Sanghi To Feature In ‘Uljhe Hue’

Actor Sanjana Sanghi, best known for her roles in ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Dil Bechara’, is all set to come up with a short film titled ‘Uljhe Hue’.

Directed by Satish Raj Kasireddi, written by Ida Ali and produced by Ahab Jafri, ‘Uljhe Hue’ is a romance drama and also features Abhay Verma in the lead role.

Talking more about the project, Satish said, “Uljhe Hue is a love story that audiences will be able to relate to and cherish. The short film has been created by highly credible artists and captures the pulse of modern-day romance.”

‘Uljhe Hue’ will be out on Amazon miniTV on February 11. (ANI)

Farmers Leave From Delhi Borders In Large Convoys; Traffic Slows Down On Highways

As farmers began heading home from sites at Delhi’s borders where they had been stationed for over a year, traffic movement on Saturday slowed down considerably on the Kundli-Manesar-Palwal (KMP) flyover, connecting the national capital with Agra and Ambala highways.

The farmers are heading back to their respective states in large convoys of tractors and trucks, in the same way, they arrived at the sites at the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri on the outskirts of the national capital a year ago, to protest the Centre’s three agrarian laws. The large convoys of farmers slowed down traffic at the KMP flyover.

The farmers are returning to their homes after the Samyukta Kisan Morcha’s (SKM) on Thursday announced the suspension of their year-long farmers’ agitation.

Farmers at the Singhu border sang bhajans before vacating the site while those at Tikri border were seen dancing to celebrate the success of their protest against the three farm laws and other related issues.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh had laid siege to the Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri borders in November 2020 to demand the repeal of the three farm laws, which were finally withdrawn in the Winter Session of Parliament earlier this month.

Farmers have taken down their settlements and have vacated the borders around Delhi, which were their protesting sites for the last one year.

BKU leader Rakesh Tikait today flagged off the first lot of farmers returning home from the Ghazipur border. This first group has headed for Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. Tikait informed that he would leave the protesting site at the Ghazipur border on December 15.

The SKM, earlier on Thursday announced the suspension of their year-long agitation after they received a letter from the Central government, with promises of forming a committee on Minimum Support Price (MSP) and withdrawing cases against them immediately.

The farmers will hold a review meeting on January 15. “If the government does not fulfil its promises, we could resume our agitation,” the SKM had said in its statement.

On November 19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the Centre will bring necessary bills in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning later this month to repeal the farm laws.

Both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed the Farm Laws Repeal Bill on the first day of the winter session on November 29. President Ram Nath Kovind has also given his assent to the Bill that completes the process of repealing the three farm laws. (ANI)

‘Great Loss For Every Patriot’: PM On Demise Of CDS General Rawat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday condoled the demise of General Bipin Rawat and others who lost their lives in the recent helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu stating that the demise of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff is a “great loss for every patriot.”

The Prime Minister said that Gen Rawat was brave and worked hard to make the country’s armed forces self-reliant. “The whole nation has been a witness to that,” PM Modi said in his address at the inauguration ceremony of Saryu Nahar National Project in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur.
“A soldier doesn’t remain a soldier only as long as he stays in the military. His entire life is that of a warrior. He is dedicated to the discipline and pride of the country every moment,” the Prime Minister said.

PM Modi expressed condolences to all brave warriors who died in the helicopter crash on December 8.

“Wherever General Bipin Rawat maybe, in the days to come, he will see India moving ahead with new resolutions,” he added.

Further, the Prime Minister said that even in misery, “India will neither stop its pace nor its progress”.

“India is mourning but despite being in pain, neither do we stop our pace nor our development. India won’t stop. India won’t be at a standstill. Together, we Indians will work hard and face every challenge inside and outside the country,” he said.

General Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 other defence personnel were killed when a Mi17V5 helicopter carrying them crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday last week.

Other 10 defence forces personnel who died in the chopper crash are Staff Officer Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan, Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh, Junior Warrant Officer Rana Pratap Das, Junior Warrant Officer Arakkal Pradeep, Havildar Satpal Rai, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitendra Kumar, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar and Lance Naik B Sai Teja.

Group Captain Varun Singh, the lone survivor in the crash, has been shifted to Air Force Command hospital at Bengaluru for further treatment.

