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Australia PM stands firm on India flight halt

Canberra: Australia’s prime minister is resisting mounting pressure to lift a temporary ban on flights from India, saying any early resumption of arrivals from that pandemic hot spot would erode Australia’s quarantine capability.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the pause on flights that began last week will continue until May 15.

Lawyers are planning a legal challenge to the government’s ability to prevent around 9,000 citizens and permanent residents from returning home from India.

Critics of the travel pause include former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, several Australian lawmakers and leaders of the country’s Indian community.

The Australian health ministry said citizens returning home from India could face up to five years in jail and fines after the government made the journey temporarily illegal.

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Latest News Sports

The silence in IPL’s bio-bubble is deafening

By Rudraneil Sengupta

This is not about whether a sporting tournament should be taking place in the middle of what feels like a devastated war zone; let’s concede that there is a space, even a need perhaps, for something like IPL even at a time like this. 

A tournament of this stature could have done a world of good in such a dire situation. They could have raised funds for any number of things—food aid, PPE kits, RT PCR kits, oxygen, medicines, ambulances.

Even a brief, sombre acknowledgement of the troubles facing people would have meant a lot to viewers and fans. Perhaps a message of hope from the superstars. A message of condolence or solace. Any kind of message at all that said, “Look, we see what’s happening, we are standing with you.” Something more than the autopilot messages of washing hands, wearing masks, and staying at home that the commentators pull out once every ten overs. We have had nothing. Radio silence.

Virat Kohli tweets only ads and selfies. Rohit Sharma’s handle has no mention of the pandemic. Jasprit Bumrah has nothing to offer.

Is it so difficult to reach out to your fans? To the people who worship the game? To the millions who are suffering so badly? So hard to break out of PR driven messages, the banality of sporting cliches, and the brand promotions? It would have meant so much if the reach and influence was used to amplify the many thousands of appeals for help reverberating around social media.

Watching IPL, or following the cricketers on social media, you would not know that there is anything that matters in India at all.

Of the deafening silence from the cricketing community, there are a few exceptions, like Wasim Jaffer and Ravichandran Ashwin, who have not shied away from offering their support and solace and acknowledging the battle that’s going on right now. Both of them are amplifying appeals for help, as is Harbhajan Singh. Australia’s Pat Cummins donated money on Monday to the PM-Cares fund and added a heartfelt message on social media.

How will India’s cricketing stars show that they care? That they are capable of some empathy at a time when everyone needs it?

(The opinion appeared in The Hindustan Times)

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International Latest News

India gets global help to tackle its worsening Covid crisis

New Delhi: As India’s tally of covid-19 infections crossed three lakh for the sixth consecutive day on April 28, more countries pledged to support the world’s hardest-hit hotspot with supplies of medical equipment and oxygen required to treat thousands of critically ill patients who are desperately looking for treatment.

The US, France, Germany, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Russia have pledged support to India as it battles a ferocious second wave of covid-19 infections that has brought the country’s health infrastructure on the verge of collapse.

India has received 318 Oxygen Concentrators from the US, and 500 BiPAPs, 250 oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies from Singapore, that landed in the covid-battered country on an Air India flight.

Key US business groups such as the US-India Business Council and the US Chamber of Commerce, besides chief executive officers of more than 40 companies, announced the formation of a “Global Task Force on Pandemic Response: Mobilizing for India.”

Some major companies like Apple Inc., Google Inc, Microsoft Corp. and Deloitte have already announced aid for India.

Shortages of key drugs, lack of oxygen and hospital beds are among the challenges confronting health care workers.

France is sending eight oxygen generators, five containers of liquid oxygen and 28 ventilators in the first tranche of aid.

The country’s foreign ministry said that each oxygen generator can fulfill the needs of 15 critically ill patients.

“As many countries are doing, what Australia will do is we will provide an initial package…of support and to deliver this as soon as possible,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in Canberra.

The 27-member European Union said, “Urgently needed oxygen, medicine and equipment will be delivered over the coming days by EU member states to India, following the country’s request for support through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.”

As part of this effort, Ireland was to dispatch 700 oxygen concentrators, an oxygen generator, 365 ventilators; Belgium was to send 9,000 doses of antiviral drug remdesivir; Romania to help with 80 oxygen concentrators and 75 oxygen cylinders; Luxembourg to send 58 ventilators; Portugal to dispatch 5,503 vials of remdesivir and 20,000 litres of oxygen; while Sweden was to channel 120 ventilators.

Saudi Arabia’s aid of 80 MT of liquid oxygen is enroute via the sea route, Hong Kong is sending 800 oxygen concentrators. India will also get six Cryogenic oxygen containers from the UAE.

Sources said that Germany is sending a mobile oxygen production unit which will be made available for three months along with 120 ventilators and 80 million KN95 masks.

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e-paper-stories Latest News

India announces climate partnership with US at Biden’s Leaders’ Summit

Washington, DC: Participating in the Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by US President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined India’s efforts towards clean energy, energy efficiency and biodiversity. Emphasizing the ‘grave threat’ of climate change, PM Modi called for a concrete action ‘at a high speed, on a large scale and with a global scope.’ The Prime Minister also announced the launch of an India-US Climate & Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership as he made his remarks on ‘Our Collective Sprint to 2030’.

