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Diplomacy

Modi visited 58 countries since the year 2015 costs Rs 517.82 crore

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited 58 countries since the year 2015. These foreign trips of PM Narendra Modi cost Rs 517.82 crore, the external affairs ministry said in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.

The ministry also said that during PM Narendra Modi’s visits to the foreign countries, some major Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) on trade, investment, techonology and defense field were signed. The PM visited 58 countries since 2015 which cost Rs 517.82 crore. During this visit, major MoUs were signed, the MEA said.

The external affairs ministry also said the team of United States President Donald Trump was not tested for coronavirus when it arrived in India in February.

The ministry explained that Donald Trump’s team was not tested for the coronavirus as the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease a pandemic only on March 11, while the United States’ President had visited India on February 24-25th.

“The Trump team was not required a coronavirus test during its visit to India because the WHO declared this [Covid-19] a pandemic on March 11, while they visited India on 24-25th February,” the MEA said, replying to a question by MP Binoy Viswam in the Rajya Sabha.

The ministry also said that the screening of international passengers began from March 4. “Standards, protocols were followed during Donald Trump’s visit,” MEA said.

“India supported 150 countries in their fight against coronavirus by providing medicines and medical devices. India grant Rs 80 crore to 80 countries including China. We received support from Japan, US, France, Germany and Israel,” the ministry said.

Diplomacy

PM Has Visited 58 Nations Since 2015 At Cost Of Rs 517 Crore: Centre

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited 58 countries since 2015 at a total cost of Rs 517 crore, the government said Tuesday in a written response to a question raised in the Rajya Sabha.
Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said the Prime Minister had visited the United States and Russia the most – five visits each. PM Modi has also visited China – with whom India is engaged in a prolonged and serious border stand-off in eastern Ladakh – five times, he added.

Among other countries visited by the Prime Minister are Singapore, Germany, France, the United Arab Emirates and Sri Lanka, Mr Muraleedharan said.

“The total expenditure on these visits was Rs 517.82 crore,” he said, in a report by news agency PTI, noting that while some of the visits were part of multi-nation trips, others were standalone bilateral visits.

The Prime Minister’s last trip abroad was to Brazil (in November last year) to attend a BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit. He also visited Thailand earlier that month.

PM Modi has made no visits in 2020 because of the global lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Muraleedharan told the parliament the visits had enhanced other countries’ understanding of India’s perspectives on bilateral, regional and global issues.

The visits also helped strengthen economic relations across a wide range of sectors, including trade and investment, technology, defence collaboration and people-to-people contact, the minister said.

However, in December 2018 the government said over Rs 2,000 crore had been spent on the PM’s foreign visits since June 2014 – these, it said, included expenses on chartered flights, maintenance of aircraft and hotline facilities.

According to the data (shared by then Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh), a total of Rs 1,583.18 crore was spent on maintenance of the Prime Minister’s aircraft and Rs 429.25 crore on chartered flights during the period between June 15, 2014 and December 3, 2018. The total expenditure on hotline was Rs 9.11 crore.

While the Prime Minister’s visits have been widely praised by many for boosting India’s profile abroad and helping generate FDI (foreign direct investment), the opposition has sometimes criticised the costs involved and questioned the timing.

Before the national election in April and May last year, Rahul Gandhi targeted PM Modi for travelling abroad while there was a crisis in the farm sector. PM Modi’s BJP eventually swept the national election, cementing his term for another five years.

Diplomacy

India appoints Gaurangalal Das as new Ambassador to Taiwan

India has selected senior diplomat, Gaurangalal Das who has been handling Indo-US relations as its new ambassador in Taipei.

As per reports, Gaurangalal Das, Joint Secretary (US) in the Ministry of External Affairs will be the next Ambassador of India to Taiwan.

Das who hails from Assam is a 1999 batch Indian Foreign Service officer and an alumnus of St Stephen’s College in Delhi. He did his schooling from Barpeta, Assam and has completed his Higher Secondary from Cotton College.

Das has worked in various capacities in Beijing, Washington and has served as the Deputy Secretary for External Affairs at the Prime Minister’s Office during the tenure of Manmohan Singh. As a Counselor (Political) at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, he played an important role (Indo-US relationship) during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2017 when he met US President Donald Trump.