Praying for a speedy recovery of the lone survivor of the crash, Group Captain Varun Singh, PM Modi said, “Doctors are working hard to save the life of Group Captain Varun Singh, a resident of Deoria, the son of UP. I pray to Maa Pateshwari to save his life. The nation stands with his family.”

“The country also stands with the families who lost those brave soldiers,” PM Modi said.

The Centre has ordered a ‘tri service’ inquiry into the accident. The inquiry will be headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief Training Command. (ANI)

Completion Of Saryu Nahar National Project Testament To Honest Intentions:PM Modi

Speaking at the launch of the Saryu Nahar National Project in Balrampur, PM Modi said, “It is important for the country’s development to not let water scarcity become a barrier. The government’s topmost priority is the right utilization of river water. The completion of the Saryu Nahar National Project is a testament to honest intentions and efficient work.”
The Prime Minister said that the proper utilization of the water of the country’s rivers, and adequate water reaching the farmers’ fields, is one of the top priorities of the government.

PM Modi said when the work on this project started, its cost was less than Rs 100 crore. Today it has been completed after spending about 10,000 crores. The country has already paid 100 times more for the negligence of the previous governments.

“If it is government money, then why should I care? This thinking had become the biggest obstacle in the balanced and all-around development of the country. This thinking also kept the Saryu canal project hanging”.

He further said that his government have done more work in the Saryu canal project than what was done in 5 decades in less than five years.

“This is a double engine government. This is the speed of work of the double engine government, our priority is to finish the project on time,” he added.

He said that the long-pending projects like Baan Sagar Project, Arjun Sahayak irrigation project, AIIMS and fertilizer plant at Gorakhpur were completed by the double engine government.

He also cited the Ken Betwa Link project as an example of this government’s commitment. The Rs 45000 crore project was approved in the last cabinet meeting.

He said that the project will play a key role in getting the Bundelkhand region rid of the water problem.

The Prime Minister also said that small farmers are being linked to government schemes for the first time.

“PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, alternative income streams in fishery and dairy and bee culture and opportunities in ethanol are some of the steps being taken. In the last four and half years, ethanol worth 12000 crore has been purchased from Uttar Pradesh itself,” the Prime Minister said.

He also invited the farmers to the event being organized on December 16 about natural farming and zero budget farming.

PM Modi added that in this Corona period, a sincere effort was made so that no poor should sleep hungry. Right now, the campaign for free ration being provided under PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana has been extended beyond Holi.

“More than 30 lakh families of the state have got pucca houses under PMAY, most of them are in the name of the women of the families. He also talked about the benefits of the Svamitva Yojna,” he said.

“As opposed to earlier times when mafia used to get protection, today mafia is being cleaned out and the difference is visible. Earlier, strongmen were promoted. Today, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath ji’s government is engaged in empowering the poor, downtrodden, backward and tribals. That’s why the people of UP say – the difference is visible. Earlier illegal occupation of land by the mafia was the norm while today, Yogi ji is running a bulldozer over such encroachment. That’s why the people of UP say – the difference is visible, he added.

As per an official statement from the PMO, the work on the project started in 1978 but due to lack of continuity of budgetary support, interdepartmental coordination and adequate monitoring, it got delayed and was not completed even after nearly four decades.

Consequently, in 2016, the project was brought under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana with the target to complete it in a time-bound manner.

The Saryu Nahar National Project has been built with a total cost of more than Rs 9,800 crore, out of which more than Rs 4,600 crore was provisioned in the last four years.

The project also involves the interlinking of five rivers – Ghaghara, Saryu, Rapti, Banganga and Rohini to ensure optimum usage of water resources of the region.

According to PMO, the project will provide assured water for irrigation of over 14 lakh hectares of land and benefit about 29 lakh farmers of over 6200 villages. It will benefit nine districts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh namely – Bahraich, Shravasti, Balrampur, Gonda, Siddharthnagar, Basti, Sant Kabir Nagar, Gorakhpur and Maharajganj.

PMO also said that the farmers of the region, who were the worst sufferers of the inordinate delay in the project, will now immensely benefit from the upgraded irrigation potential. They will now be able to grow crops on a larger scale and maximise the agri-potential of the region. (ANI)

DRDO Successfully Tests Extended Range Pinaka At Pokhran Range

The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) on Saturday announced that it has successfully tested the extended range Pinaka (Pinaka-ER) Multi Barrel Rocket Launcher System at Rajasthan’s Pokhran Range.

