India announces $500 million for Maldives project to counter China

Agencies
August 13, 2020

New Delhi, Aug 13: India announced a $500 million package to fund a project in the Maldives on Thursday to help it connect the capital Male to three nearby islands, stepping up New Delhi's diplomatic efforts in a region China has also been focusing recently.

The Indian Ocean island nation, popular with tourists for its beaches and turquoise waters, has become a focal point in China's Belt and Road Initiative aimed at building trade and transport links across the region.

On Thursday, India's Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told his Maldivian counterpart, Abdulla Shahid, that New Delhi will support the Male connectivity project with a grant of $100 million and a new line of credit of $400 million, the Indian foreign ministry said.

Jaishankar said the plan linking Male to the islands of Villingili, Gulhifahu and Thilafushi will be the largest civilian infrastructure project in the Maldives, the foreign ministry said.

"EAM (external affairs minister) and Foreign Minister Shahid emphasized that greater connectivity results in prosperity," it said.

India has sought to regain diplomatic influence in the islands after a new administration led by President Ibrahim Solih took power following the defeat of the pro-China strongman Abdulla Yameen in elections in 2018.

Yameen was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to five years in prison last year, after facing allegations of awarding contracts, including for a major bridge connecting Male to the island of Hulhumale and an extension to the international airport, to Chinese companies at inflated prices.

"Since November 2018, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, India and Maldives have embarked on a dynamic and ambitious phase of the partnership that builds on our enduring ties based on mutual trust and shared interests," the foreign ministry said.

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News Network
September 21,2020

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Bengaluru, Sept 21: Two BJP leaders - Municipalities Minister K C Narayana Gowda and Kadur MLA Belli Prakash almost came to blows at the Vidhana Soudha as the two had a verbal duel.

The development took place at the makeshift lounge on the first floor of the Vidhana Soudha, just before the start of the Assembly Session.

Those who witnessed the spat said Gowda and Prakash “almost came to blows” before legislators Satish Jarkiholi, K Annadani and others intervened to separate them.

According to sources, Prakash complained that Gowda was inaccessible. “Prakash got the chief minister to sign on a file pertaining to the Kadur constituency that was referred to Gowda for further action. But, Prakash complained that Gowda was dilly-dallying and gave excuses to say he was busy. This led to an argument between them,” a source said.

The incident also underlines the disgruntlement among ruling BJP MLAs over the style of functioning of some ministers. Gowda was with the JD(S) before he jumped ship to the BJP and became a minister.

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News Network
September 26,2020

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Bengaluru, Sept 26: C T Ravi, Karnataka’s Minister of Kannada and Culture, has been named one of the national general secretaries of Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday announced a list of national office bearers which included Chikkamagaluru MLA CT Ravi and Bengaluru South MP Tejasvi Surya.

The appointment signals a rise within the party's ranks for Mr Ravi, who is a four-time MLA from Chikkamagaluru Constituency.

A total of 12 national vice presidents and eight national general secretaries were named by the party. First-term MP Tejasvi Surya, who was handpicked to replace the late Ananth Kumar as the BJP candidate from Bengaluru South, replaced Poonam Mahajan as Yuva Morcha national president.

Tejasvi Surya and CT Ravi were congratulated by their party colleagues following the announcement on Saturday.

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Agencies
September 19,2020

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Thiruvananthapuram, Sept 19: Under attack over the gold smuggling case, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Saturday slammed theCongress-led UDF for dragging the Holy Quran into a controversy and alleged the Opposition was towing the BJP-RSS line on the issue and they need to introspect.

It was the RSS and the BJP which had first made the allegation that gold had been smuggled in the guise of importing Quran from the UAE.

This was later picked up by the UDF's Congress and Muslim League leaders, Vijayan told reporters here.

Vijayan was asked how protests against minister K T Jaleel, who had been questioned by the Enforcement Directorate and NIA recently over the import of Quran by the UAE consulate here and his telephone conversation with Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the smuggling case, could be described as being against the Holy Book as was described by the ruling CPI(M).

After the Holy book was brought to the UAE consulate, the consulate general had sought help from Jaleel for distributing it as sakkath (charity) during Ramzan and the minister had obliged, Vijayan said.

"When the BJP-RSS makes such an allegation, it is understandable.But later Congress and IUML leaders spoke in the same vein and gave publicity to it.

UDF convener had even shot off a letter to the Prime Minister and league leaders openly made the allegation, we all saw.On what basis were the allegations made? Why did they make the allegations and for whom?

But Congress and IUML also joined the chorus and gave publicity.Now, it seems they have understood that it has backfired.It is good they realised their blunder," Vijayan said.

There was no need to drag the Holy book into a controversy and there was no need to attack the state government and the minister, he said.

"They should reply to that," the chief minister said when asked about the opposition allegation that gold was smuggled on the pretext of importing Quran.

A day after CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in an article in "Deshabhimani", the party organ, attacked IUML for dragging the Quran into the gold smuggling controversy, Vijayan took on the League, a prominent ally of the opposition front, saying they should not have insulted the sacred text.

"Congress and IUML need to introspect.RSS have their own agenda.Why did UDF toe the RSS stand?" the chief minister asked.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the state assembly Ramesh Chennithala said the marxist party should not be under the impression that people are fools.

They are aware that Balakrishnan is playing the communal card to give space to BJP and help the saffron party in the state, Chennithala alleged.

"We all respect religious texts-- Bible, Quran, Gita.In the name of a religious text, CPI(M) is trying to unleash communal propaganda to prevent the UDF from speaking about the gold smuggling case," he said.

He claimed the LDF ministry was a "sinking ship" and asserted that the opposition will not back out from its demand for Jaleel's resignation.

Protests by various opposition youth organisation continued for the eighth day today demanding Jaleel's resignation.

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