updated 12:51 PM UTC, Oct 10, 2018

With Eye On S-400 Missile System Deal, Vladimir Putin In India Today

NEW DELHI: Russian President Vladimir Putin will arrive in Delhi today on a two-day visit during which India and Russia are likely to sign a deal to procure S-400 air defence systems and deliberate on key regional and global issues, including US sanctions on import of Iranian crude oil. Vladimir Putin, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will hold the 19th India-Russia annual bilateral summit during which the two leaders are expected to review bilateral defence cooperation in the wake of the US sanctions against Russian defence majors.

The focus during the visit will be on the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems agreement with a top Kremlin aide saying Tuesday that Russian President Putin will oversee the signing of the "USD 5 billion deal".

"The key feature of this visit will be the signing of the agreement to deliver S-400 air defence systems," Vladimir Putin's top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov was quoted in media reports as saying in Moscow. "The value of the contract will be more than $5 billion," he said.

The purchase will violate sanctions under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) instituted by the US Congress on arms purchases from Russia, but American lawmakers have allowed the possibility of a presidential waiver.

There have been indications by New Delhi that it will go ahead with the deal notwithstanding the US sanctions.

"India has maintained its sovereignty as regards to its relationship with countries. We shall maintain it in all earnestness," Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told PTI recently when asked whether the US sanctions will hit India's defence ties with Russia.

India wants to procure the long-range missile systems to tighten its air defence mechanism, particularly along the nearly 4,000-km-long Sino-India border.

S-400 is known as Russia's most advanced long-range surface-to-air missile defence system. China was the first foreign buyer to seal a government-to-government deal with Russia in 2014 to procure the lethal missile system and Moscow has already started delivery of an undisclosed number of the S-400 missile systems to Beijing.

"Would Never Support Him": Sharad Pawar Retracts Rafale Remark On PM Modi

NEW DELHI: Days after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar created a flutter by saying that the public does not doubt Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intentions on purchasing Rafale fighter jets from France, the veteran politician today tried to defuse the situation by asserting that he would "never" do something like that. "Some people have criticised me, saying that I supported him (PM Modi). But I did not support him and will never (do that)," Mr Pawar said at a party meeting in the Marathwada region.

Clarifying his stand on the Rafale deal, the NCP chief said: "They (the government) bought the aircraft. I am saying with all clarity that the government should explain to parliament why the cost of the aircraft rose from Rs. 650 crore (per plane) to Rs. 1,600 crore."

He then went on to reiterate his demand for a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee into the Rafale deal, and demanded that the Modi government disclose the price of the 36 fighter jets.

The immediate reason for Mr Pawar's volte-face seems to heightening rebellion inside the party that led to founder-member Tariq Anwar and general secretary Munaf Hakim calling it quits. His statement also stood to endanger the party's potential alliance with the Congress in future elections at a time when its president, Rahul Gandhi, has launched a pointed attack on PM Modi.

The former Defence Minister's controversial statement was well-received by those on the other side of the political spectrum. BJP president Amit Shah even thanked Mr Pawar, tweeting that he had placed "national interests above party politics". "Dear @RahulGandhi, you would be wiser by believing your own ally and a leader of Pawar Saheb's stature," he added.

The NCP, however, later issued a statement claiming that the media had quoted Mr Pawar "out of context".

Mr Pawar also hit out at the central and Maharashtra governments over agrarian issues, and hailed the former United Progressive Alliance government's decision to write off farm loans amounting to Rs. 71,000 crore.

Target iPhones, Not Rates, To Support Rupee, Says Adviser To PM Modi

The government must restrict imports of luxury goods to tackle a widening current-account deficit and support the rupee, instead of resorting to raising interest rates, according to an adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"We need to actively send signals to disincentivize or discourage increase in consumption of what I describe as explicit luxuries," Rathin Roy, a member of Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council, said in an interview. Imports of mobile phones such as iPhones or spending on services such as higher education overseas has gone up, he said.