The system has been designed by DRDO Laboratory Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE) along with High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), Pune, the technology has been transferred to the Indian industry.
As per the DRDO, the Pinaka – ER is the upgraded version of the earlier version of Pinaka which has been in service with the Indian Army for the last decade. The system has been designed in the light of emerging requirements with advanced technologies enhancing the range. (ANI)

Chopper Crash: Mortal Remains Of 4 IAF and 2 Army Personnel Identified

The mortal remains of four Indian Air Force personnel and two Indian Army soldiers who died in the military helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu earlier this week has been completed.

Thirteen of the 14 people on board the Mi-17V5 helicopter, including India’s first chief of defence staff (CDS), his wife Madhulika Rawat were among those killed after it crashed on December 8.
Earlier, the bodies of General Rawat his wife and his defence assistant Brigadier LS Lidder, whose bodies were positively identified, were cremated with full military honours in the Brar Square crematorium in the national capital on Friday.

The Indian Army said that Lance Naik Vivek Kumar and Lance Naik B Sai Teja, who lost their lives in a military chopper crash on December 8, have been positively identified.

The mortal remains have been released to close family members on Saturday morning, according to the Indian Army.

“Mortal remains will move by air for last rites with appropriate military honour. The wreath will be laid at Base Hospital in Delhi Cantonment prior to the departure. The process for positive identification of remaining mortal remains is continuing,” the Army said.

The other defence personnel who died in the crash have been identified as Junior Warrant Officers Arakkal Pradeep and Rana Pratap Das, Wing Commander PS Chauhan and Squadron Leader Kuldeep Singh.

The bodies of the victims were flown from Sulur near Coimbatore to the Palam airbase Thursday evening in caskets wrapped in the Tricolour.

The Army has informed that the process for positive identification of remaining mortal remains was continuing.

Other defence forces personnel who died in the chopper crash include CDS Rawat’s Staff Officer Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, Havildar Satpal Rai, Naik Gursewak Singh and Naik Jitendra Kumar.

Group Captain Varun Singh, the lone survivor in the crash, has been shifted to Air Force Command hospital at Bengaluru for further treatment.

The Indian Air Force has constituted a tri-service Court of Inquiry to investigate the cause of the military chopper crash. (ANI)

Kanhaiya Is No Lord Krishna To Save Cong

One swallow does not a summer make. Not even two, or twenty, if it is India’s Grand Old Party that, by all indications, is in its autumn, not summer.  Stronger branches of this old banyan are being weakened from within, while its leaves, the young ones with green lives ahead, are falling off and falling out.

Two young leaders, Kanhaiya Kumar and Gujarat’s independent legislator Jignesh Mewani, joined the Congress party, bringing happy tidings after long. Along with Gujarat’s Hardik Patel, who joined earlier, theirs has been leadership in the making for five, tumultuous years.

Both are young, ideologically committed, and are clear about what they want. They are worried, like millions across the country, that if the Congress sinks, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will find it easy to overwhelm the smaller parties. This would be bad for democracy. Mewani echoed Kumar’s description of the Congress as “a ship that should not be allowed to sink.” They called for ‘saving’ the party and with that, “the idea of India.” That they spoke in these terms, from the Congress platform is   significant. The party needs to be rescued from itself.

This concern for the party’s survival was neither their entry-pitch nor altruistic. It is closely linked to long-felt need for forging an opposition phalanx to contain the BJP. Despite deep differences and past political baggage of mutual mistrust, the role of the Congress as a key member of that entity is being increasingly felt under the present circumstances. Differences, as of now are on whether or not the party should lead it and if yes, under an ailing Sonia Gandhi or anyone else. Rahul and sister Priyanka are not considered senior and experienced enough. And they have proved their critics right with their recent handling of the party’s affairs.    

Both Kumar and Mewani have a good track record so far, enough for their critics to also take note. Kumar has been greeted with bitter/sour trolls on the social media. He was charged, thrashed in full courtroom, jailed and tortured five years ago for wrecking the country to pieces — “tukde-tukde”.  Forty samples of his speeches of that period were examined, including the controversial one that he delivered at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) as its students’ union president. They were officially subjected to forensic and legal examinations. Kumar’s voice did not match with those heard shouting anti-India slogans, India Today later reported. The charge did not stick.

