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India, US agree to hold comprehensive talks to address trade issues

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India and the US have agreed to hold official-level comprehensive talks to address trade and economic issues, days after President Donald Trump accused New Delhi of charging 100 per cent tariff on some of the US’ goods.

The decision in this regard was taken during a series of meetings visiting Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu had with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

“We will now work together to expand (bilateral) trade, Prabhu told a group of Indian reporters here yesterday at the conclusion of his two-day trip to the US.

India will send an official team to work out the details and initiate a comprehensive negotiation on all issues concerning trade and economic relationship between the two countries. “The team will come within the next few days,” Prabhu said.

Acknowledging that both sides have trade and tariff issues with each other, the minister said officials would hold talks on all of them.

President Trump, in a press conference in Canada’s Quebec City where he attended the G7 summit, took a swipe at India along with the world’s other top economies and accused New Delhi of charging 100 per cent tariff on some of the US’ goods, as he threatened to cut trade ties with countries who are robbing America.

Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Singh Sarna said New Delhi has written to the US on steel and aluminum tariff.

A full-fledged case has been made by India for waiver of steel and aluminum tariffs, he added. “It has been a very positive engagement.”

In addition to Ross and Lighthizer, Prabhu held talks with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. He also met two powerful Senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner – the two co-chairs of the Senate India caucus.

“The meetings were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere, with appreciation for each other’s points of view. Discussions centered around bilateral trade and commercial relations between the two countries and focused on finding the way forward to address concerns of both sides,” the Indian Embassy said in a readout of the meetings.

“In this context, it was agreed that Indian and US officials would meet at a senior level at an early date to discuss various issues of interest to both sides and carry forward the discussions in a positive, constructive and result oriented manner,” it said.

During his two-day visit to Washington DC, Prabhu addressed business and industry leaders in meetings organised by US-India Business Council (USIBC) and US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) and held meetings with other stakeholders.

“It’s a great time to join hands with each other. And that’s the realisation within the (Trump) administration as well. Therefore, we have really decided to move on. As you know, we always hear the trade disputes between US and India, but when I had meeting with the USTR, with the Commerce Secretary, with Agriculture Secretary, with Senators, it is very clear that we must move on, keep the issues behind, Prabhu told industry leaders at a reception hosted by USIBC in association with the FICCI and Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.

In his interaction with industry leaders at an event organised by the USISPF, Prabhu spoke about the improvements that have been made in the trade relationship, including trade deficit reduction.

Every great partnership has areas of agreement and disagreement. I’m hopeful that the US investment corridor is only going to grow, and I’m confident that we will be able to bridge our gaps, Prabhu noted.

The industry interaction included senior officials from leading US companies such as: Boston Scientific, FedEx, Walmart, Abbott, UTC, Honeywell, PhRMA, MoneyGram International, Lockheed Martin, Koch Industries, Amway, Uber, 21st Century Fox, and Medtronic.

Noting that India and the US have an important strategic relationship and shared goals, USIBC president Nisha Desai Biswal said the council is a constructive partner in achieving the full potential of the US-India commercial opportunity.

The USIBC roundtable organised in association with the CII comprised of US and Indian industry giants from the energy, aerospace, ICT, life sciences and defence sectors who reiterated India’s position as a critical market while also raising issues facing their companies such as data localization and price controls, as well as public procurement and operational hurdles.

In engaging with critical stakeholders, Prabhu highlighted the ongoing policy reforms being pursued by India to improve its business climate and remove bureaucratic hurdles.

Prabhu noted that India will soon release its new Industrial Policy, aimed at transforming India into a modern, flourishing, economic powerhouse.

During the interaction, he emphasized the importance of a dispute redressal mechanism, and resolving such issues together in a way that does not derail but rather strengthens bilateral ties.

Under Trump, trade dispute between India and the US has increased, with his administration asking New Delhi to lower its trade barriers and open up its market.

Trump has repeatedly raked up the issue of India imposing high import duty on the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles and threatened to increase the import tariff on “thousands and thousands” of Indian motorcycles to the US.

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Three Indian students among 15 finalists in global science challenge

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The Indian teenagers among 15 finalists are Samay Godika, 16, and Nikhiya Shamsher, 16, from Bengaluru and Kavya Negi, 18, from Delhi. 

 

Washington | Three Indian students have made it to the finals of the prestigious annual Breakthrough Junior Challenge, a global science competition for teenagers to share their passion for mathematics and science.

