Clamour for Resignation of Australian Envoy to India Gathers Steam After RSS Headquarters Visit



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Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell’s last month meeting with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat, a close ally of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has raised eyebrows in his home country. The visit has been described as running contrary to “Australian values”.

A section of Indian social media users has backed demands for pulling out Australia’s High Commissioner to India Barry O’Farrell over his visit last month to the headquarters of the Hindu nationalist outfit Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

While O’Farrell’s visit to the central Indian city of Nagpur on 15 November had already been a subject of critical commentary both in Indian and Australian media, following his meeting with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Greens party Senator Janet Rice also raised the issue in the federal parliament.

In a tweet, the Australian envoy to India shared how the RSS has supported society at large, and during his meeting with the RSS chief, the latter threw light upon their organisation’s efforts amid pandemic.

His move was widely criticised in Australia. The Australian senator from Victoria state in her speech described the RSS as a “fascist organisation which openly admits admiration for Adolf Hitler” and that “…they demonise and encourage persecution of some of the non-Hindu citizens of India”, Rice told the Australian parliament.

​Scores of Indian netizens on Thursday tweeted calls for #Barrymustresign, as they cited Rice’s remarks against the RSS.

The calls for the resignation of O’Farrell, who was posted to India this year, come amid a warming of ties between New Delhi and Canberra. The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) participated in the four-nation Malabar naval drills earlier this year, after pulling out of the defence exercise in 2008 owing to reservations expressed by Beijing.

The naval drills also comprised Japan, the US, and India, with the alliance of four countries informally referred to as the “Quad”.

In an interview with an Indian daily in October, O’Farrell described his country’s 2008 decision to pull out of four-nation exercise as a “mistake”.

In a virtual bilateral summit this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison also elevated their countries’ relationship to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”, another indication of bolstering security ties.

‘Believe in the Indian Constitution’

“Officially, the RSS has no involvement in politics. We are just a cultural organisation. If any political party can adopt our policies for the benefit of the nation, that would be more than welcome”, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said at the end of a two-day volunteer meeting in Ghaziabad city last month.

“We believe in the Indian Constitution and abide by it”, Bhagwat stated.

The RSS has often found itself facing heat directed at its ideologue and second chief M.S. Gowalkar, who is credited with popularising the institution across the country after independence in 1947.

A visit to the RSS headquarters by Germany’s Ambassador to India Walter Linder in June last year attracted similar criticism. In his defence, the German envoy reportedly described the RSS as a “mass movement” and a “mosaic that made up India”.





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Top 10 secret places in Australia to visit on a 4WD camping trip


Lee Atkinson spent 10 months driving 40,000km in a 4WD with a camper trailer on a “big lap” roadtrip around mainland Australia.

Here are her top 10 spots she says not to miss.

1. EYRE PENINSULA, SA

The Eyre Peninsula is one of the country’s best kept secrets when it comes to beach holidays. OK, the water isn’t exactly tropical and is home to some rather big sharks, but it has some of the Australia’s most dramatic coastline, the best seafood in the country and next to no tourists. We camped with water views on either side of Port Lincoln in both Lincoln and Coffin Bay national parks and again on the outskirts of Ceduna at Wittlebee Conservation Park. We filled our days on coastal walking trails, testing out our four-wheel-driving skills on sand dunes and feasted on ridiculously cheap freshly shucked Coffin Bay oysters every night. It was a very hard place to leave.

AUSSIE BEACHES LOCALS LIKE TO KEEP SECRET

THE AUSSIE SPOTS THE WORLD WANTS TO VISIT

YOU HAVEN’T SEEN AUSTRALIA UNTIL YOU’VE DONE THIS

THESE AMAZING SPOTS ACTUALLY EXIST IN AUSTRALIA

Coffin Bay National Park receives barely any tourists. Picture: Jem Cresswell

2. MOUNT AUGUSTUS, WA

It’s not a real Aussie road trip without at least one big thing and you don’t have to be on the road for very long before you’ll have driven past an assortment of super-sized cement animals, giant lobsters and fibreglass fruit but the most impressive was Mount Augustus, the world’s biggest rock. So how big is it? Two and a half times bigger than Uluru. The road that circles its base is 49km long, which gives you an idea of its massive size. Never heard of it? Me either, until I got there. It’s in the Gascoyne region of WA, between Carnarvon and Meekatharra.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Mount Augustus, the world’s biggest rock, is 2.5 times the size of Uluru.