That “tukde-tukde” has returned, especially on the social media, now that Kumar has joined the Congress. It signals the long battle ahead. That battle will need opposition clarity and unity of purpose. For instance, Kumar lost badly to BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha election from Bihar, as no party was willing to accommodate him. In Bihar’s murky turf war, Kumar could face rejection by Laloo’s party that already has a young Tejashwi Yadav and hierarchical problems in Bihar Congress.

Kumar, who quotes Marx and Lenin along with Gandhi, Ambedkar and Gautam Buddha, is a communist. Indeed, the Congress has in the past infused communists in the 1970s, when Mohan Kumaramangalam was a central minister and Chandrajeet Yadav was a key party general secretary. But that was in the cold war era. The post-Soviet world and an India post-economic reforms, (launched by a Congress government) have discarded the socialist model. Will the left-of-centre political plank work against the BJP’s avowed right-wing political, economic and social agenda that openly plays on religion? Which Kanhaiya will people vote for?

Without surprise, Kanhaiya’s entry has unnerved many Congressmen and corporate circles uneasy with anything ‘leftist’ and has given an added weapon to the BJP and its front organisations.

ALSO READ: ‘Kanhaiya An Opportunist, Not A Communist’

The Congress shed its secular USP, first by pandering to Muslim conservatives vote in the Shah Bano case and to match L K Advani-led Rath Yatra in the late 1980s, climbed the Ram temple bandwagon. It is now openly trying to match, unsuccessfully, – the BJP’s electoral tactics. They include opening gaushalas and marketing gaumutra (cow urine). A party committee headed by A K Antony, a Christian, attributed repeated election losses to the perception that the party was pro-minorities. Along with socialism, secularism is also gone.

Under BJP ‘threat’, the Congress has discarded the minority constituency. No longer setting the agenda, the party reacts to others.    

No party can prosper without a clear direction and without ground support. No party can survive merely by infusion from outside, like polls strategist Prashant Kishore. (Some quarters attribute replacing of a well-regarded Captain Amrinder Singh with Navjot Singh Sidhu, a ma maverick showman and little else, to his counsel).

While noting the Kumar-Mewani entry as a harbinger of likely change, it is risky to read too much into their joining the Congress, when Jyotiraditya Scindia (although he had “access to Rahul’s bedroom”), Jitin Prasada and Sushmita Dev, besides others relatively low-profile, have quit.  The party has failed to renew itself before the people. If the young are disenchanted, the older guard is clueless, yet clinging to it. Imagine ex-Goa chief minister L. Faleiro flying across the peninsula to join Mamata Banerjee’s party in Kolkata!

The Congress is run at the top by a single family. The Gandhis used to be the glue that kept it ticking and united, but no longer. They gave winning slogans. This, too, was long ago. By all available accounts, Sonia Gandhi, the ‘interim’ president is ailing, and decisions are being taken by her children. They are all good and decent. But that is not enough in politics. From hugging to hissing at Prime Minister Modi, Rahul’s is a personalized approach. But that can’t be party strategy. Against the wily orator, Rahul comes across poorly. The brand name does not sell against Modi’s high octane campaign fuelled by men, money and media. 

ALSO READ: Is The Congress Really Rudderless?

Sadly, the party has for long shown signs of the last days of Mughal Empire.  Imposing fledgling central authority failed in Madhya Pradesh, narrowly saved Rajasthan and has yielded disastrous results in Punjab. A coterie surrounding the Gandhis counsels destabilising those seniors found growing roots in the states.  

On the day Kumar-Mewani entry, the squabbling Congressmen in Punjab were decimating their own fort with the assembly elections just five months away. They had the best chance of being re-elected a third time. It has been frittered away, to utter surprise of friends and foes alike. Angry Amrinder is set to launch a new party. With a multi-polar scene emerging, the battle for Punjab is now wide open.

This fiasco is unlikely to calm rumblings in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where Congress is riven by factions. The steep decline in central authority is thanks to opaque decision-making that is often delayed, encourages more discontent and proves disastrous.  The party needs internal discussion, organisational elections and “a full-time president” – not an ailing interim matriarch. It needs, by implication, an inclusive leadership that does not function with one or more remote controls. Dissent is out in the open. The leadership – whoever thought and did it – has responded by sending goons to vandalise the house of Kapil Sibal, one of the dissenters. Notably, none has condemned the incident.

