There have been regular meetings and engagements between India and Maldives even during the time of Covid-19 pandemic. External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar is visiting the island nation this Saturday.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had gone to the Maldives in November last year. A meeting took place between the two Foreign Ministers, through video conferencing in August 2020 in which several key projects and initiatives were announced. The telephone conversation took place in April 2020 between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
‘India First’ has been the underlying foreign policy approach of the Maldives government. President Solih, since he assumed office in November 2018, has taken concerted initiatives on this front. This is in congruence with India’s Neighbourhood First’ policy.
According to informed sources, India’s rapid and comprehensive assistance to Maldives since the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has further reinforced its credentials of being the first responder.
Maldives was the first country to receive Covid-19 vaccines from India when India gifted 100,000 doses in January 2021.
This was preceded by a series of health and humanitarian assistance provided in 2020 including donation of 5.5 tons of essential medicines, airlifting of 6.2 tons of medicines by the IAF from various India cities under Operation Sanjeevani, supply of 580 tons of food aid under Mission SAGAR by INS Kesari and deployment of Rapid Response Medical Team to assist in Covid-19 preventive methods, sources said.
India also undertook a series of economic and financial initiatives at the peak of the pandemic to revive Maldivian economy and provided extension of soft loan for budgetary support to its dwindling revenues primarily driven by tourism.
These were announced by EAM during his video conference meeting with his Maldivian counterpart in August 2020.
These included an extension of soft loan of USD 250 million for budgetary support of Maldives and supporting the implementation of the Greater Male Connectivity Project – the largest civilian infrastructure project in Maldives, connecting Male with three neighbouring islands through the construction of a bridge-and-causeway link spanning 6.7 km, with a financial package consisting of a grant of $100 million and a new Line of Credit of $400 million.
The DPR for this project has been prepared and tendering process is on.
Other initiatives include the creation of an air travel bubble to facilitate the movement of people from both sides for employment, tourism and medical emergencies.
Maldives was the first neighbouring country with which an air bubble was operationalised.
This has boosted tourist inflow in Maldives and the island country received the largest number of tourists in 2020 from India. A total of 62,905 Indians visited Maldives.
This trend has continued this year with 30,000 Indians visiting Maldives till mid-February out of 138,000 foreign tourists.
Commencement of direct cargo ferry service between India and Maldives was announced by PM Modi in June 2019 to enhance sea connectivity and provide predictability in supplies and reduce logistics cost for India Maldives trade. So far, six voyages have taken place.
Most other large development and infrastructure projects being implemented by India in Maldives are fast approaching the launching stage, sources said.
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Mamata should see the violence during past elections: Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury after she questioned 8-phase polls
Kolkata [India], February 27 (ANI): Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Saturday slammed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for questioning the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) decision to conduct the Assembly polls in eight phases saying that she should see the violence during Panchayat and other elections in the past.
“Mamata Banerjee should look at the mirror and see what she has done in the past years. There has been violence in Bengal during the Panchayat and other elections. Law and order situation had gone out of hand. In other states also, elections are conducted in phases. I think we should not have any problem and raise questions on ECI. It is Mamata Banerjee who has a problem with it,” Chowdhury told ANI.
On the Congress-Left-ISF alliance, Chowdhury said, “Initially, Congress and the Left Front alliance was smooth. Then, the (Indian Secular Front) ISF entered into the electoral arena and expressed their desire to participate in the alliance. Left parties have already forged an alliance with them but Congress still has not been able to do it.”
Meanwhile, the Election Commission of India on Friday announced that West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls. While the voting will begin on March 27, the counting of votes will take place on May 2.
West Bengal is likely to witness a triangular contest this time with TMC, Congress-Left alliance and BJP in the fray.
While Mamata Banerjee is seeking her third consecutive term, BJP has set a target of winning 200 seats in the 294-member state Assembly. Congress and the Left have stitched the alliance for the polls and had already finalised the seat-sharing agreement. They are also in touch with the Indian Secular Front (ISF), recently floated by influential minority leader Abbas Siddique.
In 2016, West Bengal Assembly elections, out of the 294 seats, Congress had managed to win 44 seats while the Left Front bagged 33 seats. The ruling TMC secured 211 seats and the BJP had won 3 seats. (ANI)
Border residents in J-K’s Baramulla relieved after ceasefire agreement
Baramulla (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], February 27 (ANI): The agreement between India and Pakistan to cease firing along the Line of Control has brought happiness among residents of border areas in the Uri Sector in Baramulla as they can now lead normal lives.
“We are very happy that the Commanders from both sides have agreed to observe the ceasefire. Cross-border firings cause big problems in the lives of people living along the border. We used to face all kinds of troubles and difficulties. We are thankful to the government for this step. Now, we can live in peace,” said Abdul Razzak, a border resident.
The residents in the border areas of Nabila village, along the Line of Control (LoC), in the Uri sector in Baramulla are hoping for peace after India and Pakistan reiterated commitment for a ceasefire on borders.
“I am a resident of Nabila. The ceasefire observance decision has brought great relief to all of us living along the border. Our children could not go to school earlier. We had to face difficulties in our daily life. I want to thank the government for the move,” said Farid Khan, a local of Nabila.
Ceasefire violations, cross-LoC firings, and shelling are the biggest hurdle in the lives of people living near border areas of the Uri sector in Baramulla. Firing and shelling only bring pain for civilians living along LoC. Now, they are hoping that their problems will be solved after the ceasefire agreement.
The Uri sector witnessed a spurt in ceasefire violations during the last year. More than 12 people, including soldiers, were killed in more than 36 ceasefire violations while hundreds of structures suffered damage.