The government on Wednesday raised import taxes on $12 billion of goods, from jewelry to footwear, as it sought to pare the current-account deficit from a five-year high. Electronic goods and gold are among India's biggest imports after oil and the rupee's slide to Asia's worst-performing currency has worsened the nation's finances as economic growth picks up.

Oil has risen to the highest in four years, threatening to stoke inflation and unnerving global funds who've pulled $2.45 billion from local bonds and stocks in September. The withdrawals have sent the rupee to multiple record lows, and prompted most economists in a Bloomberg survey to call for a 25-basis point rate hike by the central bank this week.

Roy says bumping up borrowing costs is not an answer to the nation's currency woes.


"There's a consensus across the central bank and other authorities that the circumstances are not such as to warrant using the interest rate as an instrument to manage the exchange rate," he said. "That's very welcome."

The government and the central bank have successfully warded off attempts by speculators to short the rupee, he said, referring to RBI's measures on Thursday to improve cash availability with banks. India's move to raise import tariffs follows similar steps taken by Indonesia, which also runs a current-account deficit. The Southeast Asian country has delayed import-heavy infrastructure projects and boosted taxes on imports of luxury goods.

Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United To Join BJP-Led NDA

PATNA: Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United is back in folds of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance or NDA after nearly four years of separation. A patch-up between the long-lost partners was announced at the party's national executive meeting this morning in Patna.

The BJP and the JD-U, partners for nearly two decades, unchained acrimoniously in 2013. However, when last month Nitish Kumar ended his mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance with Lalu Yadav's RJD and the Congress and formed the government with the help of the BJP, the reunion seemed inevitable.

On July 26, Nitish Kumar had quit as Chief Minister after Lalu Yadav's son, Tejashwi Yadav, refused to quit the Bihar government despite being caught in a corruption scandal. "My conscience told me to quit," said Mr Kumar, who was praised by PM Modi for his "fight against corruption" minutes later. Hours later, PM Modi's party, the BJP came out in support of Mr Kumar. The two staked claim to form government soon after.

A few years ago, Nitish Kumar had ended a long alliance with the BJP. He partnered with the Congress and former bitter rival Lalu Yadav to stop the BJP from winning the Bihar assembly elections in 2015.

But it was an uncomfortable alliance, made more uneasy by Nitish Kumar repeatedly breaking ranks with his allies to back the BJP-led Centre on issues like demonetisation and the roll-out of the landmark Goods and Services Tax (GST), which were criticised by the rest of the opposition. It was seen to signal that Mr Kumar was open to switching sides ahead of national elections in 2019.

The corruption charges against Lalu Yadav and his family gave Nitish Kumar the exit route he needed.

Taking Aim At China, India Tightens Power Grid, Telecoms Rules

NEW DELHI: India is tightening the rules for businesses entering its power transmission sector and making stringent checks on both power and telecoms equipment for malware - moves that government and industry officials say aim to check China's advance into sensitive sectors.

Chinese firms such as Harbin Electric, Dongfang Electronics, Shanghai Electric and Sifang Automation either supply equipment or manage power distribution networks in 18 cities in India.

Local firms have long lobbied against Chinese involvement in the power sector, raising security concerns and saying they get no reciprocal access to Chinese markets.

With India and China locked in their most serious military face-off in three decades in the remote Doklam plateau, across the border in China, the effort to restrict Chinese business has gathered more support from within the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, worried about the possibility of a cyber attack.

The Indian government is considering a report prepared by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) that sets new conditions for firms bidding for power transmission contracts and tips the scales in favour of local companies.

According to an official involved in drafting the report who asked not to be named, it says companies looking to invest in India should have been operating there for at least 10 years, have Indian citizens as top executives, and employees of the foreign firm should have lived in India for a certain period, the official said.

Those companies have to detail where they procure the raw materials for transmission systems, and will be barred from further operations in India if their materials contain malware.

Though the report makes no direct reference to China, the official said the recommendations are intended to deter China from making further headway in India, because of the security risks.

