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PM Modi accorded ceremonial welcome in Vienna on landmark Austria visit

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Vienna, July 10 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi was on Wednesday accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Federal Chancery as he began his landmark visit to Austria, the first by an Indian Prime Minister to the country in 41 years.

Scripting a new chapter in bilateral relations, PM Modi was warmly received by Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer who had last week called the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Vienna as a “special honour”.

The Austrian Chancellor hosted PM Modi for a private engagement as the Indian PM arrived from Moscow on Tuesday evening. This was the first meeting between the two leaders and comes at a time when the two countries are marking 75 years of diplomatic relations.

He said that discussions on realising the “full potential” of bilateral partnership lie ahead.

Prime Minister Modi thanked Chancellor Nehammer for the “warm welcome” and said that he was looking forward to the discussions on Wednesday as both nations continue working together to further global good.

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Besides holding talks with Chancellor Nehammer, PM Modi is also scheduled to call on Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, address business leaders from India and Austria and interact with members of the Indian community in Vienna.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra called Austria an “important central European country” which offers excellent opportunities for bilateral cooperation in infrastructure, renewable energy, high technology areas, start-up sectors, media and entertainment.

He also highlighted the growing India-Austria trade and investment linkages, including the recent launch of an India-Austria start-up bridge in February 2024 that has made a “very promising” start.

“The visit, we are confident, will allow us to discuss various areas of importance in bilateral engagement, as also issues of regional and global importance of mutual interest, and help broaden the scope of our partnership,” said Foreign Secretary Kwatra.

India and Austria had also signed a Comprehensive Migration and Mobility Agreement in May last year and continue to work closely to expand and explore new areas of bilateral partnership.

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“We’re also looking at what we can do in terms of technology. There are over, I think, 30 to 40 large Austrian companies already present in India in a range of areas from infrastructure, tunnelling, and track laying. We’ve got a fair amount of investments from India already in Austria. But we want to see how we can take these forward. We want to look at other key areas, clean technologies, and renewables. We want to look at different areas where we can try and work together,” said Pavan Kapoor, Secretary (West) at the Ministry of External Affairs.

–IANS

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The Third Eye: Is Israel succeeding in Gaza?

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New Delhi: In these nine months of its air and ground operations in Gaza in response to the terror attack of Hamas on October 7 last year, Israel has forcibly displaced 80 per cent of the population there, killed over 37,000 people including a large number of Palestinian women and children and dropped as many bombs in the region as the total of those thrown on Europe in World War II.

The military action of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against Hamas not only raises the issue of disproportionate collateral losses in an army action but also questions the basic strategy of effectively countering terrorist organisations, itself.

It is true that Hamas practising terrorist methodology is also a military outfit that combined the tactics of first unleashing an open missile attack and then using it as a cover to infiltrate across the Israeli border to resort to indiscriminate firing with automatic rifles killing a large number of civilians — nearly 1200 — who were participating in Israel’s Memorial Day function near by. In the brutal offensive Hamas took away nearly 250 hostages mostly women and children.

Israel as a democratic state was fully justified in taking to a military response to punish Hamas but its action has over time been reduced to blind destruction of the civilian areas and establishments where the Hamas militants were expected to be taking shelter in the underground tunnels.

Even in situations where two rival armies confronted each other a certain amount of civilian casualties might occur as unavoidable collateral damage but in Gaza, the IDF went all out against the invisible enemy hidden behind non-combatant civilians — women and children included — and in the process extensively bombed the residential areas.

It is possible that many of the civilians were actively supporting Hamas — the Oct 7 attack on Israel had sent down a wave of excitement and appreciation across Palestine. They might even be sheltering Hamas militants thus running the risk of inviting punitive action at the hands of the Israeli army but the stand of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Hamas would be eliminated even if the IDF had to destroy the entire Gaza that was instrumental in providing a cover to the terrorists, would surely lead to adverse political consequences for him in his own country as well as in the international community.

Counter-terror operations have to be intelligence-based, particularly where the Army is used for them, because the unseen enemy would only be eliminated when his identity and location were known — heavy armament was no guarantee of their success.

As matters stand the devastation of civilian life and property in Israeli military action is only helping to spread the support for Hamas not only in the Muslim world but elsewhere too.

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A terrorist force thrives on presenting itself as a “victim” of retaliatory action even though it might have caused the initial provocation — because it banks ultimately on the battle of perception and draws advantage from the loss of innocent lives in any counter-terror operations.

In the case of Israeli operations, the scale of destruction has attracted the attention of the entire world. It cannot be explained away by the natural differential that exists between the damages caused by a “covert” terror attack and an “open” military offensive. The blame for this large asymmetry of loss of human lives is getting passed on to Israel notwithstanding the fact that the Hamas terror attack of October 7 was a planned one not forgivable at all.

