegation indirectly, began in-person meetings on April 6 in Vienna to continue previous discussions over a possible return of the US to the nuclear deal and how to ensure the full and effective implementation of the agreement.

After six rounds of talks which ended on June 20, the parties said serious differences remain between Iran and the US for restoration of the deal.

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Quad leaders urge N.Korea to engage in dialogue

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The leaders of the Quad nations — US, Australia, Japan and India — have called on North Korea to engage in dialogue and abide by the UN Security Council resolutions that prohibit its ballistic missile tests.

The call came on Friday at the end of the first in-person summit of the four countries in Washington, reports Yonhap News Agency.

“We reaffirm our commitment to the complete denuclearisation of North Korea in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, and also confirm the necessity of immediate resolution of the issue of Japanese abductees,” the leaders said in a joint statement.

“We urge North Korea to abide by its UN obligations, refrain from provocations. We also call on North Korea to engage in substantive dialogue,” they added.

US President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga held their first-ever Quad summit virtually in March and reaffirmed their “commitment to the complete denuclearisation of North Korea in accordance with UN Security council resolutions”.

Their latest call for dialogue comes after North Korea test-fired a new short-range ballistic missile earlier this month in violation of the resolutions.

Pyongyang has maintained a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests since late 2017.

The Biden administration has made several overtures for dialogue with Pyongyang since taking office in January, but the North remains unresponsive.

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India responds to Imran: Pak a ‘supporter of terrorists, suppressor of minorities’

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 India has denounced Pakistan as a patron of terrorism and a suppressor of minorities in reply to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s tirade against the country.

“This is the country which is an arsonist disguising itself as a firefighter,” Sneha Dubey, a First Secretary in India’s UN Mission, said on Friday.

“Pakistan nurtures terrorists in their backyard in the hope that they will only harm their neighbours. Our region, in fact, the entire world has suffered because of their policies.

“Today, the minorities in Pakistan, the Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, live in constant fear and state-sponsored suppression of their rights. This is a regime where anti-Semitism is normalised by its leadership and even justified,” she said.

Responding to Khan’s claims about treatment of minorities in India, Dubey said: “Pluralism is a concept which is very difficult to understand for Pakistan which constitutionally prohibits its minorities from aspiring for high offices of the State. The least they could do is introspect before exposing themselves to ridicule on the world stage.

“Unlike Pakistan, India is a pluralistic democracy with a substantial population of minorities who have gone on to hold highest offices in the country including as President, Prime Minister, Chief Justices and Chiefs of Army staff. India is also a country with a free media and an independent judiciary that keeps a watch and protects our Constitution.”

As for Khan’s allegations of “war crimes” by India, Dubey recalled the genocide perpetrated in Bangladesh in 1971 during and before the War of Independence in which more than 300,000 people were killed by Pakistan and hundreds of thousand women raped.

Pakistan “still holds the despicable record in our region of having executed a religious and cultural genocide against the people of what is now Bangladesh. As we mark the 50th anniversary this year of that horrid event in history, there is not even an acknowledgement, much less accountability”, she said.

Khan in his speech said that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “terrorism has been associated with Islam by some quarters” and “increased the tendency of right-wing, xenophobic and violent nationalists, extremists and terrorist groups to target Muslims”.

He then went on to link this to the BJP and the RSS.

Dubey said: “We marked the solemn occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks a few days back. The world has not forgotten that the mastermind behind that dastardly event, Osama Bin Laden, got shelter in Pakistan. Even today, Pakistan leadership glorify him as a ‘martyr’.

“Regrettably, even today we heard the leader of Pakistan trying to justify acts of terror. Such defence of terrorism is unacceptable in the modern world.”

Pakistan has made an annual ritual of using up most it time at the high-level General Assembly session to attack India, which it also does at all meetings, regardless of the topic.

Dubey said: “This is not the first time the leader of Pakistan has misused platforms provided by the UN to propagate false and malicious propaganda against my country, and seeking in vain to divert the world’s attention from the sad state of his country where terrorists enjoy free pass while the lives of ordinary people, especially those belonging to the minority communities, are turned upside down.

“This is a country which has been globally recognized as one openly supporting, training, financing and arming terrorists as a matter of State policy. It holds the ignoble record of hosting the largest number of terrorists proscribed by the UN Security Council.”

Khan said that Pakistan “desires peace with India” but it is “contingent upon resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Pakistan, however, is in violation of Security Council Resolution 47 adopted in 1948 that requires it to withdraw all its personnel from Kashmir.

Dubey declared: “Let me reiterate here that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh were, are and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India. This includes the areas that are under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation.”

On the conditions for peace, she said: “We desire normal relations with all our neighbours, including Pakistan. However, it is for Pakistan to work sincerely towards creating a conducive atmosphere, including by taking credible, verifiable and irreversible actions to not allow any territory under its control to be used for cross border terrorism against India in any manner.”

Khan blamed the US for the developments in Afghanistan, recalling the support Washington under President Ronald Reagan gave mujahidin fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

“We were left with sectarian militant groups which were never existed before,” he said.

After 9/11, the US needed Pakistan’s help to invade Afghanistan, he said.

As a result, the same Mujahidin also turned against Pakistan and the Taliban attacked his country, he claimed.

After Dubey gave the right of reply speech, a Counsellor in Pakistan’s UN Mission, Saima Saleem, replied to the right of reply.

Saleem repeated many elements of Khan’s speech, in addition to quoting Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and UN human rights bodies, ignoring their scorching criticism of her country.

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