3. WESTERN DESERT, WA

I love the outback and the beauty of doing such a long road trip was it gave us lots of time to really explore the tracks that spear through the western deserts between the Red Centre and the west coast — Gunbarrel Highway, Grand Central Road, Sandy Blight Junction Track, Gary Junction Road and the Telfer Mine Road. It’s about as remote as you can get, but spending time in the desert is an experience that you won’t soon forget. They can be challenging but they really are the ultimate roads less travelled.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Driving the Grand Central Road in the Western Desert region.

4. THE PILBARA, WA

I’d never been to the Pilbara before our big lap, and it’s much grander, more expansive, more mountainous and much more magnificent than I had ever imagined. We spent a couple of weeks exploring the gorges of Karijini National Park, the oasis-like waterholes of Millstream Chichester National Park, camping beside beautiful rivers and bumping along very scenic 4WD tracks and the largest collection of rock carvings in the world on the Burrup Peninsula. It gets my vote as one of Australia’s most underrated landscapes.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Karijini National Park in the Pilbara is home to some of Australia’s most underrated landscapes.

5. MOUNT ELIZABETH STATION, KIMBERLEY WA

The Kimberley is one of those larger-than-life places where just about everywhere is pretty amazing, but Mt Elizabeth Station, around halfway along the Gibb River Road, was an absolute highlight of our 10-month trip. If you like a little 4WD fun you’ll love this place as much as we did. Favourite spot was Wunnamurra Gorge, which has a deep pool fed by a waterfall and rock walls covered with sacred Wandjina figures. Mount Elizabeth is also home to one of the best, and toughest, 4WD tracks in the Kimberley, the Munja Track. It runs 220km north to the coast, takes several days and is pure adventure all the way.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Aboriginal artwork at Wunnamurra Gorge, Mount Elizabeth Station.

6. MARY RIVER, NT

There’s some great croc-spotting opportunities all over the Top End, but the one that made the most lasting impression on us was on the Mary River, roughly halfway between Darwin and Kakadu. One particular spot — Shady Camp in Mary River National Park where a barrage across the river has freshwater one side, saltwater the other — is famous for its barramundi fishing, but it’s also home to the densest population of saltwater crocodiles in the country. We camped nearby and after dark we set up watch with our spotlights during high tide. We lost count of how many crocodiles we watched haul out of the water and cross the barrage. It was one of the most amazing wildlife moments in my life — both terrifying and exhilarating.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Mary River National Park is renowned for croc-spotting.

7. ARNHEM LAND, NT

Getting to eastern Arnhem Land by road takes a bit of effort — it’s a two-day drive from Katherine, 4WD only (no caravans allowed) and you’ll need to organise two permits online before you go — but it’s worth it. Motel accommodation is available in Nhulunbuy, but the permits include some of the best beachfront camping I’ve seen anywhere in Australia, the fishing is legendary and the Yolngu art centre at Yirrkala is extraordinary. Spending time in Arnhem Land is a deep immersion into our indigenous culture that you just don’t get to experience anywhere else in the country.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Nhulunbuy’s beachfront camping — some of the best anywhere in Australia.

8. CAPE YORK, QLD

Driving to the top of Cape York is close to the top of most bucket lists. This was my first time on the Cape, and I’d mistakenly thought that the allure of the place was all about the adventure of getting here. Now I understand that it’s the destination itself that gets under your skin and why so many make the long haul up here year after year after year. Think beachfront camping and beachside bars where you can watch the sun slip into the sea, fishing, wild national parks with rainforest, wetlands, WWII ruins, waterfalls, plunge pools and rock art galleries.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Pajinka, The Tip of Cape York.