Over decades Israel has lived a life of constant threat to its very survival and the history of Israel-Arab hostilities attributable largely to the refusal of many Arab states to even accept the right of Israel to exist, did justify an extreme national sensitivity on the part of Israeli rulers about putting up with any treacherous offensive from its opponents.

Of course, valid questions have been raised about the competence of Israeli intelligence in regard to the Oct 7 attack of Hamas particularly in the light of the fact that thousands of Palestinians came to Israel for their daily occupation and some “listening posts” for Israel were expected to exist among them.

Before the current Israel-Hamas confrontation broke out, there were some moves towards bringing about an Arab-Israel detente. Some members of the Arab League — UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — had shown an inclination towards normalising relations with Israel and accepted the idea of the Abraham accord at the prompting of the US. Even Saudi Arabia with its extreme Sunni fundamentalism appeared set to honour the proposition.

The new conflict between Israel with Hamas has given a setback to this thinking. Human suffering and loss of innocent lives — of women and children in particular — are creating an aversion towards Israel among people everywhere.

Arab opinion is evidently turning not only against Israel but against the US as well. What is extremely significant is that Arab thinking has started tilting favourably towards China and this can sharpen US-China rivalry in the Middle East — this divide is already showing up elsewhere across the globe.

The negativity of the terror profile in the build-up and working style of Hamas is getting pushed to the background as the religious contradiction between Islam and Zionism is coming to the fore in the aftermath of the current Israel-Hamas conflict and affecting the entire Muslim world.

ALSO READ:  Palestinian death toll in Gaza rises to 30,228: Ministry

Ayatollah’s rule in Iran was politically inimical towards the US and Israel and this hostility had made Iran side with Hamas notwithstanding the fact that Sunni Islamic radical forces considered both the US and the ‘deviationist’ Shiites as their prime enemies.

Iran’s political opposition to Israel as a rival in the Middle East guides its responses. Iran has set upon Israel its proxies — Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Yemen-based Houthis — and reached out to China and Russia, the political adversaries of the US and Israel.

Islamic radicals of ISIS are active in Syria-Iraq and their regional outfit called ISIS-K carried out an attack in March this year on a concert on the outskirts of Moscow — causing the death of 130 persons and injuries to many others. They had a grouse that Russia supported Syrian President Bashar Al Assad — an Alawite — against their staunch opposition to him.

One outcome of the Israel-Hamas confrontation that should cause real concern to the entire democratic world is that it had the potential for pushing the global order towards faith-based conflicts even as there were already signs of the reappearance of a wider Cold War between the US-led West and the China-Russia axis.

Religion-driven alignments seem to be further bolstering this global divide. Iran coming closer to China and Russia, the Taliban-led Kabul Emirate striking a give-and-take adjustment with China and the Arab world siding with Hamas against Israel because of the basic contradiction between Islam and Zionism — are all trends that signified the importance of religion as the fundamental driving force of unity overriding political differentiations.

China under President Xi Jinping is striving to become a Superpower on the strength of economic growth and technological advancement — though its military might is also being built- and is playing its cards in the Ukraine-Russia armed confrontation in a manner that would keep Russia on his side without letting the conflict acquire the dimensions of a world war.

The Middle East is setting an example of how regional conflicts may be determining the cause of global peace and how regional interests could be guiding the approach of world powers to such conflicts.

The world opinion is against nuclear confrontation which further helps the play of the old doctrine of ‘mutually assured destruction’ as a deterrent against any move of “first strike”. As a result, international conflicts driven by religion seem to be affecting the global scene of our times more than the possibility of revival of the Cold War.

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India is in the midst of a foreign policy challenge because the new geopolitical shifts have had the effect of causing a reset of the strategy of handling international relations.

India’s emphasis on mutually beneficial bilateral relationships that did not compromise with the case for global peace and human welfare, has proved to be extremely fruitful as it has enabled India to develop a natural friendship with the US as a leader of the democratic world without letting this affect the strategically deep India-Russia bonds.

It has made it possible for India to demand upfront that the Ukraine-Russia military confrontation be paused to allow for mediation for peace on the basis of an understanding of the security concerns of both sides.

A second element of India’s foreign policy has been an unambiguous condemnation of terrorism of any kind or origin. This covers Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism in Kashmir carried out by Pak ISI — sponsored Islamic militant outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkare Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad that were India-specific to which had been added the Islamic ‘radical’ forces like Al Qaeda and ISIS that were increasing their hold in the Muslim world and reaching out to other regions globally.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit to Moscow for the India-Russia bilateral summit with President Vladimir Putin on July 9, condemned the recent ISIS-K attack at Moscow and pointed out how India had for long suffered Pak-instigated cross-border terrorism in Kashmir and elsewhere.

