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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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Amritsar attack: CM announces Rs 50 lakh for information on attackers

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Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh to anyone giving information regarding the two youth who carried out Sunday’s grenade attack on a prayer meeting at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan of Amritsar district.

The Punjab Police has formed several teams to investigate the grenade attack in Adliwal village in Rajasansi area. CCTV footage of places near the blast was being scanned to know more about the two masked attackers.

Forensic teams and a team of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) reached the spot late on Sunday to start the probe.

While some injured have been discharged from the Amritsar hospital, others are still recuperating. One of the injured was still serious, a police officer said.

Inspector General (Border Range) S.P.S. Parmar told the media on Monday that the probe would look at all angles and police teams were trying to trace the culprits.

In a major attack, three persons were killed and 20 injured when two motorcycle-borne youth threw a grenade at a Nirankari congregation about 15 km from Amritsar.

The attack on the campus located in the rural belt, around three kilometres from the Guru Ram Das Jee Amritsar international airport, created panic.

All victims were sect followers from nearby villages who had gathered for the weekly Sunday religious meeting.

Punjab Director General of Police Suresh Arora, who immediately rushed to the spot along with senior officers, claimed that it was a “terror act”.

The Punjab Police has drawn flak for intelligence failure regarding the attack despite the border state being on high alert since Nov 14 regarding the movement of six to seven suspects in the state.

Eyewitnesses told the police that two youths on a motorcycle, their faces covered, forced entry to the sect campus by pointing a pistol at a woman volunteer at the gate.

There were around 200 followers in the campus at the time.

Amarinder Singh, who on Sunday directed the police to immediately enhance security arrangements at all sensitive places, terming it as “the first such indiscriminate attack on innocent people in recent past”, said that the “possibility of involvement of ISI-based Khalistani/Kashmiri groups cannot be ruled out”.

The Nirankari sect, with headquarters in Delhi, has millions of followers across the country and abroad.

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‘First temple, then govt’: Shiv Sena’s new slogan ahead of 2019

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Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray sought to intensify the party’s campaign for Ram temple in Ayodhya by giving a new slogan which called for the construction of temple before government.

Thackeray held a meeting with senior party leaders to review preparations for his visit to Ayodhya on November 24 and 25. Sena leaders from outside Maharashtra too attended the meeting.

“Har Hindu ki yahi pukar, pehle mandir fir sarkar (Every Hindu has one demand, the temple first and then government),” he said at a press conference which was held later.

The Shiv Sena, which is the part of the BJP-led governments in both Maharashtra and the Centre, has been aggressively pushing for the construction of the temple since the party’s annual Dussehra rally last month.

The party has often taunted its ally BJP over the saffron party’s “failure” to construct the temple in the last four years despite coming to power.

Thackeray also asked party workers to conduct a ‘maha aarati’ (grand puja) on November 24 all over the state as well as in other parts of the country where the Sena has presence.

He will be conducting ‘Sarayu puja’ on November 24 in Ayodhya.

“All Sena workers will perform puja on the same day and same time in their respective areas,” said Thackeray.

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Activists of Hindu outfit threaten to perform ‘puja’ inside Taj Mahal

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New Delhi : A day after women belonging to a local Hindu outfit barged inside the mosque at Taj Mahal and offered ‘puja’ and did ‘aarti’ inside the premises, Rashtriya Bajrang Dal activists threatened to do a similar thing.

The activists were protesting against the security agency’s failure to stop a Muslim group from offering prayers inside the mosque, which is in violation of the Supreme Court order, IANS reported.

The president of Rashtriya Bajrang Dal’s women’s wing president Meena Diwakar claimed that namaz was being offered inside the temple premises every day and if the guilty were caught and punished for breaking the law then they too were ready to face any police action.

“Permission was granted for offering namaz once on Friday but it has been offered on other days too. So we also offered ‘aarti’. We are prepared to face action if those violating the norms by offering ‘namaz’ on weekdays are punished,” HT quoted Diwakar saying.

The incident comes on the backdrop of an ongoing war of words between the ASI and members of Masjid Taj Mahal Intezamia Committee, which manages the mosque, over a Supreme Court order on Taj Mahal.

ASI contends the SC order implies that namaz can only be offered on Fridays by local residents, whereas the committee members say the order means that free entry for locals is on Fridays, while on all other days, anyone who has bought a ticket can offer namaz. The apex court had upheld a local administration’s January order barring non-residents from offering Friday prayers in the mosque on security ground.

Members of the committee allege that around 10 days ago, ASI locked the vazu tank, where namazis wash hands and feet before prayers, and even asked the imam to show up only on Fridays.

The move has invited ire of the local Muslims, who contend that they have been offering namaz inside the mosque for 400 years now and can’t be stopped by the ASI. They contend that the SC order merely bars non-locals on Fridays while there is no word on not allowing namaz on other days.

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