India is pushing tech giants to make smartphones compatible with its home-grown navigation system within months, worrying the likes of Samsung, Xiaomi and Apple who fear elevated costs and disruptions as the move requires hardware changes, according to two industry sources and government documents. In line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive for self-reliance, India has over the years expanded the use of its regional navigation satellite system called NavIC (Navigation with Indian Constellation). The Indian government wants to reduce dependence on foreign systems, including the widely used US Global Positioning System (GPS), and says NavIC provides more accurate domestic navigation and that its use would benefit the economy. China, the European Union, Japan and Russia have their own global or regional navigation systems to rival GPS. Operational since 2018, NavIC’s uptake is minimal; it is mandated in public vehicle location trackers, for example. But government and industry documents show Modi’s administration and space officials want to broaden its use, and have this year pushed smartphone giants to make hardware changes to support NavIC, in addition to GPS, in new phones they will sell from January 2023. In private meetings in August and September, representatives of Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung Electronics Co and others pushed back, citing worries that making phones NavIC-compliant would mean higher research and production costs. The changes would also require more testing clearances, which with a January 1 deadline would disrupt businesses and planned launches, according to two smartphone industry sources and documents. Samsung declined comment on the meetings, while Apple and Xiaomi did not respond to requests for comment. India’s IT ministry and the space agency ISRO that are both involved in the project also did not respond. Samsung in particular voiced concerns during a September 2 closed-door meeting between top smartphone players and chipmakers with Indian IT ministry and space agency officials, according to the meeting’s minutes. Samsung’s India executive Binu George warned of cost worries, telling officials that NavIC support requires not just new smartphone chipsets but also many other components. “This would add to cost as it requires hardware design changes and additional investments to support devices specific to India. Further, the companies have already prepared for models to be launched in 2024,” the minutes quoted him as saying. George did not respond to a request for comment. The smartphone players have sought time until 2025 to implement the changes, and a final decision is expected in coming days, a senior government official said. The minutes said the Indian space agency will provide technical support for implementing NavIC in new smartphones, adding another meeting may be called. India’s space agency has said systems like GPS and Russia’s GLONASS are operated by their countries’ defence agencies, making it possible for civilian service to be interrupted. NavIC, it says, is fully under the control of the Indian government, which one day wants to take it global like GPS. India would not be the first country to push smartphone makers to add support for a native navigation system. Russia has sought to mandate inclusion of its own GLONASS system in smartphones sold locally to reduce reliance on GPS, which Washington can switch off for civilian subscribers as it did during military operations in Iraq. China’s Beidou was completed in June 2020, and, though not mandated, the official Xinhua news agency has reported that in 2021, 94.5% of China-made smartphones had Beidou support. Xiaomi and Samsung together account for 38% of the smartphone market in India, the world’s second biggest after China. Apple’s more expensive smartphones have a roughly 3% share in India, data from Hong Kong-based research firm Counterpoint shows. Other Chinese manufactures making up a further 28% of the market were also present at the September 2 meeting, government minutes show. China’s Realme, which has a 16% market share, did not attend, and neither did smaller manufacturers. Apple’s website says it already supports the five global and regional navigation networks including GPS, GLONASS and BeiDou in current iPhones. The Indian directive could force it to add a new one. A key concern for players like Samsung and Xiaomi remains the higher cost of so-called dual band chipsets they would need to support both GPS and NavIC, as these companies are leaders in the sub-$200 category in India’s price-sensitive market, the smartphone industry sources said.
Indian police are searching for a teacher accused of beating a low-caste student to death over a spelling mistake, officers said Tuesday, after suppressing violent protests triggered by the incident. Nikhil Dohre was struck with a rod and kicked until he fell unconscious by his high school teacher earlier this month after misspelling the word "social" in an exam, according to a police complaint by his father. The 15-year-old died from his injuries on Monday at a hospital in northern Uttar Pradesh state, and the accused has fled the area. "He is on the run, but we will arrest him soon," police officer Mahendra Pratap Singh told AFP. Dohre was a member of the Dalit community, which sits at the lowest rung of India's caste system and has been subject to prejudice and discrimination for centuries. Hundreds of people took to the streets on Monday after news of Dohre's death spread in Auraiya district, the location of the attack. The crowd demanded the teacher's arrest before the cremation of the boy's body and torched a police vehicle. Around a dozen protesters had been arrested, Singh said. "We used force to quell the mob and the situation soon came under control," Superintendent of Police Charu Nigam told reporters.