9. MACKAY HIGHLANDS, QLD

Eungella National Park (pronounced yun-galah) in the Mackay Highlands tends to get overlooked by a lot of people seduced by the tropical warmth of the Whitsundays, but it was one of our favourite spots. The park is split into two sections, above and below the ranges. Up the top are lots of rainforest walks, lookouts and Broken River, one of the best spots to see platypus in the wild. Down below is Finch Hatton Gorge, which features delightfully icy swimming holes fed by waterfalls. We camped, but there are plenty of accommodation options.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Eungella National Park tends to get overlooked in favour of the Whitsundays.

10. THE GRAMPIANS, VIC

I’d been to the Grampians in western Victoria a few times before, but never really explored beyond the big-ticket attractions like Mackenzie Falls and was keen to do a few bushwalks. The sealed road between Dunkeld and Halls Gap (65km though the middle of the Grampians National Park) is one of most scenic mountain drives on sealed roads in the country — we based ourselves in the friendly little caravan park in Dunkeld just so we could drive to Halls Gap, where most of the walks are, twice a day. (The fine food at the Royal Mail Hotel may have also had an influence.) Favourite walk? The five-hour loop from Halls Gap around the spectacular Pinnacle Lookout, past the high-walled Grand Canyon and the Venus Bath Rock Pools.

Lee Atkinson road trip around Australia.

Stunning views from Pinnacle Lookout in the Grampians.

Lee Atkinson’s latest book, Explore Australia by Camper Trailer, is published by Hardie Grant Travel and is available from all good bookstores. RRP $39.99.

Read more of Lee’s tips in the Escape Camp & Caravan special issue, on sale in Coles, Woolworths and newsagents nationally from Monday, September 24, 2018. RRP $9.99.

Escape Camp & Caravan special. Out September 24, 2018.

Escape Camp & Caravan special. On sale September 24, 2018.





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COVID-19: Family members allowed to visit relatives in care homes if they test negative | UK News


Family members will be able to visit their relatives in care homes from Wednesday if they have received a negative COVID-19 test.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said that more than a million tests will be sent to care home providers over the next month to allow safe indoor visits.

Visits will be able to happen across all tiers and will begin on Wednesday.

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All care homes to allow visits by Christmas

Visitors should minimise contact as much as possible and wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect their loved ones, the Department of Health said.

But hugging and hand holding may be possible if other infection control measures are followed, guidance said.

Care Quality Commission-registered providers will be sent an extra 46 million items of free PPE, according to the government.

“I know how difficult it has been for people in care homes and their families to be apart for so long,” health secretary Matt Hancock said.

“The separation has been painful but has protected residents and staff from this deadly virus.

“I’m so pleased we are now able to help reunite families and more safely allow people to have meaningful contact with their loved ones by Christmas.

“This news has been made possible by the unprecedented strides made in testing technology and capacity, as well as extra personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.”

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Carers speak of COVID anguish

Care minister Helen Whately said: “It is impossible to eliminate risk entirely, but now thanks to an enormous expansion of testing capacity and a huge delivery of free PPE we can help to more safely reunite families throughout December.”

The Department of Health said more than a million lateral flow tests, which provide rapid results, have been sent out to the 385 biggest care homes.

Details of a roll-out beyond these homes will be announced in due course.

Ministers say the number of test kits will allow for up to two visitors per resident, based on them visiting twice a week, with homes managing the number of visits.

But there are concerns about the accuracy of the lateral flow tests.

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‘Collateral damage’ of care home restrictions

Sheffield City Council has warned care home providers not to use them because of doubts about their accuracy.

In an email to care home owners, seen by Sky News, the Labour-run local authority said the tests appeared to show an “unacceptably high risk” of not detecting the virus.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said the sector must be supported if the government’s plans are to become a reality.

