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US becomes India’s 2nd biggest crude supplier

New Delhi: The US has become the biggest gainer of its decision to impose sanctions on oil producing countries Iran and Venezuela.

America has steadily improved its exports post sanctions and has now become the second biggest oil supplier to India, the world’s third largest oil consumer.

As per trade data, the US supplied almost 2.2 million tons (mt) of oil to India in February, higher than even Saudi Arabia, which had traditionally been among the biggest exporters of oil to India. This is 48 per cent growth in US oil exports to India and is accounting for almost 14 per cent of India’s total oil imports in February.

Surprisingly, the Saudis supplied about 1.8 mt of oil to India in February, a fall of over 40 per cent, that pushed it to number four position among countries meeting energy demand of the world’s third largest oil importer.

Sources said US sanctions have lifted oil trade with the US as it is quickly occupying the space vacated by Iran that has been among India’s top three oil suppliers in the past.

Before sanctions reduced Iranian oil supplies to almost zero level in FY21, the Islamic nation used to export over 20 mt of oil to India, accounting for over 10 per cent of the country’s total oil imports.

This year (FY21) up to February, imports from the US has already increased to its highest ever level of about 13 mt and May end the year with 15 mt of oil imports. India imports over 200 mt of oil per year and meets 85 per cent of domestic oil needs through shipping channels.

In 2020-21 April-December, US was the fourth largest supplier ($4.9 billion) after Iraq ($9.4 billion), Saudi Arabia ($8.9 billion) and UAE ($7.4 billion)

India began imports of oil from the US in 2017.

For the US, the trade dispute with China has meant exploring a nearer market for its surplus oil which this year has become very distinct with lower demand in the domestic market. India has provided the right market in this environment to push oil sales.

“Indian refineries are preferring to go for cheaper US crude purchases as it helps them offset supply cuts announced by OPEC + and unilateral 1 million barrel per day production cuts by Saudi Arabia. India has been pushing OPEC to increase production and help tame rising crude prices that goes against the interest of prime oil.

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Latest News USA

Romney calls for ‘economic and diplomatic’ blockade of Beijing Olympics

Washington: The US should boycott the Beijing Winter Olympic Games next year, Mitt Romney said on Monday – but not by keeping its skiers, curlers and bobsledders at home.

In a New York Times column, the Utah senator said Washington should implement “an economic and diplomatic boycott” of the quadrennial winter sports jamboree.

Such a move, he said, would “demonstrate our repudiation of China’s abuses in a way that will hurt the Chinese Communist party rather than our American athletes: reduce China’s revenues, shut down their propaganda and expose their abuses”.

Romney went on to list such abuses. China, he wrote, had “reneged on its agreement to allow Hong Kong self rule; it has brutally suppressed peaceful demonstrators and incarcerated respected journalists”.

“It is exacting genocide against Uighurs and other ethnic minorities; Uighur women are forcefully sterilized or impregnated by Han Chinese men. Adults, ripped from their families, are sentenced into forced labor and concentration camps. Among ethnic Chinese, access to uncensored broadcast news and social media is prohibited. Citizens are surveyed, spied upon and penalized for attending religious services or expressing dissent.”

Romney is a former venture capitalist and Massachusetts governor who famously took charge of preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Debate has raged ever since over the extent to which he helped to “save” an operation dogged by financial and management scandals.

Beijing last hosted the summer Olympics in 2004. It will be the first city to host the winter games too, but it seems sure to face some sort of boycott.

Groups representing Uighurs, Tibetans, Hong Kong and campaigners for democracy in China are pushing for athletes or diplomatic boycotts. Having failed to persuade the International Olympic Committee to move the games out of China, activists are targeting national committees, athletes and sponsors.

The Utah senator said US spectators should stay home and prohibiting athletes from competing in 2022 winter games is ‘wrong’ answer. (Photo courtesy AP)
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Latest News USA

We will engage China from position of strength: Secretary of State

Washington: Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his first major foreign policy speech on Wednesday described the US relationship with China as the “biggest geopolitical test” of the 21st century and that Washington will engage Beijing from a position of strength.
In his speech, Blinken spelled out eight aspects of how American diplomacy will carry out the strategy of President Joe Biden, including plans to restore America’s global leadership.

“We will manage the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century: our relationship with China,” Blinken says in the excerpts of his speech released by the State Department.
“China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system – all the rules, values, and relationships that make the world work the way we want it to,” says Blinken.

Asserting that the US relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be and adversarial when it must be, the top diplomat was scheduled to say that the US will engage China from a position of strength. “That requires working with allies and partners, not denigrating them. It requires engaging in diplomacy and in international organizations, because where we have pulled back, China has filled in.”
During his tenure, former president Donald Trump, a Republican, pushed aggressively on all aspects of US-China ties, including with his relentless trade war, challenging China’s military hold on the disputed South China Sea, its constant threats to Taiwan, the mass detention of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, branding coronavirus as “China virus” after it emerged from Wuhan in December 2019 and the Tibet issue.

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Microsoft warns customers against new China cyber attack

New Delhi: Microsoft has warned its customers against a new sophisticated nation-state cyber attack that has its origin in China and is primarily targeting on-premises ‘Exchange Server’ software of the tech giant.

