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Tharoor may throw his hat in ring for Cong prez

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Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday said that an election will be good for the party while refusing to comment on whether he will run for the post of the Congress president after his recent article in a Malayalam daily triggered speculation that the former Union minister could contest.

“No comment to make. I accept what I’ve written in my article which is that an election would be a good thing for the Congress party”, Tharoor told reporters here when asked whether he will contest Party’s presidential poll The MP from Thiruvananthapuram also welcomed elections in the party and said that Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to be appointed as the Congress President was disappointing. According to him, the grand old party should not be limited by the belief that only one family can lead it.

Tharoor had penned an article in Malayalam daily Mathrubhumi saying that the party polls were the first step towards rejuvenation of the organisation.

Meanwhile, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge is of the opinion that Rahul Gandhi should take the lead of the Congress party since he has the ability to lift the party from the crisis.

Speaking to ANI, Kharge said, “Today the entire situation has become clear regarding the election of Congress Party President. I have my personal opinion and it is the feeling of all the workers that Rahul Gandhi should take the lead of the Congress party at this time. He should become the president of the Congress party.”

Congress Working Committee (CWC) had on Sunday decided that the election for the Congress president post will be held on October 17, said sources.

The counting of votes will be done on October 19.

This comes in the backdrop of the party’s senior leader Gulam Nabi Azad’s resignation on Friday.

According to sources, the election for the post of president has now become a challenge for Congress with the reluctance of Rahul Gandhi to contest the polls.

The Central Election Authority has made preparations to complete the election process on time.

The process seems to remain stuck since Rahul Gandhi is not willing to contest the election for the post of Congress president, although all the efforts to convince him are still going on, added sources.

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International Relations

US Warns of sanctions over India-Iran port deal

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Hours after India signed an agreement to operate the Chabahar Port in Iran for 10 years, the United States has issued a warning regarding the potential risks associated with engaging in business deals with Tehran amidst ongoing sanctions.

The US State Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson, Vedant Patel, emphasized the importance of understanding the implications of such agreements while affirming the United States’ commitment to enforcing sanctions on Iran. In a press briefing held on Monday (local time), Patel acknowledged the reports of the deal between Iran and India regarding the Chabahar Port. However, he deferred to the Indian government to articulate its foreign policy objectives concerning the port and its bilateral relationship with Iran. Patel reiterated the stance of the United States, emphasizing that sanctions on Iran remain in effect, and any entity contemplating business ventures with Iran should be cognizant of the potential sanctions risk.

The Long-Term Bilateral Contract on Chabahar Port Operation was formalized between Indian Ports Global Limited (IPGL) of India and the Port & Maritime Organization (PMO) of Iran. This agreement facilitates the operation of the Shahid-Behesti port within the Chabahar Port Development Project for a duration of 10 years. IPGL has committed to enhancing and managing the port’s operations throughout the contract period. Additionally, both parties have expressed their intent to extend their collaboration beyond the initial 10-year term, thereby fostering continued cooperation in Chabahar.

As part of the agreement, IPGL plans to invest approximately USD 120 million in equipping the port. Furthermore, India has extended a credit line amounting to USD 250 million for mutually identified projects aimed at enhancing Chabahar-related infrastructure. This significant investment underscores India’s commitment to bolstering its trade and connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asian nations through the Chabahar Port.

The long-term lease agreement strengthens the bilateral ties between India and Iran, instilling confidence and fostering trust within the regional trading communities. The Chabahar Port serves as a vital transit point for trade between India, Afghanistan, and Central Asian countries, facilitating access to landlocked regions. India’s involvement in the development and operation of the port underscores its strategic interest in enhancing regional connectivity and promoting economic integration.

Over the years, the Indian government has made substantial investments in upgrading the port’s infrastructure to transform it into a viable transit route for Indian goods destined for Afghanistan and Central Asia. The Chabahar Port project exemplifies the collaborative efforts between India and Iran to harness economic opportunities and promote regional stability.

While India moves forward with its plans to operate the Chabahar Port, it remains cognizant of the geopolitical dynamics and potential challenges, particularly in light of the US sanctions on Iran. The successful implementation of the Chabahar Port project is poised to bolster trade and connectivity, contributing to the socioeconomic development of the region.