“We appreciate the continued risks associated with visits but this represents a positive step forwards,” he said.

“The most important relationships in most people’s lives are with their families or other people, where love and trust are shared.”

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Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said it was really good news that the government has “significantly shifted” its position.

But she warned: “The government has promised that everyone will be able to visit their loved one by Christmas and, while this is a laudable aim it is also very ambitious, so we remain worried that practical difficulties of various kinds could get in the way for some.

“Older people and their families have been through so much, we need to be careful not to set them up for further disappointments.”



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Doval clinches key port deal during two-day visit to Sri Lanka


By P.K.Balachandran/Daily Express

Colombo, November 29: India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who was in Colombo on November 27 and 28, has smoothened India-Sri Lanka relations which were fraying at the edges because of the notion in New Delhi and Washington that China has begun to influence the island nation’s economic decisions and strategic thinking.

The statement from the Presidential Media Division issued on Saturday, did not mention specific projects on which there was agreement, but it did say that the discussion between President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Doval was “highly fruitful” indicating agreement on key issues.

Informed sources said that the long-pending tri-nation project, involving Sri Lanka, India and Japan, to develop and run the strategically located Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) in Colombo port will now see the light of day.

India-Sri Lanka and the Maldives have also agreed to set up a Secretariat in Colombo to coordinate maritime security programs. This decision had been taken when the National Security Advisors of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives met on Friday in Colombo.

Top sources said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is very keen that Sri Lanka should honor the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) which was signed between Sri Lanka, India and Japan on the development and operation of the ECT in May 2019.

Both the ECT and the Maritime Security Secretariat are deemed by India to be extremely crucial for its security in view of rival China’s ingress into the Indian Ocean and the South Asian landmass.

A Chinese state-owned company is already ensconced in Colombo harbour running the Colombo International Container Terminal (CICT) adjacent to the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT). India’s desire to be at Colombo port is also rooted in the fact that the port is critical for Indian transhipment. Seventy to eighty per cent of Colombo port’s business is accounted for by Indian transhipment.

From Sri Lanka’s point of view, the above mentioned verbal agreements, meet its need to keep immediate neighbour India in good humour and also balance its relations with China. Sri Lanka’s mounting economic dependence on China has raised the hackles in New Delhi and Washington triggering heightened diplomatic activity.

According to the official press release, President Gotabaya and NSA Doval agreed that infrastructure development projects initiated with the assistance of India should be completed expeditiously. Doval readily agreed to bring Indian investments to Sri Lanka in accordance with President Gotabaya’s penchant for securing investments rather than loans to build war-torn and COVID-hit Sri Lanka.

As many as 15 joint venture projects for which MoUs were signed in 2017 are still pending, raising concerns in the Indian Prime Minister’s office in Delhi.

In his talks with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday, Doval agreed to accommodate the Lankan PM’s request to build low-cost houses as it had already done in war-torn North and East and in the plantation areas populated by Tamils. In turn, Doval sought the Lankan PM’s enhanced role in re-building COVID-hit South Asian economies. The India NSA praised the role Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has already been playing in this regard.

Maritime security is very important in the fast-changing world, with India and the US worried about China’s expansion, and with terrorists, drug smugglers and human traffickers having a free-run of the seas. In this context, Friday’s one-day discussion on it between India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives at the NSAs’ level held here on Friday was critical.

However, Doval’s visit was very much more to do with seeing that India does not lose out its economic foothold in Sri Lanka to China. With South Asian countries including Sri Lanka giving primary importance economic and infrastructural development, it was not surprising that economic development projects and their implementation dominated Doval’s talks with President Gotabaya and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Doval expressed India’s willingness to identify and invest in new fields that could contribute to the economic growth in Sri Lanka.

Container Terminal

One of the most critical economic development projects in Sri Lanka, and one with regional geopolitical implications, is the Eastern Container Terminal (ECT) in Colombo port.

