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US Defence Secy meets PM Modi, wants strategic ties for peace in Indo-Pacific

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US Defence Secretary Lloyd James Austin III met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday and expressed America’s strong desire to further enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries for peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

India is the third stop for Austin during his three-nation visit—he went to Japan and South Korea—and the first overseas visit by the new US Defence Secretary after President Joe Biden took charge.

“Pleasure to meet US @SecDef Lloyd Austin today. Conveyed my best wishes to @POTUS @JoeBiden India and US are committed to our strategic partnership that is a force for global good,” PM Modi tweeted, along with a photo showing him and Mr Austin seated in front of the US and the national flag.

A PMO release said that the Prime Minister welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries, which is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment to a rules-based order.

PM Modi outlined his vision for the strategic partnership between the two countries and emphasised the important role of bilateral defence cooperation in India-US ties. He also requested Secretary Austin to convey his best wishes to President Joe Biden.

Secretary Austin reiterated the US government’s continued commitment towards strengthening the bilateral defence relations between the two countries. He also conveyed greetings of President Biden to the Prime Minister.

“Thrilled to be here in India. The breadth of cooperation between our two nations reflects the significance of our major defense partnership, as we work together to address the most pressing challenges facing the Indo-Pacific region,” Austin tweeted.

During talks between Austin and Indian officials, the issues that are likely to be discussed include ways to deepen India-US strategic relations, boosting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, China’s behaviour along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh, terrorism and the Afghan peace process.

India’s plan to buy some 30 armed Predator drones from the US for all the three services at an estimated $3 billion is expected to figure in the talks. The Predator-B drones made by US defence firm General Atomics can remain airborne for 35 hours and hunt targets at land and sea.

Also, the contentious issue of India’s planned purchase of Russian S-400 air defence systems—which under US law can attract sanctions—is expected to be raised in his meeting with Indian officials. Washington has imposed sanctions on Turkey for buying that equipment.

Meanwhile, the US Defence Secretary was urged by a senior senator to convey Washington’s opposition to India’s proposed purchase of Russian air defence systems as he headed to New Delhi on Friday for talks aimed at deepening security ties.

The chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, urged Austin to make clear to India officials the Biden administration’s opposition to the deal. “If India chooses to go forward with its purchase of the S-400, that act will clearly constitute a significant, and therefore sanctionable, transaction with the Russian defense sector under Section 231 of CAATSA,” Menendez said in a letter to Austin, referring to the law called Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

“It will also limit India’s ability to work with the US on development and procurement of sensitive military technology. I expect you to make all of these challenges clear in conversations with your Indian counterparts,” he said.

Secretary Austin is on a three-day official visit to India. It is the first visit to the country by a top official of the Biden administration.

A PMO release said that the Prime Minister welcomed the warm and close relationship between the two countries, which is rooted in shared values of democracy, pluralism and commitment

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Beachside horror: 2 minors raped in Goa

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The incidents of crime in Goa continue abated with news coming in of the alleged rape of two minors at seaside town of Benaulim in South Goa.

Two minor girls in their complaint to the Colva police station have alleged that they were raped at the Benaulim beachside on Sunday night.

Noted women’s right activist Auda Viegas, founder, Bailancho Ekvott, currently counseling the minors, told The Daily Guardian that the girls were chatting with their two male friends on the waterfront when they decided to go back home. At approximately 3:30 am, they saw a car on the beach with 4 people standing next to it. They impersonated as cops and threatened the girls while beating up their male friends with rods. They took one girl to the shrubs and the other in the car to sexually assault them. Even after trying to run away from the car, the accused caught up and raped the minors. They even taped the girls and tried to blackmail them for extorting money.

Goa police has arrested the four accused and they are being interrogated.

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BROUGHT FARMERS’ MESSAGE: RAHUL DRIVES TRACTOR TO PARLIAMENT

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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday drove a tractor to reach Parliament in protest against the three farm laws.

“I have brought farmers’ message to Parliament. They (The government) are suppressing the voices of farmers and not letting a discussion take place in Parliament. They will have to repeal these black laws. The entire country knows these laws favour 2-3 big businessmen,” he said, adding: “As per the government, farmers are very happy and those (protesting farmers) sitting outside are terrorists. But in reality, farmers’ rights are being snatched away.”

Rahul Gandhi was accompanied by Congress MPs, who raised slogans against the farm laws and the Centre.