At least 11 people died due to thunderstorms and lightning strikes that struck the state of Bihar in eastern India on Tuesday. The Indian media outlets quoted an official source in the government, saying that eight people were killed in Purnia and Arare districts, while three others were killed in Sobol, due to thunderstorms and lightning strikes that hit Bihar. The official announced financial compensation for the families of the victims. The official also asked the state's residents to stay indoors in light of the difficult weather conditions. In August, 40 people were killed due to heavy rains in several regions in northern India.
Eight Namibian cheetahs arrived in India yesterday, decades after their local extinction, in an ambitious project to reintroduce the spotted big cats that has divided experts on its prospects. Officials say the project is the world’s first intercontinental relocation of cheetahs, the planet’s fastest land animal. The five females and three males were moved from a game park in Namibia aboard a chartered Boeing 747 dubbed “Cat plane” for an 11-hour flight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi presided over the release at Kuno National Park, a wildlife sanctuary 320km south of New Delhi selected for its abundant prey and grasslands. “Today the cheetah has returned to the soil of India,” Modi said in a video address after their arrival, which coincided with the leader’s 72nd birthday. “The nature loving consciousness of India has also awakened with full force,” he added. “We must not allow our efforts to fail.” Each of the animals, aged between two and five and a half, have been fitted with a satellite collar to monitor their movements. They will initially be kept in a quarantine enclosure for about a month before being released in the open forest areas of the park. Critics have warned the creatures may struggle to adapt to the Indian habitat. A significant number of leopards are present in the park, and conservation scientist Ravi Chellam said that cubs could fall prey to feral dogs and other carnivores. Under the government’s current action plan, “the prospects for a viable, wild and free-ranging population of cheetahs getting established in India is bleak,” he told AFP. “The habitats should have been prepared first before bringing the cats from Namibia,” he added. “It is like us moving to a new city with only a sub-optimal place to stay – Not a nice situation at all.” But organisers are unfazed. “Cheetahs are very adaptable and (I’m) assuming that they will adapt well into this environment,” said Dr Laurie Marker, founder of the Namibia-based charity Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), which has been central to the project logistics. “I don’t have a lot of worries,” she told AFP. India was once home to the Asiatic cheetah but it was declared extinct there by 1952. The critically endangered subspecies, which once roamed across the Middle East, Central Asia and India, are now only found, in very small numbers, in Iran. Efforts to reintroduce the animals to India gathered pace in 2020 when the Supreme Court ruled that African cheetahs, a different subspecies, could be settled in India at a “carefully chosen location” on an experimental basis. They are a donation from the government of Namibia, one of a tiny handful of countries in Africa where the magnificent creature survives in the wild. Negotiations are ongoing for similar translocation from South Africa, with vets suggesting 12 cats could be moved. Cheetahs became extinct in India primarily because of habitat loss and hunting for their distinctive spotted coats. An Indian prince, the Maharaja Ramanuj Pratap Singh Deo, is widely believed to have killed the last three recorded cheetahs in India in the late 1940s. One of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors dating back about 8.5mn years, cheetahs once roamed widely throughout Asia and Africa in great numbers, said CCF. But today only around 7,000 remain, primarily in the African savannas. The cheetah is listed globally as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In North Africa and Asia it is “critically endangered”. Their survival is threatened primarily by dwindling natural habitat and loss of prey due to human hunting, the development of land for other purposes and climate change.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday told Russian President Vladimir Putin that now is not a time for war, with food, fertiliser and fuel security among the major concerns of the world at present. “I know that today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this,” Modi told Putin on the sidelines of a regional security bloc summit in Uzbekistan, adding that democracy, diplomacy and dialogue keep the world together. Putin told Modi he wanted to end the conflict in Ukraine as soon as possible and understood that India had concerns about the fighting. “I know your position on the conflict in Ukraine, your concerns...We will do our best to end this as soon as possible,” Putin told Modi. “Unfortunately, just the opposing side, the leadership of Ukraine, announced its rejection of the negotiating process, and stated that it wants to achieve its goals by military means, on the battlefield,” Putin said. Putin, who met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the summit, acknowledged on Wednesday Beijing’s concerns about the war. Modi and Putin spoke on the sidelines of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) meeting, whose permanent members, besides India, include China, Russia, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. “Our trade is growing, thanks to your additional supplies of Russian fertilisers to the Indian markets, which have grown more than eight fold. I am hopeful that this is going to be of huge help of the agricultural sector of India,” Putin said. Modi called on leaders of regional security bloc to address energy and food crises sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. “The pandemic and the crisis in Ukraine have caused many disruptions in global supply chains, leaving the world facing unprecedented energy and food crises. SCO should strive to develop reliable, resilient and diversified supply chains in our region,” Modi said. India and SCO member states are expected to discuss energy security at the summit, which coincides with a sharp rise in Indian imports of Russian oil, coal and fertiliser. Modi also met Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the summit yesterday, in their first encounter in over two years since relations soured after Erdogan’s comments on Kashmir. In early 2020 India’s government had summoned the Turkish ambassador to lodge a diplomatic protest after Erdogan, on a visit to Pakistan, said the situation in Kashmir was worsening. His comments came after Modi’s government in 2019 withdrew the region’s autonomy and brought it under federal rule. “The two leaders discussed ways to deepen bilateral co-operation in diverse sectors,” Modi’s office said on Twitter, posting a photo of him shaking hands with Erdogan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) regional security group summit in Uzbekistan. The meeting was not included on Modi’s tentative schedule for the summit shared by India’s foreign ministry with reporters.