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International Relations

Taiwan reports Chinese incursion in strait

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In a recent development, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence (MND) reported the presence of 10 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft and five People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels in the vicinity of Taiwan as of 6 am (UTC+8) on Tuesday. According to the Ministry, the ten PLA aircraft breached the median line of the Taiwan Strait and entered into Taiwan’s Southwestern Air Defence Identification Zone (SW ADIZ), prompting a response from the Republic of China Armed Forces (ROCArmedForces).

The Ministry highlighted the incursion and underscored the vigilance of Taiwan’s armed forces in monitoring and responding to such activities. The presence of PLA assets near Taiwan signifies yet another escalation in tensions between Taiwan and China, amidst ongoing military maneuvers and increased assertiveness from Beijing.

Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China, has consistently voiced concerns over China’s growing military presence and aggressive posturing near its borders. The Ministry’s announcement reaffirms Taiwan’s commitment to safeguarding its territorial integrity and sovereignty in the face of mounting challenges.

For several years, the MND has been issuing daily reports on Chinese military activities, including instances of aircraft, drones, and naval vessels crossing the Taiwan Strait median line. The median line, which historically served as a tacit border between China and Taiwan, has witnessed increased violations by Chinese military assets in recent times.

The escalation in military activities comes amidst a backdrop of heightened geopolitical tensions and strategic maneuvering in the Indo-Pacific region. China’s utilization of grey zone tactics, characterized by incremental military actions aimed at achieving strategic objectives without resorting to direct confrontation, has become increasingly apparent.

Since September 2020, China has intensified its grey zone tactics by escalating the frequency of military aircraft and naval vessels operating near Taiwan. The persistent use of such tactics underscores Beijing’s strategic calculus and its efforts to assert dominance in the region.

The recent incident underscores the complex dynamics of the cross-strait relationship between Taiwan and mainland China. Despite efforts to maintain stability and avoid escalation, the inherent tensions between the two sides remain a constant challenge.

The international community closely monitors developments in the Taiwan Strait, recognizing the potential ramifications of any escalation in tensions between Taiwan and China. As Taiwan continues to navigate its delicate relationship with mainland China, the role of regional actors and international stakeholders in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific remains paramount.

The recent incursion of PLA aircraft and naval vessels near Taiwan highlights the ongoing challenges faced by the island nation in maintaining its sovereignty and territorial integrity. As tensions persist, Taiwan remains committed to upholding its security interests while advocating for peaceful resolution and stability in the region.

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Politics

Protestors reject PoJK Govt’s electricity price cut offer amid clashes

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The Jammu Kashmir Awami Action Committee (JAAC) has rejected an offer from the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) government to reduce electricity prices by 50 percent per unit. According to ARY News, JAAC insists on rates that reflect the costs of hydropower generation. Government sources revealed that the proposal for a 50 percent reduction in electricity rates was swiftly dismissed by the Kashmir action committee, arguing that consumers should be billed according to the production costs of hydropower in PoJK.

Simultaneously, the government is preparing to subsidize flour prices. However, the Public Action Committee has declared a long march from Rawalakot to Muzaffarabad, rejecting the government’s stance on the matter. The protesters plan to halt in Kotli overnight during the long march. Committee member Umar Nazeer criticized the government’s lack of seriousness regarding their demands.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that the PoJK government had agreed to all demands of the Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) following negotiations between the JAAC delegation and the territory’s Chief Secretary at the residence of the Rawalakot Commissioner. Sources indicate that the government has also agreed to the committee’s demand for flour subsidies and to rescind the electricity bill hikes.

Violent clashes erupted between police and activists of a rights movement in PoJK amid a wheel-jam and shutter-down strike across the territory. The clashes resulted in the death of at least one police official and injuries to several others. Sub-inspector Adnan Qureshi succumbed to a gunshot wound in the chest in Islamgarh, where he was deployed to quell a rally for Muzaffarabad under the banner of the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC).

The JAAC, led by traders in most parts of the state, has been advocating for electricity pricing aligned with hydropower generation costs in PoJK, subsidized wheat flour, and an end to elite-class privileges. Violent protesters vandalized multiple vehicles, including a magistrate’s car, on the Poonch-Kotli road. Additionally, markets, trade centers, offices, schools, and restaurants remained closed across PoJK, according to ARY News.

Amid a resumption of the march in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK), President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif made pledges to address the ‘genuine demands’ of the protesters. However, despite efforts, an agreement between the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee and the PoJK government remained elusive, with the protest movement pressing forward with its march on Muzaffarabad, as reported by Dawn.

