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Biden calls PM Modi, both pledge to further strengthen India-US ties

The two leaders commit to strengthen and expand the Indo-American strategic partnership and discuss
shared priorities and concerns—Covid-19, climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to US Presidentelect Joe Biden on Tuesday to congratulate him on his victory and reiterate India’s firm commitment to its strategic partnership with the United States. In the phone call from Biden, PM Modi also offered his congratulations to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, saying that her success was a matter of pride for the IndianAmerican community.

“Spoke to US President-elect Joe Biden on phone to congratulate him. We reiterated our firm commitment to the Indo-US strategic partnership and discussed our shared priorities and concerns— the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Region,” PM Modi tweeted at around midnight on Tuesday. “I also conveyed warm congratulations for Vice Presidentelect Kamala Harris. Her success is a matter of great pride and inspiration for members of the vibrant Indian-American community, who are a tremendous source of strength for Indo-US relations,” he added.

Biden, who will take over as US President in January, told PM Modi that alongside Kamala Harris he wants to strengthen and expand relations between their countries. Working closely on Covid-19 figured in their phone call on Tuesday, Biden’s transition organisation’s readout of the conversation said.

“The President-elect thanked the Prime Minister for his congratulations and expressed his desire to strengthen and expand the US-India strategic partnership alongside the first Vice President of South Asian descent,” according to the readout.

“The President-elect noted that he looks forward to working closely with the Prime Minister on shared global challenges, including containing Covid-19 and defending against future health crises, tackling the threat of climate change, launching the global economic recovery, strengthening democracy at home and abroad, and maintaining a secure and prosperous IndoPacific region,” it added.

Interestingly, there is no mention of cooperation in counter-terrorism in the readout, which mentions maintaining a secure Indo-Pacific, which was the centrepiece of the Trump administration’s strategic involvement with India.

PM Modi was among the first world leaders to recognise Biden as the winner of the presidential election that is still being questioned by Trump and votes are being counted. He and President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted their congratulations to Biden shortly after the US media declared him the winner based on their projections of the results.

Biden has met Modi during his visit to Washington in 2014 and cohosted along with then-Secretary of State John Kerry a luncheon in his honour. At the luncheon, Biden had said, “You campaigned on some of the very goals we hope to achieve in this relationship: greater investment in India’s economy, a modernized defence sector, inclusive growth for both of our peoples. And your support for economic reform paves the way for the expansion of our nearly $100 billion in trade on a yearly basis.”

Earlier on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke of positive relations with the Biden administration, noting that the Democrat is “not a stranger” to India. Apart from working together to combat terrorism, climate change and Covid-19, Biden is expected to support India’s UNSC claim.

According to a policy paper released during the election, the President-elect feels “no common global challenge can be solved without India and the US working as responsible partners”

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Karnataka: Mobile library rolled out for children in Kalaburagi’s remote areas

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Kalaburagi (Karnataka) [India], February 27 (ANI): A mobile library bus has been rolled out by North Eastern Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NEKRTC) along with the Zilla panchayat, education department and library department in Kalaburagi district.
The initiative was started with the aim of encouraging children in remote areas to inculcate the habit of reading, said Kurma Rao, Managing Director of the NEKRTC.
“We receive overwhelmingly positive responses from both teachers and students across the district wherever we go. The main objective of this is to inculcate the habit of reading and to get students interested in various kinds of books. The bus is now roaming in interior villages,” Rao said.
The unconventional library, in an old bus with over 4,000 books and about a hundred magazines, will soon allow students to issue books and return them the next time the bus visits.
“Children are very keen to issue books from the library as well so we are planning to come up with a program that will allow students to borrow and return the next time,” Rao added. (ANI)

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Residents of J-K border district thank Centre for ceasefire decision with Pak

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Rajouri (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 27 (ANI): People living in the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir around the Line of Control (LoC) have expressed relief and gratitude towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan after both sides decided to cease firing along the LoC and all other sectors.
Several residents around the tumultuous area have suffered due to tensions between the two countries, and many have lost limbs, eyes, and other body parts.
Haji Mohd Shafi Naib, Sarpanch of the Pukharni village in Rajouri, described the grim conditions of the people in the village, saying that many used to be terrified to leave their homes due to constant fear.
“We used to be terrified to leave our houses. People rarely left their homes to go to work and schools have been closed for over a year and a half because we didn’t want our children to leave the house. I can point out several houses that have bullet holes on doors and walls. I am grateful to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his consideration for the people living in the border areas,” he told ANI.
He added, “I want to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for their decision. We have lost several villagers to cross-border firing and many have lost legs, hands and eyes. Now, we can finally sleep and work in peace,” he added.
Another woman, Sharifa Begum who lost her older brother to a firing at the border told ANI, “I am glad that I can now start a new life and feel safe in my home. We are very grateful to the Modi government for the decision. I lost my older brother to such firing incidents a few years ago. Now my children and I can sleep in peace and focus on their education.”
Earlier on Thursday, after discussions between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan, the two sides have to cease firing along the Line of Control (LoC)and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24 to 25.
The discussion between the two armies took place at a time when a large number of ceasefire violations were taking place along the LoC and violence levels were going up especially for the villagers living along the LoC on both sides.
“Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the Line of Control and all other sectors with effect from midnight of February 24 to 25,” a joint statement issued by the Defence Ministry said. (ANI)

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Congress equally respects all religions, people, castes: Ghulam Nabi Azad

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Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 27 (ANI): The strength of Congress is that it ‘equally respect’ all religions, people and castes, said the party’s veteran leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, at a ‘Shanti Sammelan’ in Jammu on Saturday.
“Be it Jammu or Kashmir or Ladakh, we respect all religions, people and castes. We equally respect everyone, that is our strength and we will continue with this,” said Azad.
Azad’s statement came after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ‘North-South’ remark that came while addressing a public rally in Thiruvananthapuram earlier this week.
Azad was joined by senior Congress leaders Anand Sharma, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kapil Sibbal, Raj Babbar and Vivek Tankha during the ‘Shanti Sammelan’ in Jammu.