The three Indian students are among 15 finalists of more than 12,000 original registrants from around the world who submitted engaging and imaginative videos to demonstrate difficult scientific concepts and theories in the physical or life sciences.

The Indian teenagers are Samay Godika, 16, and Nikhiya Shamsher, 16, from Bengaluru and Kavya Negi, 18, from Delhi.

The winner will be announced on November 4 in Silicon Valley and get a USD 250,000 college scholarship. The science teacher who inspired the winning student will get USD 50,000. The winner’s school will also receive a state-of-the-art science lab worth USD 100,000.

Nikhiya was the top scorer in the popular vote contest with more than 25,000 likes, shares and positive reactions for her video on spacetime and gravity posted on the Breakthrough Facebook page. Nikhiya will receive automatic entry into the final round of judging.

Nikhiya describes herself as an inventor and an innovator. She has a patent pending on a point of care, home-based salivary diagnostic test for chronic smokers to detect the risk of oral cancer.

“I conducted my study at IISC, Bengaluru and my diagnostic test has an accuracy of 96 per cent. It’s a simple product that a person can use at home and one test costs less than 50 cents, said Nikhiya, who is also the founderpreneur of an e-commerce website, 100 per cent of the profits of which are used to set up and fund Math and Science Laboratories in schools and colleges that don’t have any.

Her project is about 4-Dimensional Space-Time and Gravity. I would love to pursue theoretical physics, simply because it reveals many secrets of the universe. And of course, an important component of theoretical physics is math. I believe math is the language by which the universe speaks to itself, she said.

Kavya from Delhi believes that her video about Hawking Radiation might stand a chance to win because it showcases in-depth dive to the concept.

Hawking Radiation is a very feeble emission of particles near the event horizon of a black hole caused when virtual particles (created near the event horizon) escape, she said.

“I have been able to explain not just Hawking Radiation but also black hole explosion in three minutes,” Kavya said. Aspiring to be physics researcher as well as a science communicator, Kavya believes that scientists should be celebrated just as much as musicians, actors or sportsmen.  My vision is to see a scientific utopia which starts with scientific communication, she said. Samay, an 11th grader, in his project has explored various aspects of Circadian Rhythm.

“I first heard about Circadian Rhythm when it was in the news as the 2017 Nobel Prize-winning topic in Medicine. I zeroed in on this topic as it seemed to impact many facets of daily lives, including things like my asthma, the difficulty I face getting up early in the morning, etc,” he said.  Samay wants to pursue a formal programme in neuroscience.

“Our brain seems to be the most complex system in this world and the least understood. I am interested in building a solid foundation in this area. In parallel, I would also like to pursue a programme that allows me to formally learn Data Sciences,” he said. “This skill will equip me to model complex problems. A combination of neuroscience and data science skills could enable me to devise solutions for some of the most debilitating diseases faced by mankind,” Samay said.

Since its launch, the Breakthrough Junior Challenge has reached 190 countries, and the 2018 instalment of the global competition attracted more than 12,000 registrants, a media release said.

The contest is designed to inspire creative thinking about fundamental concepts in the life sciences, physics, and mathematics.

The field was reduced to 29 semifinalists, which represented the top submissions after two rounds of judging: first, a mandatory peer review, followed by an evaluation panel of judges, Breakthrough said.

The 15 finalist videos were chosen by the Selection Committee, comprising among others: Salman Khan, CEO, Founder, Khan Academy; author and educator Lucy Hawking; Mae Jemison, science literacy expert, former astronaut, and Principal, 100 Year Starship; retired NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly; Nima Arkani-Hamed, Professor of Physics, Institute for Advanced Study and Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics Laureate; and Rachel Crane, Space and Science Correspondent, CNN.

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India remains committed to objective of decolonisation: Misra at United Nations

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Misra noted that when the United Nations was established in 1945, almost a third of the world’s population lived in territories that were non-self-governing.

 

United Nations| India has called for expediting the efforts to conclude the decolonisation of 17 non-self-governing territories, saying a pragmatic approach towards the “long-drawn process” will lead to the fulfilment of legitimate wishes of the people.

Speaking at the ‘General Debate on Decolonisation’ in the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee, Minister in India’s Permanent Mission to the UN Deepak Misra stressed that there were still 17 non-self-governing territories, which are in various stages of the decolonisation process on the ‘Agenda of the Committee on Decolonisation’.