CEA Chairman RK Verma said the possibility of a crippling cyber attack on India's power systems was a key consideration while drafting the policy. "Cyber attacks are a challenge," he told Reuters.

A representative of a Chinese enterprise engaged in exporting electric power equipment in India told China's state-run Global Times that India's industry has long tried to block foreign competition under the garb of safety issues.

"Now, as Sino-Indian relations are getting intense, the old tune is on again. But in fact, it is unrealistic to completely ban China and India power investment cooperation. India will pay a huge price for this," the paper said.

'A New India By 2022,' Vows PM Modi On Independence Day

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared his vision for a "New India" in his Independence Day speech from Delhi's iconic Red Fort today, pledging to build it by 2022, when independent India turns 75. Early in his speech, his shortest in four years at 54 minutes, PM Modi mourned the tragic death of children at a Gorakhpur hospital in the past week and for the lives lost in floods.

"People of India stand shoulder to shoulder with those affected due to natural disasters and the great tragedy in Uttar Pradesh, where little, innocent children died in a hospital," PM Modi said. Over 70 children have died in the last one week at the hospital in UP's Gorakhpur amid a deadly outbreak of encephalitis.

The Prime Minister talked of a "new India, one that leaves behind a 'Chalta Hai' attitude. We have to think of 'Badal Sakta Hai.' This attitude will help us as a nation." The millennials turn 18 next year, PM Modi said, inviting India's young to "take this opportunity to shape the future of the nation and participate in India's development."

"I invoke Team India to run for a New India by 2022. By then the poor shall have concrete houses, the farmer shall double his income, youths and women will get ample opportunities, an India free of casteism, terrorism, corruption," the Prime Minister said.

PM Modi reached out to the young in violence-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir, inviting those wielding guns to "join the mainstream". His government, the Prime Minister said, was determined to restore to Kashmir its status of "heaven on earth," stating, "Bullets or abuses won't solve Kashmir's problem... change can be brought only by embracing Kashmiris."

But, he also emphasised, "There is no question of being soft on terrorism or terrorists."

Rs. 1.75 Lakh Crore Under Scrutiny Post Notes Ban: PM Modi

NEW DELHI: Vowing to continue the crackdown on black money, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that over Rs. 1.75 lakh crore deposited in banks post note-ban and more than 18 lakh people with disproportionate income are under government scrutiny.

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 71st Independence Day, he said: "Those who have looted the nation and looted the poor are not able to sleep peacefully today."

Demonetisation of old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes last November, he said, helped bring over Rs. 3 lakh crore of unaccounted wealth into the banking system. "This is not government research this is outside experts," he added.

Prime Minister Modi said that out of the money deposited in banks post notes ban, over Rs. 1.75 lakh crore is under scrutiny. "More than Rs. 2 lakh crore black money has reached banks and now people depositing such money are being made to answer questions on their origin." The move, he said, has checked generation of new black money.

"The result of this has been that this year, the new tax payers (filing returns) has more than doubled to 56 lakh. Last year this was 22 lakh. This is the result of fight against black money," he said.

Prime Minister Modi, who had in 2014, promised to eliminate black money, said that the crackdown on ill-gotten wealth will continue. "More than 18 lakh people have been identified whose income is more than their declared wealth," he said. "And they have to answer questions on how they accumulated such wealth."

Of the 18 lakh, 4.5 lakh people have come out in open and are seeking to amend their "mistakes," he said, adding that one lakh had not paid income tax ever in past.

Recalling the steps taken by his government to unearth unaccounted and untaxed wealth, he said black money of over Rs. 1.25 lakh crore has been detected in last three years which people were compelled to surrender.

Demonetisation, he said, was a step in that direction which achieved great success.

The move forced "the black money which was hidden to be brought to mainstream. Our effort was to get money into banks and make it a part of formal economy and we have done it successfully," he said.