Called “Hafnium,” it operates from China and is attacking infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks and NGOs in the US for the purpose of exfiltrating information.

“While Hafnium is based in China, it conducts its operations primarily from leased virtual private servers (VPS) in the US,” said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft.

The Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) found that “Hafnium” would first gain access to an Exchange Server either with stolen passwords or by using the previously undiscovered vulnerabilities to disguise itself as someone who should have access.

“Second, it would create what’s called a web shell to control the compromised server remotely. Third, it would use that remote access — run from the US-based private servers — to steal data from an organization’s network,” Burt said in a statement .

The company has released security updates to protect customers running Exchange Server, and encourages all Exchange Server customers to apply these updates immediately.

“Exchange Server is primarily used by business customers, and we have no evidence that Hafnium’s activities targeted individual consumers or that these exploits impact other Microsoft products,” Burt informed.

This is the eighth time in the past 12 months that Microsoft has publicly disclosed nation-state groups targeting institutions critical to civil society.

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Latest News USA

The India-US tech partnership decade

By Janmejaya Sinha

Does today’s geopolitics provide India an opportunity to become a $10- trillion economy by the end of the decade? It would require an acceleration achieved once before, between 2000 and 2010 by China, when its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) went from $1.2 trillion to $6 trillion. It is not that India did badly in that decade, but compared to China, the achievement was modest. India went from being a $468 billion to $1.67 trillion economy, adding $1.1 trillion to its GDP to China’s $5 trillion.

The current rivalry between the US and China presents India a unique opportunity. This competition will be multi-dimensional. It will involve cooperation in areas such as climate, health, space, and possibly even nuclear weapons. The disagreements in respect to factor movements — trade, capital and labour — will be sharper than before, but unlikely to be disruptive. However, the tensions in respect to technology, communications, data, and the standards around them, will be thorny and difficult to resolve. The underlying values in respect to privacy, rule of law, public good and State power are so fundamentally different that it is hard to see an easy compromise. The possibility of two, if not more, global standards emerging, is real.

This superpower tension is the great Indian opportunity. Technology, communications, and data play to our strengths. These are the areas redefining every industry and we have the technology talent; our standards will be closer to the US, and we have continental-size data. US companies want access to India’s data, talent, and consumers. Our market with Aadhaar has 1.2 billion unique identities, 700 million smartphones, 500 million internet users, consuming 13.5 GB per month of data, all rising rapidly.

Therefore, India should try and make 2021 the start of the US-India technology partnership decade.

The first is data, including where it is stored, how it is accessed and for what uses? Second, privacy and incendiary speech — this will involve defining privacy and incendiary speech, and agreeing to levels of access of the State to private communications. Third, taxation — this entails a pact on what will govern the taxation of private players, will it be as a per cent of revenues or profits and how will it differ by jurisdiction?

Fourth, immigration — what restrictions will be imposed on people’s movements? Will they be symmetric to capital movements? Fifth, market access — what will be the policies with respect to market access? Will there be an agreement on standards with respect to the big tech companies? Sixth is a cyber coalition — can there be an agreement on no-first-use of State-sponsored cyberattacks on each other? Will mutual assistance and sharing of information be provided on attacks on either?

The seventh is sanctions — will the US be willing to commit to no unilateral sanctions in areas of tech, data, and cyber? And finally, standards — will the partnership be able to agree to minimum standards with respect to policies with regard to data, privacy, regulations, fines and prohibitions? To work through these issues, India should consider the creation of a Unique Identification Authority of India-type body, under the Prime Minister’s Office, to work and build a national plan and then ensure its execution. But just resolving these issues will not be enough.

The government will need to create enabling conditions for success. At the high end, investments in top academic institutions, such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), will need to be turbo-charged much above current levels to spur research in the areas of quantum computing, robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

(The Op-Ed appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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Latest News USA

Nikki Haley, other Republicans ask US to boycott 2022 Winter Olympics in China

Accusing China of “horrific” human rights abuses, some top Republican leaders, including Indian-American politician Nikki Haley, have demanded that the US boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. They called on the International Olympic Committee to select a new site for the event. Beijing is scheduled to host the Winter Olympics from February 4 to 20, 2022.

“The White House, however, said that no decision has been taken yet on the demands of the leaders. It is no secret that China wants to use the Winter Olympics as part of its “massive communist propaganda campaign,” Haley, a former US ambassador to the UN, said on Friday as she launched a campaign to demand President Joe Biden, a Democrat, announce a boycott of the games.

“We cannot sit back and watch China use the Olympics to cover up its horrific human rights abuses,” the Republican leader said. 

Senator Rick Scott in a letter to President Biden has requested a meeting to discuss the “horrific human rights atrocities” occurring across China and called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to select a new site for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Haley said that “we need to stand up to China, and we need to do it now. That’s why I’m asking you to join me and sign our petition calling on President Biden to boycott the 2022 Winter Olympics in China”.

If America participates in the Olympic Games in Beijing, the “Chinese Communist Party will claim it as further proof of China’s good global standing and world leadership,” she said.