“We must step up our efforts to reach the conclusion of this long-drawn process,” he said on Monday.

He voiced India’s commitment to the objective of decolonisation, saying the country offers firm support to further accelerate the process.

Misra noted that when the United Nations was established in 1945, almost a third of the world’s population lived in territories that were non-self-governing and were dependent on colonial powers.

“As a country that itself was colonised, India has always been in the forefront of the struggle against colonialism and apartheid since its own independence seven decades ago,” he said.

Since the creation of the United Nations, more than 80 former colonies have gained their independence and joined the world body.

Sustained collective efforts by the UN membership has today led to fewer than two million people living in non-self-governing territories, according to UN documentation.

However, even after seven decades, the process of decolonisation that began with India’s own independence still remains unfinished.

In 2011 the General Assembly had to proclaim the current decade 2011-2020 as the ‘Third International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism’, which is now coming close to conclusion.

Misra said that in this inter-connected world, India believes that pursuing a pragmatic approach towards decolonisation would surely lead to the fulfilment of legitimate wishes of the people of non-self governing territories.

“The complex challenges facing the present world can only be met by coordinating our responses in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

“We must prioritise increased cooperation with international agencies and actors and channelise resources for the 17 Non-Self Governing Territories,” he said.

Misra said that this would help enable these territories to build capacities in their quest towards their long cherished goals.

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Khashoggi dsappearance: Turkey, US put pressure on Saudi Arabia

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Khashoggi is a former government adviser who fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 and lived in the US fearing arrest back home.

 

Istanbul, Oct 11 (AFP) Turkey and the United States on Thursday ratcheted up the pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain how a journalist vanished after entering its Istanbul consulate last week, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the release of CCTV footage from the mission.

The Washington Post, which Khashoggi wrote for, added to the still unresolved mystery by reporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had ordered an operation to “lure” the critical journalist back home.

Khashoggi, a Saudi national whose articles have criticised the prince, has not been seen since October 2 when he went to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage.

Turkish officials have said he was killed — reportedly by a 15-man “assassination team” that arrived on two planes — but Riyadh denies that.

The disappearance has captured international headlines and threatens to harm Saudi’s relations with both Ankara and Washington, as well as damage efforts by Prince Mohammed to improve the country’s image.

Erdogan challenged Saudi Arabia to provide CCTV images to back up its account that Khashoggi had left the consulate safely, indicating he did not find the current Saudi explanations sufficient.

“Is it possible there were no camera systems in a consulate, in an embassy?” he asked.

“If a bird flew, or a fly or a mosquito appeared, the systems would capture this; they (Saudi Arabia) have the most cutting-edge systems,” he was quoted as saying.

The consulate said CCTV cameras were not working that day and dismissed the murder claims as “baseless”.

The case is also threatening the strong relationship the Trump administration has built with Prince Mohammed, who wants to turn the oil-rich conservative kingdom into a hub for innovation and reform.

The two sides have worked together in confronting Iran despite growing concern over the prince’s campaign against dissidents, which critics say has revealed the true face of his rule.

In a reversal from Washington’s initial low-key response, President Donald Trump expressed determination to get to the bottom of the matter.

“We can’t let it happen. And we’re being very tough and we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey and frankly we’re working with Saudi Arabia,” Trump said in an interview with “Fox and Friends”.

However, a Turkish diplomatic source quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency denied US investigators had been tasked to work on the case.

And Trump later said the United States was not limiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the case. “They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China or someplace else,” he said.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary of key Saudi ally and trade partner, Britain, told AFP there would be “serious consequences” if the allegations were true.

Saudi Arabia also dropped a bid to join the world’s club of French-speaking countries, The International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF).

Khashoggi is a former government adviser who fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 and lived in the US fearing arrest back home.

In his columns for the Washington Post and comments elsewhere, he was critical of some policies of Mohammed bin Salman as well as Riyadh’s role in the war in Yemen.

While unnamed Turkish officials quoted in the media have been giving sometimes macabre details of the alleged murder, Erdogan has so far been more circumspect.

Erdogan said it would “not be right” to comment yet but said he had “concerns”.

“It’s not possible for us to stay silent regarding an incident like this,” he said.

Human Rights Watch urged Prince Mohammed to “release all evidence and information” concerning Khashoggi’s status Turkish authorities have been given permission to search the consulate — Saudi sovereign territory — but this has not yet taken place.

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