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First 2+2 Dialogue ‘defining moment’ for Indo-US relations: Jim Mattis

Press Trust of India

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Washington: The “highly successful” first 2+2 Dialogue between India and the United States was a “defining moment” and the defence co-operation between the two countries is on the right track, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said here Tuesday.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held the crucial talks with Mattis and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New Delhi on September 6.
“Last week I did go to India for what could only be considered highly successful consultations between the world’s two largest democracies. There was no difficulties that we uncovered there in moving forward on a number of pragmatic steps to draw ourselves closer together in terms of security,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon here.
“It was a very heartening trip, historic I’d even say, as you look at where we’ve been over so many years as we’ve grown closer and closer together,” Mattis said.
He specifically pointed to the COMCASA agreement, the communications compatibility and security agreement, which he said opens a lot of doors in “terms of defense cooperation”.
“Probably we will look back on the 2+2, where Secretary Pompeo led the two of us in there as our senior diplomat. Probably a defining moment for the relationship between the US and India, and one that we think is absolutely on the right track in terms of defense cooperation,” Mattis said.
Mattis was echoed by the US State Department later in the day.
“Last week’s 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was a historic milestone in the US-India relationship and an indication of the deepening strategic partnership between the United States and India, and India’s emergence as a global power and net security provider in the region,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI.
Asserting that the two countries want to grow their trade relationship in a fair and reciprocal manner, the spokesperson said at the 2+2 dialogue, both sides acknowledged that expanding fair and reciprocal trade was in their shared interests and would contribute to the prosperity of both “of our peoples”.
“Both sides committed to further expanding and balancing the trade and economic partnership consistent with their leaders’ 2017 joint statement, including by facilitating trade, improving market access, and addressing issues of interest to both sides,” the spokesperson said.


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Amit Shah accuses Rahul Gandhi of supporting ‘urban Naxals’

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Raipur: BJP president Amit Shah on Friday accused Congress chief Rahul Gandhi of supporting “urban Naxals” plotting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asked him to clarify his stand on the issue to people in poll-bound Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
Shah’s comments come in the wake of the Maharashtra police arresting five human rights activists late last month for their alleged links with Maoists.
Addressing party workers, Shah also mocked Gandhi, calling him “Rahul baba” and saying he is “day-dreaming” about the Congress’ victory in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, BJP-ruled states where elections are due by year-end. He said “Rahul Gandhi and company” were supporting “urban Naxals” plotting to assassinate the prime minister.
“Shouldn’t those who were plotting to assassinate the prime minister be arrested?” Shah asked. “Rahul baba should make his stand clear on the issue of urban Naxals to the people of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh,” he said.
He exhorted workers in Chhattisgarh to ensure that the party wins more than 65 seats in the 90-member assembly in the state and the Congress is decimated. Anything below the target of 65 seats should not be considered a win, the BJP chief said.
The saffron outfit currently has 49 MLAs in the state, where it has been in power since 2003.
Mocking Gandhi for predicting a Congress win in the three poll-bound states, Shah said, “Rahul baba is dreaming in broad daylight with his eyes open.”
The BJP chief also highlighted the achievements of the Narendra Modi government in the last four years. “Since 2014 when Narendra Modi became PM, the Congress has lost each and every state election. You (Rahul) ask us what the BJP has done in four-and-a-half years…Our government is working for the poor, youth and farmers who were neglected during your family rule. When Pakistan-based terrorists attacked us, (then PM) Manmohan Singh remained quiet. But, under Modi, our security forces conducted surgical strikes after Uri attack,” Shah said.

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Death toll from clashes in Libya’s Tripoli climbs to 96

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Tripoli :Fighting between rival groups in Libya’s capital has killed at least 96 people since August 26, with civilians among the casualties, authorities have said.
Libya’s Tripoli-based Health Ministry, in a statement , said 11 people, including five civilians, were killed on Thursday night as battles raged between militias aligned to the UN-backed government and from two nearby towns.
A resident told DPA news agency that some families were trapped in their homes due to the heavy exchange of fire while some refused to leave due to fears of looting.
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said the sound of gunfire echoed across “many parts of the capital” on Friday with aid agencies fearing for the civilians stranded by the violence.
“Aid agencies have been trying to reach out to families stuck in areas in or near the fighting,” he said, adding that the clashes caused lasting damage to a power plant with several areas in the capital suffering from power cuts.
Fighting has mainly taken place in the southern Salah al-Din district and along the road leading to Tripoli airport, which has been closed for years.
The fighting violated a September 4 UN-brokered ceasefire deal and underscores Libya’s lingering lawlessness since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“The is the third time the UN-brokered ceasefire agreement has been breached with each side accusing the other of violating the terms of the agreement,” said Abdelwahed.
Tripoli-based militias loyal to the internationally recognised government say the fighting is aimed at expelling “criminals and outsiders” from the cities of Tarhouna and Misrata, Abdelwahed said.
“Meanwhile, the Seventh Infantry Brigade from the town of Tarhouna and its allies from Misrata say they are trying to rid the capital of militias that are blackmailing state institutions and imposing royalty fees on banks,” he added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described the situation in the north African country as “desperate”, with the fighting, collapsed economy and destruction of infrastructure leaving hundreds of thousands of people “increasingly vulnerable”.
“Seven years of war in Libya has driven over 500,000 people to flee their homes,” the ICRC said in a tweet.
“For Libyans trying to return home, there’s not always much to return to. Houses, schools are often destroyed completely.”
The group also cited the sabotaging of health facilities, water and electricity supplies, as well as the dangers of unexploded remnants.

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France concealing facts on Rafale deal: Congress

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New Delhi :After the French government and Dassault Aviation contradicted former President Francois Hollande’s claim in choosing Indian industrial partners in the multi-million dollar Rafale jet deal, the Congress on Saturday said the French statement “conceals more than it reveals”.
“The French statement conceals more than it reveals. The French government knows verbal interactions between former President Francois Hollande and Indian interlocutors are minuted and would emerge.
“Speculation of French Parliamentary hearing into Rafale and access to administration documents under France’s Freedom of Information Law 1978 rife,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari tweeted.
“What French government/corporate entity has just ended up doing is making Rafale procurement a veritable domestic issue in French politics also.
“By saying Hollande is being economical with truth they have set the stage for facts/documents to become a torrent.”
Countering the attack, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Minister Ananth Kumar tweeted: “Nailing the lie on its head — misinformation about Rafael deal, Dassault being called out by the French government.”
The statement by the French government issued here late Friday came after Hollande’s reported claim that the Indian government suggested a particular private firm for Rafale offset contract.
In response to the claim, the statement said: “The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being or will be selected by French companies.”
Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale jets, in a statement also on Friday night, said: “This offsets contract is delivered in compliance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 regulations. In this framework, and in accordance with the policy of ‘Make in India’, Dassault Aviation has decided to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This is Dassault Aviation’s choice.”
The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 and signed in 2016.
The UPA government was earlier negotiating a deal to procure 126 Rafale jets, with 18 to come in flyaway condition and 108 to be manufactured by HAL under licence.
The Modi government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal.

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