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‘Looking forward to collaborate closely with India’: US ahead of 2+2 dialogue


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper are on their way to New Delhi.

The third edition of the 2+2 dialogue between India and USA is set to begin as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T Esper are on their way to New Delhi.

Ahead of the important talks, the US State Department said the country welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power.

“As outlined in our National Security Strategy, the United States welcomes India’s emergence as a leading regional and global power. The United States looks forward to collaborating closely with India during its upcoming term on the UN Security Council,” the US said, reported NDTV.

“Wheels up for my trip to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Indonesia. Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations,” Mike Pompeo tweeted last night.


The top US leaders will also meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and hold discussions with other government and business leaders on ways to advance the US-India Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership, the State Department said.

US said that the subjects to be covered included regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military-to-military interactions and defence trade.

“We have made significant progress towards concluding the last foundational defence enabling agreement – the Exchange and Cooperation Agreement or BECA,” senior officials of the Trump administration said last week in an online news briefing.

“This agreement will allow for expanded geospatial information sharing between our armed forces. We are also seeking to expand secure communication capabilities between our respective militaries as well as between our foreign defence ministries and that figures prominently in what we are trying to accomplish in the information-sharing space,” they added.

The relations between US and India have been strengthening in last few months as the Quadrilateral grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia are sending their warships for the Malabar Exercise next month.

Quadrilateral grouping, which experts say is to be mirroring NATO, has already been criticized by China many times.

In another major development in direction of strengthening the ties, New Delhi and Washington are also stepping up efforts to conclude the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting on October 26-27.




Amid backlash, Union Minister assures country will be given free COVID vaccine


‘Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that all people will be provided free of cost vaccines. An estimated ₹ 500 odd will be spent on vaccination of each person,’ he said.

Union Minister Pratap Sarangi on Sunday said that all people of the country will be given free COVID vaccine, amidst the demand by opposition parties in the country for it and not only in poll-bound Bihar as announced by the BJP.

The BJP announcement of free COVID vaccine for Bihar, where assembly polls begin this week, had kicked up a controversy with the opposition parties tearing into the NDA government alleging that the ruling party was using the pandemic for political reasons.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the announcement was in order as it was an election manifesto announcement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced that all people will be provided free of cost vaccines. An estimated ₹ 500 odd will be spent on vaccination of each person, Mr Sarangi told reporters after addressing a campaign meeting for the November 3 assembly by-poll in Balasore.

PM Modi had in a televised adddress to the nation on October 20 said that Indian scientists are in the process of developing several vaccines that are at different stages of clinical trials and the results seem encouraging.

Mr Sarangi, the union minister of state for animal husbandry, dairy, fisheries and micro, small and medium enterprises spoke in reply to question raised by Odisha Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister, RP Swain.

Mr Swain had earlier in the day sought clarification from Dharmendra Pradhan and Sarangi, the two union ministers from Odisha questioning them for their silence on their party BJP’s stand on free COVID-19 vaccination for the people of the state along the lines of the one being promised in Bihar.

The governments of Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Puduchchery have already announced free of cost COVID vaccines for the people of their states, while Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has demanded free vaccine for all citizens across the country.

Mr Swain had tweeted “I am asking questions to two Odisha union ministers from Balasore soil to clarify as to why the people of the state will not get free of cost COVID vaccine. The union ministers should clarify BJPs stand on the corona vaccination in Odisha.”

On the state governments steps for vaccination, Mr Swain said it has signed an agreement with a vaccine manufacturer and is committed to extend the facility to all people of the state.

He, however, did not say whether the state government will provide the vaccine to the people free of cost.

BJP deputy leader in Odisha Assembly Bishnu Charan Sethi said the Centre has been supporting Odisha fully during the pandemic and has granted ₹ 22,000 crore for the purpose.

“But large scale lapses have been detected in the utilisation of the fund,” he alleged.




Early voting in US election this year surpasses all 2016 pre-election ballots: Report


The tally by the independent US Election Project, run by the University of Florida, said that as of Sunday more than 59 million people had voted so far.

