updated 1:27 AM UTC, Sep 8, 2016

John Kerry meets Modi


New Delhi: US Secretary of State John Kerry called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Wednesday, the concluding day of his three-day visit to India.

"Capping off an important visit, Secretary of State @JohnKerry calls on PM @narendramodi," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with pictures of the two leaders.

Kerry met Modi at 7 Race Course Road here on Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Kerry addressed students at the Indian Institute of Technology here.

On Tuesday, Kerry co-chaired the Second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Minister for State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman and US Secretary for Commerce Penny Pritzker also attended the Dialogue.

The India-US Strategic Dialogue was upgraded to Strategic and Commercial Dialogue last year at the initiative of Modi and US President Barack Obama.

PM inaugurates ambitious water project in Gujarat, revives development plank

Jamnagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday inaugurated the first phase of the ambitious Rs 12,000 crore SAUNI (Saurashtra Narmada Avtaran Irrigation Yojna) project that aims to satiate the water and irrigation needs of the perennially parched regions of Saurashtra in Gujarat.

Modi, who landed at the Jamnagar airport in the morning, had to drive down to Sanosara to reach the Aji dam site to inaugurate the first link of the project owing to inclement weather. The inauguration got delayed a little.

The SAUNI project, which in Gujarati means something for everyone, aims at diverting the excess floodwater from Sardar Sarovar Dam to fill up 115 dams of the water-scarce Saurashtra region through a network of canals and pipelines. The first phase would help irrigate 4.13 lakh hectares of land.

The Prime Minister pressed a button at the Aji-3 dam to open Gate two, Three and Four, to start release of the water that would fill up Aji-4 dam. Simultaneously, water would also be pumped into Uund-4 reservoir. Modi had launched the scheme when he was Gujarat Chief Minister in September 2012, and on Tuesday opened the first phase.

Officials call the SAUNI project an engineering marvel since it involves lifting huge amounts of water through hundreds of kilometres to fill the dams. "SAUNI project is an engineering marvel that will quench thirst of 11 drought-prone district of Saurashtra and bring fresh life to the region," Chief Minister Vijay Rupani tweeted earlier.

Tuesday's visit of the Prime Minister is being seen as an attempt of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to usher in again its 'development' agenda on the Gujarat political horizon, at a time the Patidar and Dalit agitations have been a reason of worry for the party. Anandiben Patel had to resign as Chief Minister in view of the agitations.

"Thank you Prime Minister. After 2 years & visiting 42 countries, you have found some time for Gujarat. Elections must be round the corner," tweeted senior Congressman Ahmed Patel, taunting Modi.

Earlier, AICC spokesperson and Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said it was during elections or approaching elections that Modi makes such promises for the parched regions of Saurashta and Kutch, but nothing happens on the ground.

Addressing a massive rally of locals and farmers in Gujarati, Modi highlighted the "development" works done by BJP government in the state post 2001. Modi went on to enlist a series of works he had initiated in Gujarat in the field of water management, agriculture, girl child education and energy conservation.

The Prime Minister said it was his Gujarat experience that he was putting in practice at the Centre. "I will not do anything that brings a bad name to Gujarat and will work with all my might for the good of India," he said.

Striking a personal connect with the people, he said, "Gujarat knows it very well that when a son of Gujarat is responsible for whole nation, he will never let Gujarat down and will continue to strive for the welfare of the nation in the same way as he did for Gujarat as the Chief Minister."

He also promised the people that he would spare more time for the state. "Till now I was busy in Delhi and now you will have little to complain."

Modi was joined by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, his deputy Nitin Patel, former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel (who had initially invited Modi for the function before being eased out) and legislators, for his first public rally in the state after taking over as Prime Minister.

Though Modi has visited the state for about half-a-dozen times, this is the first public gathering he addressed.

Talking of SAUNI, Modi said the scheme was conceptualized in 2007 when he was Chief Minister, launched in 2012 and work began on it in January 2014.

According to official sources, a mere 57.67 km of the total 1,126-km pipeline has been laid, only 15 per cent of the total Rs 12,000-crore envisaged spent, and less than 10 per cent of the project work is complete so far.