This development came at a time when strategic negotiations have begun to strengthen diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Taipei. China and the United States have been asserting rights over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

It needs to be mentioned here that India has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan due to the One-China Policy. However, it has an office in Taipei that is operated under the name of Indo-Taipei Association, now Das will be its new Director-General. He will replace Sreedharan Madhusudan.

Meanwhile, Taiwan also effected a change by appointing Bashan Ger, director-general of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, as Taiwan’s representative to India. Ger will succeed Tien Chung-Kwang.

The Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong, said in a statement on Friday, “We need to respect and accommodate mutual core interests and key concerns, which are non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”

As reported in The Print, the centre is considering a major diplomatic reshuffle and will soon be sending some of its bright diplomats Vikram Doraiswami, Rudrendra Tandon and Gourangalal Das to Dhaka, Kabul and Taipei, respectively.

Diplomacy

Nepal’s cable TV operators switch signals of Indian news channels except DD

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Cable television providers have said that signals for
Indian news channels, except Doordarshan, have been switched off in the
country. There is, however, no official order issued in this regard.
“We have turned off the signals of the Indian Channels from this evening,”
Dhruba Sharma of Mega Max TV, a Channel operator of Nepal confirmed
to ANI.
The move by Nepal’s Multi-System Operators (MSO) comes hours after
former Deputy Prime Minister and Spokesperson of the ruling Nepal
Communist Party (NCP) Narayan Kaji Shrestha said that the Indian media
must stop the “baseless propaganda” against Nepal government and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Shrestha expressed his disbelief on the extent to which some media channels have gone to
defame the current government.
The move comes amid heightened tensions between India and Nepal after Kathmandu issued a new map incorporating some
portions of Indian territories in May.

Diplomacy

Aggression and expansion not in our genes : Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said aggression and expansion is not in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5000-year old history.
Highlights: ‘Aggression and expansion has never been in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5,000 years history’China cannot be another USAfter India’s Galwan Valley, Nepal and South China Sea, China is now eyeing Bhutanq
New Delhi: China has claimed India’s Galwan Valley, encroached land in Nepal, has opened another border dispute with Bhutan but wants the world to believe that it is not expansionist in nature.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi has said, “Aggression and expansion has never been in the genes of the Chinese nation throughout its 5,000 years history, and China cannot and will not be another US.”

Yi was speaking in US-China ties when he gave this statement adding that he expects that the US will build a more objective understanding of China and a more rational policy toward the country.

China using COVID-19 to pursue its expansionist agenda
The US and China are locked in a bitter tussle over coronavirus and China’s recent aggressions in the Himalayas and the South China Sea.

Beijing’s belligerence forced the US to shift its troops positioned in Germany to other places with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying that the decision was taken after the US revisited the threats it faced and how they should be thwarted.

Continuing with its expansionist agenda, China created a new border dispute with Bhutan during a virtual meeting of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) where it objected to the grant for Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary (SWS) in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang district bordering India and China, claiming that the location was disputed.

Similarly, in Nepal, China is using road construction in Tibet to occupy its land and according to a Nepal government report, it may establish outposts at the border in the near future.

According to a list prepared by Nepal’s Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry, China has encroached on 10 places which comprise of nearly 33 hectares of Nepalese land and as per the report, China has also been diverting the flow of rivers to increase its territory.

Diplomacy

Boundary With China Not Demarcated, Under Negotiation, Says Bhutan

New Delhi: The boundary between Bhutan and China is under negotiation and has not been demarcated, the Royal Bhutanese embassy in India has said.
“24 rounds of ministerial-level boundary talks held, 25th round delayed due to COVID. All disputed areas to be discussed in next round, to be held as soon as mutually convenient,” the Royal Bhutanese embassy said in a statement.

Bhutan’s statement comes amid reports of Chinese claims over Sakteng wildlife sanctuary in eastern Bhutan.

Diplomacy

Bhutan Accepts India’s SAARC Proposal On Coronavirus, Hails PM Modi’s Leadership

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership while accepting India’s proposal to the members of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to formulate a “strong strategy” to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Tshering took to Twitter to support the call of Prime Minister Modi and urged the SAARC nations to coordinate in this fight. Bhutanese PM raised concern about smaller economies and displayed confidence in PM Modi’s leadership to achieve “immediate” and “impactful” outcome.