At least nine people, including three children, have died after a wall collapsed following heavy rain in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the state's Deputy Chief Minister said on Friday. The dead, casual labourers and their families, were sleeping when the collapse occurred early on Friday in the state capital Lucknow, Brajesh Pathak told local news media. Several parts of the state, which is India's most populous, has had very heavy rainfall since Thursday and schools and colleges were shut because of flooding, local media reported. "Three people have been injured and have been shifted to hospital. We are investigating the reasons behind the wall collapse," Pathak said.
India yesterday debuted its first locally made aircraft carrier, a milestone in government efforts to reduce its dependence on foreign arms and counter China’s growing military assertiveness in the region. The INS Vikrant, one of the world’s biggest naval vessels at a length of 860 feet, will formally enter service after 17 years of construction and tests. “Today, INS Vikrant has filled the country with a new confidence, and has created a new confidence in the country,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at the ship’s commissioning ceremony in southern Kerala state. “We’ve joined the league of those select nations who can construct such large aircraft carriers at home,” he added. Around 1,600 sailors will crew the Vikrant, which will initially service fighter jets redesignated from India’s only other aircraft carrier. That vessel was bought second-hand from Russia, which has long been a major arms supplier to New Delhi. Modi’s government has sought to wean the country off its dependency on foreign military purchases and build a domestic defence hardware industry. It has invested heavily in local construction, with more than three dozen other naval ships and submarines currently being built in the country’s shipyards. The outlay comes at a time of increasing concern among military top brass over the strategic challenge posed by China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean. Last month New Delhi joined Washington in raising security concerns when neighbour Sri Lanka allowed a port visit by a Chinese research vessel accused of spying activities. India and the US are both members of the so-called Quad, a security alliance focused on the Indo-Pacific and aimed at providing a more substantive counterweight to China’s rising military and economic power. “The security concerns of the Indo-Pacific and the Indian Ocean region were ignored in the past but it is our top priority today,” Modi said. Yesterday’s commissioning ceremony also saw the unveiling of a new naval flag without a British colonial symbol left over from India’s colonial era. The new ensign replaces a prominent Saint George’s Cross, the national flag of England, with the royal seal of the Hindu warrior-king Chhatrapati Shivaji. “It is a historic date, we’ve made history and discarded a sign of our subjugation,” Modi said during his address. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has also backed a $300mn, 210-metre-tall statue of Shivaji off the coast of Mumbai, to be unveiled later this year.
India demolished two residential high-rise buildings outside New Delhi on Sunday, in a dramatic spectacle carried live on television channels after days of excited media build-up. The destruction of the 100-metre-high "Twin Towers" in Noida, home to a concrete forest of similar structures, was also a rare example of India getting tough on corrupt developers and officials. The 32 floors of "Apex" and the 29 of "Ceyane", containing between them nearly 1,000 apartments that were never inhabited in nine years of legal disputes, were brought down in seconds, creating an immense cloud of dust and debris. The controlled implosions using 3,700 kilograms (8,160 pounds) of explosives were India's biggest demolition to date, local media reported. Thousands of people, as well as stray dogs, had to be evacuated before the blast, including from neighbouring high-rises, one of which was reportedly just nine metres away. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage to nearby buildings but a local official told reporters that the operation had gone "largely as planned". Indian media reported minute details of the demolition, including the number of holes drilled for the charges (9,642) and the volume of debris created (80,000 tonnes). TV news channel Times Now, which like others ran a countdown timer and showed little else on Sunday morning, called it the "mother of all demolitions" of the "towers of shame". Police shut a busy adjacent expressway, where on Saturday motorists stopped to take final selfies with the towers in the backdrop. - Top court - The legal dispute over the towers went all the way to India's Supreme Court, which ruled last year that the buildings breached safety regulations and that the developers colluded with corrupt authorities. The world's fastest-growing major economy has seen a construction boom in the last two decades, which has also given rise to a nexus of corruption involving politicians, bureaucrats and powerful builders. Developers often sidestep many construction, urban-planning and environmental regulations, usually with impunity. The outskirts of major cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bangalore have become traps for middle-class buyers who invest in projects that are never completed or get drawn into similar legal sagas. In Delhi's suburbs of Noida and Greater Noida -- where the towers were demolished on Sunday -- it is estimated that more than 100 residential towers have been abandoned by builders, making these areas look like ghost cities. Uday Bhan Singh Teotia, one of a group of residents whose case against private developer Supertech led to the demolition order, said before the event that it would be a vindication of his legal battle. "The two new towers that they constructed were blocking everything -- our air and sunlight," Teotia, who lives close to the structures, told AFP. Demolitions of residential buildings are rare in India, with builders often escaping with penalties or abandoning projects midway if they fall foul of the law. Four luxury high-rises in the southern state of Kerala were demolished for breaking environmental rules in 2020. Lawyer Jayant Bhushan, who represented the complainants in the case against Supertech, said builders must clean up their act to win back home-buyers' trust. "Unless builders follow rules, it will be hapless buyers who will end up burning their fingers again and again," he told AFP.