The Chief Minister, who had in his tweet called SAUNI an "engineering marvel that will quench thirst of 11 drought-prone districts of Saurashtra", compared Modi to sage Bhagirath (who in mythology is believed to have brought Ganga to earth) for bringing Narmada waters to Gujarat. Interestingly, it was in 1961, that the foundation for Sardar Sarovar dam was laid by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and successive national and state governments had been working on it.


Modi wants to destroy Delhi: Kejriwal

New Delhi, Aug 30 (IANS) Upset after two key bureaucrats in Delhi were transferred, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "hell bent" on "destroying" the capital through the Lt Governor.

Kejriwal reacted after Lt Governor Najeeb Jung suddenly transferred Delhi's Health Secretary Tarun Sen and PWD Secretary Sarvagya Srivastava on Tuesday.

The transferred officials were looking after the work of building Mohalla Clinics across the city as well as the job of building classrooms in government schools.

"Today, several officers transferred by LG directly. Files not even shown to CM or any minister. Is this Modi model of democracy?" Kejriwal tweeted.

"Modiji is hell bent on destroying Delhi through LG," he added.

He added that Jung had rejected Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia's multiple requests not to transfer these officials till March 31.

Health and PWD Minister Satyendra Jain told the media separately: "LG is hell bent on stopping every work of the Delhi government.

"We had requested him not to transfer the two secretaries till March 31 as they were involved in developing Mohalla Clinics and classrooms in schools.

"They were doing good work but to no avail," Jain told the media here.

Alert PM saves media lensmen from big mishap

Sanosara (Jamnagar): The alertness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the inauguration of a water project near here on Tuesday saved the lives of several cameramen and photographers, Deputy Chief Minister of Gujarat Nitin Patel informed.

Speaking at a function here after Modi inaugurated the ambitious SAUNI project, Patel said that the Prime Minister was just looking at the flow of the water at the Aji-3 dam site after pushing a button to start the release from the dam.

"He suddenly noticed that several cameramen and photographers were standing on the downstream side. The strong flow of water released a little while ago was racing towards them and could have washed them away," Patel said.

Busy taking photographs of the event, the cameramen and photographers were seemingly unaware of it. But by clapping his hands and with other gestures the Prime Minister alerted them and they escaped in time.

"If the PM had not alerted them, a big mishap could have happened," Patel said.

Modi, Myanmar President hold talks

New Delhi:  Visiting Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi here after which the two held bilateral talks.

"Paving a new road of friendship btw #IndiaMyanmar.PM @narendramodi receives President U Htin Kyaw at Hyderabad House," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted along with pictures of the two leaders.

Some bilateral agreements are set to be inked after the talks.

Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the Myanmar President.

In the morning, President Kyaw was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

President Kyaw, who is on a four-day visit, was in Bodh Gaya in Bihar on Saturday and later visited the Taj Mahal in Agra on Sunday.

This is the first presidential visit from Myanmar to India after Nobel laureate Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) came to power in March this year.

UN General Assembly President-elect calls on Modi

New Delhi : President-elect of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) Peter Thomson called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Monday.

"Advancing India's multilateral agenda. PM @narendramodi receives President Elect of the UNGA, Peter Thomson," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

Thomson, who is from Fiji, was elected in June.

He is visiting India a fortnight ahead of the UNGA annual session in New York.

He is scheduled to hold meetings with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog Arvind Panagariya later on Monday.


PM Modi meets Sindhu, Sakshi, Dipa and other athletes

New Delhi, Aug 28: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Rio Olympics silver medallist P.V. Sindhu and bronze medal winner Sakshi Malik at his residence here on Sunday.

Sports Minister Vijay Goel was also present at the meeting. Along with Sindhu and Malik, shooter Jitu Rai, gymnast Dipa Karmakar, Khel Ratna awardees, Dhyan Chand awardees, Dronacharya awardees, and Tenzing Norgay awardees also met the Prime Minister.

The annual sports awards will be presented here on Monday. The awards will be distributed by President Pranab Mukherjee.

Modi then took to Twitter to speak about the meeting, saying: "Our sportspersons, our pride! Met Arjuna Award winners and congratulated them."