The most deadly ceasefire violation recently took place on November 13 last year in Kamalkote, when four civilians and two soldiers were killed while a civilian had lost both his legs. The incident caused massive damage to the property as well, forcing locals to flee temporarily from the area.
“Earlier due to shelling, we had to face many problems. We couldn’t even take out our cattle to pastures. Now after this agreement, we hope things will be normal for us,” said Shahid-ul Islam, Sarpanch of Nabila Village.
He added, “Our children also had difficulties going to school. I especially want to thank the Indian government for taking the initiative for this great step.”
Border residents of Nabila Village of Uri thanked prime ministers of both countries for taking this step.
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. (ANI)
Andhra Pradesh reports 118 new COVID-19 cases
Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Andhra Pradesh reported 118 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, taking the total count of cases to 8,89,799.
According to the state health department, Andhra Pradesh has 667 active COVID-19 cases as of now.
The death toll in the state due to coronavirus stands at 7,169. The total number of recoveries reached 8,81,963.
Meanwhile, 16,488 new COVID-19 cases and 113 deaths were reported in India during the last 24 hours, informed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on Saturday.
With this, the total coronavirus caseload in the country has gone up to 1,10,79,979, including 1,59,590 active cases and 1,07,63,451 discharges.
The COVID-19 death toll reached 1,56,938 on Saturday with additional 113 deaths. (ANI)
India’s small, medium businesses solution to Chinese manufacturing: Rahul Gandhi
Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) [India], February 27 (ANI): Ahead of the upcoming state Assembly elections, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said that India’s small and medium businesses are the solution to combat the challenge of the Chinese manufacturing and massive unemployment prevailing in the country.
“From phones to clothes, all are made in China. Our small and medium businesses are the solution. We have massive unemployment everywhere, it is a challenge for India. If Tamil Nadu government works effectively, we can also get Made in Tamil Nadu and Made in India products,” said Rahul Gandhi at a rally in Tirunelveli.
“If we have to take the challenge of Chinese manufacturing, the answer has to be the small and medium enterprise,” he added.
Noting that employment is one of the major challenges for the country, the former Congress chief said, “We have millions of dynamic youngsters with unbelievable energy, with dreams and they are unemployed. You can go to any state in India, you will find massive unemployment. Jobs is the central challenge for our country.”
“I am convinced that, if we get the government of Tamil Nadu to work effectively, behind this (displaying a phone) phone, we will find Made in Tamil Nadu and Made in India,” he added.
Rahul Gandhi also visited St. John’s Cathedral in Nazareth, Thoothukudi.
Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be held in a single phase on April 6 and the counting of votes will be done on May 2, the Election Commission of India (ECI) announced on Friday.
With this announcement, the model code of conduct comes into force. The assembly elections in the southern state are important for the national as well as the regional political parties.
Polls will be held for 234 seats in Tamil Nadu with the Congress-DMK and BJP-AIADMK alliance being the major groups contesting against each other. (ANI)
‘Pappu’ busy catching fish, Congress will later say EVMs malfunctioned: Narottam Mishra
Datia (Madhya Pradesh) [India], February 27 (ANI): Days after Rahul Gandhi swam with local fishermen in the Arabian Sea off Kerala’s coast, Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Narottam Mishra on Saturday took a swipe at Congress to say that their ‘Pappu’ (fool) leader was busy catching fish now and the party will later blame the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for malfunctioning when it faces defeat in the ensuing Assembly polls.
Mishra also drew a comparison to the rigorous campaigning by the BJP in the poll-bound states with the party roping in heavyweights including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
“Look at the difference. Modiji is campaigning in Tamil Nadu, Amit Shahji in West Bengal, Naddaji is in Assam, Rajnath Singh is in Kerala and ‘Pappu’ is catching fish. Then they will say the EVMs are malfunctioning,” Mishra told mediapersons here.
This comes two days after Gandhi during his tour in Kollam joined local fishermen in the high sea of Kerala to get a taste of their life and understand their issues.
He also dived into the water and swam for 10 minutes with two others before returning to the boat. The Wayanad MP interacted with the thousands of fisherfolk, including women, who had gathered at the Thangassery beach in the southern coastal district and said he admired and respected their work.
A total of 824 assembly constituencies shall be going for polls in four states–Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Assam– and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
The polling in these states will start from March 27 and end on April 29. The counting of votes for elections to four states and one UT will be held on May 2. (ANI)
During Congress’ tenure, India lost Aksai chin, large areas of our territory: Javadekar
Hyderabad (Telangana) [India], February 27 (ANI): Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Saturday slammed the Congress, saying India lost Aksai chin and Tibet, and large areas of the country’s territory were captured by China during their tenure.
“During Congress’ tenure, we lost Aksai chin and Tibet, and large areas of ours were captured by China. This is for the first time that China had to go back,” said Prakash Javadekar in Hyderabad.
“Disengagement has happened. We have all witnessed this and we are proud of our Army,” he added.
This comes as the disengagement process from both the north and south banks of Pangong Lake was completed by India and China and further disengagement is underway at other friction points. The armies of both India and China have agreed to disengagement in few areas and military troops have also been removed to maintain a status of pre-face-off that happened last year.
India and China have had a stand-off along the LAC since April-May last year due to actions of the Chinese Army and have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks.
Talking about the recent anniversary of the Balakot airstrike, Javadekar said,” I was in Rajasthan during election time. One of the voters said that we will vote for BJP because this government, unlike the previous government, has managed to bring our pilot (Abhinandan Varthaman) in 24 hours.”
Varthaman’s plane had crossed over to the Pakistani side during a dogfight with Pakistani planes on February 27, 2019, a day after the airstrikes.
Abhinandan returned to India from the Attari-Wagah border on March 1, 2019. He was later awarded Vir Chakra. (ANI)
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