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi boldly declared that his country was ready to “feed the world” after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Less than four months later, the government needs to consider grain imports. Even before Modi made his pledge, a record-breaking heat wave that started in March was threatening Indian wheat output. That cut production and pushed up local prices, making everyday life more expensive for hundreds of millions of Indians that use the grain to make staple foods like naan and chappatis. Indications that a bumper wheat harvest wasn’t going to eventuate prompted the government to restrict exports in mid-May. State reserves have declined in August to the lowest level for the month in 14 years, according to Food Corporation of India, while consumer wheat inflation is running at close to 12%. The looming shortage and rising prices now have authorities making preparations to buy from overseas. Government officials are discussing whether to cut or abolish a 40% import tax on wheat to help flour millers in some regions to import grain, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified as the talks are private. This was first reported by Reuters. The finance ministry didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. A spokesperson for the food and commerce ministries declined to comment. The food department yesterday said in a Twitter post there was no “plan to import wheat” and the country has sufficient stocks to meet its requirements. “Given a lot of the war risk premium has come off from global wheat prices, India can look at augmenting its domestic wheat supply via more imports,” said Sonal Varma, an economist at Nomura Holdings Inc. “However, since domestic wholesale wheat prices are lower than global prices, a reduction in import duties will also be essential to make it a viable option.” Wheat spiked to near $14 a bushel in Chicago in early March as the war in Europe threatened a major source of global exports. Prices have now given up all of those gains as supply fears ease. They’re back below $8, alleviating some of the pressure on developing economies struggling to feed their people. Despite being the world’s second-biggest wheat grower, India has never been a major exporter. It also never imported much, with overseas purchases at about 0.02% of production annually. The country was pretty much self-sufficient. Authorities now expect the 2021-22 harvest to come in at around 107mn tonnes, down from a February estimate of 111mn. That may still be too optimistic as traders and flour millers forecast 98mn to 102mn tonnes. Government purchases of wheat for the country’s food aid programme, the world’s largest, are expected to be less than half of levels last year, according to the food ministry. That prompted authorities to distribute more rice in some states, and also to restrict exports of wheat flour and other products. Consumer wheat inflation has held above 9% year-on-year since April and surged to 11.7% in July. Wholesale prices were up even more, by 13.6% in July, official data show. That’s creating a headache for the central bank, which is trying to bring overall inflation, currently near 7%, back under its 6% target. Wheat is India’s biggest winter crop, with planting happening in October and November and harvesting in March and April. There are also concerns about its rice production, which could be the next challenge for global food supply. “Cereal inflation is a concern on the back of lower paddy sowing,” said Sameer Narang, an economist at ICICI Bank in Mumbai. The rising cereal prices are likely to continue for a while, he said.
Floods and landslides triggered by intense monsoon rains killed at least 50 people in northern and eastern India over the last three days, officials said yesterday. The rains overwhelmed hundreds of villages, sweeping away houses and leaving residents stranded as rescue crews have been racing to evacuate survivors. Earlier this month the federal weather office had predicted that India was likely to receive an average amount of rain in August and September, pointing to overall good crop yields in Asia’s third-biggest economy that relies on farming to boost growth and generate jobs. Farming contributes around 15% to India’s $2.7tn economy while sustaining more than half the population of 1.3bn. Heavy showers followed by landslides and flooding in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh over the past three days killed at least 36 people, a state government official said. In the neighbouring mountainous state of Uttarakhand, an official government release said that four were dead and 13 were missing due to continuous rainfall. “We have deployed choppers to rescue people who are stuck in remote areas due to rain related incidents. The rescue operation is happening on full swing,” said Ranjit Kumar Sinha, an official in Uttarakhand’s disaster management department. In the eastern state of Odisha, at least six people were dead amid ongoing torrential rains, a state official said. Floods have affected nearly 800,000 people and displaced thousands from their homes in Odisha, with rains disrupting electricity and water supply, and damaging road infrastructure. The state has evacuated 120,000 people so far from the affected areas. Authorities in the Ramgarh district of the eastern state of Jharkhand said five people had been swept away by the waters of the swollen Nalkari river on Saturday.