Woman Branded Witch, Killed In UP Amid 'Braid Cutting' Scare

AGRA: A 62-year-old woman was beaten to death in a village in Uttar Pradesh's Agra early on Wednesday morning by villagers who accused her of being a witch, the police said. The villagers, they said, alleged that the woman was about to cut the hair of a young girl sleeping outside her home.

The woman, Maan Devi, had reportedly gone to the fields to relieve herself very early in the morning and while returning home she was attacked. The girl spotted Maan Devi, who wore a white sari, and raised an alarm, the police said.

"My mother begged them to spare her, saying she was not a witch, but they did not listen," her son Gulab Singh said. A murder case has been filed against two neighbours, who are absconding.

Across at least three states, several women have in the past few weeks complained to the police about bizarre attacks in which their braided hair has been "mysteriously" cut while they have been asleep or have fallen unconscious.

After a 17-year-old in western UP's Ferozabad said her braid had been cut off while she was asleep, there is panic in villages in the area, with residents alleging that a "witch" is cutting the hair of women. The girl in Ferozabad said she woke up to find her chopped braid lying by her side. At least four to five such cases have been reported in the state so far.

In the Mewat region, where Haryana and Rajasthan converge, there have been at least 15 complaints in the last two weeks, the police said, of women's hair being cut. Most of them claimed they fell unconscious and discovered, when they came to, that their braids had been cut.

Villagers, the police said, have blamed "ghosts, witches and 'cat-like' creatures." A woman in Gurgaon, adjacent to national capital Delhi, told the police that she had encountered a godman in "red and yellow clothes and with a trident" outside her home minutes before she lost consciousness and her hair was cut off.

"When I regained consciousness, I found myself lying on the floor and my braid was chopped off," the terrified woman told cops, adding that nothing was stolen from her home.

The police have sought to re-assure people, saying they suspect that gangs of anti-social elements are behind the bizarre attacks, aimed at frightening villagers and disturbing peace.

"We have issued an advisory to all District Magistrates and other senior police officers to act against those spreading rumours . We have also asked district officials to go to villages and use village level administrators to quell these rumours," Anand Kumar, a senior cop in Uttar Pradesh, said.

"What we are getting to know is that these incidents seem to be the handiwork of local anti-social elements," he said.

In Haryana, women have been advised to tie their hair in buns and in many villages, have stopped going out alone to fetch water or for other chores. In Uttar Pradesh, the doors of homes have been coloured vermilion, "to ward off evil" the police said.

The rumours and panic is being compared to the "monkey man" hysteria in Delhi and neighbouring areas in 2001, when people alleged that a short creature that looked like a monkey was attacking them.

'Your Job, Not Opposition's': PM Narendra Modi Ticks Off BJP MPs On Conduct

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his displeasure at lack of minimum attendance in the Rajya Sabha stalling work and told the ruling party lawmakers that it was their responsibility, and not the opposition's to get government business passed.

PM Modi - who has underlined the importance for party legislators to ensure their presence in parliament through the day on several occasions - told lawmakers that he would not tolerate their absence again.

The immediate provocation for PM Modi ticking off the BJP lawmakers was Rajya Sabha's inability to take up discussion on a bill on maritime law on Friday evening. And this, after the government had persuaded the opposition earlier in the day, to discuss legislations for an hour after 5 pm.

But when the bill was taken up, the Congress pointed to the lack of quorum - or minimum attendance for the House to take any up business. When there aren't enough members in the house - 10 per cent of the strength of the House in the minimum - a quorum bell sounds an alert for three-and-a-half minutes and proceedings are halted until more lawmakers arrive. If they don't, the proceedings have to be adjourned.

When the government wondered where the opposition members had suddenly disappeared, the Congress' Jairam Ramesh shot back: "It is not our responsibility to maintain quorum, but yours".

It is a point that was echoed at the BJP's weekly meeting of lawmakers from the two Houses of parliament when PM Modi spoke.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and his junior Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had referred to recent instances in the Rajya Sabha where the government had to face embarrassment due to lack of quorum. PM Modi is learnt to have said that he was "worried and not satisfied" with the members' percentage of presence in houses".

