Male, Jun 9 (AP/UNB) — Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first overseas trip since being elected to a second term by traveling to the Maldives, where the new president pledged closer ties with New Delhi in a departure from his predecessor's pro-China policy.
Modi met with Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Saturday evening and later addressed the Maldives' Parliament. It was the first visit by an Indian prime minister to the South Asian archipelago nation in eight years.
According to a joint statement, Solih reaffirmed his government's "India-first policy" and pledged full support toward deepening "the multifaceted, mutually beneficial partnership between India and the Maldives."
Solih's stand is a marked shift from his predecessor Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who developed close ties with Beijing in an area India considers as its backyard.
Several agreements were signed between the two countries covering health, cargo and passenger transportation by sea, customs services and other sectors.
India had been concerned with Yameen's leaning toward China, which is seeking more influence in the Indian Ocean region. Yameen had pledged support for China's "Belt and Road" initiative and China invested in many infrastructure projects in the Maldives.
Addressing Parliament, Modi underscored the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, saying "it has been our lifeline, and also the highway for trade and prosperity."
He called terrorism was the biggest threat facing the world and there could be no distinction between the so-called "good" and "bad" terrorists.
"State sponsorship of terrorism is the biggest threat today. It is time for a global conference on terrorism," he said. The Maldives is predominantly Sunni Muslim and has been seen as a fertile ground for militants, many of whom fought with the Islamic State group in Syria.
During his visit, India and the Maldives agreed to set up a joint working group on counterterrorism, countering violent extremism and deradicalization.
The two countries also agreed to strengthen coordination in enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean region "through coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information, and capacity building," the joint statement said.
India and the Maldives highlighted the importance of combating climate change, which especially affects developing countries including small island developing states such as the Maldives, through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.
Modi will travel to Sri Lanka, another of India's neighbors, on Sunday for a one-day visit. His choice of the Maldives and Sri Lanka for his first overseas trip since being reelected this spring "underlines the continued emphasis that the government lays on the 'neighborhood first' policy," Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said ahead of Modi's trip.
Since first becoming prime minister in 2014, Modi has stressed a "neighborhood first" policy for the South Asian region, promising neighbors prioritized benefits of India's economic growth.
The Maldives mended ties with India with Solih's election as president last year. Solih's first overseas trip was to India, and since then, several Maldivian ministers have visited India for bilateral talks.
Dubai, Jun 7 (AP/UNB) — A bus from Oman smashed into a warning sign coming off a major highway in Dubai, killing 17 people, including at least 12 Indians, authorities said Friday.
The number of Indians killed in the crash Thursday night in the United Arab Emirates could increase further, Indian consular officials said.
The bus drove straight into a low-clearance sign in Dubai's Rashidiya neighborhood around 6 p.m., smashing through the driver's side of the bus. The sign hangs over a car-only off-ramp of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, a major highway in Dubai.
Mwasalat, a government-owned bus company in Oman, said the crash involving its Muscat-to-Dubai route. It said it would suspend the service for the immediate future.
Dubai police said the dead included different nationalities, without elaborating. At least three others were injured in the crash.
"Sometimes a minor error or negligence during driving leads to serious consequences," police said on Twitter, without elaborating on the cause of the crash.
Dhaka, June (UNB) - Clashes between protestors and security forces broke out after Eid prayers in some parts of Kashmir on Wednesday, reports NDTV.
There were no reports of anyone getting hurt, they said.
Protesters threw stones at security personnel in some parts of the old city after Eid prayers. Similar incidents were reported in Sopore in north Kashmir and Anantnag in south Kashmir, the officials said.
In Nowhatta area of the city, masked protestors reportedly held banners in support of banned Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and slain terrorist commander Zakir Musa. However, police officials said they are verifying the veracity of these reports.
Security forces exercised maximum restraint while dealing with the law and order situation, they said.
The situation elsewhere in the valley remained peaceful, they said.
The festival of Eid was celebrated with much fanfare in other parts of the state with people thronging mosques, shrines and Eidgahs to offer prayers on the culmination of the holy month of Ramzan.