Following clashes that resulted in the death of a policeman, relative calm settled over the region, though business centers remained shuttered and public transport suspended in Muzaffarabad and Poonch divisions. Mirpur saw a partial strike, signaling the depth of sentiment driving the protests.

The impasse persisted even after talks between the JAAC core committee and PoJK Chief Secretary Dawood Bareach ended without progress in Rawalakot. A protester from Rawalakot accused the government of employing evasive tactics, exacerbating tensions further, as reported by Dawn. Participants in the discussions included figures from various regions, including Muzaffarabad, Rawalakot, Kotli, and Bagh. However, hopes for a breakthrough were dashed, as one participant, Sardar Umar Nazir Kashmiri, lamented the lack of tangible outcomes and accused the government.

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Politics

Amit Shah foresees stock market surge post PM Modi’s June 4th victory

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Union Home Minister Amit Shah, in an exclusive interview with a leading media channel on Monday, cautioned against drawing correlations between recent stock market fluctuations and the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Shah, a pivotal figure in India’s political landscape, advised investors to consider purchasing stocks before June 4th, the date of the Lok Sabha election results. Expressing optimism, Shah forecasted a surge in the domestic stock market in the forthcoming period.

“I can’t anticipate stock market moves. But normally whenever a stable government is formed at Centre, the market sees a rally. I see 400-plus seat wins for the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP], a stable Modi government coming, and thus market rising,” Shah told NDTV.

Shah’s remarks came amidst the ongoing fourth phase of the general elections and a recent downturn in the benchmark Nifty index, which witnessed declines in six out of the last seven sessions. Despite prevailing market uncertainties surrounding the election results, Shah remained steadfast in his outlook.

Nomura India, in the financial realm, pointed out the likelihood of a BJP victory based on recent opinion polls, anticipating policy continuity post the 2024 general elections. According to Nomura, the government may focus on politically contentious reforms concerning land, labor, capital, judicial systems, and tax administration, among others.

MUFG Bank offered a nuanced perspective, acknowledging the prevailing consensus regarding a robust BJP performance while also highlighting increased uncertainty due to lower voter turnout in the initial phases of the elections. The bank suggested that market sentiment should remain positive over time if the BJP secures a majority of seats, with expectations of policy continuity in critical areas.

Mirae Asset highlighted the importance of the July Budget in the event of a BJP victory, emphasizing potential changes in taxation policies and agricultural schemes. The firm stressed long-term strategies, focusing on infrastructure development, agricultural reforms, and employment generation to stimulate demand from rural India.

Lastly, PhillipCapital identified a potential market rally in the event of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) surpassing the 400-seat target. The brokerage firm advised investors to closely monitor subsequent election phases, recognizing their potential impact on market dynamics.

“If a lower 300-330 seats for the NDA results in a knee-jerk market reaction [a fall], we would treat it as a buying opportunity. A further worsening of voter turnout in the following election phases could have a bearing on election outcome and equities – so we would keep a close watch,” the domestic brokerage said in its note.

Overall, amidst the evolving political landscape and market fluctuations, stakeholders in India’s financial markets are closely observing the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, anticipating their impact on policy continuity and market sentiment in the coming period.

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Politics

Modi Govt aims to revive 14 closed sugar mills: Bihar Deputy CM

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Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Samrat Choudhary on Sunday said that the Modi government was working to restart 14 sugar mills that were closed in the past.

Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister, Samrat Choudhary, asserted on Sunday that efforts were underway by the Modi government to revive 14 sugar mills that had been shut down previously. Accusing Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Yadav of prioritizing his family over public welfare, Choudhary remarked, “Lalu Yadav, being incarcerated, seems to have forgotten about the ongoing initiatives to reopen the 14 sugar mills by the Modi government. His focus remains solely on his family affairs, including his controversial ‘tourist daughter’ and the return of his entire family, emblematic of his past ‘jungle raj’ reign. This resurgence is credited to PM Modi and CM Nitish Kumar.”

Earlier, Lalu Yadav had inquired with Prime Minister Narendra Modi through X platform regarding the status of the promise made in 2014 regarding the reopening of the sugar mills. Lalu Yadav wrote, “You said in 2014, right… I will get the sugar mill reopened and drink tea made from the sugar produced in this mill. It’s been ten years. What happened to your promise? The Prime Minister who cannot open a small sugar mill in the state as per his promise, a Prime Minister who could not fulfil even one iota of his tall promises in the last ten years, starting from special state status, what benefit will Bihar get if such a Prime Minister roams from street to street and performs street plays?”