This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1238371182094639104 

Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.

We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

PM Modi had proposed that the SAARC countries could discuss the ways, via video conferencing, to keep citizens healthy. Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also thanked Prime Minister for taking the initiative and welcomed the proposal.

I welcome the idea advanced by Prime Minister Modiji @narendramodi for chalking out a strong strategy by the leadership of the SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. My government is ready to work closely with SAARC Member States to protect our citizens from this deadly disease.

Thank you PM @narendramodi for taking the initiative on this important endeavor. Covid 19 requires collective effort to defeat it. Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort. https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1238371182094639104 

Narendra Modi

@narendramodi

I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.

We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

PM Modi’s proposal and quick response from SAARC members could revive the regional intergovernmental organisation which has been dormant since the bilateral relationship between India and Pakistan hit the nadir.

Diplomacy

‘Will never accept this solution’: Palestinian prez threatens to sever ties with Israel, US

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League's foreign ministers after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, in Cairo.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives for an emergency meeting with the Arab League’s foreign ministers after U.S. President Donald Trump announced his Middle East peace plan, in Cairo. (REUTERS)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cut security ties with both Israel and the U.S. on Saturday, in a lengthy speech delivered at an Arab League meeting in Egypt’s capital that denounced a White House plan for ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The US plan would grant the Palestinians limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank, while allowing Israel to annex all its settlements there and keep nearly all of east Jerusalem.

The summit of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo was requested by the Palestinians, who responded angrily to the American proposal.

Abbas said that he told Israel and the US that “there will be no relations with them, including the security ties” following the deal that Palestinians say heavily favors Israel.

There was no immediate comment from US or Israeli officials.

The Palestinian leader said that he’d refused to take US President Donald Trump’s phone calls and messages “because I know that he would use that to say he consulted us.”

“I will never accept this solution,” Abbas said. “I will not have it recorded in my history that I have sold Jerusalem.”

He said the Palestinians remain committed to ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a state with its capital in east Jerusalem.

Abbas said that the Palestinians wouldn’t accept the US as a sole mediator in any negotiations with Israel. He said they would go to the United Nations Security Council and other world and regional organizations to “explain our position.”

The Arab League’s head, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, said the proposal revealed a “sharp turn” in the long-standing US foreign policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This turn does not help achieve peace and a just solution,” he declared.

Aboul-Gheit said that the Palestinians reject the proposal. He called for the two sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to negotiate to reach a “satisfactory solution for both of them.”

President Trump unveiled the long-awaited proposal Tuesday in Washington. It would allow Israel to annex all its West Bank settlements — which the Palestinians and most of the international community view as illegal — as well as the Jordan Valley, which accounts for roughly a fourth of the West Bank.

In return, the Palestinians would be granted statehood in Gaza, scattered chunks of the West Bank and some neighborhoods on the outskirts of Jerusalem, all linked together by a new network of roads, bridges and tunnels. Israel would control the state’s borders and airspace and maintain overall security authority. Critics of the plan say this would rob Palestinian statehood of any meaning.

The plan would abolish the right of return for Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war and their descendants, a key Palestinian demand. The entire agreement would be contingent on Gaza’s Hamas rulers and other armed groups disarming, something they have always adamantly rejected.

Ambassadors from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman attended the Tuesday unveiling in Washington, in a tacit sign of support for the US initiative.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Arab states that are close US allies, said they appreciated President Trump’s efforts and called for renewed negotiations without commenting on the plan’s content.

Egypt urged in a statement Israelis and Palestinians to “carefully study” the plan. It said it favors a solution that restores all the “legitimate rights” of the Palestinian people through establishing an “independent and sovereign state on the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The Egyptian statement did not mention the long-held Arab demand of east Jerusalem as a capital to the future Palestinian state, as Cairo usually has its statements related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jordan, meanwhile, warned against any Israeli “annexation of Palestinian lands” and reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, which would include all the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have peace treaties with Israel.

Diplomacy

U.S. presidential candidates Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren come out in support of Pramila Jayapal

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar refused to meet Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal who introduced a Congressional resolution on Kashmir urging India to lift all the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir

Leading Democratic presidential aspirants — Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — and two other U.S. lawmakers have came out in support of Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who claims External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar cancelled his meeting with a Congressional committee as she was invited to be a part of that group.