Most of these leaders are seen as party’s dissenters, also known as G-23 (or the group of 23 dissenting leaders, who had questioned the party’s functioning in a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi).
Azad, while talking about the presence of senior party leaders in Jammu and Kashmir said, “These leaders are here because, in the last five-six years, all these friends did not speak any less than me in the Parliament over issues of Jammu and Kashmir, its unemployment, stripping off of statehood, finishing off industries and education, and implementation of GST.”
On the condition of anonymity, yesterday a senior leader of the Congress G-23 told ANI that the event in Jammu is a “show of party’s strength” and a message to Rahul Gandhi: “We will tell the country that from north to south, India is one.”
Last year in August, G-23 leaders through a letter to interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi expressed their discontent and urged the top leadership of Congress to bring immediate reforms, including organisational elections from the grass-roots to the Congress Working Committee (CWC) level.
Today, they are once again up in arms against the Gandhi family and their loyal close circle who are holding key positions in the party and the parliament.
Rahul Gandhi was heavily criticised by BJP leaders after he had said “For the first 15 years, I was an MP in the North. I got used to a different type of politics. For me, coming to Kerala was refreshing as suddenly I found that people are interested in issues and not just superficially but going into detail in issues.” (ANI)

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Chidambaram slams Centre, says it is treating protesting farmers as enemies

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New Delhi [India], February 27 (ANI): Criticising the Centre over its stand on the ongoing farmer protest, Congress leader P Chidambaram on Saturday said that the reward to the farm sector for growing at 3.9 per cent in a recession year is to treat the protesting farmers as if they are enemies of the state.
“The reward to the farm sector for growing at 3.9 per cent in a recession year is to treat the protesting farmers as if they were enemies of the state,” Chidambaram tweeted.
He alleged that the Prime Minister travel from Kerala to Assam but do not have time to travel 20 km to meet farmers.
“The PM travels from Kerala to Assam but does not have the time or inclination to travel 20 km to meet the farmers on the border of Delhi,” he alleged.
He further claimed that only 6 per cent of the farmers are able to sell at minimum support price (MSP).
“Yet he will claim that he has doubled the farmers’ income. He will also claim that all farmers get MSP when the truth is only 6 per cent of farmers are able to sell at MSP,” he added.
Earlier, on Monday Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleged that the three new farm laws passed by the Central government are designed to destroy the agriculture business and hand it over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “friends”.
Meanwhile, Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said the government has still left its door open for discussions with the farmers regarding the three new farm laws.
Since November 26 last year, farmers have been protesting on the different borders of the national capital, against the three newly enacted farm laws: Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; the Farmers Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and farm Services Act 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. (ANI)

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ISRO to launch Amazonia-1 tomorrow

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Nellore (Andhra Pradesh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Countdown for the launch of PSLV-C51/Amazonia-1 mission commenced on Saturday from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
“Countdown for the launch of #PSLVC51/Amazonia-1 mission commenced today at 08:54 am from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota. The launch is scheduled tomorrow at 10:24 am,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.
Primary satellite Amazonia-1 of Brazil and 18 co-passenger satellites onboard the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C51) are scheduled to be launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) Sriharikota Range (SHAR) on February 28, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said here on Thursday.
Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C51), which is the 53rd mission of PSLV, will launch Amazonia-1 of Brazil as primary satellite and 18 Co-passenger satellites will lift off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at 10:24 am on Sunday.
PSLV-C51/Amazonia-1 is the first dedicated commercial mission of NewSpace India Limited (NSIL), a Government of India company under the Department of Space. The NSIL is undertaking this mission under a commercial arrangement with Spaceflight Inc. USA.
Amazonia-1 is the optical earth observation satellite of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This satellite would further strengthen the existing structure by providing remote sensing data to users for monitoring deforestation in the Amazon region and analysis of diversified agriculture across the Brazilian territory.
The 18 co-passenger satellites include four from IN-SPACe (three UNITYsats from the consortium of three Indian academic institutes and One Satish Dhawan Sat from Space Kidz India) and 14 from NSIL. (ANI)

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Congress not considered even worthy of being opposition, says Gujarat CM after municipal polls win

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Rajkot (Gujarat) [India], February 27 (ANI): Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani on Friday hit out at the Congress after its defeat in Gujarat Municipal polls, saying that the people no longer consider the party even worthy of being the opposition.
“Congress leadership (in the state) is finished. The Congress itself is finished. People do not even consider them worthy of even being the opposition, let alone the ones in power. They secured very few seats and the people have rejected them completely,” Rupani told ANI.
He further said that the behaviour of Congress towards the state is not good and the party is directionless.
“The behaviour of the Congress party towards the people of Gujarat is not good and the public knows this. The Congress doesn’t have any direction and it is stuck,” he added.
Earlier this week, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged victorious in the municipal corporation elections that took place in six districts of Gujarat, nearly decimating the Congress.
In the results declared on Tuesday, BJP won 483 of 576 seats leaving Congress with only 55. (ANI)

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