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Newsline: Pacific top level diplomacy to go ahead in Papua without U.S. President

Pacific island leaders will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a high-level U.S. delegation in Papua New Guinea on Monday, Fijian officials said, without U.S. President Joe Biden who cancelled his attendance at the talks. Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka confirmed the talks would go ahead after Biden pulled out of the visit to Papua New Guinea due to debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, a move seen by some as a blow to U.S. diplomacy in the region. Biden had been expected to meet with 18 leaders from the region’s main bloc, the Pacific Islands Forum, and sign a defence cooperation agreement with PNG on Monday. PNG Prime Minister James Marape is expected to announce details of the defence pact with the United States on Thursday, his office told Reuters. Fiji said Pacific leaders would hold discussions with Modi on regional cooperation. They would also meet later on Monday with a U.S. delegation for talks on “areas of cooperation and challenges critical to the region and the U.S.” “The meeting demonstrates the U.S. and Pacific’s deep historical and people-to-people ties,” Rabuka’s office said in a statement, adding climate change, protecting maritime resources and economic growth were priorities. (https://neuters.de/world/pacific-meetings-defence-pact-go-ahead-papua-without-biden-2023-05-18/) The chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, said the regional meeting had originally been organised between the Pacific countries and India, and his plans to travel to PNG were unchanged.

Newsline: Afghan refugees living in India accuse embassy officials of corruption

Representatives of Afghan refugees living in India have accused officials at the Afghanistan embassy in Delhi, India, including the ambassador, of corruption. In a letter seen by Ariana News on Sunday, the representatives of the refugees accused the ambassador, Farid Mamundzay; the financial and administrative officer, Ziaullah Hashemi; and the officer of the political department, Ibrahim Shakib Ayazi, of financial and administrative corruption and embezzlement. The letter, sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), states that Mamundzay, Hashemi and Ayazi “illegally and against the diplomatic values, leased two buildings, which will be six apartments, and a free area called ‘Chaman’, which is about half an acre of land, to an Indian company without any legal process, permission or guidance from the capital [Kabul].” According to the letter: “Currently, the Indian company has sued Farid Mamundzay and Ziaullah Hashmi in the Indian courts for forgery and corruption of 2.5 Indian crore ($304,132). The plan of the Indian company is that after several years, based on the decision of the Indian courts, about half an acre of land worth millions of dollars will be transferred into the company’s name. (https://www.ariananews.af/afghan-refugees-living-in-india-accuse-embassy-officials-of-corruption/) Afghanistan Embassy in New Delhi in a statement rejected reports of corruption at the embassy and said that works are done with full honesty and transparency.

Newsline: India, Japan and South Korea evacuate nationals from Sudan

India said it had sent a naval ship to Port Sudan and two military planes to Jeddah as part of its preparations and was telling citizens to avoid unnecessary risks. (https://neuters.de/world/africa/foreign-states-evacuate-citizens-sudan-2023-04-23/) South Korea said it was sending a military aircraft to evacuate its 25 citizens in Sudan. Japan said three planes had arrived in Djibouti to transport Japanese nationals.

Newsline: India’s foreign ministry denies suspending trade talks with UK over embassy attack

Trade talks between India and Britain have not been suspended and will continue this year, three officials said on Monday, responding to a British newspaper report that said India had “disengaged” from the talks after London failed to condemn Sikh separatists. An official in India’s foreign ministry said progress in the trade talks and New Delhi’s concerns around Sikh separatist activities in Britain should not be interlinked. A diplomatic official in the British High Commission in New Delhi said trade talks will continue in a scheduled manner and security officials in London were addressing India’s concerns about Sikh separatist activities in Britain. “Both the UK and India are committed to delivering an ambitious and mutually beneficial FTA and concluded the latest round of trade talks last month,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Department for Business and Trade said. “The Foreign Secretary has condemned the recent acts of violence at the Indian High Commission, and we are working with the Metropolitan Police to review security and make changes to ensure the safety of its staff,” the spokesperson added. (https://neuters.de/world/india/india-has-not-suspended-trade-talks-with-uk-officials-say-2023-04-10/) New Delhi has been upset about protests and vandalism by Sikh separatists outside its mission in London and elsewhere in the United States and Canada. Last month, protesters with banners supporting the so-called independent Sikh state of “Khalistan” staged a demonstration outside the Indian High Commission in London and took down an Indian flag from the building’s balcony to denounce recent police action against a pro-Khalistan Sikh preacher.

Newsline: India summons Canada’s envoy

India summoned Canada’s High Commissioner on Sunday to “convey strong concern” over Sikh protesters in Canada and how they were allowed to breach the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates. According to Canadian media reports, hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Indian consulate in Vancouver on Saturday over demands for an independent Sikh state, a simmering issue for decades recently triggered again. “It is expected that the Canadian government will take all steps which are required to ensure the safety of our diplomats and security of our diplomatic premises so that they are able to fulfil their normal diplomatic functions,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. (https://neuters.de/world/india/india-summons-canada-high-commissioner-concerned-over-sikh-protesters-2023-03-26/) The statement follows Indian police on March 21 launching a hunt for Sikh preacher Amritpal Singh, who has revived talk of an independent Sikh homeland and stoked fears of a return to violence that killed tens of thousands of people in 1980s and early 1990s. Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India.