Early voting in the 2020 US election has surpassed all the pre-election ballots from four years earlier, an independent vote monitor said Sunday, with nine days still to go before the November 3 poll.

Millions of Americans wary of crowded polling booths during the coronavirus pandemic and energized by an election fight that both President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden have framed as existential are smashing records for casting ballots, whether by mail or in person.

The tally by the independent US Election Project, run by the University of Florida, said that as of Sunday more than 59 million people had voted so far.

That is higher than the 57 million who voted early or by mail in 2016, according to the US Election Assistance Commission website.

So far, Democrats — who have encouraged early voting — have been leading the way, but whether that means Biden can breathe easy remains to be seen.

Trump for months has been claiming, without evidence, that mail-in ballots lead to fraud, and many Republicans are expected to vote on Election Day.

With coronavirus cases spiking across the country, however, Michael McDonald — a political science professor at the University of Florida who administers the Election Project — warned that the strategy “looks all the more risky.”

“What if at least some of his voters decide not to vote? What if a polling place becomes unavailable or an election office shuts down?” he tweeted.

The Election Project has predicted that turnout this year could top 150 million in total. Some 137 million ballots were cast in the 2016 election.

Some states key to the 2020 outcome were also firmly on the path to breaking records, such as Texas, where the Election Project said Sunday that 80 percent of the early 2016 vote had already turned out.

“Folks, Texas still has in-person early voting until Friday, plus Election Day. No doubt Texas turnout will be above 2016. Question is, how much?” McDonald tweeted.

The election in Texas, traditionally a conservative bastion which has backed Republican candidates since 1980, is under close scrutiny, with some polls showing Biden in a position to edge out Trump.




IPL 2020: Ben Stokes, Sanju Samson power Rajasthan Royals to dominating win against Mumbai Indians


Mumbai Indians remain perched at the top position with 14 points from 11 matches while Rajasthan Royals moved to the sixth place with 10 points from 12 games.

Ben Stokes (107 not out) and Sanju Samson (54 not out) made a mockery of a target of 196 Mumbai Indians (MI) had set for Rajasthan Royals (RR) as they helped overhaul it with eight wickets and nearly two overs to spare in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match here on Sunday.

It was Stokes’s second IPL century and his highest score in T20s. RR ended their innings on 196 for two wickets in 18.2 overs in reply to table toppers MI’s 195/5 wickets in 20 overs.

Despite the defeat, MI remain perched at the top position with 14 points from 11 matches while RR moved to the sixth place with 10 points from 12 games. The competition for the fourth is heating up.

Each team plays 14 league matches, at the end of which the top four teams qualify for the final, to be played on November 10.

Stokes’s century not only garnered a much-needed win for the Royals — who are still afloat in the league — but also outshone Hardik Pandya’s blitzkrieg (60 not out, off 21 balls) which had earlier propelled MI to a competitive looking total.

Chasing the challenging target, RR lost opener Robin Uthappa (13) and Steve Smith (11) early with their scorecard reading 44/2 in 4.4 overs. Both the RR players were picked by James Pattinson (2/40).

However, both Stokes and Samson dusted off their rustiness in style as their sensible batting left the MI bowlers struggling.

The duo steered RR to 100 runs in 10.2 overs before wrapping things off in 18.2 overs.

Stokes’s masterclass was decorated with 14 fours and three sixes while Samson’s innings contained four fours and three sixes.

Earlier, Hardik Pandya’s whirlwind knock along with some valuable contributions from Ishan Kishan (37), Suryakumar Yadav (40) and Saurabh Tiwary (34) powered MI to 195/5 wickets in 20 overs.

Hardik and Tiwary accumulated 79 runs of the last five overs as MI recovered from a mini collapse.

After losing opener Quinton de Kock (6) early, Suryakumar and Ishan shared an 83-run partnership to take MI near the 100-run mark.