"Delighted to meet you (Pvsindhu1). Every Indian is so proud of what you accomplished."

"Congrats @DipaKarmakar. You have won the nation's hearts."

"You are an inspiration for so many people @SakshiMalik. Keep making us proud with your achievements."

"Meeting the skilled, talented and determined JituRai was wonderful. Best wishes for his future endeavours," PM Modi added.

Sindhu scripted history by winning the silver in women's singles badminton while Sakshi took the bronze in women's freestyle wrestling 58 kg category.

Dipa finished fourth in artistic gymnastics at the Rio Games.

Dipa's coach Bisheshwar Nandi has been selected for the Dronacharya award along with Indian cricket team's Test skipper Virat Kohli's coach Raj Kumar Sharma, athletics coach Nagapuri Ramesh and boxing coach Sagar Mal Dhayal.

Star cricketer Ajinkya Rahane will be conferred the Arjuna Award alongside archer Rajat Chauhan, athlete Lalita Babar, cueist Sourav Kothari, boxer Shiva Thapa, footballer Subrata Paul, hockey stars V.R. Raghunath and Rani Rampal, shooters Gurpreet Singh, Apurvi Chandela, paddler Somyajit Ghosh, wrestlers Vinesh Phogat, Amit Kumar, Para-athletes Sandeep Singh Maan and Virender Singh.

Athlete Satti Geetha will be conferred the Dhayan Chand award along with hockey player Sylvanus Dung Dung and rower Rajendra Pralhad Shelke.

Teresa's canonisation portends more conversions: VHP

New Delhi, Aug 28: Mother Teresa's canonisation portends more conversions to Christianity, an issue that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have considered before deciding to send a delegation to the Vatican, the VHP said on Sunday.

"The canonisation of Mother Teresa is an alarm bell that now there would be more conversions in India and more funds (for conversions) would be routed to India," Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) International Joint General Secretary Surendra Jain said here.

He said granting of sainthood to a person based on miracles attributed to them was not "practical" in today's times.

"Do you expect miracles to happen in this age," he wondered.

Jain warned that with more conversions, there would be more unrest in the society.

He said Modi should have considered the issue before deciding to send an official Indian delegation to the canonisation ceremony at the Vatican.

"The issue of Mother Teresa's services vis-a-vis religious conversions is not new. We have been raising it for years. I think the Prime Minister should have thought over it before he decided to send an official delegation to the Vatican," Jain said.

An official Indian delegation led by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is scheduled to attend Mother Teresa's canonisation ceremony at the Vatican on September 4.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 'Mann Ki Baat' radio address paid tributes to the late Catholic nun for her services to the poor of India, saying that Indians should be proud that Mother Teresa is being officially declared a saint.

The nun founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation that runs hospices in India. She died in 1997.

Modi leaves on four-nation African tour

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for a five-day tour of Africa early Thursday that will take him to Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya.

"The Prime Minister emplanes for a vital four-nation Africa tour. The first nation he will visit is Mozambique," the Prime Minister's Office tweeted.

This is Modi's first official visit to continental Africa. He had earlier visited the island nations of Mauritius and Seychelles.

Modi will arrive in Maputo, Mozambique's capital, on Thursday morning.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to the southeast African nation in 36 years since the visit of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982.

After concluding his engagements in Mozambique, he will leave for South Africa on Thursday evening.

His engagements in South Africa will span across Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg on Friday and Saturday.

Following this, he will leave for Dodoma, Tanzania's capital, from Durban on Saturday evening.

After completing his engagements in Dodoma, Modi will leave for Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday evening.

Ahead of his departure, the Prime Minister tweeted on Wednesday that his visit was aimed at enhancing India-Africa ties.

Modi pulls up Swamy, admits to 'lot of problems' with China

New Delhi: Asserting his authority in no uncertain terms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday ticked off BJP leader Subramanian Swamy over his "publicity stunts", and said India can now speak to China eye-to-eye despite having "a whole lot of problems".

In a wide-ranging interview with TimesNow television, the Prime Minister urged the media to stop looking at everything from the Pakistani prism and said Indian troops "have full freedom to answer back in whatever manner they have to" in the event of border clashes.