Nomura India Fund Soars To $3.6 Billion As Japanese Bet On PM Modi

The demand is so strong that assets of Nomura Holdings Inc.'s India equity fund quadrupled to almost 400 billion yen ($3.6 billion) in just the past year. Japanese investors owned $13 billion of Indian stocks and bonds at the end of June, the most in data going back to 2012, according to India's regulator.

"It's not like we put in any special marketing effort for this fund," said Kazuto Wada, an executive director at Nomura, Japan's largest brokerage. "Investors are looking at where the growth will be in the medium to long term, without having to worry about short-term swings in the market."

India's economy is expanding at about seven times the pace of Japan's, buoyed by a burgeoning middle class and more one than million young people joining the labor force every month. Indian shares have hit multiple records this year amid optimism about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's policies.

"You have an economy that's growing at 7 percent annually with reforms showing tangible progress," Wada said in an interview. "Growth in advanced economies is slowing."

India is what money managers have begun to call a "consensus trade," meaning almost every fund is bullish. Global and local funds have pumped about $16 billion into its stock market this year alone, making the Sensex one of the world's top performers in 2017 and sending the rupee up 5.6 percent against the dollar.

The combined assets of three India funds run by Nissay Asset Management Corp. have topped 100 billion yen since their launch 2015, said Sundeep Sikka, chief executive officer of Mumbai-based Reliance Nippon Life Asset Management Ltd. Nissay is a unit of Nippon Life

Confident About Ram Nath Kovind's Victory, Says PM Narendra Modi

NEW DELHI: A day before voting in the presidential election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said NDA's nominee Ram Nath Kovind has the support of 40 parties and expressed confidence about his victory.

Addressing a meeting of National Democratic Alliance (NDA) parliamentarians on the eve of the commencement of the monsoon session of parliament, PM Modi urged the alliance lawmakers, including legislators in the states, to cast their ballot.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister HN Ananth Kumar later said that the meeting, held in the Parliament House Library building, was also addressed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah and leaders of other alliance parties, including Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan and Shiromani Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Mr Ananth Kumar said PM Modi noted that Chief Ministers of Odisha, Bihar, Telangana and Tamil Nadu had extended their support to Mr Kovind.

PM Modi was quoted as saying that there was "clarity" about the presidential poll and the "road ahead is also clear".

The Prime Minister said he will be delighted to work with Mr Kovind.

PM Modi asked NDA parliamentarians to make special effort to reach out to the youth who will become voters after January 1, 2018.

He dubbed them 'new millennium voters' and called upon the MPs to organise programmes to honour them and make them aware about the worth of vote.

The move is being seen as an effort to reach out to the young and new voters ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Before addressing NDA MPs, PM Modi also addressed a meeting of BJP parliamentary party executive committee.

For PM Modi Meme, Comedy Group AIB Charged By Mumbai Police

Comedy group AIB has been accused of posting offensive content on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a complaint filed by the cyber cell of the Mumbai police. AIB has been charged under the IT Act with an offence that carries a punishment of up to three years in jail, besides a Rs. 5 lakh fine

The FIR or First Information Report has been filed by the cyber cell after "due legal consultation", said the police. The offense is "publishing and transmitting material which is lascivious or appeal to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons".

AIB had yesterday posted an image of a lookalike of the Prime Minister at a railway station, along with a photo of PM Modi with a Snapchat dog filter, captioned #wanderlust. The meme, seen as a dig at PM Modi's foreign tours, provoked strong reactions. AIB was accused of insulting the PM and hurting national sentiment.

The group deleted its post after a barrage of condemnation; one person urged the police to take action.

After China Offers To Mediate In Kashmir, India's Firm Response

NEW DELHI: A day after China's latest snub on the border stand-off at Sikkim, the government has said that "diplomatic channels are available and are being used" to resolve the confrontation that began nearly a month ago. India has also dismissed China's offer- designed to provoke and made yesterday- to help mediate in Kashmir to bring "peace and stability to the region."

