India, Israel, UAE, US form new I2U2 Grouping; 1st summit soon

News Network
June 15, 2022

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Washington: The new I2U2 grouping of India, Israel, UAE and the US will hold its first virtual summit next month as part of the Biden administration's efforts to re-energise and revitalise American alliances across the world, according to the White House.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Joe Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Neftali Bennett and UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan would attend the first-of-its-kind virtual summit of the I2U2 grouping next month for discussions of the food security crisis and other areas of cooperation, it said on Tuesday.

The virtual summit of the four countries would take place during Biden's trip to the Middle East region from July 13 to 16, a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.

President Biden looks forward to this unique engagement with Prime Minister Bennett, Prime Minister Modi and President Mohammed bin Zayed, the official said.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price, during his daily news conference on Tuesday, told reporters that each of these countries are technological hubs.

"India is a massive consumer market. It is a massive producer of high-tech and highly sought-after goods as well. So, there are a number of areas where these countries can work together, whether its technology, trade, climate, COVID-19, and potentially even security as well," he said.

"Part of our approach from the start is not only to revitalise and re-energise our system of alliances and partnerships around the world, but also to stitch together partnerships that did not exist previously or were not utilised to their full extent," Mr Price said.

"Biotechnology is also prominent. Deepening trade and economic ties between these countries is in our interest when it comes to the relationship between Israel and the UAE. That is something we have sought to deepen. These two countries have deepened their relationship in recent years, including in the economic realm," he said.

Joe Biden will visit the Middle East region from July 13 to July 16 with stops in Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, and engagements with nearly a dozen counterparts from across the region and beyond.

"The first stop is Israel. This will be President Biden's first visit to the country as President, and it comes nearly 50 years after his first visit to Israel as a young senator," said the official.

During the trip, Joe Biden will engage with nearly a dozen of his counterparts in three stops - Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia.

It is part of this clear sequence of global engagements at an important moment, the official said.

"It demonstrates, we believe, the return of American leadership to bring countries together to address common threats and challenges, something the US can uniquely do.

"And with new frameworks that aim to harness unique American capabilities to enable partners to work more closely together, which is essential to a more secure, prosperous and stable Middle East region over the long term," the official said.

Biden's visit will also focus on Israel's increasing integration into the region, both through the Abraham Accords with the UAE, Morocco and Bahrain; through deepening ties between Israel, Jordan and Egypt; and also entirely new groupings of partners, including Israel, India, the UAE, and the United States - what they call I2U2, said the official.

"We consider these initiatives central to our strategy of empowering partners and encouraging them to work more closely together, which will lead to a more stable region and also to Israel's security and prosperity over the longer term."

"Importantly, some of these new partnerships reach beyond the Middle East, and the President will hold a virtual summit with the I2U2 heads of state for discussions of the food security crisis and other areas of cooperation across hemispheres where the UAE and Israel serve as important innovation hubs," the official added.

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News Network
June 28,2022

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Guwahati, June 28: The dissident Shiv Sena MLAs, who are camping at the luxury Radisson Blu hotel in Guwahati for the past few days are passing their time by playing various indoor games including chess and ludo.

"Other than a couple of meetings within themselves, they have no other serious activity in Guwahati. To pass their time, they are playing various indoor games including chess and ludo to keep themselves engaged," a source close to the MLAs told the media on condition of anonymity.

The rebel legislators led by disgruntled Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde are not allowed to go outside the hotel.

Initially, the MLAs booked rooms of the hotel for about a week.

Assam BJP MLAs, leaders and ministers are occasionally visiting the hotel, and briefly talking with the Maharashtra lawmakers.

Assam police commandos led by senior officials are closely looking after the security of the MLAs, and from time to time, also reviewing the hotel security.

The hotel authorities refused fresh booking of common boarders except the passengers from airlines, with which the hotel has long term arrangements.