Mr. Jaishankar refused to meet Ms. Jayapal who introduced a Congressional resolution on Kashmir urging India to lift all the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir imposed after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5.

“I am aware of that [Congressional] resolution. I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, or a fair characterisation of what the government of India is doing. And I have no interest in meeting [Ms. Jayapal],” Mr. Jaishankar told a group of Indian reporters in Washington on December 19.

“I have an interest in meeting people who are objective and open to discussion but not the people who already made up their minds,” Mr. Jaishankar said in response to a question.

Unacceptable crackdown’

Senators Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and other lawmakers tweeted on December 20 to express their support for Ms. Jayapal, accusing Mr. Jaishankar and India of trying to silence the voice of a U.S. lawmaker.

“Shutting out U.S. lawmakers who are standing up for human rights is what we expect from authoritarian regimes — not the government of India. Ms. Jayapal is right. She must not be excluded for being outspoken about the unacceptable crackdown on Kashmiris and Muslims,” said Mr. Sanders, who was the first Democratic presidential candidate to oppose India’s abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The U.S. and India have an important partnership — but our partnership can only succeed if it is rooted in honest dialogue and shared respect for religious pluralism, democracy, and human rights,” Ms. Warren said in a tweet.

She said the “efforts to silence” Ms. Jayapal “are deeply troubling”.

India has defended the restrictions in Kashmir on the grounds that they were imposed to prevent Pakistan from creating more mischief through proxies and terrorists following the abrogation of Article 370 which ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

“It’s wrong for any foreign government to tell Congress what members are allowed in meetings on Capitol Hill,” Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race early this month said in a tweet.

The first U.S. Senator of Indian-origin, Ms. Harris said she stood with Ms. Jayapal.

“I’m glad her colleagues in the House did too,” she said, responding to a news report in The Washington Post which said that Mr. Jaishankar refused to attend a meeting of House Foreign Affairs Committee because Ms. Jayapal was also scheduled to attend that meeting along with other lawmakers.

“No foreign government should dictate who is or isn’t allowed into meetings on Capitol Hill,” Congressman Jim McGovern said in a tweet.

“I stand with” Ms. Jayapal and “applaud” Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee “and others for doing the same”, he said.

“The partnership between the U.S. and India must be grounded in open, honest conversation between friends,” Mr. McGovern said.

Abruptly cancelled meeting’

Earlier, The Washington Post reported that Mr. Jaishankar “abruptly cancelled a meeting with senior members of Congress this week after U.S. lawmakers refused demands to exclude” Ms. Jayapal from the meeting.

“This only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all. The seriousness of this moment should’ve been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who’s in the meeting, which seems very petty,” Ms. Jayapal was quoted as saying by the leading American daily.

However, eminent Indian-American Bharat Barai, who has engaged with Ms. Jayapal in the past on her Kashmir resolution, said the Democratic Congresswoman “with ulterior motives” tried to force herself into the meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, of which she is not a member.

“Reality is that she is not part of House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is a highly biased person. My feeling is that she wanted to indulge in a heated argument with Jaishankar and then go to The Washington Post and get propaganda out of it,” Mr. Barai told PTI.

‘Not falling into the trap’

Mr. Barai, a major fund raiser, has been in close communication with Ms. Jayapal and her office over the past few months on the issue of Kashmir resolution.

Mr. Barai said Mr. Jaishankar took the right call in “not falling into the trap” being laid out by Ms. Jayapal and members of the “so-called progressive group”.

“She is not even a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, leave alone part of the HFAC leadership,” he said, adding that the meeting was sought with the leadership of House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Does [U.S.] Secretary [of State] [Mike] Pompeo meet every Indian parliamentarian when he goes to India? At the most, he will meet those MPs who handle foreign relations committee,” Mr. Barai said.

“Her position on Kashmir issue is well known. She has already made up her mind, which she is not willing to change,” he asserted.

Another Indian-American, who requested anonymity, said it was not India which put conditions for the meeting but the House Foreign Affairs Committee that insisted on unilaterally bringing in a non-member.

“No Foreign Minister of any independent country should be pressured into meeting such politicians with their own agendas,” he said.

“A distorted narrative” is being put out by some about Mr. Jaishankar’s meeting with the U.S. Congress, he said.