Kartik Tyagi (1/45) got a breakthrough when he dismissed Kishan in the 11th over, leaving MI at 90/2.

The defending champions then went on to lose Suryakumar and Keiron Pollard (6) in quick succession that left MI at 101/4 in 13 overs. Pollard’s fall brought in Pandya, who started slowly before swiftly shifting gears.

Tiwary clobbered Jofra Archer (2/31) for 17 runs in the 17th over before Hardik, too, joined the party as he hammered Ankit Rajpoot (0/60) for 27 runs in the 18th over.

Archer got rid of Tiwary off the first delivery of the 19th over and conceded merely three runs in the next five balls.

However, Hardik was in no mood to spare RR bowlers as he smashed Kartik Tyagi for 27 runs off the final over, and in the process also notched up his half-century.

Hardik remained unbeaten on 61 as MI comfortably posted a challenging total. His carnage was laced with two fours and seven massive hits into the stands.

Brief scores: Rajasthan Royals: 196/2 wkts in 18.2 overs (Ben Stokes 107, Sanju Samson 54; James Pattinson 2/40) beat Mumbai Indians: 195/5 wkts in 20 overs (Hardik Pandya 60 not out, Suryakumar Yadav 40; Shreyas Gopal 2/30) by 8 wickets




Defence Minister dedicates BRO road to nation in East Sikkim, a fillip to defence preparedness


Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was in Sikkim to dedicate the 19.85 Km Alternate Alignment of the National Highway 310 from km 0.00 to km 19.350 to the Nation.

Necessitated due to the previous alignment having seen extensive damages due to sinking and other natural hazards, the road serves as an important link to bolster defence preparedness in the Nathula Sector in particular and in the whole of East Sikkim in general.

The Defence Minister, while addressing the gathering on the occasion, complimented the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for its unwavering commitment towards delivering outstanding quality infrastructure in record time and optimal costs.

He enumerated the Government’s drive towards progressing infrastructure development in far-flung areas not only enhance defence preparedness but also fostering socio-economic development of the region. Reiterating the Centre’s resolve to speed up infrastructure development in align with Prime Minister’s Act North-East policy, the Minister highlighted the pace at which construction of the alternate alignment, was facilitated over the last two years.

Emphasising that tourism is the main bulwark of the state’s economy, Chief Minister of Sikkim Prem Singh Tamang brought out the positive impact the new alignment that will be boosting tourism as well as the socio-economic development of the state. The Chief Minister was highly appreciative of the BRO and the Central Government for completing the road expeditiously.

The BRO over the last some years has undertaken an unprecedented expansion of its capabilities through technology infusion in material, equipment and construction techniques.




‘Watching India-China standoff in Ladakh closely, important to work with like-minded partners’: US


The US said it welcomes increased Indian involvement in Southeast Asia including its military presence in the South China Sea.

A day after the US President Donald Trump’s “filthy” remark on India accusing it to be a major contributor in air pollution, the country delivers a friendly statement by saying that it is watching the India-China standoff in Ladakh closely

The US is sharing information with New Delhi and wants to ensure the situation does not escalate, senior officials of the Trump administration said on Saturday.

The US said it welcomes increased Indian involvement in Southeast Asia including its military presence in the South China Sea and has been working with like-minded partners to counter “China’s aggressive behaviour” from the Himalayas to the disputed oceanic region.

‘We have had an ongoing dialogue with the Indians about the increased cooperation in Southeast Asia, not just the South China Sea. And we encourage their involvement and that cuts across development investments, that cuts across security cooperation and that also involves presence and so, we welcome greater Indian participation across Southeast Asia in all three of those areas,” US officials said in an online news briefing.

“Given China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour across the Indo-Pacific from the Himalayas to the South China Sea, it is more important than ever that we work with like-minded partners such as India. We were pleased to see India’s recent announcement regarding Australia joining the Malabar Naval exercise,” they said.

Trump’s remarks had come at a time when he was explaining his move to withdrew from the Paris climate accord. He had said that the move would have made America a non-competitive nation.