Coming out unequivocally in support of the outgoing RBI Governor who had been denounced publicly by Swamy, Modi said "those who are creating controversies are being unjust to Raghuram Rajan".

"I believe Raghuram Rajan's patriotism is no less than any of ours. It will be doing injustice to him if one says that he (Rajan) will serve the country only if he is at a particular post," the Prime Minister said, responding to Swamy's charges but without taking the MP's name.

"Those who speak such language are doing great injustice to him... I believe such things (criticism) are inappropriate. The nation won't benefit from such publicity stunts. 

"One should be more responsible while conducting themselves. Anyone who believes he is bigger than the system is wrong." He added: "I have a very clear message. I have no two minds about it."

This is the first time Modi has come out openly against any Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader since taking office in May 2014.

Modi went on to say that he knew the RBI chief well and that "whatever post he holds, wherever he is, he is someone who will continue to serve the country. He is someone who loves his country". 

Without specifically answering questions on China's blocking of India's membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Modi said: "We don't have one problem with China, we have a whole lot of problems pending with China.

"On some issues, they differ with us and there are issues on which we differ with them. There are some basic differences. But the most important thing is we can speak to China eye-to-eye and put forth India's interests in an unambiguous manner."

Modi said he met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tashkent three days ago and "told him clearly about India's interests".

He underlined that in foreign policy it was not necessary to have similar views to have a conversation. "Even when the views are contradictory, talks are the only way forward and problems should be resolved through dialogue."

On Pakistan, which Modi last visited in December, the Prime Minister called upon the media not to view things from Islamabad's prism and added: "It has been our biggest shortcoming and mistake that we have been tagging ourselves with another country and trying to do things."

The Prime Minister said "there are different types of forces operating in Pakistan. But the (Indian) government only engages with a democratically elected system".

Underlining the problem of multiple authorities in Pakistan, Modi said the issue for New Delhi was who to deal with. "Will it be with the elected government or other actors? That is why India will have to be on alert all the time. India will have to be alert every moment. There can never be any laxity in this."

On foreign policy, Modi made it clear that it was team work at play, involving key ministries as well as his own office. "The impact that is now visible, is not just because of Modi, it is because of the team."

Commenting on recent terror attacks, the Prime Minister said his government had stepped up pressure on terrorists and their schemes were proving unsuccessful. 

"It is because of this disappointment that such incidents are taking place," he said, in reference to Saturday's attack on a CRPF vehicle which left eight troopers dead in Jammu and Kashmir.

Alleging that people were given the opportunity to launder money "here and there" during 2011-14, Modi said his government had framed stringent laws to bring back unaccounted wealth stashed abroad "and whoever comes in its fold will know how strict the law is".

Asked about economic offenders who are now abroad, Modi said his government was determined to act against them. "The people have confidence that if there is someone who can do this, it is Narendra Modi and he will do it."

The BJP veteran implicitly accused the Congress of trying to stifle debate in Parliament and said it was unfair to target the entire opposition for disruptions in the house. "There is one party which has problems. And the whole world knows that party."

Not allowing debate in parliament bad for democracy: PM

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attacked the Congress for disrupting Parliament and said not allowing debate was a bad sign for a democratic system.

"I agree there are lot of problems... Whether the blame is on us or others, I leave it to the people to decide," Modi told TimesNow television in an interview.

Advocating the need for a debate, he said: "The sad part is they are running away from debate. This is a serious issue for a democracy. 

"Parliament is there for debate and to express one's opposition. The responsibility of saving this spirit of Parliament is with all those who support democracy. 

"I have personally met and talked to opposition leaders, important people of our government also talk to opposition." 

Modi pointed out it was not the entire opposition which was creating trouble in Parliament and there were also parties that were not with the government but supported it on key issues. 

Pointing fingers at the Congress without naming it, Modi said "one party" had "problems" and the party had been in power for 60 years and they knew how the government works. 

He said if the Bharatiya Janata Party took to the opposition in "2040", it cannot behave the way it did in 2009-10. 

Disclose undisclosed income by September 30: Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday urged citizens with undisclosed income to come clean by September 30.