The leaders invited for the summit represent the countries that are members of the US-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate and those vulnerable to climate change. Amongst the global dignitaries present in the virtual summit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also present and made his remarks after PM Modi concluded. US President Joe Biden had invited 40 world leaders for the two-day virtual Summit to galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis.

“Today, India’s per capita carbon footprint is 60% lower than the global average. It is because of our lifestyle which is still rooted in sustainable traditional practices. So today, I want to emphasize the importance of lifestyle change in climate action. Sustainable lifestyles and important peeler of our economic strategy for the post COVID era,” PM Modi added in his address. 

“I recall the words of the great Indian monk Swami Vivekananda, he called on us to ‘Arise, Awake and stop not until the goal is reached.’ Let us make this decade of action against climate change,” PM Modi concluded his address.  

The 40 global leaders who have received the invite include Chinese President Xi Jinping, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, among others. As per the US state department, the themes of the summit include mobilization of public and private sector finance to drive the net-zero transition and to help vulnerable countries cope with climate impacts. (Source:

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e-paper-stories Latest News

Quad agenda makes it a force for global good: PM Modi

New Delhi: The Quad has come of age and its agenda covering areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies makes it a force for global good, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the first summit on March 12 of the Quadrilateral alliance of America, India, Japan and Australia.

In his opening remarks, he also talked about shared values and promoting a secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. “We are united by our democratic values, and our commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. Our agenda today covering areas like vaccines, climate change and emerging technologies makes the Quad a force for global good,” he said.

The virtual summit was attended by US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison and Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga. “I see this positive vision as an extension of India’s ancient philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, which regards the world as one family,” Modi said. “We will work together, closer than ever before for advancing our shared values and promoting a secure, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”

In his opening remarks, President Joe Biden said a “free and open Indo-Pacific is essential” to all and the US was committed to working with its partners and allies in the region to achieve stability . Biden also described Quad as a new mechanism to enhance cooperation and raise mutual ambition as the member states address accelerating climate change. “A free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to each of our futures, our countries,” Biden told the top leaders of the Quadrilateral alliance, which has been often projected in the Chinese official media as an alliance against China’s rise. “This is a group particularly important because it is dedicated to the practical solutions and concrete results,” he said at the virtual summit, which is the first conclave of the top leaders of the Quad.

Australian PM Scott Morrison thanked Biden for bringing the four nations together and said that “’history teaches us that we are nations engaged together in a partnership of strategic trust of common hope and shared values, much can be achieved.’” Stating that it will be the Indo-Pacific which will now shape the destiny of the world in the 21st century, he said “as leaders of four great liberal democracies in Indo-Pacific let our partnership be the enabler of peace, stability and prosperity.”

Japanese PM Yoshihide Suga recalled the 2004 Tsunami disaster when Quad first member states came together. “We received massive support from the US, Australia, and India in our response to the disaster. Joe visited the affected area soon after the disaster, and I think you once again,” he said.

Earlier in the day, China had said that state-to-state exchanges and cooperation should enhance mutual understanding and trust instead of “targeting” or “undermining” the interests of any third party and hoped that relevant countries will refrain from forming “exclusive cliques”.


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International Latest News

Small cliques will destroy world order: China on Quad

Beijing: China slammed the Quad, saying no “small cliques” should be formed, as it accused some countries of trying to “sow discord” among regional nations by “hyping” the ”China threat” and asserted that they will not succeed.

Quad countries involving the US, India, Australia and Japan held their first virtual summit on March 12 during which President Joe Biden told leaders of the coalition that a “free and open” Indo-Pacific is essential to their countries and vowed that his country was committed to working with its partners and allies in the region to achieve stability.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the virtual summit alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

“Certain countries should shake off their Cold-War mentality and ideological prejudice, refrain from forming closed and exclusive small circles, and do more things that are conducive to solidarity and cooperation among regional countries and regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing here.

He was answering a question about the first Leaders’ Summit of the Quad countries and the reported remarks by US National Secretary Advisor Jake Sullivan that the four leaders discussed the challenge posed by China and said all four believed the democracies could help compete with autocracy.

“For quite some time, certain countries have been so keen to exaggerate and hype up the so-called ‘China threat’ to sow discord among regional countries, especially to disrupt their relations with China,” Zhao said.

“However, their actions, running counter to the trend of the times of peace, development and cooperation and the common aspirations of the countries and peoples in the region, will not be welcomed or succeed,” he said.

Zhao said China has always been a builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and a defender of the international order.

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Business Latest News

Quad meet boosted to summit level amid China threat

New York: Quad collaboration has been upgraded to summit level and the leaders of the four nations — the US, India, Australia, Japan – were set to meet on Friday with visions of expanded, outward-looking cooperation as they face the growing global threats from China.

