As US pressures India to cut Iran oil import, Indians ask what Iranian FM can offer in rushed talks

While the plane of the Iranian Foreign Minister was landing at the New Delhi airport for unexpected talks with his Indian counterpart, Indians have been wondering about the timing and purpose of this last-moment scheduled meeting.

Javad Zarif has come at a peculiar time, in the middle of India’s general elections. If he was to wait two more weeks, he could arrange talks with a new government, but the urgency of the meeting speaks volumes.

Iran's Foreign Minister Zarif making a trip to India tomorrow. Will be interesting to note what is announced post the visit. But why now? Elections are underway in India. Two weeks later, he would have been able to have proper negotiations with the new government

But as Washington puts pressure on Iranian oil importers, some Indians agree that some issues cannot wait.

India was once Iran's top oil client after China. Then the US and sanctions stepped in. Last year India, along with seven other nations, received a waiver from Washington which allowed them to import some oil. But earlier this month, the US renewed sanctions and New Delhi had to stop any purchases of Iranian crude. But while big politics are being decided in high places, Indians themselves seem positive about Iran, with many saying India should stick to its vows to Iran.

Also on rt.com FM Zarif arrives in India as US-Iran tensions flare up in Gulf...

Obviously cheaper prices on Iranian oil, free shipping and 60 days of credit for Indian oil importers don’t harm these Iran-sympathising moods. There are alternatives to Iranian oil: Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq, Mexico, and the US, but their crude is more expensive and geographically makes less sense than Iran.
India and Iran also have joint projects like the Chabahar Port, which should promote India’s influence in the region. And cutting ties with Tehran could harm this ambition. These ties are apparently close enough for Tehran to try to blackmail or bribe India into cooperation.

Also on rt.com India not rushing to buy extra Saudi oil to offset lost Iranian supply...

Indian media report that Sharif could offer New Delhi a lure in a form of easier access to the Farzad-B gas bloc, whose gas reserve is estimated at 21.6 trillion cubic ft. 

Whatever Zarif has proposed to India today, one thing is clear for most Indians online: India is going to find itself between a rock and a hard place. The solution they propose? Put Indian interests first.

 

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US top brass warn against punishing unbending India for buying Russia’s S-400 missiles

US defense officials are trying to convince India to reject Russian S-400 missiles, but warn against slapping sanctions on the nation if it completes the deal. However, as with Turkey, efforts have so far failed.

India’s decision to purchase the S-400 air defense system from Russia, as well as the fact that it leaves New Delhi exposed to American sanctions, was discussed during a House Armed Service committee hearing on Wednesday.

Assistant Defence Secretary Randall Schriver told the lawmakers he thought “it would be an unfortunate decision” if the Indians completed the S-400 deal. “We are very keen to see them make an alternative choice,” he said, adding that “we’re working with them to provide potential alternatives”.

Also on rt.com Russia to supply India with 5 S-400 systems, defying Washington sanctions...

A similar line came from Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of the Indo-Pacific Command. “I continue to make the point with them that our interoperability and compatibility going forward will be advantaged with the purchase of US systems,” he said.

The purchase of advanced Russian arms makes any country a potential target for US secondary sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). The US slapped some on China for buying Russian Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 missiles in September last year.

This didn’t stop India from signing a contract a month later, purchasing five S-400 batteries with estimated worth of $5.43 billion. The two nations have a decades-long record of defense cooperation. Russian producers supplied some of the most advanced weapon systems to the Indian Armed Forces as well as contributed to joint projects like the BrahMos supersonic missile.

The threat of possible US sanctions was of course retained during the negotiations, with Indian officials insisting that New Delhi was pursuing an independent defense policy and was not dissuaded by it.

“When Russians asked about the American sanctions, my reply was, ‘Yes, we do appreciate that there could be sanctions on us, but we follow an independent policy,’” General Bipin Rawat, India’s chief of staff, said in the run-up to signing the deal.

Also on rt.com Footage of India’s satellite-killer missile launch appears online (VIDEO)...

Arguably adding insult to Injury, India even agreed that the contract would be paid in rubles rather than dollars, as was customary in international arms sales. Russia’s policy is to move away from the greenback where it makes sense, which Washington understandably does not appreciate.

Schriver warned the committee about being too zealous in implementing the provisions of the law against India.

“We want to work through it because India is an emerging partnership for us,” he said. The official added the law “is not designed to be an impediment in the growing strategic partnership we have with India. It’s designed for consequence to Russia.”

Potential US-made alternatives for the Russian offer would include Raytheon’s Patriot system or possibly Lockheed Martin’s THAAD system. The former is pitched as the better option to another buyer of the S-400, Turkey. Washington is pressuring Ankara into changing its mind on the deal with Russia by threatening that it could block delivery of F-35 fighter jets.

