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Addressing G-7, PM Modi calls for open vaccine chains

New Delhi: Calling for “global unity, leadership and solidarity”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi last Saturday emphasized the “special responsibility of democratic and transparent societies to prevent future pandemics”.

Addressing the G-7 outreach session via video conference, Modi also expressed India’s commitment to support collective endeavors to improve global health governance.

This is an oblique reference to the lack of transparency displayed by China in dealing with the Covid-19 outbreak and WHO’s poor leadership as the crisis engulfed the world.

Modi said there should be “one earth, one health” approach, which, sources said, was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sources said India’s emphasis on keeping “open supply chains for vaccine raw materials and components to help enhance vaccine production received widespread support”.

This came days after French President Emanuel Macron supported India’s demand for lifting restrictions on export of raw materials needed to manufacture vaccines.

The session, titled ‘Building Back Stronger – Health’, focused on global recovery from the pandemic and strengthening resilience against future pandemics.

Modi sought the G-7’s support for a proposal moved by “India and South Africa at the WTO for a TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver on Covid-related technologies”. Sources said Australian PM Scott Morrison and others came out strongly in support of this.

The Prime Minister highlighted India’s “whole of society” approach to fight the pandemic, synergizing the efforts of all levels of government, industry and civil society.

He also explained India’s successful use of open source digital tools for contact tracing and vaccine management, and conveyed the country’s willingness to share its experience and expertise with other developing countries.

Modi expressed appreciation for the support extended by the G-7 and other guest countries during the recent wave of Covid infections in India.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had invited Modi to attend the outreach component of the G-7 Summit, along with Australia, South Korea and South Africa.

Addressing another G7 session on ‘open societies and open economies’ on Sunday, Modi  said India is a natural ally for the G7 countries in defending the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion. In that session, the prime minister highlighted India’s civilizational commitment to democracy, freedom of thought and liberty, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

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e-paper-stories Latest News New York

Many events planned in US to celebrate International Yoga Day

New York: Last summer when the pandemic was still raging in America, the International Day of Yoga (June 21) events had to go virtual. This year amid the reopening of the country, many events in-person and virtual have been planned to celebrate the day established by the UN in 2014 at the behest of Prime Minister Modi.

In the tristate area, FIA and the Consulate General of India are organizing a one-hour yoga and meditation program on Sunday, Juen 20 at Liberty State Park in Jersey City, NJ.

In Washington, the Embassy of India in partnership with Friends of Yoga is organizing a virtual celebration on 20 June at 10:00 AM.  Keeping in mind the prevailing situation, the theme of the IDY 2021 has been set as “Be with Yoga Be at Home”. The live demonstration of Yoga Protocol will be broadcast through Embassy’s social media channels.

Tirlok Malik, Emmy-nominated filmmaker,  is hosting a Happy Life Yoga event on June 19th, virtually on Zoom and social media.

In Houston, the  Consulate General of India in partnership with a number of organizations is marking the occasion with outdoor events on June 20 and June 21.

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Innovation came to rescue during Covid: Modi

New Delhi: Inviting investors to the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that innovation came to the rescue during Covid as he highlighted India’s major benefits for both investors and innovators.

Delivering his keynote address at the 5th edition of VivaTech, one of the largest digital and start-up events in Europe, he said: “Covid-19 put many of our conventional methods to test. However, it was innovation that came to the rescue. By innovation, I refer to: Innovation before the pandemic. Innovation during the pandemic.”

“When I speak about innovation before the pandemic, I refer to the pre-existing advances which helped us during the pandemic. Digital technology helped us cope, connect, comfort and console. Through digital media, we could work, talk with our loved ones and help others,” he said.

Modi stated that the second part, innovation for the pandemic refers to how humanity rose to the occasion and made the fight against it more effective and in this, the role of the country’s start-up sector, has been paramount.

“India’s strides in the world of tech and start-up are well-known. Our nation is home to one of the world’s largest start-up eco systems. Several unicorns have come up in recent years,” he said.

The Prime Minister said: “India offers what innovators and investors need.I invite the world to invest in India based on the five pillars of Talent, Market, Capital, Eco-system and Culture of openness.”

Citing reforms in different sectors, he said: “We, in India, implemented huge reforms across sectors, be it mining, space, banking, atomic energy and more. This goes on to show that India as a nation is adaptable and agile, even in the middle of the pandemic.”

Stressing India’s extensive relation with France, he said: “India and France have been working closely on a wide range of subjects. Among these, technology and digital are emerging areas of cooperation.”