"I urge everyone to disclose undisclosed income by September 30. This is the last chance to avoid any problems," Modi said in his monthly radio address 'Mann Ki Baat'.

"We lose our peace by violating rules, why not give correct information about our income and assets to the government," he added. 

He said the revenue department will soon unveil a mechanism to keep track of undisclosed income. 

Modi said he had asked the officials from the income tax, revenue and excise departments to build an atmosphere of trust with tax payers.

He said people living in huge bungalows cannot have annual income of less than Rs 50 lakh. 

"In a country where a government employee donates Rs 5,000 every month out of his monthly pension of Rs 16,000, nobody has a right to evade taxes."

The Prime Minister wondered how there could only be 1.5 lakh people with taxable income over Rs 50 lakh in a country of a billion people.

Modi to meet Russian President Putin at SCO

Tashkent: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to hold a bilateral meeting on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit here.

Modi, who arrived here on Thursday on a two-day visit, earlier held a bilateral meeting with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, in his first diplomatic engagement of the day.

He later posed for a family photograph with the SCO members ahead of attending a plenary of the grouping that is to focus on enhancing connectivity and cooperation.

"Expanding cooperation in our extended neighbourhood. PM @narendramodi with SCO Summit leaders in a family photograph," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

"Enhancing connectivity & cooperation, building prosperity. PM @narendramodi attends SCO Plenary in Tashkent," he posted.

The six-member China-led grouping has kicked off the process for absorbing India and Pakistan as members, following an agreement reached last year at the summit in Ufa, Russia.

Focus on defence, security as Modi meets Uzbek President

Tashkent: India and Uzbekistan on Thursday took note of their growing defence cooperation and called for enhanced security ties as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held bilateral talks with Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov here on Thursday.

President Karimov welcomed Modi on his second visit to Uzbekistan within a year and Modi thanked Karimov for support to India's membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Modi also conveyed the government decision to extend e-tourist visa facility to Uzbekistan.

"Both leaders recalled old historical and cultural connections and discussed ways to further expand and strengthen relations. Modi conveyed decision to extend e-Tourist Visa to Uzbekistan and to organize a Festival of India and an Indian Trade Exhibition in Uzbekistan to mark 25 years of Uzbekistan's independence and 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations with India," said a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement after the talks. 

"Both leaders noted cooperation was growing in defence and an MoU on Cyber Security had been concluded. They called for more cooperation in security," it added.

This was their second bilateral meeting since Modi went to Uzbekistan in July last year during his visit to the five Central Asian countries.

Modi was received at the airport by Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

Modi is here for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit, which is to kick off the process for India's absorption as a member. 

Modi meets China's Xi in Tashkent

Tashkent: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday met with Chinese President Xi Jinping here, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.

Modi's meeting with Xi was his first engagement after landing at the airport, where he was received by Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The Modi-Xi meeting is scheduled to see both sides discuss India's membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, among other bilateral and regional issues.

India is keen to become member of the 48-member elite NSG, that regulates global nuclear trade. Beijing, an important member of the grouping, has been holding out on New Delhi's induction into the grouping.

Yoga no religious activity, a global mass movement: Modi

Chandigarh: Yoga is no religious activity and people must embrace it for better mental and physical health, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said here on Tuesday to mark the International Day of Yoga.

Addressing some 30,000 yoga enthusiasts at the Capitol Complex, Modi also said that the UN-declared International Day of Yoga had become the biggest global mass movement.

"Yoga is not about the other life. Therefore, it is not a religious practice. It is the science of this world, it is about what we will get in this life," Modi said, speaking in Hindi. 

He said yoga was for both believers and non-believers, and there was no need to create any controversy over it.

“Yoga is not a religious activity. Many people do not understand yoga completely. It is not what you will get from yoga but what is important is what you will give to yoga and what all (ailments) will it rid you of. 

"It helps is getting mukti (salvation) from health issues,” Modi said, in an attempt to de-link the belief among some that yoga was a part of Hinduism.

“Among all days marked by the UN, no day has equalled the mass movement the International Yoga Day has become. It has become the biggest mass movement worldwide,” said Modi, who was instrumental in getting the UN to declare June 21 as the International Yoga Day.