Newsline: Indian police open probe into London embassy protest

Indian police have opened an investigation into a protest this week outside its High Commission in London, Reuters partner ANI reported on Friday, pursuing action on an incident that has raised tension in relations with Britain. Indian police opened an investigation, the ANI news agency reported. “Case registered after the Ministry of Home Affairs asked Delhi Police to take appropriate legal action,” ANI said, citing the police department of the Indian capital that reports to the federal government. Police officials and the British embassy in New Delhi did not immediately respond to calls and messages seeking comment. (https://neuters.de/world/indian-police-open-investigation-into-london-embassy-protest-media-2023-03-24/) Protesters with “Khalistan” banners took an Indian flag down from a first-floor balcony of the High Commission in the British capital on Sunday to denounce recent police action in India’s Punjab state, British and Indian media reported. Khalistan is the name of an independent Sikh homeland that some members of that community aspire to, both at home in India and in countries where Sikhs have settled. India summoned the top British diplomat in New Delhi on Sunday to convey its “strong protest at the actions taken by separatist and extremist elements” at the mission, and to seek an explanation for “the complete absence” of security there. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said acts of violence towards staff at the High Commission in London were unacceptable and British police were investigating.

Newsline: India summons British envoy

A senior British diplomat in Delhi has been summoned after a protest at the Indian High Commission in London. Crowds gathered outside the building in Aldwych, Westminster, on Sunday and windows were broken. The Indian foreign ministry issued a statement saying the senior diplomat had been asked to explain “the complete absence of British security”. (https://news.yahoo.com/indian-high-commission-diplomat-summoned-071718925.html) After the protest a man was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder and a police investigation was launched. The Metropolitan Police said two security guards were injured. Videos on social media showed a crowd waving yellow “Khalistan” banners and a man detach the Indian flag from the first-floor balcony of the building. Khalistan is the proposed name of a Sikh state separatist groups wants to create in the Punjab region, which spans both India and Pakistan.

Newsline: US ambassador to India confirmed after two-year delay

The U.S. Senate confirmed President Joe Biden’s nominee Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India on Wednesday, ending a nearly two-year nomination fight over allegations the former Los Angeles mayor mishandled workplace harassment complaints. Senators backed Garcetti by 52-42, as seven Republicans joined the majority of Democrats in supporting Garcetti and three Democrats joined most Republicans in voting no. The United States has not had an ambassador to New Delhi since January 2021, an absence that has loomed large as Washington looks to India to be a partner in efforts to push back against China’s expanding power and influence. “The United States-India relationship is extremely important and it’s a very good thing we now have an ambassador,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who led a congressional delegation to India last month. (https://neuters.de/world/us/biden-nomination-garcetti-ambassador-india-advances-us-senate-2023-03-15/) Biden is eager to deepen ties with India, the world’s largest democracy and a major U.S. trading partner, as part of his bid to win what he has framed as a contest between free and autocratic societies.

Newsline: India, Australia eye top level diplomacy

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrives in India on Wednesday seeking to strengthen the new momentum in ties between the two countries through deeper trade, investment and defence relations. The three-day visit by Albanese, the first by an Australian prime minister since 2017, comes days ahead of a visit by Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, another member of the so-called Quad grouping that seeks to counter China’s growing domination in the Indo-Pacific region. Quad includes the United States and India besides Australia and Japan. Australia is due to host a Quad leaders summit in Sydney later this year. “​India and Australia share warm and friendly relations based on common values and democratic principles. The Strategic Partnership between the two countries was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in June 2020,” the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement ahead of the visit. Speaking in Sydney on Tuesday, Albanese said Australia wanted “greater diversity in who we trade with – and greater variety in what we trade, meaning our economy is more resilient and more secure”. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/india-australia-aim-boost-economic-defence-ties-first-summit-pms-2023-03-08/) The two countries signed last year a free trade agreement called the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), the first signed by India with a developed country in a decade.

Newsline: Indian diplomat alleges poor facilities at business class lounge at NY’s JFK airport

An Indian diplomat complained about the poor facilities at Air India’s business class lounge at the John F. Kennedy airport in New York. Dr K.J. Srinivasa, India’s High Commissioner of India to Guyana, Antigua & Barbuda, and St.Kitts & Nevis, alleged that the Air India business class lounge at JFK Airport had “empty food containers, disposable plates and cutlery and unresponsive staff”. “Pathetic state of affairs at @airindiain business class lounge @JFKairport. empty food containers,bad food,disposable plates/cutlery,unresponsive staff. @TataCompanies can splurge billions on buying new aircraft why not pay some attention to revamping existing lounge @RNTata2000,” he said in a tweet. (https://in.investing.com/news/indian-diplomat-alleges-poor-facilities-at-ai-business-class-lounge-at-nys-jfk-airport-3541015) The diplomat also shared photos which showed food trays with cut vegetables, a few dishes, cup noodles and other things. Air India responded to Dr Srinivasa’s complaint saying they are looking into it.