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NEW DELHI: The BJP and the Congress were engaged in a war of words on Sunday over MP Shashi Tharoor’s remarks at a Lahore event, as the ruling party accused him of “demeaning and discrediting” India and wondered if Rahul Gandhi wanted to contest elections in Pakistan.

Hitting back, the opposition party said the BJP has always responded to substance and facts with “jumlebaazi” (rhetoric).

The BJP attacked Tharoor after he posted a link to the comments made online at Lahore Think Fest, which his office said was held last month, in which he criticised the Modi government’s handling of the coronavirus and also spoke of alleged “bigotry and prejudice” against Muslims during the pandemic.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters that it was “unbelievable” that a senior Congress leader and an MP like Tharoor can make such comments against India at a Pakistani forum.

“He has demeaned India and projected the country in dim light,” Patra said.

Referring to Tharoor’s remarks that Rahul Gandhi had warned about the severity of the Covid-19 as early as in February and that he should be getting credit for it, Patra claimed that the Kerala MP was a close friend of the former Congress president and wondered if Gandhi wanted to get credit in Pakistan and contest polls there.

He is already a “hero” in China and Pakistan, Patra alleged.

At a press conference, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said such reactions from the ruling party “ridicule” the debate and “diminish us as a democracy”.

“The BJP has always responded to substance and pointed facts with ‘jumlebaazi’. The BJP has always believed in rhetoric, not substance.

“Yes, it does sometimes catch you by the eyeballs or the earbuds when you hear it, but, within seconds, logic takes over and tells you how empty a rhetoric the BJP is indulging in,” he said.

If somebody is praising a particular achievement or pointing to a particular area of activity “in which you are laggard in India, and asking such a person to stand for elections from Pakistan is to ridicule the debate and diminish us as a democracy”, he said.

“All that is being done is to point out that you are far stronger, far bigger, far more capable country, and yet you should not be lagging behind in this parameter,” the Congress spokesperson added.

Patra asserted that the Union government had imposed a timely lockdown and noted that India has a high recovery rate and a very low mortality rate in the world, as he lauded its handling of the pandemic.

He also referred to Tharoor’s comments about Indian citizens from the Northeast at times facing problems elsewhere in the country to target the Congress.

“What was the need to discuss such matters at a Pakistani forum? There is no country in this world as democratic and just as India,” he said.

Patra referred to various remarks made by Congress leaders in the past that allegedly targeted the Modi government at events in Pakistan and asked if the opposition party members have ever asked Pakistan at its forum about its “bigotry and violence” against minorities in that country.

In a swipe at Gandhi, Patra said he and the BJP will now call him “Rahul Lahori”.

Singhvi, in his reaction, also noted the recent debate about the possibility of Bangladesh taking over India in terms of per capita GDP and asked if the right response to it is that he should stand for elections from Dhaka and not be in the Indian Parliament.

“These responses might have short-lived, few seconds of utility but they actually show the hollowness of your intellectual ability to deal in areas where you are a complete failure,” he said, targeting the BJP.

In the event, Tharoor was asked by a Pakistani journalist as to how the political fortune of the Indian government was impacted by the rising Covid numbers.

He said it was paradoxical as the government was “not doing well” in dealing with the pandemic and people realise that, but polls suggest that it has not hurt the BJP politically as it should.

“So we in the opposition do point out, for example, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had mentioned as early as February that Covid had to be taken more seriously than the government was taking it and preventive measures needed to be put in place immediately otherwise we would face both a health disaster and an economic catastrophe if this was allowed to run unchecked.

“So he ought to be getting credit for having signalled this early on…,” Tharoor said.

He also said there was a contrast between the way the Covid numbers have worked out in the two countries, India and Pakistan, but the fate of the leadership has not gone in the same contrasting way.

“Both seem to be doing rather well in the public eye, which, to some of us in the opposition in India, is still a bit of a mystery, but we don’t discuss that outside India. We fight our battles at home,” he said.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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INDIA

US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

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NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval

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NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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