India had denounced the Oct 7 terror attack of Hamas on Israel but as the IDF perpetrated huge civilian loss of life in Gaza, it did not hesitate to call for the stoppage of Israeli operations and resumption of talks for a solution to the long-standing Palestinian issue on the basis of the ‘two state’ formula.

Finally, the two prime security concerns of India are the radicalised Pak-Afghan region that witnessed the continuing patronisation of the Kabul Emirate by Pakistan and the deepening Sino-Pak alliance that was leading to these two adversaries undertaking covert operations against this country.

India is legitimately disappointed that the US is still not taking adequate notice of Pakistan’s role in fostering Islamic extremism and militancy. On the other hand, Russia seemed to better understand the threat of ‘radicalisation’ that bothers India.

In any case, it is India that has to counter Pakistan and China largely on its own and it is a matter of great satisfaction that the Modi government was totally geared to handling this challenge.

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)

–IANS

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Violence has no place in politics: PM Modi on attack on Trump

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday condemned the attack on US Presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying that “violence has no place in politics.”

In a post on X, PM Modi said: “Deeply concerned by the attack on my friend, former President Donald Trump. Strongly condemn the incident. Violence has no place in politics and democracies.”

“Wish him speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the deceased, those injured and the American people,” the Prime Minister added.

On Saturday, the former US President was shot at an election rally in western Pennsylvania in a possible assassination attempt just a day before the Republican Party is scheduled to begin its convention to formally declare him its nominee for the White House.

“The Secret Service has implemented protective measures, and the former President is safe,” said Anthony Guglielmi, the Chief of Communications for the Secret Service, in a statement.

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The former US President is “fine and is being checked out at a local medical facility,” Trump Communications Director Steven Cheung said in a statement.

–IANS

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Trump thanks US Secret Service for swift response to shooting incident at his election rally

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Washington, July 14 (IANS) US Presidential candidate Donald Trump has thanked the United States Secret Service and law enforcement for their prompt response to an assassination incident aimed at him that occurred at an election rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.

Trump took to the social media platform ‘Truth Social’ to acknowledge the shooting incident that occurred at his election rally on Saturday.

“I want to thank the United States Secret Service, and all of Law Enforcement, for their rapid response on the shooting that just took place in Butler, Pennsylvania,” the former President wrote.

He extended condolences to the families affected, emphasising, “Most importantly, I want to extend my condolences to the family of the person at the Rally who was killed, and also to the family of another person that was badly injured,” he said.

Reflecting on the shocking nature of the incident, Trump said, “It is incredible that such an act can take place in our country.”

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Details about the shooter, who is confirmed deceased, remain limited at this time.

Describing his own experience during the shooting, Trump revealed, “I was shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear. I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin.”

Describing his own experience during the shooting, Trump wrote, “Much bleeding took place, so I realised then what was happening.”

Ending on a patriotic note, Trump concluded, “GOD BLESS AMERICA!”

Earlier, US Secret Service Spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi tweeted: “Protective measures have been implemented, and the former President is secure.”

–IANS

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IANS Analysis: China under Xi Jinping — worse than ever?

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New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Xi Jinping assumed the presidency of China in March 2013, succeeding Hu Jintao as the primary leader of both the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the People’s Republic of China.

Over the subsequent 12 years, Xi has navigated China through a tumultuous period, significantly altering the global perception of the nation.

Although China is an authoritarian state, it had established mechanisms to prevent the concentration of unchecked power in a single individual, a response to the challenges encountered under Mao Zedong’s leadership. These mechanisms included a maximum two-term limit for presidents and a system of checks and balances within the Party’s upper echelons.

Presidents would typically begin grooming their successors as their terms concluded.

However, these practices have been consistently ignored in Xi Jinping’s case. He amended the party’s constitution to extend his tenure beyond two terms, appointed loyalists to key positions and emerged as the most powerful leader in Communist Chinese history (even Mao faced resistance from civil war-era military generals). Reflecting on these developments, it is crucial to consider how Xi Jinping’s decade-long rule has impacted China.

The starting of failures

When Xi Jinping assumed the role of General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the country, it was during the period of China’s ‘peaceful rise’; that the nation was thriving economically and emerging as a global manufacturing hub.

Liberal internationalists believed that as market forces penetrated China, democracy would inevitably follow. However, a realist perspective of international relations ultimately prevailed.

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The China that Xi Jinping inherited was flourishing and becoming a constructive global force.

Upon taking office, he began to use this development and the rise of China as instruments for asserting dominance.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) serves as a prime example; it was China’s first major international infrastructural project, launched in 2013 to establish a multimodal network of infrastructure projects across various countries.

A decade later, the BRI has not evolved into a cohesive, concrete initiative. The world’s largest economies have opted out of participating in the BRI.