Floods and landslides triggered by intense monsoon rains killed at least 50 people in northern and eastern India over the last three days, officials said on Sunday. The rains overwhelmed hundreds of villages, sweeping away houses and leaving residents stranded as rescue crews have been racing to evacuate survivors. Earlier this month the federal weather office had predicted that India was likely to receive an average amount of rain in August and September, pointing to overall good crop yields in Asia's third-biggest economy that relies on farming to boost growth and generate jobs. Farming contributes around 15% to India's $2.7 trillion economy while sustaining more than half the population of 1.3 billion. Heavy showers followed by landslides and flooding in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh over the past three days killed at least 36 people, a state government official told Reuters. In the neighbouring mountainous state of Uttarakhand, an official government release said that four were dead and 13 were missing due to continuous rainfall. "We have deployed choppers to rescue people who are stuck in remote areas due to rain related incidents. The rescue operation is happening on full swing," said Ranjit Kumar Sinha, an official in Uttarakhand's disaster management department. In the eastern state of Odisha, at least six people were dead amid ongoing torrential rains, a state official said. Floods have affected nearly 800,000 people and displaced thousands from their homes in Odisha, with rains disrupting electricity and water supply, and damaging road infrastructure. The state has evacuated 120,000 people so far from the affected areas. Authorities in the Ramgarh district of the eastern state of Jharkhand said five people had been swept away by the waters of the swollen Nalkari river on Saturday. Four bodies have been recovered so far, said Madhvi Mishra, a district official in Ramgarh.
India’s entertainment capital is expanding its fleet of London-style red double-decker buses nearly a century after they made their debut - this time as electric vehicles. The first of 200 new buses are expected to start service on Mumbai’s busy roads from December, joining nearly 400 single-floor EVs already in operation. India - home to 1.4bn people - is the world’s third-biggest carbon emitter, and the government has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2070. The drive to electrify public transport is fuelled in part by the need to reduce pollution in cities with some of the world’s worst air. The electric bus was developed by Switch Mobility, an arm of Indian auto manufacturing giant Ashok Leyland. Similar electric double-deckers built by the company were rolled out in London in 2014. “We want common people to use electric mobility and achieve their goals of net-zero,” Switch Mobility India chief executive Mahesh Babu said at the unveiling of the new fleet. The Switch EiV 22 vehicle, built in India, has 65 passenger seats and a battery pack that would give it a range of 250kms. Fossil fuel-powered red double-deckers made their Mumbai debut in 1937 and up to 900 of them worked city routes at the peak of their operations. The ageing fleet has been slowly phased out since the 1990s and now less than 50 operate in the city.