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said today, "We are ready to talk Kashmir with Pakistan, but no third party mediation...Our stand is absolutely clear. You are aware that the heart of the matter is cross-border terrorism emanating from a particular country that threatens peace and stability in the country, region, and the world."

Tomorrow evening, Home Minister Rajnath Singh will brief the leaders of opposition parties on the developments in China, as also the recent attack on Amarnath yatris or pilgrims in which seven people were killed in Jammu and Kashmir. The government hopes to build support among the opposition ahead of parliament starting its new session on Monday.

Just two days ago, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said that India and China are capable of managing the differences that crop up occasionally over the disputed border that runs 2,175 miles.

Delivering a lecture in Singapore, Mr Jaishankar said that, "As you know, no part of the border has been agreed upon. It is likely that from time to time there are differences."

China has warned of "serious consequences" if India does not yield to its demand to withdraw soldiers who Beijing claims are on its terrain. "It is not the first time that has happened. And when such situations arise, how we handle it...is a test of our maturity," the Foreign Secretary said.

But the next day, China retorted the border dispute this time "is different" and that India "illegally trespassed".

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping met in Germany at the G-20 summit and talked informally "on a range of issues", said the Foreign Ministry which refused to confirm if the Sikkim confrontation was part of the discussion.

Amid Sikkim Standoff, Praise For PM Modi, GST By Chinese State-Run Media

BEIJING: A Chinese state-run newspaper that typically trades in attacking Delhi today said that India is becoming more attractive to international investors and praised the landmark tax reform GST pushed through by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"As low-cost manufacturing is gradually moving away from China, it is now critical for India and even the world whether it can replace China as the next 'world's factory'," said the Global Times today.

In recent weeks, it has, virtually every day, attacked India over the standoff at the Sikkim border between the Indian and Chinese armies that began early last month. A nationalist tabloid, it said India "should be taught a bitter lesson" and warned that if the confrontation escalates, India will suffer "greater losses" than those of the 1962 war. Defence Minister Arun Jaitley retorted that the India of today "is different from that of 1962."

The Global Times editorial today flagged poor infrastructure and the difficulties in policy implementation across different states as a drawback for India

But on the new national services tax or GST, it wrote, "The new tax regime is expected to give a boost to the 'Make in India' initiative because it is aimed at unifying various state and central taxes into a single tax system, thus laying the foundation for a common national market and improving India's manufacturing competitiveness."

It also singled out PM Modi, stating, "Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the 'Make in India' initiative in September, 2014, the Indian government has been making aggressive efforts in unifying the country as a whole, with the aim of building it into an attractive manufacturing destination for global businesses."

The PM talked informally with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week in Germany at the G20 summit amid the heaving tension at the Sikkim border. China says India's troops have entered its territory to stop its army from building a road. India and Bhutan say the road is being built on Bhutanese soil. China has said for any dialogue or attempt at resolution, India must pull back its soldiers. The road being built gives China access to the narrow strip or "Chicken's Neck" that links India to its seven northeastern states.

Vijay Mallya Case: PM Modi Seeks UK PM's Help On 'Escaped Offenders'

HAMBURG: As India works hard to ensure return of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today sought his British counterpart Theresa May to bring back economic offenders from the country.

The liquor baron has been in the UK since 2016, escaping arrest warrants against him, while a court in London is also hearing a case regarding his return to India.

PM Modi today met the British prime minister during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg and sought UK's help in this regard.

Both leaders also talked about the complete range of India-UK ties.

Mr Mallya is wanted in India for Kingfisher Airlines' default on loans worth nearly Rs. 9,000 crore, has been in the UK since March 2016.

In April, he had attended a central London police station for his arrest and was released on conditional bail a few hours later after providing a bail bond worth 650,000 pounds, assuring the court of abiding by all conditions associated with extradition proceedings, such as the surrender of his passport and a ban on him possessing any travel documents.