“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia. Look at India. The air is filthy. I walked out of the Paris Accord as we had to take out trillions of dollars and we were treated very unfairly,” he said during a debate with Democratic White House challenger Joe Biden.

The relations between US and India have been strengthening in last few months as the Quadrilateral grouping of US, Japan, India and Australia are sending their warships for the Malabar Exercise next month.

Quadrilateral grouping, which experts say is to be mirroring NATO, has already been criticized by China many times.

In another major development in direction of strengthening the ties, New Delhi and Washington are also stepping up efforts to conclude the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) ahead of the Indo-US 2+2 ministerial meeting on October 26-27.

 




BJP in J-K demands action against PDP chief Mehooba Mufti for making ‘seditious remarks’


‘We will raise the national flag only once our state flag is back. The national flag is here only because of this (the Jammu and Kashmir) flag and constitution,’ she had said.

BJP launches attack on the recently released Peoples’ Democratic Party chief Mehooba Mufti for making “seditious remarks”.

In her first press conference after being released from 14 months of detention, Mufti said, “We will raise the national flag only once our state flag is back. The national flag is here only because of this (the Jammu and Kashmir) flag and constitution. We are linked to the rest of the country because of this flag.

On her remarks, J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina told reporters: “I request Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to take note of (the) seditious remarks of Mehbooba Mufti, book her for the seditious act and put her behind bars”.

Last month, the Supreme Court had asked the Jammu and Kashmir administration that for how long can Mehbooba Mufti be kept in custody.

The apex court’s response came while hearing her daughter’s petition challenging the former Chief Minister’s detention under the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA).

The court gave two weeks’ time to the Jammu and Kashmir administration to give its stand on how long Ms Mufti can be kept in custody and whether her custody can be extended beyond one year.

Mehbooba Mufti was released on late October 13 night after being in detention for 14 months since the abrogation of the Article 370 on August 5, 2019, by the Narendra Modi-led government at the centre.

Mehbooba Mufti had on the next day met former chief ministers and leaders of the National Conference (NC) Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah at her residence in Srinagar.




Over 53k new Covid cases reported in last 24 hours; out of 78 lakh, 70 lakh are active cases


A positive development has come up for the citizens as the country has been reporting a steady decline in its daily coronavirus infections after reaching a peak of about 90,000 cases a day in September.

The cases of coronavirus have crossed the 78 lakh mark with 53,370 new cases reported in the last 24 hours, Ministry of Health said on Saturday.

650 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours taking the total death count to 1,17,956.

India has been consistently improving in terms of recovery as 70,16,046 people have recovered since the beginning of the pandemic.

A positive development has come up for the citizens as the country has been reporting a steady decline in its daily coronavirus infections after reaching a peak of about 90,000 cases a day in September.

As of now, the number of active cases stands at 6,80,680, according to the data from the Union Health Ministry.

Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal and Delhi are the five states that reported the highest number of cases in the last 24 hours.




‘Covid-19 vaccines be free for all Americans if elected as President’: Joe Biden


As he laid out his emergency plan to battle the pandemic, Biden assailed President Donald Trump for his response.

Democrat Joe Biden said Friday that if elected president he would mandate Covid-19 vaccines be free for all Americans, part of a national strategy to “get ahead” of the coronavirus.

As he laid out his emergency plan to battle the pandemic, Biden assailed President Donald Trump for his response, saying the Republican incumbent has “given up” fighting the virus and has “quit on America.”

Biden, who has made it a point to follow scientists’ guidelines such as wearing facemasks and engaging in social distancing, said that if he is elected he would be focused on bringing the pandemic to heel, and to help struggling Americans with the costs.

“Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone — whether or not you’re insured,” Biden said in a speech laying out his pandemic response plan just 11 days before the US presidential election.

Trump, who trails Biden in the polls, has also stressed that a vaccine — which he says will be ready in the coming weeks — should be free.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Covid-19 vaccine doses purchased with taxpayer dollars — through billions of dollars in funding approved by Congress — would be administered to the American people at no cost.