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PM Modi to participate in G-7 virtually on June 12-13

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will participate in the Outreach Sessions of the G7 Summit on June 12-13 in virtual format. He will be doing so at the invitation of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

The UK currently holds the G7 Presidency and has invited India, along with Australia, Republic of Korea and South Africa, as Guest Countries for the summit which will be held in hybrid mode.

The theme for the Summit is ‘Build Back Better’ and the UK has outlined four priority areas for its Presidency. These are leading the global recovery from coronavirus while strengthening resilience against future pandemics; promoting future prosperity by championing free and fair trade; tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity; and championing shared values and open societies.

The leaders are expected to exchange views on the way forward on global recovery from the pandemic with a focus on health and climate change.

This is the second time PM Modi will be participating in a G7 meeting. India had been invited by the G7 French Presidency in 2019 to the Biarritz Summit as a “Goodwill Partner” and he participated in the sessions on ‘Climate, Biodiversity and Oceans’ and ‘Digital Transformation’.

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India Latest News

Suvendu Adhikari is BJP’s response to ‘aunt-nephew’ leadership

Kolkata: The BJP high command is looking to build up Suvendu Adhikari as the party’s answer to the “Pishi-Bhaipo’ (aunt-nephew) leadership in West Bengal, top party sources said.

They say this is a conscious departure from the BJP-RSS line of having a ‘swayamsevak’ (from the RSS stable) for the key position like Chief Minister or Leader of Opposition in a state.

“Himanta Biswa Sarma’s emergence as Assam Chief Minister and Suvendu Adhikari’s as Leader of Opposition marks this new line that defectors who have proved their loyalty and competence must be given the top jobs,” said a top BJP leader but he preferred anonymity.

Adhikari’s victory in Nandigram has boosted his stock and his attack on Mamata Banerjee’s behaviour during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bengal has further endeared him to Modi-Shah-Nadda triumvirate, he said.

That BJP state unit chief Dilip Ghosh had no idea of Adhikari’s visit to Delhi, where he got a personal audience from Modi and all BJP seniors, points to the new clout of Adhikari.

Even BJP dissidents like former Governor Tathagata Roy, so critical of the ‘KDSA Gang of Four’ (Kailash-Dilip-Shiv-Arvind), have not been critical of Suvendu Adhikari, despite their pitch for restoring BJP ‘old timers’ to position of importance.

Roy also met BJP party chief Nadda.

He said he had come to Delhi on the request of the party top brass but state BJP sources were not aware of either his or Adhikari’s Delhi visit.

“His victory over Mamata in Nandigram with 34 per cent Muslim electorate has really boosted his credentials,” the leader said.

He said the BJP is looking at 2024 Lok Sabha and 2026 state assembly polls in West Bengal and they want Suvendu to lead the charge against the Trinamool.

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India Latest News

Yogi Adityanath in Delhi to meet Modi, Shah amid speculations

New Delhi: Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath reached Delhi for a two-day visit to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah and senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The meeting comes in the backdrop of speculation that the BJP central leadership has concerns over the UP government‘s handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

There are also reports of friction within the state unit which escalated to the Centre. BJP general secretary organisation BL Santhosh was in Uttar Pradesh earlier this month to meet party leaders and ministers to hear their concerns as the state prepares for the 2022 assembly elections.

The central leadership has, however, ruled out any change in state leadership, throwing their weight behind the Yogi Adityanath administration. The central leadership had also ruled out any change in the organisational structure of the party and said any change to the council of ministers would be carried out following consultation with the chief minister.

Following his UP visit, Santhosh had praised the UP government’s efforts during the pandemic. In two tweets, he said the UP administration, within a period of five weeks, reduced the daily case count by 93%. He also praised the decision to vaccinate parents of children below 12 years of age, calling it a wise move considering speculation that if the pandemic’s third wave hits it may affect children more.

Santhosh had taken feedback from the state ministers and MLAs, which had fuelled speculation about possible changes in the party’s Uttar Pradesh set up.

Media reports said that based on the feedback collected by the central leadership, it has been decided to go for a reshuffle in the Uttar Pradesh government as well as in the party’s state unit.

The sources also said that the role of former Union minister Jitin Prasada, who jumped ship from the Congress to the BJP, will also be discussed during Adityanath’s meetings with the central BJP leadership.

A well-known Brahmin face in Uttar Pradesh, Prasada’s father Jitendra Prasad was a prominent Brahmin leader in Uttar Pradesh.