Is it any surprise that the BJP juggernaut, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at its command, continues to roll?

The writer can be reached at mahendraved07@gmail.com

SC Asks UP Govt To Review Decision On Kanwar Yatra

The Supreme Court on Friday granted one last opportunity to the Uttar Pradesh government to reconsider its decision of holding “symbolic Kanwar Yatra” amid the COVID-19 pandemic while stressing that the health of the citizens of India and the right to life is paramount.

A Bench headed by Justice Rohinton F Nariman gave an ultimatum to the Uttar Pradesh government to either “reconsider” its decision or the court will pass orders on Monday.
“We are of prima facie view that it concerns all of us and is at the heart of the Fundamental Right to Life. The health of citizenry of India and Right to Life is paramount, all other sentiments whether being religious is subservient to this basic fundamental right,” Justice Nariman told counsel appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government.

“State of UP cannot go ahead with this. 100 per cent”, Justice Nariman added.

Senior advocate CS Vaidyanathan appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government told the Bench that authorities will be apprised of the apex court’s views. “We will inform the court as to whether there can be a reconsideration of holding a physical Kanwar Yatra amid COVID-19,” Vaidyanathan said.

During the hearing, Vaidyanathan said, “Total ban is not practical. We have allowed the Kanwar Yatra in a symbolic manner, with a limited number of devotees under stringent conditions.”

“We are only planning to allow only a few people. State Disaster Management Authority deliberated upon this and stated that for compelling religious reasons if someone wants to undertake the Kanwar Yatra, they should seek permission and they should have negative RT-PCR test and be fully vaccinated,” Vaidyanathan said.

Vaidyanathan further added that the Uttar Pradesh government has decided that a total ban will be inappropriate thus the State Disaster Management Authority thought to conduct it in a symbolic manner and an option be given to ‘Kanwariyas’ where Ganga Jal be made available through tankers.

The Counsel appearing for Uttarakhand told the Bench that the State had banned the complete Yatra.

At the outset, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for Centre told the top court that as far as the Kanwar Yatra is concerned, the State Governments “must not” permit movement of ‘Kanwariyas’ for bringing Ganga Jal from Haridwar to the Shiv temples to do ‘Abhishekam’ in the local Shiv Temples view of COVID-19 crisis.

The top court was hearing a case where it took suo motu cognizance of the decision of Uttar Pradesh Govt to allow Kanwar Yatra amid COVID-19 and asked the Centre, UP and Uttarakhand to clarify their stand on the issue.

The Central government also filed an affidavit and said that state governments must not permit the movement of ‘Kanwariyas’, however, considering the age-old customs and religious sentiments attached, States must develop a system to make ‘Ganga Jal’ available through tankers at designated locations.

“Tankers be available at an identified/designated locations so that nearby devotees can collect such ‘Ganga Jal’ and do “ABHISHEK” upon their nearest Shiv temples,” the affidavit stated.

Centre further stated in its affidavit that State governments must ensure that distribution of ‘Ganga Jal’ amongst devotees and rituals to be performed by such devotees in the nearby Siv Temples take place mandatorily ensuring social distancing, wearing masks, and adhering to all steps required during COVID-19 crisis.

The Bench took the suo moto cognizance of the newspaper report that Uttar Pradesh has decided to continue with the Kanwar Yatra despite Uttarakhand cancelling the pilgrimage this year.

Referring to the news report about Uttar Pradesh going ahead with Kanwar Yatra amid pandemic, Justice Nariman had told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that he read “something disturbing” in the newspaper today that the state of UP has chosen to continue with the Kanwar yatra, Uttarakhand with its hindsight of experience has said that there will be no Yatra.

“We wish to know what the stand of the respective governments is. The citizens of India are completely perplexed. They don’t know what is going on…,” The Bench had observed while also referring to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement when he met the North-Eastern Chief Ministers that when people ask about the third wave of the Covid-19 virus striking the citizenry of India, it’s up to us to stop it and we cannot compromise “even a bit”.

It had said that given the disparate political voices, all speaking at the same time, it is important that the relevant Secretary, Centre, respond to the issue.