Trump, in his second and final debate with Biden, on Thursday tried to signal that the US was overcoming the pandemic.

“We’re rounding the turn, we’re rounding the corner, it’s going away,” Trump said.

But Democrats led by Biden have hammered Trump for failing to lay out and implement a nationwide response to a pandemic that has now killed more than 223,000 Americans.

“Covid-19 dwarfs anything that we’ve faced in recent history, and it isn’t showing any signs of slowing down,” Biden said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware, adding that the virus is “surging” in almost every state.

“We’re more than eight months into this crisis and the president still doesn’t have a plan,” the 77-year-old former vice president said.

“He’s given up. He’s quit on you. He’s quit on your family. He’s quit on America.”

Biden said that if elected he would “immediately” put in place a national strategy “to finally get ahead of this virus, and get back our lives.”

That would include consulting governors of all 50 states during the presidential transition.

After inauguration, Biden would urge Congress to pass major legislation addressing the country’s needs to battle the pandemic, implement a national mask mandate in federal buildings and interstate transportation and launch a national testing plan equivalent to a seven-fold increase over today’s testing level.

Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, told donors Friday that the coronavirus crisis is “probably one of the greatest mass casualty events we have ever experienced as a country.”




IPL 2020: CSK’s campaign almost over after embarrassing 10-wicket defeat to Mumbai Indians


Going by their poor form – this was their first defeat by 10 wickets in IPL history – three-time champions CSK are virtually out.

New Zealand speedster Trent Boult’s four-wicket haul and an unbeaten 116-run opening stand between Ishan Kishan and Quinton de Kock steered the reigning Mumbai Indians (MI) stroll to a 10-wicket win over Chennai Super Kings (CSK) on Friday, and go atop the Indian Premier League (IPL) points table.

Going by their poor form — this was their first defeat by 10 wickets in IPL history — three-time champions CSK are virtually out, but they still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the playoffs. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team now has six points from 11 matches, out of which they have lost eight, and are now placed at the bottom of the eight-team table.

With Friday’s comprehensive win, three-time champions Mumbai have gone atop the table with 14 points. Although Delhi Capitals and Royals Challengers Bangalore also have 14 points, they are placed second and third respectively on net run rate.

After winning the toss, the MI bowlers came all gun blazing on a batting-friendly Sharjah track as they restricted their opponentsto 114/9 wickets in 20 overs, thanks to Boult, who wreaked havoc with stunning figures of 4/18 from his quota of four overs.

Boult received able support from teammates Jasprit Bumrah and Rahul Chahar, who bagged two wickets each conceding 25 and 22 runs respectively.

The three-time champions, who suffered a batting collapse, had made as many as three changes in their playing XI. However, the decision backfired as just three of their batters — Sam Curran (52), Dhoni (16) and Shardul Thakur (11) — were able to touch the double digit.

CSK lost their top six batsmen with just 30 runs on board. However, it was Curran’s patience with the bat which helped him notch-up up a half-century besides taking his side past the 100-run mark.

In return, MI openers Quinton de Kock (46 not out) and Ishan Kishan (68 not out) made light of the small target as their unbeaten 116-run stand drove the team home quite comfortably with 46 balls to spare.

The two handed an ideal start to MI, taking their side to 52 runs in the initial six overs before adding another 46 runs in the next four overs to inch closer to victory. In the process, Kishan also completed his half-century off 29 balls.

de Kock put the final nail in the coffin, smashing Thakur for a boundary over square-leg to garner MI’s seventh win of the season.

The South African stumper’s innings contained five boundaries and couple of sixes while Kishan’s knock was laced with six fours and five maximums.

Brief scores: CSK 114/9 wkts in 20 overs (Sam Curran 52, MS Dhoni 15; Trent Boult 4/18) lost to MI 116/0 wkt in 12.2 overs (Ishan Kishan 68 not out, Quinton de Kock 46 not out; Hazlewood 0/17) by 10 wkts

 





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