Despite Sikkim Stand-Off, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping Swap Praise, Then Have Discussion

HAMBURG, GERMANY: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping today shook hands and greeted each other at an informal meeting of BRICS nations - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in Germany's Hamburg. The two leaders also exchanged words of praise in their speeches. They will meet again this evening at a concert.

PM Modi and President Xi are in Germany for a two-day G-20 summit amid a lengthy stand-off between India and China at the border near Sikkim. The BRICS meeting today was held on the sidelines of the main summit.

A foreign ministry statement said that Mr Xi, while making concluding remarks, "appreciated India's strong resolve against terrorism and the momentum in BRICS introduced under India's chairmanship and through the outcomes of the Goa Summit in 2016. He also appreciated India's success in economic and social development and wished India even bigger success."

PM Modi, who spoke just before Mr Xi, "appreciated momentum in BRICS under the Chairmanship of President Xi" and extended cooperation and best wishes for the BRICS Summit to be held in China's Xiamen later this year," the ministry said.

The two leaders will hold no bilateral meeting in Hamburg. While China said yesterday that "the atmosphere is not right" for a formal meeting between them, India, made it clear that it has not sought such a meeting. Both will hold bilateral meetings with leaders of other countries on the sidelines of the main G20 summit, a group of leading industrialised and emerging economies.

Since the stand-off began last month, China has issued a series of warnings to India asking it withdraw its troops from Doklam, an area near Sikkim that Beijing claims as its own. Indian soldiers had arrived at the area early in June to stop the construction of a road by the Chinese Army that India has said has security implications for it.

China says the Indian Army's actions violate an 1890 border agreement between Britain and China that previous Indian governments have pledged to uphold and that no dialogue can take place till Indian troops are pulled back.

Doklam is near the Tibet, India, Bhutan trijunction. Bhutan, which is militarily and diplomatically supported by India, says Doklam, called Donglang by China, is Bhutanese territory.

China Hardens Stand, Says No Bilateral Meet For PM Modi, Xi At G20

NEW DELHI: China has said that "the atmosphere is not right" for a formal or bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping when they gather for the G20 summit in Germany tomorrow.

India, making it clear that it had not sought a bilateral meeting, said, "There is no change in the Prime Minister's schedule."

The terse exchange comes as the armies of both countries are caught in a lengthy stand-off at the border near Sikkim.

PM Modi arrives in Hamburg tonight for a conclave of the G20 group of nations. Both he and the Chinese president will hold bilateral meetings with other leaders at the summit.

Sources in the Indian government said they're not sure of whether an informal one-on-one meeting for PM Modi and President Xi will take place.

The leaders will also be in the same room as part of a smaller session of BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - that will meet on the sidelines of the main G20 summit that collates the leading industrialised and emerging economies.

China has this week issued a series of warnings to India - some through state-run newspapers - about the urgent need for New Delhi to withdraw its troops from an area that Beijing claims as its own near Sikkim. Indian soldiers arrived at the area early in June to stop the construction of a road that New Delhi holds as "a serious security concern."

China says the Indian Army's actions violate an 1890 border agreement between Britain and China that previous Indian governments have pledged to uphold and that it will not move for any dialogue till Indian troops are pulled back.

According to the Chinese interpretation of events, Indian soldiers crossed into China's Donglang region early in June and obstructed work on a road on the plateau.

But Bhutan which is militarily and diplomatically supported by India, says the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

After The Bear Hugs, 7 Deals Signed By PM Modi And Israel

JERUSALEM: There were more bear hugs on Wednesday and a working lunch for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu - but the focus was on getting business done. A total of seven agreements were signed in sectors ranging from agriculture to water conservation and space as they sought to deepen ties beyond high-priced defence deals.

The two leaders presented a series of agreements between India and Israel for cooperation on satellite technology, water and agriculture, as well as the creation of a $40 million innovation fund.

The agreements are part of efforts to extend relations in civilian areas between both countries, with Israel already selling India an average of $1 billion per year in military equipment.