Assam's ruling BJP has been maintaining that it has nothing to do with the Maharashtra political crisis and camping of the MLAs in Guwahati.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that these people are guests and have chosen Guwahati for their stay on their own.

Shiv Sena leaders from Manipur led by state President M. Tombi Singh came to the hotel on Monday to meet Eknath Shinde. However, they were not allowed to meet.

The main opposition Congress in Assam earlier asked the dissident Maharashtra MLAs to leave the state at the earliest in the greater interest of the state.

Since last Wednesday morning, dissident MLAs of Shiv Sena, Independents and others have been camping at the hotel posing a threat to the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led coalition government in Maharashtra.

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News Network
June 30,2022

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Mumbai: Shiv Sena rebel Eknath Shinde took oath as Maharashtra Chief Minister and Devendra Fadnavis his deputy on Thursday, as the BJP capped the coup that unseated Uddhav Thackeray a day ago with back-to-back curveballs.

Here are latest developments:

>> "I will stay out of the government and ensure it runs smoothly," Mr Fadnavis said at a news briefing around 4:30 pm, announcing that only Mr Shinde will be sworn in later in the evening.

>> However, barely three hours later, he was seen taking oath as Mr Shinde's deputy after BJP chief JP Nadda said, "He must be Deputy Chief Minister... I will personally request him."

>> Eknath Shinde thanked PM Modi, Mr Fadnavis and other BJP leaders. "It's their magnanimity. They had a bigger mandate, yet they made me the Chief Minister. Who does that?" he said.

>> Devendra Fadnavis and Eknath Shinde met with Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari and staked claim to power earlier in the afternoon.

>> Uddhav Thackeray quit as Maharashtra Chief Minister yesterday, shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that he must prove his majority.

>> The Shiv Sena chief was left with only 13 MLAs after the revolt that played out in three BJP-ruled states. Eknath Shinde and a group of rebels first moved to Gujarat's Surat in luxury buses. They were flown to Assam's Guwahati in chartered flights. They landed in Goa last evening to prepare for a possible test of strength.

>> Deepak Kesarkar, the spokesperson for the Sena rebels, stressed that it was ideology, and not greed for better posts, that drove them to switch sides and go with the BJP.

>> He also said the rebels did not betray Uddhav Thackeray and still have love and respect for him. "Nobody in Shiv Sena is against the Thackeray family," he said.

>> He asserted that the rebel faction is the Shiv Sena now, since Uddhav Thackeray is in a minority in the party. "It's not a question of who is the real Shiv Sena. We have the legal majority and thus ours is the legislature party," he said.

>> Despite evidence of its protection and facilitation of the rebels, the BJP denied any role in the Shiv Sena coup. Devendra Fadnavis held two meetings with the leadership during the crisis. A third meeting saw Eknath Shinde being flown from Guwahati to Vadodara for discussions with Mr Fadnavis and Home Minister Amit Shah, the BJP's chief strategist.

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News Network
June 22,2022

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Kabul, June 22: A powerful earthquake has killed at least 250 people and left scores injured in Afghanistan, a local official said.

Pictures shared on social media showed people on stretchers, rubble and ruined homes in Paktika province.

A local government official told the BBC the death toll of more than 250 was likely to rise, and that more than 150 others had been injured.

The quake struck about 44km (27 miles) from the south-eastern city of Khost.

Tremors were felt across more than 500km of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, according to the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre, quoted by Reuters.

The centre said that witnesses had reported feeling the quake in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, as well as Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.
"Unfortunately, last night there was a severe earthquake in four districts of Paktika province, which killed and injured hundreds of our countrymen and destroyed dozens of houses," government spokesman Bilal Karimi tweeted.

"We urge all aid agencies to send teams to the area immediately to prevent further catastrophe."

The earthquake - which hit during the early hours as many people slept - was a magnitude 6.1 quake at a depth of some 51 km, according to the US Geological Survey. 

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