"Make yoga a part of your life," he said. "Just as the mobile phone is now a part of your life, make yoga too a part of your life." 

Yoga, he said, helped to control the mind and maintain a healthy body. It helped people to lead a disciplined life.

Modi said yoga was a guarantee for wellness, not just fitness. 

"Yoga binds body, mind, intelligence and soul. It provides a balance to mind and body. Yoga gives health insurance at zero budget... Anyone can do it anywhere...

“We are busy in our lives. We are cut off from ourselves. Yoga links us to ourselves.”

He said yoga had become a “big profession worldwide”.

Modi said people in every corner of the country and indeed in other countries too were taking part in the International Yoga Day.

Expressing concern at the rising number of diabetics in India, he urged people to focus on the disease so that it could be tackled in a better way by the next International Yoga Day. 

Modi announced two annual awards to be given from next year: for doing exceptional work for promotion of yoga at the international and national levels.

The prime minister later got down from the stage from where he addressed the gathering and shook hands with specially-abled yoga enthusiasts.

Donning T-shirts and track-pants, the yoga enthusiasts, shortlisted to perform yoga, had begun lining up around the spruced up complex around 4 a.m. on Tuesday. 

Over 96,000 people had registered themselves to take part in the Chandigarh event. Of this, over 30,000 were picked, including 10,000 each from Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana.

Yoga day was also held at 100 other locations across Chandigarh.

Also on Tuesday, hundreds of thousands across the country began the day with yoga exercises.

Yoga guru Ramdev held his record-breaking yoga event in Faridabad town in Haryana, adjoining the national capital, earlier on Tuesday.

Organisers said over 100,000 people performed yoga with Ramdev, setting a world record.

The main event of the first International Yoga Day celebration was held on Rajpath in the heart of New Delhi last year.

India's economic growth will drive development in neighbours too: Modi

New Delhi: India's economic growth will not be confined to bringing about development only in the country but it must also drive and bring benefit to its neighbours like Sri Lanka, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday.

In his video address during the joint inauguration of the renovated Durraiappah Stadium in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Modi said: "India strongly believes that its economic growth must drive and bring benefit to its neighbours. Durraiappah Stadium embodies the spirit of our cooperation. Indeed, India's support for Sri Lanka's development is a promise of our friendship."

Modi said the stadium was not just brick and mortar but a symbol of optimism and economic development. 

Duraiappah Stadium, named in honour of a former mayor of Jaffna, the late Alfred Thambirajah Duraiappah, has been renovated by the Indian government at a cost of over Rs 7 crore ($1 million). Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena was present in the stadium at Jaffna for the inauguration.

Modi said India would like to see Sri Lanka as "an economically prosperous" country. 

"A Sri Lanka where -- unity and integrity; peace, harmony and security; and equal opportunity and dignity prevails throughout the country among all its people," he said. 

Prime Minister appreciated the performance of 'Surya Namaskar' on the occasion and said, "The 'Surya Namaskar', performed just a short while ago, has sent the message of holistic healthcare, harmonious and sustainable living with nature to the world". 

"In about seventy-two hours from now, the world would be celebrating the second anniversary of the International day of Yoga on 21 June. Sri Lanka was among the first supporters of the UN resolution on this subject in 2014," he said, adding the Surya Namaskar performed in Jaffna on Saturday in a way marks the "start of the International day of Yoga with a curtain raiser from Jaffna, from this Durraiappah Stadium". 

"We could not have asked for a more fitting start and tribute to the International Day of Yoga," Modi said and thanked Sri Lankan President Sirisena for the unique gesture.

"Durraiappah Stadium will stand as yet another symbol of our lasting friendship," he said.

India will "walk side by side with Sri Lanka" as it charts its own path to progress and prosperity for all of its citizens, he said.

He further said New Delhi's assistance to Colombo will be based on the "priorities" drawn by the Sri Lankan government and the cordial ties between two countries should not be "limited to the confines of our two governments" only. 

"They (cordial relationship) reside in the rich contacts of our history, culture, language, art, and geography," he said.

The renovated stadium has a seating capacity of 1,850. It will provide the necessary infrastructure to promote sports and recreational activities, and assist the overall development of the youth of the northern province in Sri Lanka. 