But the joint statement issued by both leaders was preceded by personal anecdotes to signal their close friendship. Mr Netanyahu said a long-ago date at an Indian restaurant was followed by a marriage that has lasted 26 years. PM Modi thanked Mr Netanyahu's wife and the Israeli premier for the dinner they hosted for him last night.

PM Modi Announces New Flight To Israel, Rules Eased For OCI Cards

JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced a direct Delhi-Mumbai-Tel Aviv flight and simplified rules for getting Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, drawing loud cheers from the crowd at the Tel Aviv Convention Centre. It was for the first time in 70 years that an Indian Prime Minister had the opportunity to visit Israel, he said in the address to about 5,000 members of the Indian community. Showering praise on the audience, he said that Jews from India played a key role in the development of Israel. He thanked his host and Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu for being constantly by his side through his visit and said that he would "always remember the way he welcomed me to an Indian feast" at dinner on Tuesday.

PM Modi said Indian-origin people who had done the compulsory military service for Israel would now be eligible for OCI cards. He hailed the community and said innovation, science and technology will be bridge between two countries. "My Indian brothers and sisters toiled day and night to realise the dream of 'Make the desert bloom'," he said.

Before PM Modi's speech, welcoming him, Mr Netanyahu said, "These are the Jews of India. They love India, they love Israel, they love our friendship." He said the two countries "have a vast programme to take our ties to new heights. But we have a human bridge between us."

Earlier in the day, the two leaders talked of "shared priorities" and a partnership that "can help global peace and stability," after holding back-to-back meetings over four hours and signing seven deals, including pacts on agriculture and water management. PM Modi also invited the Israeli Prime Minister and his wife to India. Mr Netanyahu immediately accepted the invitation.

After their meetings the two leaders met Moshe Holtzberg - an Israeli child who as a toddler survived the 2008 terror attack at a Jewish centre in Mumbai. Moshe, now 11, read out a welcome note for PM Modi, saying "Dear Mr Modi, I love you".

Mr Netanyahu said both countries are "challenged by forces of terror" and that their meeting with Moshe Holtzberg is an "expression of our commitment to fight the bad and defend the good."

PM Modi Arrives In Israel, Says Visit Will Be Groundbreaking

TEL AVIV: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was received at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on Tuesday evening by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in a welcome at par with that given to US Presidents. The two leaders shook hands and hugged warmly. This is the first-ever visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister and Mr Netanyahu has announced that he will "accompany the Indian Prime Minister at many events during his visit as befits the leader of the largest democracy in the world".

PM Modi thanked Mr Netanyahu for the "tremendous welcome" and said "it is my singular honour to be the first ever PM of India to undertake this groundbreaking visit to Israel." He began his speech in Hebrew and said "a strong and resilient partnership with Israel would be my focus."

Speaking first at the airport after receiving PM Modi, Mr Netanyahu said, "My friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Welcome to Israel," and in Hindi, "Aapka swagat hai mere dost." He also said, "We love India, we admire your culture, your democracy....We've been waiting for you for 70 years."

PM Modi also struck a personal note, recalling the death of PM Netanyahu's elder brother in Operation Entebbe exactly 41 years earlier, on 4 July 1976. The PM's brother led the successful hostage-rescue mission by Israeli forces in Uganda where an Air France aircraft was taken by Palestinian hijackers. "Your heroes are an inspiration for the younger generations," the Indian Prime Minister said.

PM Netanyahu recalled the Indian PM telling him at their first meeting in 2014 that "sky was the limit" for ties between the two countries. "But actually my friend, the sky isn't the limit," the Israeli PM said, pointing to space partnership between the two countries.

Mr Netanyahu and PM Modi later visited the Danziger Flower Farm where a variety of white chrysanthemum was named "Modi" and the Yad Vashem memorial to honour the victims of the Holocaust, some six million Jews were killed by Nazi Germany. Mr Netanyahu later hosted a private dinner in honour of PM Modi.