Speaking to the same Armed Service Committee a day before Schriver and Davidson, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Washington wants Turkey to get F-35s and that the only way for Ankara to do it is to buy US missiles. “We need Turkey to buy the Patriot,” he stressed.

Turkey refuses to yield to US pressure, but hinted it may buy the Patriot system to complement the S-400, not as a replacement.

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South- South Cooperation gets stronger, India and Cuba identify new sectors for cooperation

Top Indian diplomat in the Indian embassy in Havana confirmed to Financial Express Online that, “During FIHAV 2018 where almost 45 Indian companies had participated, LOI was inked on the sidelines.

In line with the government’s “Focus LAC” initiatives and deepening South-South Cooperation, a Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed between the Cuban Business Group of Logistics for Agriculture, GELMA, and the Indian company ESCORTS for exchange of technical data in relation to the project for the supply, post-sale and specialized technical services in the companies under GELMA Business Group.

Top Indian diplomat in the Indian embassy in Havana confirmed to Financial Express Online that, “During FIHAV 2018 where almost 45 Indian companies had participated, LOI was inked on the sidelines. In fact sectors identified between the two sides for enhancing economic cooperation include agriculture, renewable energy, health, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and sports.”

According to Madhu Sethi, Indian Ambassador to Cuba, “FIHAV is an appropriate destination for the Indian companies to meet international delegates across sectors from not only Cuba but the entire Caribbean & Central American region.”

She suggested that such a fair allows the Indian companies to showcase the prowess of the Indian Industry and to tap the lucrative opportunities that the country has to offer.

The relations between the two countries acquired a new momentum with the visit of President Ram Nath Kovind in June and in his talks with his Cuban counterpart President Miguel Diaz-Canel, the two countries had talked about strengthening economic relations. And two MoU’s on Cooperation in the field of Biotechnology and Traditional Medicines and Homeopathy were signed at the end of talks.

According to the envoy, “Biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors are the main pillars of Cuban economy in which both are currently operating. The main products being traded are active ingredients, raw material and equipment.”

Also, since Cuba is one of the founding members of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and cooperation under the ISA Framework is happening, India has offered $ 75 million LoC for 100 MW solar power project in that country.

At the 36th edition of FIHAV which was organised by Cuba where over 70 countries participated and had 45 companies from various sectors were there under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and FICCI. This fair is considered to be one of the most important multi-sectoral trade fair in Caribbean and Central American region with most government procurement orders and business being conducted at the show.

Cuba which is under transformation and liberalization and one of the last few markets in the world to open up has enormous scope for Indian Exporters along with potential lines of credit from EXIM Bank, and areas including India – technology collaboration, skill development, training, SME collaborations.

Also, as has been reported earlier, India could explore opportunities in getting gold from that country as well as seek joint co-operations in copper, nickel and cobalt mining operations.

  • Published in Cuba

Russia to supply India with 5 S-400 systems, defying Washington sanctions

A contract for the delivery of five S-400 systems, one of Russia’s most advanced anti-aircraft weapons, has been signed between Moscow and New Delhi, the Kremlin has confirmed.

 

© Reuters

India signed a $5.43 billion deal to purchase five advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia, defying threats of potential sanctions from Washington.

The deal was finalized after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi concluded a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi.

The advanced air defense system can defend against different kinds of cruise and ballistic missiles. China was the first foreign nation to purchase S-400 systems.

With its S-400 purchase, India now risks being sanctioned under Washington’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets countries that purchase arms from Russia.

During a joint media conference after their meeting, Putin said that Russia would work with India to boost bilateral cooperation in the United Nations, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and G20.

The Russian leader also said both nations would coordinate counter-terrorism efforts. Modi noted that both countries support a multipolar world.

The two leaders also signed a deal on space cooperation. Modi said during the joint press conference that he hoped Russia would help India develop its space program. The Indian leader recently announced that he aims to send astronauts into space by 2022.

Putin stated during the press conference that they had discussed regional security issues, including counter-terrorism efforts in Syria, as well as the status of the Iran nuclear deal.

Modi hailed his country’s close ties to Moscow, saying that Russia has always "stood shoulder-to-shoulder with India in the energy sector and our goals."

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Vaishali to be India's first visually impaired player at World Chess Olympiad

Blind chess player Vaishali Narendra Salavkar will become the first Indian female to be part of the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA) team at the world chess Olympiad, starting September 23 at Batumi in Georgia, a top IBCA official said.