Low- and middle-income countries that initially joined the initiative began complaining about the debt trap, where high interest rates imposed by Chinese banks forced many countries to cede control of projects to China.

The Hambantota port project in Sri Lanka is the most prominent example of this debt trap.

Additionally, the BRI did not materialise into a multimodal network but rather remained a means for China to establish influence over individual countries.

The failures of the BRI also affected China’s domestic political landscape.

The BRI was closely tied to Xi Jinping’s paramount “Chinese Dream of National Rejuvenation” project. This initiative aimed to revitalise the Chinese economy, which had been decelerating since the global financial crisis. Under Xi’s leadership, the Chinese economic miracle that began during Deng Xiaoping’s era began to slow down. X’s domestic and foreign policies are primarily responsible for this downturn.

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Series of policy mishaps

Xi Jinping and his loyalists, who secured positions within the inner circles of the CPC following Xi’s anti-corruption purge of numerous party officials, are held responsible for several policy failures.

Among the most notable are the rising tensions with neighbouring countries such as India, Vietnam, and the Philippines, with China being accused of aggressive actions along their borders.

Additionally, China engaged in direct confrontations and diplomatic coercion with various states, including Australia and smaller European nations, where its ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’ harmed its carefully cultivated long-term relationships.

It is widely known that China has unresolved disputes with annexed peripheral regions, including Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong.

Over the past decade, following Xi Jinping’s unprecedented security crackdowns, these borders have been tightly controlled. As a result, an estimated one million minority Muslim Uyghurs were detained in camps in Xinjiang, and in Hong Kong, Beijing enacted a sweeping national security law in response to significant anti-government protests in 2019.

Xi has also significantly increased the public security budget for Tibet from nearly 160 million Yuan to more than 300 million Yuan over the last 10 years.

Taiwan, an independent democratic island with security ties to the US, has long been a target for China’s ‘reunification’ ambitions.

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Recently, China has become more aggressive along Taiwan’s border.

According to a report by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence, Chinese air incursions have surged, with the number of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft entering Taiwan’s air defence zone daily, increasing from around 15 in 2021 to around 70 in April 2023.

On the economic front, China’s economy has continually slowed since Xi Jinping assumed office. Since his tenure began, there has been an increasing crackdown on the private sector.

Chinese capitalism is predominantly state-run, raising security concerns in many countries.

The purge of prominent industrialists, such as Jack Ma, has created significant challenges for Chinese entrepreneurs and wealth creators.

China remains one of the most unequal countries in the world.

The economic slowdown since the Covid-19 lockdown has also led to increased unemployment, alongside a persistent decline in private sector investment and consumer confidence in the Chinese economy during Xi’s reign.

In conclusion, contemporary China under Xi Jinping faces numerous domestic and international challenges. The lack of solutions to these issues has led Xi to adopt a hawkish approach towards neighbouring countries, hoping to stir nationalist sentiments among Chinese citizens.

While this strategy may be effective in the short term, in the long run, more than one billion people will demand answers from Xi Jinping. Ultimately, history is likely to judge him with a degree of scepticism.

–IANS

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US Secret Service shares details of assassination attempt on Trump (2nd Ld)

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Washington, July 14 (IANS) Former US President Donald Trump was shot at an election rally in a possible assassination attempt just a day before the Republican Party is scheduled to begin its convention to formally declare him its nominee for the White House.

Trump touched the right side of his face after what seemed like the first two shots and dropped to the ground.

Secret Service agents threw themselves on him to protect him. When they rose, the agents had him inside protective of their bodies.

The former President appeared to be bleeding on the right side of the face. He raised a fist in the air as he was led away.

He was taken to a local medical facility for treatment.

“I was shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear,” former President Trump said in a post on Truth Social, the media platform he launched after he was banished from Twitter, which is now called X.

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“I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, and shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin. Much bleeding took place, so I realised then what was happening.”

The shooter, who remains unidentified, was shot dead.

Local authorities said he was in a low-rise building outside the rally venue.

A member of the audience is also dead. Another person was grievously wounded.

The Secret Service said in a statement: “During former President Trump’s campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, on the evening of July 13 at around 6:15 p.m., a suspected shooter fired multiple shots toward the stage from an elevated position outside of the rally venue. US Secret Service personnel neutralised the shooter, who is now deceased. The US Secret Service quickly responded with protective measures and the former President is safe and being evaluated. One spectator was killed, and two spectators were critically injured. The incident is currently under investigation and the Secret Service has formally notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

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President Joe Biden said in remarks to the nation that he had tried to speak to Trump — addressing him as “Donald” for probably the first time in public.

“I plan on talking to them shortly, he said, adding, “There’s no place in America for this kind of violence. It’s sick sick… The bottom line is (the) rally should have been conducted peacefully without any problem.”

–IANS

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