The Kanwar Yatra, in which Shiva devotees from northern states travel on foot or by other means to collect water from River Ganga at Haridwar, Uttarakhand, to offer at Shiva temples in their areas, is set to begin from July 25. (ANI)

Priyanka Meets Sidhu Amid Punjab Congress Crisis

By Siddharth Sharma

Months ahead of Punjab Assembly polls, the rift in the state unit has intensified. While Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu met the party’s General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Wednesday, the party’s top leadership did not meet Punjab Chief Minister Captain (retd) Amarinder Singh who was in Delhi recently for three days.
A senior Congress leader clarified that the Punjab Chief Minister had not sought time to meet the top leadership of the party. Singh, however, had met the All India Congress Committee (AICC) panel entrusted with the task to end factionalism in the state unit.

According to sources, Priyanka held a meeting with Sidhu at her residence this morning. The meeting has come in the midst of a crisis in the Punjab unit of the party.

After meeting Sidhu, Priyanka went to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s residence and had a 40-45-minutes-long meeting with him.

After the meeting with the Wayanad MP, Priyanka returned to her residence and again held a meeting with Sidhu.

Today’s meeting comes even as the party has been embattled with murmurs of rebellion in the state unit.

Earlier, the AICC panel had submitted the report on Punjab crisis to Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi with the ground realities and suggestions after the members of the panel met the Punjab CM.

In order to address the factionalism in the state unit, a three-member panel had been set up by Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi.

It is to be noted that Rahul Gandhi has held meetings with Punjab Congress MLAs, MPs, and other important leaders from the state, including PCC Cheif Sunil Jakhar.

On Friday, the leaders who reached Rahul Gandhi’s residence to attend a meeting included Vijendra Singla, Rana Gurjit Singh, RS MP Shamsher Singh Dhillon, and MLA Lakhvir Singh.

Rajya Sabha MP Shamsher Singh Dhillon while speaking to mediapersons had said that the meeting was held to resolve infighting in the Punjab Congress and added that decisions were made to strengthen the party in the upcoming elections in the state.

Gandhi on Wednesday met many senior Punjab leaders including Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee president Sunil Jakhar, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Harish Rawat in Delhi amid escalating infighting in the party’s state unit.

Punjab Assembly polls, scheduled for next year, are being considered crucial for Congress as it is one of the few states where the party is still in power.

In 2017 Assembly polls, Congress won an absolute majority in the state by winning 77 seats and ousted the SAD-BJP government after 10 years. Aam Aadmi Party emerged as the second-largest party winning 20 seats in the 117-member Punjab Legislative Assembly. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) could only manage to win 15 seats while the BJP secured 3 seats. (ANI)

US Secy Of State Blinken Refers To Taiwan As A Country

In a development that might irk China, United States Secretary of the state, Antony Blinken, has referred to Taiwan as “country”, the term so far avoided by US officials.

He made the remark during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday on the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda. Blinken was responding to California Republican Representative Young Kim, who called on the US to include Taiwan in the upcoming Democracy Summit.

“I share your view that Taiwan is a strong democracy, a very strong technological power, and a country that can contribute to the world, not just to its own people. COVID is a very good example of that,” Sputnik quoted Blinken as saying.

The State Department used to have an unwritten policy to avoid using the word “country” when referring to the self-ruled island as part of the US commitment to Beijing’s so-called “One China Policy”, according to Sputnik.

Beijing claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a democracy of almost 24 million people located off the southeastern coast of mainland China, despite the fact that the two sides have been governed separately for more than seven decades.

Taipei, on the other hand, has countered the Chinese aggression by increasing strategic ties with democracies including the US, which has been repeatedly opposed by Beijing.

In recent months, China has increased its military activities around Taiwan. According to China, it is responding to what it calls “collusion” between Taipei and Washington, Taiwan’s main international backer and weapons supplier, according to CNN.

In November, the US and Taiwan signed a blueprint for closer economic ties in Washington.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping has already made his intentions clear about Taiwan as he has vowed to never allow the island to become independent and has refused to rule out the use of force if necessary.

The previous US administration in January announced lifting restrictions governing official US contacts with the country.

Former Foreign Secretary Michael Pompeo had said that executive branch agencies should consider all “contact guidelines” regarding relations with Taiwan previously issued by the Department of State under authorities delegated to the Secretary of State to be ‘null and void’.

In February, Senator Rick Scott reintroduced the Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, sponsored by Congressman Guy Reschenthaler in the US House of Representatives, to protect Taiwan from Communist China’s growing aggression. (ANI)