The IBCA, affiliated to FIDE, sends its teams - open and women - to compete at the chess Olympiad. "Vaishali will be the first Indian blind chess player to participate in the World Chess Olympiad," IBCA President Jadhav Charudatta told IANS on phone from London on Saturday.

Charudatta is also the President of All India Chess Federation for the Blind (AICFB). "Forty-five-year-old Vaishali from Maharashtra has been playing chess for the past 20-25 years. She is an eight-time national champion," AICFB Treasurer Swapnil Shah told IANS. Vaishali has an Elo rating of 1,357 points. An Elo rating is a system which calculates the skills of chess players. 

Shah said two Spanish women chess players were not able to play in the Olympiad and hence the chance came to Vaishali. As per the Olympiad official website, the other Indian female chess player who will be playing in the Olympiad is Malika Handa (ELO rating 1,334) as part of the International Chess Committee of Deaf (ICCD) team.

With these two players, the total number of Indian women chess players including the normal women`s team at the Batumi Olympiad will be seven. The Indian women`s chess Olympiad team consists of Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev, Karavade Esha, and Padmini Rout.

Meanwhile, Charudatta requested FIDE - the global chess body- to extend its cooperation in developing chess for the blind. "For instance, FIDE has specific programmes like chess in schools. It can be extended to blind school students. The blind school students could be allowed to attend the chess classes held in normal schools," Charudatta said.

He said the three chess federations for differently abled - IBCA, ICCD, and International Physically Disabled Chess Association (IPDCA) - could first look forming a common platform to address the problems faced by their players.

 

 
  • Published in Sports

Indian president concludes Cuba visit

Havana, June 23 (RHC)—India´s president Ram Nath Kovind concluded his official visit to Cuba Friday evening after fulfilling an intense agenda in the Cuban capital.

During his stay, India and Cuba agreed to enhance cooperation in biotechnology, renewable energy and traditional medicine and President Ram Nath Kovind held wide-ranging talks with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel to further cement the strong bilateral ties.

As part of his two-day stay in the Caribbean nation, three legal instruments were signed to expand cooperation in the traditional medicine and biotechnology sectors. Kovind showed special interest in this last area with his visit to the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, where he said he was impressed by the advances of that industry in the country.

The Indian Head of State also delivered a keynote address in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana in which he emphasized his country's efforts to promote South-South cooperation, and the importance given to this kind of relationship by the historical leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.

Kovind also paid tribute to Cuba´s National Hero José Martí and to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Indian Nation, before the monuments to those heroes in the Cuban capital.

In the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, Kovind also revered Fidel Castro before the monolith where the ashes of the leader of the Revolution rest, in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery.

Cuba highly appreciates India´s traditional rejection of the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade against the island. In the economic and collaboration areas, both countries maintain ties  in the sectors of renewable energy, food, agriculture, academic exchange and sports

Edited by Jorge Ruiz Miyares

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba, India Sign Cooperation Agreements in Health, Biotechnology

Cuba and India signed here today three juridical instruments to promote cooperation in the field of health and biotechnology, agreements framed in President Ram Nath Kovind''s visit to the island.

In the presence of the host head of State Miguel Diaz-Canel and President Kovind, the Ayush Ministry of India and the Public Health Ministry of Cuba agreed through a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the links in traditional systems of medicine and homeopathy.

For their part, the Ministries of Science and Technology signed a memorandum for biotechnological cooperation.

About Kovind's visit, a letter of intent was also established between BioCubaFarma, the Council for the Support of Biotechnology Research and Kalam Institute of Health Technologies in India.

The Indian President and Diaz Canel held official talks before the signing ceremony of the legal instruments.

Earlier, Kovind paid tribute to the Cuban National Hero, Jose Marti, and the Indian independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi.

In the afternoon, the visitor will give a lecture in the Aula Magna of the University of Havana and will tour parts of the capital's historic center, declared by Unesco World Heritage Site in 1982.

  • Published in Cuba

Indian president visits Cuba to strengthen cooperation

HAVANA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Indian President Ram Nath Kovind arrived in Cuba on Thursday for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.

Kovind arrived at the southeastern city of Santiago de Cuba, around 900 kilometers southeast of Havana. He was welcomed at the airport by Cuban Vice President Beatriz Johnson, along with other officials.

Shortly after arriving, Kovind paid tribute to late former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, at the Santa Ifigenia Cemetery, where his ashes were buried.

The Indian president will travel to Havana later on the same day and hold talks with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Friday.

According to India's presidency, the two nations will sign cooperation agreements in biotechnology, traditional medicine, homeopathy and therapeutic plants.

Kovind is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the University of Havana.

  • Published in Cuba
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