At their meeting, Prime Ministers Narendra Modi of India, Scott Morrison of Australia and Yoshihide Suga of Japan, and US President Joe Biden were to discuss a broad range of issues beyond the strategic, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

Biden expected discussions of issues facing the global community “from the threat of Covid-19 to economic cooperation, and of course, to the climate crisis”, Psaki said at her briefing.

“That President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific,” she said.

Till now, Quad meetings have been held at the levels of Foreign Ministers and senior diplomats and boosting it to a summit is a sign of the urgency of the Chinese threat for Biden.

At the same time, the broader agenda signals the Quad’s move towards multifaceted cooperation to broaden their footprint, while also keeping the facade, important to India, that it is not directed against China.

Giving America’s vision of the Quad’s future, Admiral Philip Davidson, the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, said it could “build into something much bigger for the sake of the globe”.

During his campaign for President, Biden had played down the Chinese challenge either because he was not aware of it or because his predecessor President Donald Trump had sounded the alarm about it.

But after becoming President, his outlook changed and he has turned the lunch metaphor around to highlight the competition from Beijing.

“If we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch,” the President said last month.

Strategic cooperation had been the focus of the Quad, but in seeking to expand its role it goes back to its roots when the four countries came together to carry out tsunami relief and reconstruction in 2004.

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Latest News USA

New US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin to visit India this month

The New US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be visiting India later this month. His trip will be a part of a larger plan to visit Indo-Pacific countries.

This will be the first in-person visit of any top Biden administration official to Delhi and comes two months after the new president took charge in Washington.

The visit happens as work is in progress for the Quad leadership meeting. The meet will be attended by President Joe Biden, Australian PM Scott Morrison, PM Narendra Modi, and Japan’s Yoshihide Suga.

Australian PM Scott Morrison confirming plans of the meet said, “I am looking forward to that first gathering of quad leaders. It will be the first-ever gathering of quad leaders. I already had bilateral discussions with Narendra Modi and Yoshihide Suga, the PM of Japan and PM of India.”

India and the US share close defense cooperation with Washington authorizing over $20 billion in defense sales to India.

The US State Department last week said, “It’s these offers of advanced US defense platforms that demonstrate our commitment to India’s security and sovereignty. It demonstrates our commitment to that global, comprehensive, strategic partnership.”

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India Latest News

India-US ties break out of Trump’s shadow with Modi-Biden call

New Delhi: President Joe Biden has signalled he would seek to deepen the close relationship between the United States and India in his first conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he added climate change and “democratic values” to the agenda.

Modi welcomed calls to collaborate on combating climate change and agreed to participate in a climate summit Biden will host in April, the White House said.

The phone conversation between the two leaders was part of the formal contacts between the new US administration and India’s top leadership that began last month. Both the leaders discussed their shared priorities and emphasised their commitment to a rules-based international order.

The US’ new President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Modi will be ‘working closely’ in the coming months as the world continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. to work closely to fight COVID-19, renew their partnership on climate change and defend democratic institution and norms around the world, including in Myanmar. 

“The US and India will work closely together to win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, renew their partnership on climate change, rebuild the global economy in a way that benefit the people of both countries, and stand together against the scourge of global terrorism,” said the White House press release.

The two leaders also reflagged a common geopolitical agenda, by renewing their support for a free and open Indo-Pacific, widely viewed as a doctrine to counter China’s muscle flexing in the Pacific, including the South China Sea as well as the Indian Ocean.

“The leaders agreed to continuing close cooperation to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, including support for freedom of navigation, territorial integrity, and a stronger regional architecture through the Quad,” the White House said in a statement.

“President @JoeBiden and I are committed to a rule based order. We look forward to Consolidating our strategic partnership to further peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond” read Prime Minister Modi said in a tweet.

Specifically, both leaders agreed to continue to work in the QUAD, the quadrilateral security dialogue between the democracies of India, the US, Japan and Australia. Among the four countries, India is the only one which shares a land border with China. India and China are engaged in a major military standoff that had begun in May last year and that shows no signs of being resolved though Indian foreign minister S. Jaiskankar reportedly said there was some progress made but there was no “visible expression” of it on the ground.

The QUAD, on a global stage, is seen as a threat to China’s rising influence in the Indo-Pacific region. And, less than 24 hours ago, the US national security advisor Jake Sullivan called it the, “foundation upon which to build substantial American policy in the Indo-Pacific.”

The four participating members may soon hold their first meeting this year.

The importance of the Indo-Pacific for the US was similarly expressed in conversations that Biden had with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japan’s leader Yoshihide Suga.

Yet, the degree to which Biden will push back against China will come under international scrutiny. The Trump administration had declared a verbal war on the Communist Party of China (CPC), with the subtext of working for the collapse of the CPC, raising the prospects of a new Cold War.

However, analysts say that while seeking dominance in the Indo-Pacific, the Biden administration rather than working for the collapse of the CPC, would be content with carving an accommodation with Beijing. Earlier President Biden has said his administration was ready for “extreme competition” with China but that his approach would be different from his predecessor.

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