The stadium has been in disuse since 1997. 

Development answer to UP's problems, says Modi; attacks Mulayam, Mayawati

Allahabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said development was the panacea for all ills afflicting Uttar Pradesh and appealed to the voters to bring the BJP to power in the state in the 2017 assembly elections.

Setting the stage for Bharatiya Janata Party's poll campaign in the crucial state, Modi said he will strive to do in five years in Uttar Pradesh what could not be done in the past 50 years. 

Uttar Pradesh sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha. The BJP currently has 71 MPs from the state.

Modi, an MP from Varanasi, said: "We have to move only on development. The work that the previous governments could not do in the past 50 years, I will try to do in five years." 

He said the state was afflicted by nepotism, corruption, communalism and casteism.

"People are being troubled by the poison of communalism. Development is the answer to all the ills," he said. 

Speaking at a well-attended rally on the conclusion of the two-day BJP executive meeting here, the Prime Minister accused the ruling Samajwadi Party and opposition Bahujan Samaj Party of entering into a "contractual arrangement" in Uttar Pradesh.

Both Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati make allegations against each other when in opposition but do not take action when they are in power in the state, the Prime Minister said. 

"There is an interesting contract in UP. There is a collusion between Mulayam Singh and Mayawati (about coming to power every five years)," Modi said. 

"Till the time this five-five year loot ends, UP will not progress. Please give me a chance to pay back. Give me a chance. If we do anything for personal gains in the next five years, you can kick us out," Modi said. 

The Prime Minister said his government had taken several steps to curb corruption and saved leak of Rs 15,000 crore in cooking gas subsidy. 

"Uttar Pradesh gets one lakh crore rupees from the government of India. I do not know whether it reaches you," he said. 

He said if BJP returned to power in the state, every penny will be utilised properly. 

"We can transform the future of the youth with the available resources also. Hence, I want your blessings."

Modi also referred to central government's decision to abolish interviews for Group 'C' and 'D' posts and said he had urged the state governments to follow suit. 

Modi, who drew rapturous applause from the gathering on some of his remarks, said a new 'yagya' was starting in Uttar Pradesh which will see the "end of nepotism, casteism and dishonesty". 

Taking potshots at the Akhilesh Yadav government over law and order in the state, Modi said Uttar Pradesh has to be saved from "lawlessness" on the streets. 

Modi said of about 18,000 unelectrified villages in the country, 1,529 were in Uttar Pradesh. "Of these, 1,352 have already been electrified (by BJP-led central government)," he said.

The prime minister talked about steps taken by his government for farmers, saying the crop insurance scheme had low premium. 

Talking about his government's achievements in the past two years, he said the speed of road construction had picked up and there had been the highest production of coal, urea and electricity. 

Modi, Shah exhort party cadres for Mission UP, 2019 Lok Sabha polls

Allahabad: With eye on next year's assembly polls in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, and on "Mission 2019", Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday exhorted BJP party workers to preserve the massive goodwill the party received in 2014 till the next general elections.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah, in his speech, trained his guns at the state's Samajwadi Party government and raised the issue of alleged "migration" of Hindus from Kairana, in Shamli district, and the recent Mathura violence.

The Prime Minister, addressing a meeting of party office bearers in Allahabad before the official inauguration of the party's two-day National Executive meet, said: "The need of the hour is to preserve the massive goodwill that the party got in 2014, like a monsoon downpour," according to a BJP leader, who attended the office bearers meet.

The Prime Minister also asked the party leaders to preserve its 11 crore members.

Reminding party leaders of "Mission UP" and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Modi said the party needs to preserve these 11 crore people as "voters and members" of the party by involving them with social initiatives and campaigns of the BJP government.

Modi also gave tips to party leaders to change in accordance with technology, time and age, keeping in mind the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh which are due next year.

However, Amit Shah targetted the Samajwadi Party and the Congress in his speech.

He attacked the SP government over the "atmosphere of violence" in Uttar Pradesh.

"The incident at Kairana where a large number of people are migrating is very unfortunate. The Mathura violence was also very unfortunate. The SP government has been unable to control the situation," Shah said in his presidential address.