A Chinese research vessel bristling with antennas and communication gear docked at Sri Lanka’s Chinese-run port of Hambantota yesterday despite concerns from India and the US about its alleged spying activities. The Yuan Wang 5 entered the deep-sea port after securing permission to enter Sri Lankan waters on the condition it would not engage in research, port officials said. It was originally due to arrive last week, but Colombo asked Beijing to defer the visit following objections by India, which shares Western concerns about Chinese activities in the region. But on Saturday, after intense negotiations, Sri Lanka announced a U-turn, saying permission was restored to dock at the southern port and remain for six days for refuelling and taking in other supplies. “We are granting the same facilities that we extend to all other countries,” government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana told reporters.”All these countries are important to us.” Chinese ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong said the visit of Yuan Wang 5 was part of “normal exchanges between the two countries”. “China and Sri Lanka enjoy outstanding friendship,” Qi told reporters at a ceremony to welcome the ship. Shipping analytics websites described the Yuan Wang 5 as a research and survey vessel, but according to Indian media it is a dual-use spy ship. There was no customary military band to welcome the vessel, but a small group of traditional Kandyan dancers and drummers performed on a red carpet. Also dockside were several lawmakers, but there were no senior politicians or other dignitaries in attendance. “Long live China and Sri Lanka friendship,” read a red-and-white banner on an upper deck of the vessel, which had at least four satellite dish antennas pointed skywards. Men in white shirts and black trousers stood on deck waving Chinese and Sri Lankan flags as the vessel was pushed alongside the main jetty. The Hambantota port has been run by the Chinese since 2017, when they took it on a 99-year lease for $1.12bn, less than the $1.4bn Sri Lanka paid a Chinese firm to build it. New Delhi is suspicious of Beijing’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and influence in Sri Lanka, seeing both as firmly within its sphere of influence. Both India and the US have raised security concerns over the ship’s visit to Sri Lanka, with New Delhi lodging a complaint with Colombo. China has said it was “completely unjustified for certain countries” to cite “security concerns” to pressure Sri Lanka, especially at a time when the island is facing an unprecedented economic crisis. The vessel’s activities were “in line with international law and international practice, and do not affect any country’s security or economic interests,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters. “They should not be interfered with by third parties.” A day before the arrival of the vessel, India gifted a Dornier 228 surveillance aircraft to Sri Lanka in a bid to bolster the island’s maritime surveillance capabilities. The Chinese ship was allowed into port on the condition it keeps its Automatic Identification System (AIS) switched on while in Sri Lankan waters and does not carry out scientific research. According to Indian reports, the Yuan Wang 5 could be employed for space and satellite tracking and has specific uses in intercontinental ballistic missile launches. Sri Lanka borrowed heavily from China between 2005 and 2015, and in 2017 relinquished control of the Hambantota port, which is located on major east-west shipping lanes. Sri Lanka said it could not afford to repay China for building the port and handed over the facility on a 99-year lease. China is Sri Lanka’s biggest bilateral creditor, owning over 10% of the island’s foreign debt. Beijing’s support is essential for Colombo to restructure its external borrowing to qualify for an International Monetary Fund bailout. On August 4, President Ranil Wickremesinghe “reiterated Sri Lanka’s firm commitment to the one-China policy” after US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, calling for “non-interference in the internal affairs of countries”.
A bus carrying personnel from India's high-altitude border police rolled off a mountainous road and fell into a gorge in Kashmir on Tuesday, killing at least six officers, police said. Kashmir police said on Twitter the injured were being flown to an army hospital in the Himalayan region's main city of Srinagar, some 90 km from the accident site in Anantnag district. A police officer told Reuters that 35 people survived the crash but some were badly injured. The bus was carrying members of the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force, a federal force specialising in high-altitude operations, mainly on the Indo-China border. Pictures from the site showed mangled remains of the bus by a fast-flowing river.
India will aim to become a developed nation within 25 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national day address yesterday, with policies to support domestic production in power, defence and digital technology. Speaking from the 17th century Red Fort in Delhi as India celebrates its 75th year of independence from British colonial rule, Modi exhorted youth to “aim big” and give their best years for the cause of the country. The prime minister urged Indians to shed “colonialism in our minds and habits”. “Hundreds of years of colonialism has restricted our sentiments, distorted our thoughts. When we see even the smallest thing related to colonialism in us or around us, we have to be rid of it,” Modi said. Modi also said India should crush the “termite” of corruption and nepotism, follow an “India First” mantra and ensure that “in speech and conduct, we do nothing that lowers a woman’s dignity”. “Self-reliant India is the responsibility of every citizen, every government, every unit of society,” he said. “We must turn India into a developed country in the next 25 years, in our lifetime,” said the 71-year-old Modi, wearing a turban in the colours of the Indian flag, in his 75-minute-speech in Hindi. “It’s a big resolution, and we should work towards it with all our might.” The World Bank currently categorises India as a lower-middle income economy — meant for countries with a gross national income per capita of between $1,086 and $4,255. High income countries, like the US, have a per capita income of $13,205 or more. India is the world’s sixth-largest economy and is expected to grow at over 7% in the current fiscal year ending in March 2023 — the fastest among major economies. Many experts say India’s economy could expand to become the world’s third-largest by 2050 after the US and China, although per capita income, currently around $2,100, may remain low compared to many countries. With about 1.4bn people, India is expected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country next year. Countries like the US already see India as a future challenger to China’s dominating influence in Asia and beyond. US President Joe Biden on Sunday congratulated India for its national day. “The US joins the people of India to honour its democratic journey, guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s enduring message of truth and non-violence,” Biden said. “India and the US are indispensable partners, and the US-India Strategic Partnership is grounded in our shared commitment to the rule of law and the promotion of human freedom and dignity,” Biden said. Biden also said his country’s Indian-American community had made the US a more innovative, inclusive, and stronger nation.