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Sonam Wangchuk creates solar-powered tent for Indian Army

Ladakh-based engineer Sonam Wangchuk, who inspired the character of ‘Phunsukh Wangdu’ in Bollywood blockbuster “Three Idiots”, has developed a mobile solar-powered tent, accommodating 10 soldiers, for use by the Indian Army in high-altitude locations.

How did Wangchuk come up with the innovative idea?

“Indian and Chinese troops are being withdrawn from friction points. Disengagement is happening. It is good for both. Around 50,000 troops were deployed at high- altitude areas in harsh winter conditions. It was a difficult situation,” he said.

When soldiers are deployed in harsh freezing temperatures, they stay in tents made of cloth or in iron containers, and lakhs of liters of kerosene is used. It is a very costly affair as it also adds pollution to the environment and affects glaciers at high altitude areas, Wangchuk said.

“The soldiers too face problems using kerosene… many even suffer winter injuries,” the engineer said.

He said that at his Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh, they innovate on ways for comfortable living at higher altitudes.

“As our soldiers were living at high altitude areas, we decided to develop solar-heated shelters for them,” said Wangchuk, who has carried out research on solar-heated houses for the last 25 years.

He said that 15 years ago, he had developed a mobile shelter for nomad shepherds in the Changtang region of Ladakh.

“We started working on a project of a passive solar-heated tent in the varsity. It took a month to develop the tent,” he said.

The tent he came up for the army is divided into two parts: ‘green house’, which is also known as solar lounge, and a sleeping chamber where soldiers sleep. The two parts are divided by a portable wall that is called the heat bank.

Highly insulated, the tent is covered by a waterproof ‘windcheater’.

Soldiers can sit and work in the greenhouse part during the afternoon, while in the sleeping chamber, temperature is maintained at 15 degrees Celsius.

The tent costs Rs 5 lakh.

“While making this tent, we kept it portable. We also kept in mind hilltops like Black Top, Rezang La and Siachen. When we open up this tent, it turns out into 30 to 40 parts and each part is less than 30kg,” Wangchuk said.

He said that he designed the tent in close coordination and cooperation with the Indian Army.

Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar thanked Wangchuk and said that the innovation was very timely, absolutely relevant and perfect as usual.

Ladakh-based engineer/inventor Sonam Wangchuk who inspired the movie ‘3 Idiots’. thesatime | The Southasian times
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China top India trade partner even as ties sour

New Delhi: China regained its position as India’s top trade partner in 2020, as New Delhi’s reliance on imported machines outweighed its efforts to curb commerce with Beijing after a bloody border conflict, the media reported.

Two-way trade between the longstanding economic and strategic rivals stood at $77.7 billion last year, according to provisional data from India’s commerce ministry.

Although that was lower than the previous year’s $85.5 billion total, it was enough to make China the largest commercial partner displacing the U.S. — bilateral trade with whom came in at $75.9 billion amid muted demand for goods in the middle of a pandemic, reports Bloomberg.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned hundreds of Chinese apps, slowed approvals for investments from the neighbor and called for self-reliance after a deadly clash along their disputed Himalayan border, India continues to rely heavily on Chinese-made heavy machinery, telecom equipment and home appliances. As a result, the bilateral trade gap with China was at almost $40 billion in 2020, making it India’s largest.

Total imports from China at $58.7 billion were more than India’s combined purchases from the U.S. and the U.A.E, which are its second- and third-largest trade partners, respectively. Heavy machinery imports accounted for 51% of India’s purchases from its neighbor.

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India Latest News

India full of confidence, evident at borders: Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the India of today is full of self-confidence which got also reflected at the frontiers.

Congratulating the IT industry for its growth even during the pandemic-hit year in his address at the Nasscom Technology & Leadership Forum 2021, Modi said that it is important not to think ourselves as weak in the face of challenges and nor should we run away from these challenges.

His comments came after China and India last week started their simultaneous withdrawal of troops along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh after a nine month-long stand-off.

“India has confidence we will keep India secure,” he said.

Modi said the government is well aware that future leadership cannot develop in shackles. “Therefore, the government is trying to free the tech industry from unnecessary regulation.”

Lauding India’s IT industry for continuing to run its operations smoothly even during the period of severe restrictions when most of the people were inside the four walls of their houses, Modi said that the industry is expected to continue its growth momentum and achieve new milestones.

“When the chips were down, the core of India’s IT industry kept things running. The last year’s statistics may surprise the world, but India isn’t surprised knowing your ability. When every sector was severely affected by the pandemic, you registered a growth of 2 per cent,” Modi said.

Modi said that the government is taking numerous steps to free the IT industry from unnecessary regulations.

Saying that the National Digital Communications Policy is a step towards that direction, the Prime Minister also mentioned recently announced liberalised regulations on geospatial data, making it freely available in the country for innovation and IT companies.

The change is made specifically for Indian companies through updating the current guidelines pertaining to developing map technologies.

“Geospatial reforms will not only strengthen the IT sector but help us in building ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’,” he said.

“This step will empower our tech start-up ecosystem,” he added.

He said that India will not be able to build future leadership in an environment of constraints.

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