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India Latest News

Devise Covid strategy in rural, urban specific way: Modi

New Delhi: In order to ensure a Covid-free rural India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday asked a group of District Magistrates (DMs) to devise their strategies in rural and urban specific manner.

Noting that coronavirus has made their job more demanding and challenging, the Prime Minister urged everyone to ensure full commitment to fight the pandemic.

The Prime Minister expressed his views while interacting with the state and district officials on the Covid-19 situation through a video conference. In the virtual meeting, Modi interacted with the DMs of 54 districts across 10 states — the second such interaction involving the Prime Minister on the Covid situation.

The Prime Minister held a similar interaction with the DMs of 46 districts with high Covid burden on Tuesday.

Speaking on the occasion, Modi said: “In the midst of these new challenges, new strategies and solutions are needed.”

Mentioning that over the past few days, active cases have started to reduce in the country, the Prime Minister warned that the challenge remains as long as this infection is present, even on a minor scale.

Modi stressed on the need to use local experiences and work together as a country, saying that there is a need to spread messages on keeping villages corona-free and following all Covid-appropriate behaviour, even when cases are declining.

Stating that every epidemic has taught us the importance of continuous innovation, the Prime Minister emphasised that the methods and strategies to deal with the pandemic should be dynamic as the virus is expert in mutation and changing form.

Modi also said that the virus mutation is concerning the youth and children, as he stressed on the need to boost the vaccination drive.

The Prime Minister added that the vaccination strategy is also being pushed forward by incorporating suggestions from the states and various stakeholders at all levels.

On vaccine wastage, Modi said that wastage of a single vaccine means not being able to provide necessary security to an individual. Therefore, one should make a conscious effort to stop vaccine wastage, he said.

The Prime Minister also emphasised the priority of easing the lives of citizens while saving lives and said that added facilities for free ration for the poor, and other essential supplies must be provided, and black marketing should be stopped.

Modi said these steps are necessary to win this fight and move forward.

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India Latest News

India’s real foreign policy crisis is domestic

By Atul Mishra

 

From January to March, “Vaccine Maitri”. In late-April, an appeal to the world for help as India struggles to manage its most serious crisis since Independence. New Delhi’s international position may have never turned more dramatically. But here is the key question — what is the larger impact of the unfolding disaster on foreign policy?

 

The assistance offered by nations across the globe, including neighbors such as Bhutan and Bangladesh, is heartening. A non-interventionist posture coupled with constant diplomatic outreach to countries across the world is paying off. As is the policy of cultivating diaspora relations.

 

India has accepted aid after 16 years. External affairs minister S Jaishankar would like it to be described as friendship. This semantic quibble is understandable as the establishment seeks to recast reality for domestic consumption. But there is absolutely no shame in seeking aid in distress. India has helped other nations in need and now they are reciprocating. Some assistance is motivated by expected future gains, but no community is altruistic. The international community is no exception.

 

There is the issue of international reputation. As trustee of India’s international image and standing, New Delhi continues to fare poorly. There is now a set international narrative about the decline of India’s democracy, its majoritarian public culture and increasing bad governance. New Delhi feels agitated, but its actions often only strengthen a siege mentality. The deepening reputational damage is also depleting national resources needed for effective external relations, but the real issue here is a question for India’s polarized citizenry — will it buy into the siege mentality or will it reflect and ask tough questions of the executive.

 

First, there is the flawed governance of the pandemic. The executive prematurely declared success in tackling the challenge and abandoned its role on pandemic-appropriate public behavior. As the scale of infections grows, lives of people within the country are lost while those outside are endangered. Because of the size of its population, currently at about 18% of humanity, the pandemic tsunami has turned us into a source of global anxiety.

 

The executive’s approach hasn’t helped. It has sought to weave an acceptable narrative rather than accept responsibility. You can’t fix what you don’t accept is broken. Our governance is marked by centralization of authority and federalization of responsibility. This approach has many vices; delay and chaos are the smallest of them. The larger the number of infected bodies, the higher the probability of mutation. This makes the world anxious because new strains may impact vaccine effectiveness. True, ours is not the only national population body among whom the virus may mutate for the worse. But as Dr Ashish Jha of Brown University has conjectured, in the Kumbh Mela, we may have organised “the biggest super spreader event in the history of this pandemic”. All this is bad governance. It has rendered the body politic incohesive and weak.