India will aim to become a developed nation within 25 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a national day address on Monday, with policies to support domestic production in power, defence and digital technology. Speaking from the 17th century Red Fort in Delhi as India celebrates its 75th year of independence from British colonial rule, Modi exhorted youth to "aim big" and give their best years for the cause of the country. "We must turn India into a developed country in the next 25 years, in our lifetime," said the 71-year-old Modi, wearing a turban in the colours of the Indian flag, in his 75-minute-speech in Hindi. "It's a big resolution, and we should work towards it with all our might." The World Bank currently categorises India as a lower-middle income economy - meant for countries with a gross national income per capita of between $1,086 and $4,255. High income countries, like the United States, have a per capita income of $13,205 or more. India is the world's sixth-largest economy and is expected to grow at over 7% in the current fiscal year ending in March 2023 - the fastest among major economies. Many experts say India's economy could expand to become the world's third-largest by 2050 after the United States and China, although per capita income, currently around $2,100, may remain low compared to many countries. With about 1.4 billion people, India is expected to surpass China as the world's most populous country next year. Countries like the United States already see India as a future challenger to China's dominating influence in Asia and beyond. US President Joe Biden on Sunday congratulated India for its national day and said the United States and India were "indispensable partners" that would continue to work together to address global challenges in the years ahead.
Indian authorities yesterday reported Asia’s first possible monkeypox fatality after the death of a man who recently returned from United Arab Emirates testing positive. Kerala state’s health ministry said tests on the 22-year-old “showed that the man had monkeypox”. Three monkeypox-related fatalities have so far been reported outside Africa in an outbreak that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a global health emergency. The Indian man died in Kerala on July 30 around a week after returning from the UAE and being taken to hospital. It was unclear however whether monkeypox was the cause of death. “The youth had no symptoms of monkeypox. He had been admitted to a hospital with symptoms of encephalitis and fatigue,” the Indian Express daily quoted Kerala’s Health Minister Veena George as saying on Sunday. Twenty people identified as high risk of infection were being kept under observation, she added, including family members, friends who played football with the man and medical staff. According to the WHO, more than 18,000 monkeypox cases have been detected throughout the world outside Africa since the beginning of May, most of them in Europe. Spain last week recorded two monkeypox-related deaths and Brazil one. It is however unclear if monkeypox actually caused the three fatalities, with Spanish authorities as of Sunday still carrying out autopsies and Brazilian authorities saying its deceased patient had other “serious conditions”. The WHO’s European office said on Saturday that more monkeypox-related deaths can be expected. “With the continued spread of monkeypox in Europe, we will expect to see more deaths,” Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer at WHO Europe, said in a statement. The goal needs to be “interrupting transmission quickly in Europe and stopping this outbreak”, she said. Paul Hunter of Britain’s University of East Anglia said while the risk of monkeypox-related death outside Africa “remains low...these reports reinforce the need to roll out vaccination as soon as possible to those people who are most at risk”. India has reported at least four cases, with the first recorded on July 15 in another man who returned to Kerala from the UAE. Kerala’s health ministry said in its statement yesterday that a high-level team from the state medical board would probe the death. Primary tests from the National Institute of Virology in the city of Pune showed that the man had the variant from West Africa and that more genetic tests would be conducted.
• The poor in India can dream, says president Droupadi Murmu was sworn in as India’s president yesterday, making her the first person from one of the country’s marginalised tribal communities to serve as head of state. The former schoolteacher and state governor was elected to the largely ceremonial position last week with 64% of the vote by members of India’s parliament and state assemblies. Murmu, who is from the Santhal tribe and was born in eastern Odisha state, paid her respects before her inauguration at a memorial dedicated to India’s independence hero Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. “I started my life journey from a small tribal village,” Murmu, 64, said after taking the oath of office in parliament. “From the background I come from, it was like a dream for me to even get elementary education.” “But despite many obstacles, my resolve remained strong and I became the first daughter from my village to go to college,” she added. Murmu’s elevation to India’s highest constitutional post has been seen as an important gesture of goodwill by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the communities that make up more than 8% of its 1.4bn people ahead of a general election due by 2024. Her win was considered a certainty because of the strength of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies in the parliament and state assemblies. “Her assuming the presidency is a watershed moment for India especially for the poor, marginalised and downtrodden,” Modi said on Twitter after Murmu’s address. Murmu said her election would give hope to those left behind by India’s recent economic growth. “My election is proof of the fact that the poor in India can have dreams and fulfil them too,” Murmu, 64, said in a speech in parliament after taking the oath of office. “It is a matter of great satisfaction for me that those who have been deprived for centuries and those who have been denied the benefits of development, those poor, downtrodden, backwards and tribals are seeing their reflection in me.” India’s prime minister wields executive power, but the president can send back some parliamentary bills for reconsideration and also plays a guiding role in the process of forming governments. India’s president also acts as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Murmu is the country’s second woman president, after Pratibha Patil, who held the position for five years from 2007. She succeeds Ram Nath Kovind, the second president from the Dalit community, the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the world leaders to congratulate Murmu and said that he is “ready to work” with his new Indian counterpart to strengthen relations, according to Chinese state media. Relations between the world’s two most populous nations have been frosty since a deadly Himalayan military stand-off between the countries in 2020. Both sides have since reinforced their disputed border with extra soldiers, military hardware and new infrastructure, and multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks have failed to de-escalate tensions.