PM Narendra Modi is set to hold a roadshow in Patna this evening. With 40 Lok Sabha constituencies, fourth highest among all States and Union Territories, Bihar holds a crucial position in shaping Indian politics. On April 19, in the first phase the polling was held in four constituencies–Aurangabad, Gaya, Jamui and Nawada with 49.26 per cent voter turnout.

In the second phase, the polling was held in five constituencies–Banka, Bhagalpur, Katihar, Kishanganj and Purnia with 59.45 per cent voter turnout on April 26.

In the third phase of elections on May 7, Bihar’s Jhanjharpur, Supaul, Araria, Madhepura and Khagaria went to polls and the state recorded 58.18 per cent voter turnout.

The Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), the opposition coalition in Bihar, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress, and Left parties, recently announced that the RJD, its largest constituent, will contest 26 out of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha seats.

As part of the NDA, BJP and JD(U) will contest on 17 and 16 seats respectively. In 2019, BJP-led NDA swept the state by winning 39 out of 40 seats, while Congress won just one seat. RJD, a formidable force in the state failed to open its account.

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International Relations

Canada welcomes India’s decision to resume some visa service

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Canada has expressed its approval of India’s decision to resume some visa services in the country, marking a positive step forward in diplomatic relations following a recent dispute. The move, announced by India’s high commission in Canada, comes after a temporary suspension of visa services that had caused concern among Canadians.

This diplomatic tension stemmed from allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the potential involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020 and strongly refuted Trudeau’s claims, dismissing them as “absurd” and “motivated.”

The suspension of visa services had affected both Canadians applying from within Canada and Canadian citizens abroad. However, with India’s decision to resume visa processing, there is hope for improved relations between the two nations. Canada welcomed this development as a “good sign,” marking the end of what had been described as “an anxious time” for many Canadians.

The announcement from India’s high commission in Canada came a month after the suspension of visa services. The diplomatic tensions that led to this suspension were a result of the allegations made by Prime Minister Trudeau. The Canadian leader had raised concerns about the potential involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which occurred on June 18 in British Columbia. The killing of Nijjar, whom India had designated as a terrorist, had stirred up emotions and led to a war of words between the two nations.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller expressed his relief at India’s decision to resume visa services, describing it as a positive sign after a tense period. He acknowledged that the suspension of these services had created fear in many communities due to the concerning diplomatic situation between Canada and India.

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is also of Sikh descent, recognized the significance of the resumption of visa processing for Canadians. He refrained from speculating about the message India intended to convey with this decision, emphasizing the importance of allowing Indians and Canadians to travel for events such as weddings and funerals. Additionally, Sajjan reiterated that Ottawa continued to seek India’s assistance in the investigation of Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing.

India’s decision to resume visa services will apply to several categories, including entry visas, business visas, medical visas, and conference visas. This move was seen as a positive step in fostering people-to-people ties and facilitating travel between the two countries.

Marilyne Guevremont, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada (GAC), which oversees Canada’s diplomatic and consular relations, acknowledged India’s decision and highlighted the importance of the strong people-to-people ties between the two nations. Guevremont expressed the belief that the resumption of visa services would ease travel for families and businesses moving between Canada and India.

The Canada-India Business Council also welcomed the development, viewing it as a promising step forward in trade relations. The council emphasized the significance of both governments supporting bilateral business and investments, particularly during these challenging times.

The decision to resume visa services followed Canada’s decision to withdraw 41 of its diplomats from India, reflecting the heightened tensions between the two nations. Prior to Prime Minister Trudeau’s announcement, India had publicly denounced protests by Sikh separatist groups outside its diplomatic missions in Canada. Furthermore, posters had appeared that seemed to offer cash rewards in exchange for the home addresses of Indian diplomats, causing significant concern in India.

India had formally called on Canada to better uphold its duty to protect foreign diplomats and urged the country to take strong action against terrorists and anti-India elements operating within its borders. The suspension of visa services for Canadians was one of the measures India had implemented in response to these concerns.

In conclusion, India’s decision to resume visa services for Canadians is a positive development in the ongoing diplomatic relations between the two countries. While the recent tensions had strained their ties, both nations now have an opportunity to rebuild and strengthen their relationship. The resumption of visa services not only benefits individuals and businesses but also signifies a step toward improved cooperation and understanding between Canada and India.

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