The biggest gathering of people was witnessed at Hazratbal shrine where thousands of faithful offered the Eid prayers, officials said.
Jamia Masjid at Nowhatta in the old city also witnessed a huge crowd.
There were large congregation in Sonawar and Soura shrines in the heart of the city, they said, adding similar gatherings were held at all districts headquarters and major towns in the valley.
Dhaka, June 7 (UNB) - No meeting is scheduled between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan's Imran Khan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation or SCO summit in Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, the Foreign Ministry clarified today. PM Modi will attend the SCO summit on June 13-14, reports NDTV
"To the best of my knowledge, no meeting is being arranged between Prime Minister Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the sidelines of the SCO meet," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said today.
Last month, sources said no decision had been taken on a meeting between the two leaders in Bishkek. If the two prime ministers do meet, however, India will convey the same red lines of terror to Pakistan, sources had said, adding India's red lines on talks and terror have not changed.
Over the last few years, India has refused any initiative for talks, contending that cross-border terror has to stop before talks can begin.
However, talks about a possible meeting between the two prime ministers started gaining momentum after Imran Khan called PM Modi to congratulate him for his landslide victory in the general elections. The foreign ministry said PM Modi had thanked Imran Khan for his phone call and greetings.
Relations with Pakistan - wobbling since the terror strike at Uri in 2016 - took a nosedive after a Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on February 14. Days later, India conducted air-strikes on a Jaish camp in Pakistan's Balakot on February 26. The Pakistan Air Force struck back, targeting civilian and military installations in India and captured Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
In April, Imran Khan was quoted as saying that he saw a better chance of peace talks with India if PM Modi's BJP won the elections. The cricketer-turned-politician had said if the next government in India were led by the Congress party, it might be "too scared" to seek a settlement with Pakistan over Kashmir, fearing a backlash.
The BJP swept the crucial national elections and decimated the Congress by winning 303 seats alone, surpassing its massive 282 seat win of 2014.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was founded at a summit in Shanghai in 2001 by the presidents of Russia, China, Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India was granted the membership of the SCO along with Pakistan in 2017.
Sri Lanka, June 4 (AP/UNB) — Eleven Muslim politicians resigned from top government posts in Sri Lanka on Monday, saying they wanted to enable the government to investigate allegations that some of them had links to the extremists who carried out the deadly Easter attacks.
Nine Cabinet and junior ministers and two provincial governors stepped down days after a Buddhist monk began a fast demanding the expulsion of three political leaders whom he said were linked to the local militant group that killed over 250 people in the bombings at churches and hotels.
The resignations of the ministers will not affect the government's stability because they have pledged to continue to support the government as backbench lawmakers.
Rauf Hakeem, a lawmaker for Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, said he and the others who resigned asked the government to investigate the allegations and allow Muslim political leaders to vindicate themselves amid an ongoing anti-Muslim hate campaign in Sri Lanka.
Muslims have seen their shops and home burned, been harassed in public places and subjected to hate comments since the April 21 suicide bombings, which were carried out by a local group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.
"We as members of the Muslim community represented in the government holding a variety of positons ... have taken a decision today to resign from all the positions and request the government to expedite any inquiry against anyone among us and bring it to a conclusion without delay," Hakeem said.
"If any of us are found guilty, we are prepared to face whatever punishment for that, but the innocent people should not be punished," he said.
Hakeem said that Sri Lanka's Muslim community has cooperated with law enforcement officials since the attacks, and that many have been arrested on trivial matters. He urged the government to quickly conclude their cases.
The Rev. Athuraliya Rathana, a Buddhist monk, started fasting on Saturday to demand the dismissal of three Muslim politicians whom he accused of being linked to the terrorist group that carried out the Easter attacks. Shops were shut and buses stopped services in some towns on Monday in support of the fast.
The monk gave up his fast after he was informed of the politicians' resignations.
Seven suicide bombers from a local group known as National Thowheed Jammath blew themselves up at three churches and three tourist hotels on Easter Sunday. Some 500 people were also wounded in the attacks.