Droupadi Murmu was sworn in as India's president on Monday, making her the first person from one of the country's marginalised tribal communities to serve as head of state. The former school teacher and state governor was elected to the largely ceremonial position last week with 64 percent of the vote by members of India's parliament and state assemblies. Murmu, who is from the Santhal tribe and was born in eastern Odisha state, paid her respects before her inauguration at a memorial dedicated to India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. "I started my life journey from a small tribal village," Murmu, 64, said after taking the oath of office in parliament. "From the background I come from, it was like a dream for me to even get elementary education," she added. "But despite many obstacles, my resolve remained strong and I became the first daughter from my village to go to college." Murmu's win was considered a certainty because of the strength of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies in the parliament and state assemblies. Analysts said the move would probably help Prime Minister Narendra Modi extend his base among the poor tribal communities ahead of his re-election bid in 2024. "Her assuming the Presidency is a watershed moment for India especially for the poor, marginalised and downtrodden," Modi said on Twitter after Murmu's address. - 'Great satisfaction' - Murmu said her election would give hope to those left behind by India's recent economic growth. "It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that those who have been deprived for centuries, who have been away from the benefits of development... are seeing their reflection in me," she said. India's prime minister wields executive power, but the president can send back some parliamentary bills for reconsideration and also plays a guiding role in the process of forming governments. Murmu is the country's second woman president, after Pratibha Patil, who held the position for five years from 2007. She succeeds Ram Nath Kovind, the second president from the Dalit community, the bottom of the Hindu caste system. Chinese President Xi Jinping was among the world leaders to congratulate Murmu and said he was "ready to work" with his new Indian counterpart to strengthen relations, according to Chinese state media. Relations between the world's two most populous nations have been frosty since a deadly Himalayan military stand-off between the countries in 2020. Both sides have since reinforced their disputed border with extra soldiers, military hardware and new infrastructure, and multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks have failed to de-escalate tensions.
Indian investigators have summoned Sonia Gandhi, president of the opposition Congress party, for questioning on money laundering accusations that her allies have blamed on an abuse of power. The 75-year-old has been a driving influence in her once-dominant party since the 1991 assassination of her husband, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, and heir to a political dynasty that stretches back to the country’s independence from Britain. Authorities are probing a decade-old complaint filed by a lawmaker from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who accused her family of misusing Congress funds to buy a now-defunct newspaper business and personally acquire its highly valuable property portfolio. The Gandhi family has denied the allegations and Congress has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party of misusing its power. “Our nation’s institutional agencies cannot be pawns in BJP’s vendetta politics,” Congress tweeted yesterday. “The misuse of (the Enforcement Directorate) to attack opposition needs to stop.” Gandhi was initially summoned last month by the Enforcement Directorate, which probes financial crimes in India, but her questioning was delayed after she was hospitalised with a coronavirus infection. Her son Rahul, who leads the party in parliament, was questioned for several days in June over the same allegations. Yesterday Sonia was accompanied by Rahul and her daughter Priyanka as she travelled to the Enforcement Directorate’s office for questioning, arriving around 1pm local time, according to local media. Leaders of several opposition parties issued a joint statement condemning the investigation. Modi’s government had “unleashed a relentless campaign against its opponents and critics through the mischievous misuse of investigative agencies,” the letter read. “Prominent leaders of a number of political parties have been deliberately targeted and subjected to harassment in an unprecedented manner.” “This is a conspiracy to silence us and the intention is to rid the country of any opposition parties,” Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera told reporters yesterday, before Sonia Gandhi left for questioning at the finance ministry’s Enforcement Directorate. Lawmakers from the Congress party staged a protest inside and outside parliament, holding posters and shouting slogans that accused Modi and his government of pursuing a political vendetta. The BJP lawmaker behind the complaint, Subramanian Swamy, accused the Gandhis of forming a shell company and illegally gaining control of property worth $300mn. The assets had belonged to a firm that published the National Herald newspaper, founded in 1937 by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather.