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Newsline: India invites Pakistan’s top diplomat to meet in May

India has invited Pakistan’s foreign minister to a meeting of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO) that it is hosting in May, Indian media reported on Wednesday. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/india-invites-pakistans-foreign-minister-may-meeting-media-reports-2023-01-25/) The invitation came days after Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif called for talks with India over all outstanding issues, including the disputed Kashmir region. Just a month ago, there were street protests in India over comments Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari made about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of United Nations Security Council meeting. India called Zardari’s comments “uncivilised”. Foreign ministry spokespersons for the two countries did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on the media reports that Zardari had been invited to the SCO foreign ministers meeting being hosted in Goa. The SCO comprises China, India, Russia, Pakistan and four Central Asian states.

Newsline: U.S. Embassy To Expedite Visa Processing For Indians

The U.S. diplomatic missions in India have launched a set of measures to reduce wait times for U.S-bound Indian visa applicants and expedite visa processing across the country. The U.S. embassy and its consulates have launched the first in a series of special interview days. The United States Embassy in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad have opened consular operations on Saturday to accommodate applicants who require in-person visa interviews. In the coming months, the Mission will continue to open additional slots for appointments to take place on select Saturdays, the Embassy said in a press release. (https://www.rttnews.com/3338909/u-s-embassy-to-expedite-visa-processing-for-indians-to-clear-backlog.aspx) The State Department has also implemented remote processing of interview waiver cases for applicants with previous U.S. visas. Between January and March 2023, dozens of temporary consular officers from Washington and other embassies will arrive in India to increase processing capacity.

Newsline: India top diplomat visits Sri Lanka

India’s foreign minister arrives in Colombo on Thursday following his country’s backing of Sri Lanka for a $2.9 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan. India has told global lender IMF that it strongly supports Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring plan, with Colombo owing around $1 billion to its nearest neighbour. During his two-day visit, his third to Sri Lanka since 2021, minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will look to strengthen India’s ties with its debt-ridden neighbour and sign several key deals. (https://neuters.de/world/asia-pacific/india-foreign-minister-visits-sri-lanka-with-stronger-ties-china-focus-2023-01-19/) The two countries are also expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding for a renewable power project covering three islands in Sri Lanka’s north during Jaishankar’s visit, two sources at Sri Lanka’s power and energy ministry said. Jaishankar will meet Sri Lanka’s president on Friday morning, his office confirmed. He will also hold discussions with Sri Lanka’s prime minister and foreign minister, according to a statement from India’s foreign ministry.

Newsline: Indian Embassy in Nepal Says 5 Indians Among Passengers, Issues Helpline Number

The Indian Embassy in Nepal has issued helpline numbers and it also gave details about the plane crash near the Pokhara International Airport in Nepal with 72 people on board, including 68 passengers and four crew members. The Embassy also gave details about Indian nationals who were onboard. “Deeply saddened by crash of a plane carrying 72 passengers and crew members, including some Indians in Pokhara. We express our heartfelt condolences to families of deceased. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy,” Ambassador of Nepal to India was quoted as saying by news agency ANI. (https://news.abplive.com/news/world/nepal-plane-crash-5-indians-among-passengers-embassy-monitoring-situation-issues-helpline-number-jyotiraditya-scindia-pokhara-international-airport-1575805) An ATR-72 plane of Yeti Airlines crashed today near the Pokhara Airport while flying from Kathmandu. According to the info provided by Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, 5 Indians were travelling on this flight. Rescue operations are underway, the Indian Embassy in Nepal tweeted.

Newsline: India to become focus of U.S. diplomacy in 2023

In a week in which U.S.-Japan relations took center stage in Washington, the White House coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs made clear that India was next on his radar for 2023. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Indo-Pacific/India-will-be-focus-of-U.S.-diplomacy-in-2023-Kurt-Campbell) At Indo-Pacific Forecast 2023, an annual preview of political, security, and economic developments held by the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, Kurt Campbell said America and its allies are looking at India as a country they want to draw more into the Indo-Pacific.

Newsline: US eyes India’s role in diplomacy to end Russia-Ukraine war

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Ukraine may have a role in diplomacy to put an end to Russia-Ukraine war. “We do believe that countries like India, countries that have a relationship with Russia and with Ukraine may be in a position to help bring about dialogue and diplomacy that could one day put an end to this war,” Price said on Friday while briefing foreign correspondents. “We have been in regular, close contact with India regarding what we can do to hold Russia accountable and to impose additional costs on Russia for its war.” (https://in.investing.com/news/india-may-have-role-in-diplomacy-to-end-russiaukraine-war-us-state-dept-spokesman-3475607) India has abstained on votes at the UN condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine bringing to the fore the differences with US, even as the two countries have been developing closer ties. Price cited Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly telling Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in September 2022, “I know that today’s era is not an era of war” and noted that it was echoed in the joint statement of the summit of the leaders of the G20 group of major industrialised and emerging economies that India heads.

Newsline: India’s top diplomat says Russia-Ukraine conflict matter of “deep concern”

Emphasizing that the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a matter of “deep concern,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Sunday that India is on the side of peace and therefore has been urging both the countries to return to dialogue and diplomacy. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/russia-ukraine-conflict-matter-of-deep-concern-says-jaishankar/ar-AA15SkUt) Voicing concern on the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Jaishankar in an interaction with the Indian diaspora said, “For us, this conflict is really a matter of very very deep concern. It is a deep concern because as PM Modi declared in September we actually believe that this is no longer an era of war where you cannot settle differences and issues through violence and conflict.”

Newsline: Russian ambassador, Indian politician spar over oligarch’s death

Russia’s top diplomat in New Delhi traded barbs with a senior Indian politician on Twitter late on Thursday over the death of a Russian tycoon once reportedly critical of the Ukraine war, in a rare public spat involving Moscow and a country it views as a friend. Pavel Antov, a billionaire sausage magnate, was found dead outside his hotel in the eastern Indian state of Odisha last weekend. Indian police are investigating the death, which followed two days after another person travelling with Antov died. On Thursday, Manish Tewari, a former Indian minister belonging to the opposition Indian National Congress party questioned why the bodies of the two men had been cremated when they were Christians. “Hercule Poirot says burnt bodies tell no tales,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to Agatha Christie’s famous fictional Belgian detective. Russian ambassador to India Denis Alipov was quick to respond, also on the social media platform. The diplomat thanked Indian officials for the probe into the deaths, but then hit out at Tiwari. “Meanwhile it would be useful for some Hercule Poirot lovers to learn that cremation in Russia is as customary as burial,” he wrote. “Idleness is the root of all evil.” (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/12/30/russian-diplomat-indian-politician-spar-over-oligarchs-death) Tewari later tweeted back, seemingly unconvinced. Meanwhile, the Indian ministry of external affairs said on Thursday it would let the police carry out their investigations and did not want to “jump the gun” on possible causes for Antov’s death.

Newsline: Pakistan Top Diplomat Says There’s a Bounty on His Head

Diplomatic tensions are high between old rivals India and Pakistan after a high-profile Pakistani diplomat said he received death threats from a member of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) this week. Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said in a Bloomberg interview that there’s a $240,000 reward issued by an Indian political worker to behead him. (https://www.vice.com/en/article/akepkb/bilawal-bhutto-zardari-narendra-modi-diplomacy-butcher-terrorism) The bounty is in response to his statement at the United Nations Security Council meeting last week where Bhutto-Zardari called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “butcher of Gujarat,” referring to the deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 in the Indian state, while Modi was the chief minister. The bounty was first reported on by reporters in India’s Uttar Pradesh state, which is considered the heart of Hindu nationalism. Local BJP member Manupal Bansal said he will give a reward of $240,000 to anyone “who will behead minister Bilawal Bhutto.”

Newsline: No US ambassador to India for nearly two years

The position of US ambassador to India has been lying vacant for nearly two years due to the Senate stalling the appointment of President Joe Biden’s pick for the post — Eric Garcetti. Of 20 ambassadorial nominees who are awaiting confirmation from the Senate, Garcetti’s case has been pending the longest — 16 months, according to ThePrint’s analysis of data from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), the professional association of the US Foreign Service. (https://www.msn.com/en-in/news/other/no-us-ambassador-to-strategic-ally-india-for-nearly-2-yrs-why-senate-s-blocked-biden-pick-garcetti/) Despite Democrats gaining a slim majority in the upper house in the recently concluded US midterm elections, a former diplomat ThePrint spoke to was not optimistic about Garcetti’s nomination being confirmed. Garcetti, who was officially nominated in July 2021, has seen his nomination stalled in the Senate over allegations that he was aware but did not take action against one of his former aides accused of sexual harassment and bullying. The former LA Mayor, however, has repeatedly denied these claims. Some predict that there could be a ‘rollover’ of more Chargé d’Affaires until the end of the presidential term in 2024, given that Washington has appointed five such interim envoys to New Delhi since former US ambassador Kenneth Juster’s departure in January 2021.