 

Second, under-reporting of Covid-19 deaths and under-testing mean that even approximately accurate figures of the scale of the crisis may never be known. This feeds into the larger problem of data credibility and transparency that has marred public policy in recent years. External stakeholders have expressed concern over unreliable fiscal, unemployment and internal migration figures because they weaken policy. Dodgy pandemic numbers mar national and global public health action, which needs credible data to determine disease dynamics. Both the Centre and the states owe this to their people as well as the world.

 

Finally, the catastrophe has unfolded on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s watch. His domestic standing may remain unscathed, but as controversies going back the past couple of years pile up, his position among foreign leaders of consequence diminishes. Nations compete for relative gains in international politics, and a weakened leader is more attractive than one who is weak from the start.

 

A combination of restrictions in the flow of information and censorship means that we may never know how this factor would impact Indian interests, but impact it very likely will.

 

Courtesy The Hindustan Times

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By Milind Sathye

The alarming rise in COVID cases in India, its strained health care system, and gory details of mass cremations have occupied pages of global and India’s domestic media in recent months. But the Indian situation is no different from that in the other major comparable countries of the world. As a matter of fact, India is doing remarkably well despite the legacy of a rickety health-care system and mismanagement, in particular, by opposition ruled Indian states that impact the overall performance of India.

The WHO data shows that as of 6 May 2021, confirmed COVID cases in India stood just over 21 million and it ranked just below the USA which has over 32 million cases. Furthermore, in terms of the proportion of the population, the Indian COVID situation is not that alarming as it is made out to be.  The confirmed cases form about 1.5% of the total population (1,339 million) as against about 10%  of the total USA population (335 million).  The USA has witnessed 573,000 deaths approx (0.018 percent of confirmed cases) while India has witnessed 230,000 deaths approx (or 0.001 percent of confirmed cases). Brazil has witnessed 15 million confirmed cases or about 7% of its total population of approximately 213 million. The deaths are 412,000 (or approx. 0.03 percent).

It demonstrates that as of date India’s performance both in terms of confirmed cases as a proportion to population and deaths as a proportion to confirmed cases is significantly better than that of the USA and Brazil, yet global media seems to be obsessed with India.

The global media conveniently forgets that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to deal with a health system inherited by him from the misgovernance of India by the Nehru dynasty that ruled her for most of the post-Independence years.  Before PM took over in 2014, only eight All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) were established in over 65 years. But in the last seven years, the Modi government established seven additional AIIMS and eight more are underway.

The Modi government has to cope with the shortage of hospital beds (0.5 per 1,000 population in 2017), yet another dynasty legacy.  Compare this with two and three hospital beds respectively in Brazil and USA in the same year. But it seems the opinionated global media has no qualms pushing these facts under the carpet and instead haul up Modi – their favorite punching bag.

Add to the above scenario, the politics of opposition parties in India at such a critical juncture. Delhi, a union territory, ruled by Mr. Arvind Kejriwal of AAP,  tops with 7,583 cases per 100,000.  Of the 21 million cases, over 25% or close to 5 million are contributed by one state only – Maharashtra – which is ruled by parties inimical to Modi and BJP. Of the other states, those which contribute over one million cases include Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu, all ruled by opposition parties except Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh which are ruled by Modi’s BJP. But in terms of cases per 100,000 while Kerala ruled by the left-parties coalition has 5,348, other states have respectively 2487, 1798, 2930, and 714 cases. It is important to remember that health is a state subject as per the Indian constitution and India is a federal democracy. Yet Modi is blamed by the Congress-controlled domestic media to hide misgovernance by the Congress party over the years. The global media just echoes Indian media without applying critical thinking.

A court recently slammed Mr. Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, for oxygen mismanagement.  Modi is being blamed that his government ignored the advice of medical experts. But forecasting COVID-19 has been a failure across the world.  Similarly, though India does produce enough oxygen, with better logistics it could have reached where required more efficiently. But the Congress-backed farmers’ protests delayed transportation. Had Modi dealt with the farmers’ protest with a heavy hand, both domestic and international media would have gone berserk.

The vaccine developed by India and its help to over 40 countries including Canada was lauded by the WHO a couple of months back. Doses administered in India so far are 162 million against 252 million of the USA. Of course, one would expect the pace to speed up.

In sum, what is required is an objective look at the Indian situation and putting it in a global context. Unfortunately, when sensationalism rules, critical thinking is the casualty.

Milind Sathye is Professor in Canberra Business School, University of Canberra, Australia 

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