"There is no peace. Here, the atmosphere is of violence and the state government has failed to control all these," the Bharatiya Janata Party president said.

Shah also directed his ire against the Congress, saying its politics of obstructionism had become the hallmark of the main opposition party in the last two years.

This is also the reason for the weakening of the Congress, Shah maintained.

Providing to the media highlights of the party president's address, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad later said that Shah compared the performance of the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre with that of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

"While there was policy paralysis in the Congress-led government, our government has made progress with clear policy decisions -- where policy decisions are taken by the political leadership and the executive implements them," Prasad quoted Shah as saying.

"The previous government was marred by policy paralysis. Our government has been a decisive government that has ended a lot of dilemmas of the previous regime," he said.

The BJP president pointed out that the two years of the Modi government have been corruption-free.

He also asserted that the NDA government's two years have been exceptionally good and a lot has been achieved.

"This year, two important things have happened. First, our government, led by Narendra Modi, at the Centre has completed two years. And second, the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party has been very good in the state assembly elections," he said.A

Referring to the recent polls, Shah said: "The victory in Assam has opened the gates to north-east India for the BJP."

"From Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Kutch to Guwahati, the BJP is expanding," he said at the meeting, which was attended, among others, by senior ministers, BJP chief ministers, party MPs and state unit chiefs.

He said: "The Congress-led UPA government was in a dilemma whether rural development should take precedence over urban development. Whether there should be reforms or social welfare?"

"Our government has overcome all such dilemmas by striking a fine balance between rural and urban development, reforms and social welfare and issues of governance," Prasad quoted Shah.

The party chief also said that unlike in the past the "disconnect between the foreign and defence policy" has also been done away with in the last two years.

He also expressed confidence that the party will return to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2017 and the Centre in 2019 as well.

Shah referred to the top civilian honours accorded to Modi by two prominent Islamic countries, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, in a clear message to Muslims who continue to be wary of BJP due to its Hindutva agenda.

BJP hails Modi for 'historic' foreign tour, opposition criticises

New Delhi: Describing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's five-nation tour as "historic", the BJP leaders on Thursday hailed him, while the CPI-M accused the Prime Minister of making India a "junior partner" of the US' global strategic design. The Congress too criticised Modi for not being grateful towards former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his contributions to making of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

BJP president Amit Shah described Modi's five-nation tour as "unprecedented strategic and diplomatic success", saying what the country could not achieve in decades, the BJP-led government achieved in two years.

"Modi's historic address to the US Congress has brought honour for crores of Indians and his five-nation tour has achieved unprecedented strategic and diplomatic success. A prosperous and strong India is marking its presence on the global stage in the leadership of Modi ji," Shah said in a statement.

Shah said that it was a success of the BJP government's aggressive diplomacy that India is poised to become member of the multi-lateral export control regime -- the 34-member Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

"After joining this group, India, for the first time would be able to export weapons. This is the result of diplomatic success of the Modi government that the country has achieved the feet in two years, what we could not achieve in decades," he said.

Commenting on the Indo-US Joint Statement issued during Modi's visit to the US, the Communist Party of India-Marxist said it amounted to abandoning New Delhi's independent position on foreign policy.

"The 50-paragraph Joint Statement ... is a declaration that cements India's role as a strategic junior partner of US global strategic designs," it said in a statement.

"The agreement covers almost the entire scope of bilateral relations as well as a global partnership, declaring that India has abandoned its established independent foreign policy and has firmly tied itself to the apron strings of US global strategic designs."

It said the agreement commits India to provide logistic facilities such as re-fuelling of the US Air Force on its adventures of military intervention in any part of the world. 

Criticising Modi, the Congress said the prime minister spoke without keeping in mind the facts and the background.

"India entered into the Indo-US nuclear deal under the leadership of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He was grateful towards Atal Bihari Vajpayee by remembering him, but he forgot to acknowledge the contributions of Manmohan Singh," Congress spokesperson P. C. Chacko told IANS.

"If he was conscious of the history, then he should have remembered Manmohan Singh, who was the architect of the Indo-US nuclear deal. They got this advantage because of the UPA government. But Modi was ungrateful towards him," he added.