Farmers have been protesting on the different borders of the national capital since November 26 last year 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.

WITH ANI INPUTS

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SC WON’T STAY PROCEEDINGS AGAINST GAMBHIR’S FOUNDATION

Ashish Sinha

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The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the proceedings against BJP MP Gautam Gambhir’s foundation in a case relating to illegal procuring and distribution of Covid-19 medicines. “You may have done this for charity, but if permitted, it could lead to serious discrepancy in drug supply,” the Supreme Court said. 

While refusing the plea filed by BJP MP Gautam Gambhir, the Supreme court observed: “It is not for individuals to hoard essential medicines and distribute to sections of population when commoners were running from pillar to post during the second wave. This is not done. We do not want to say anything, but we also have our ears to the ground,” the bench said.

However, the top court permitted Gautam Gambhir’s foundation to intervene in the pending proceedings before the Delhi High Court. During the hearing, senior advocate Kailash Vasdev, appearing for the foundation, sought a stay on the prosecution under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. 

Earlier, the Delhi government’s drug controller had told the Delhi High Court that Gambhir’s foundation has been found guilty of unauthorized stocking, procuring and distributing the Fabiflu medicine to Covid-19 patients. On May 24, the Delhi High Court had directed the Drugs Controller to conduct an inquiry against Gautam Gambhir, AAP MLAs Preeti Tomar and Praveen Kumar in a case of unauthorized distribution of Covid drugs.

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OUST BJP GOVT IN KARNATAKA, CM REJIG OF NO USE: CONGRESS

Siddaramaiah says ‘there is no benefit for the common man if one corrupt CM is removed to make way for another corrupt CM’.

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The Congress in Karnataka on Monday demanded the ouster of the BJP government in Karnataka instead of the party finding a replacement for Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa who resigned on Monday.

Alleging that the BJP government in Karnataka was “illegitimate as it was born out of defections and corruption”, the main Opposition party wondered whether changing the face would also change the government’s “diabolical character”. “There is no benefit for the common man if one corrupt CM is removed to make way for another corrupt CM. Instead the whole BJP party, which is responsible for the miseries of people, should be ousted,” former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is leader of Opposition in the Karnataka Assembly, tweeted.

Reacting to Yediyurappa’s resignation, the Congress stalwart said: “The power politics in BJP is unfortunate when people are suffering due to natural calamities. Crops have been destroyed in many districts due to floods and nine people have lost their lives. It is unfortunate that the representatives of the government are busy in power politics instead of helping the people in distress.”

The Congress national general secretary and party’s Karnataka in

charge Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the malady is with BJP’s corrupt government and appalling maladministration in Karnataka, for it is an illegitimate government born out of “defections and corruption”.

“Will merely changing the face change the diabolical character of the BJP government synonymous with mal-governance & decay?” Surjewala said in his tweet. “The ignominy, torment and insult being heaped upon Sh. BS Yediyurappa by Modiji, dictating him to tender his resignation, makes him PM’s latest victim and member of the ‘forced retirement club’,” Surjewala tweeted.

In his reaction to Yediyurappa’s resignation, the Congress state president D.K. Shivakumar said the Chief Minister should explain why he turned emotional and choked when he announced his resignation. “It is not Yediyurappa who was crying but the state and its chief minister were in tears. We opposition parties are different but he represents the government. That’s why Yediyurappa should explain whether he was crying, the state was crying or the party was crying,” Shivakumar told reporters here.

While announcing his resignation, an emotional Yediyurappa pointed out that a few MLAs from his party were not happy with him, sending out a signal that he was upset with their statements. Most vocal among the BJP legislators was Vijayapura MLA

Basanagouda Patil Yatnal, who had predicted the exit of Yediyurappa, alleging that he and his family members were involved in corruption. Targeting Yediyurappa, his MP-son BY Raghavendra and BJP state vice president BY Vijayendra, Yatnal had even asked the BJP central leadership to end the “dynastic politics” in Karnataka BJP. MLC A H Vishwanath had also repeatedly demanded Yediyurappa’s resignation.

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Protesting farmer unions have no fresh proposal: Tomar

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NARENDRA TOMAR

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Monday said the government has been sensitive in its talks with farmer unions who are demanding repeal of three farm laws and is ready for discussions.

The minister said that during talks, the government gave “one-sided” proposals in favour of farmers but the protesting unions rejected them all without giving any reason. He said the government asked farmers to come up with their proposal but they have no proposal and that’s why were not coming for talks.

“During talks, the government gave them one-sided proposals (in their favour). The farmers refused to accept them without giving any reason. We then asked about their proposal and asked them to come with it,” the minister told ANI.

“Farmers’ unions have no proposal and that is why they are not coming for talks. I want to tell farmers’ unions that we are ready to talk whenever they want discussion,” he added.

The government and protesting unions have earlier held several rounds of talks. The minister said that the Modi government has been working for the welfare of farmers for the past seven years.

“The government is trying to make farmers prosperous. 1.8 crore farmers have received 1.37 lakh crore in PM Kisan Samman Nidhi. MSP has been increased. Farmers’ contribution to GDP is increasing also,” the minister added. (ANI)

Tomar also accused Congress leader Rahul Gandhi of “misleading farmers” on three new farm laws and asked if the Congress leader was “lying” in the party’s manifesto for last Lok Sabha elections which talked of the repeal of APMC Act and freeing restrictions in inter-state trade of agricultural produce.

Taking a dig at Gandhi over his coming to Parliament on a tractor, Tomar said he does not have a right to represent farmers. Tomar also criticised Gandhi for violating traffic rules when he drove the tractor with party leaders to parliament. “I want to tell Rahul Gandhi not to mislead farmers as he does not have the right to represent farmers,” the minister told ANI.

“It is because of his shallow thinking he has lost the position of leader who is accepted by all in his party. Rahul Gandhi is responsible for the state Congress is in the country,” he added.

Gandhi had said he has brought a message from protesting farmers who are demanding repeal of the three farm laws. “Several traffic rules were broken as so many people rode the tractor. This violation of traffic rules is condemnable and it does not set the right precedent,” Tomar said.

He said Gandhi has to clarify whether he was lying or Congress lied when it listed provisions that reflect some of the spirits of farm laws in the party’s election manifesto. “Rahul Gandhi should clarify whether Rahul Gandhi was lying when (several provisions) of these laws were part of their election manifesto. Was he lying then or lying now? Rahul Gandhi has to explain this from Congress side,” Tomar said.

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After Punjab, Rahul takes Rajasthan turn; big cabinet reshuffle buzz gains ground

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After Navjot Singh Sidhu’s appointment in Punjab, it is being claimed that Rahul Gandhi is now busy in fixing the Congress. And Rajasthan seems to be next in line, with a big reshuffle buzz in the state cabinet.

Rahul Gandhi’s move has been criticised by many Congress watchers, saying it will impact the party in the coming elections. There had been talks about Sidhu being made the Punjab Congress president for over a year, but the decision was taken seven months before the Assembly polls. The move has further divided the party in Punjab.

Similarly, in Uttarakhand, Harish Rawat had been demanding a change for more than a year, but the change made seven months before the election has increased the conflict in the state. Congress lacks leaders in Uttarakhand. Conflict among the remaining leaders can do harm. As far as Rajasthan is concerned, there is no election yet.

But Rahul Gandhi has sent K.C. Venugopal and Ajay Maken there and then the situation has heated up. The BJP has made serious efforts to bring down the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan. Toppling the Gehlot government would have meant a direct challenge to the Gandhi family, as before that, the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh had been toppled.

After the rebellion in Rajasthan, the Congress high command had made major changes. Govind Singh Dotasara was given the command of the state in place of Sachin Pilot. All the units were disbanded. After this, the Congress high command made a new state executive and new appointments in the organisation. But with the district and the block, the policy of going slow was made for many posts and political appointments in the organisation. When Sidhu’s case in Punjab heated up, the Sachin Pilot group increased its activism.

By sending Venugopal and Maken to Jaipur, Rahul Gandhi has further given impetus to power shift buzz in the state. After calling the legislators to get consent, they said that the decision has been left to the high command. No one ever challenges the high command in Congress.

Gehlot is still the most trusted leader of the Gandhi family. It is a different matter that the Sachin Pilot camp is successful in conveying the message to the media.

If sources are to be believed, there may be a big reshuffle in the Rajasthan cabinet. Around 8 to 10 ministers can be removed. Big faces will be given a place in the organization. Some can be brought into the party politics at the central level. The number of supporters of Sachin Pilot has also been reduced to 7-8. One or two of them can be given a place in the government. If the decisions of the high command end factionalism in Rajasthan, for Rahul Gandhi, this will be an achievement. However, the chances of ending factionalism are less visible.

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