In August 2016, the then Sri Lankan Minister of Ports, Arjuna Ranatunga, announced that an Indian company will be invited to develop the ECT in Colombo port for geopolitical reasons. He added that the then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was keen on India’s involvement. An Indian company even submitted a proposal. But the then President, Maithripala Sirisena, scuttled foreign involvement saying that national assets like ports should not be given to foreign entities.

However, in May 2019, a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) was signed by Sri Lanka, India, Japan to jointly develop and run the ECT. A Terminal Operations Company (TOC) was to be set up for conducting all operations. In the TOC, Sri Lanka would retain a 51% stake, and the joint venture partners purchase a 49% stake with India accounting for 15%. A 40-year loan at an interest rate of 0.1% was expected from Japan to fund the project.

But the project again got stalled because the port workers protested saying that national assets should not be given away to foreign entities. They disregarded the fact that the Chinese are running the CIC Terminal adjacent to the ECT without any workers’ resentment or strikes. Apparently, the workers were being instigated and abetted by nationalist elements within and outside the Rajapaksa government.

Arguments by Sri Lanka’s shipping experts and even SLPA officials that ports cannot be run in the present world without the involvement or approval of major international shipping lines fell on deaf ears. But President Gotabaya Rajapaksa understood the argument and was keen on proceeding with work in the ECT as per the MoC signed with India and Japan.

In the meanwhile, COVID-19 hit Colombo port and there was a worker shortage which in turn badly affected loading and unloading. Handling of containers had fallen by 50% said Gen. Daya Ratnayake, chairman SLPA. 20,000 containers were stuck in Colombo as many ships by-passed Colombo and headed for other ports in the region.

The ECT, which now has three cranes needs more, as Colombo port is already very congested. The ECT is now handling cargo from other terminals to ease congestion in the latter. But there is a backlog of 20,000 TEUs. “It will need another four to five days to clear the backlog,” Ratnayake said stressing the need to finalize the deal to get foreign collaboration for the development of the ECT.

Given the cordial discussions on economic cooperation between President Gotabaya and Ajit Doval, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the hard-pressed Colombo port and the delayed ECT.

END





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Taiwan visit by admiral ‘suggests two months of provocation by Donald Trump’



The next two months will test the Chinese government’s patience and composure to the extreme with the outgoing administration in the White House likely to provoke it at every opportunity, experts warned after Washington reportedly sent a navy admiral to Taiwan.Observers called for Beijing to exercise caution to keep China-US relations stable following the undercover visit reported to have been made by Rear Admiral Michael Studeman, director of intelligence in the Indo-Pacific Command.The…



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China says it will respond to U.S. admiral visit to Taiwan



FILE PHOTO: Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian attends a news conference in Beijing, China September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

November 23, 2020

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will respond to the reported visit of a U.S. Navy admiral to Taiwan and firmly opposes any military relations between Taipei and Washington, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

A two-star Navy admiral overseeing U.S. military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan, two sources told Reuters on Sunday. Neither Taiwan nor the United States has officially confirmed the trip.

The Trump administration has ramped up support for Taiwan, including with new arms sales, alarming China, which views the democratic island as one of its provinces with no right to state-to-state ties.

Speaking in Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China “resolutely opposes” any form of exchanges between U.S. and Taiwanese officials or the two having military relations.

China urges the United States to fully recognise the extreme sensitivity of the Taiwan issue, Zhao told a news briefing.

“The Chinese side will, according to how the situation develops, make a legitimate and necessary response,” he said, without elaborating.

China reacted with fury when U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar came to Taipei in August, followed by U.S. Undersecretary of State Keith Krach in September, sending waplanes near to the island each time.

Zhao also expressed his displeasure with the signing of a memorandum of understanding on economic exchanges following a meeting between Taiwanese and U.S. officials in Washington.

China has already lodged “stern representations” with the United States, which should stop having these kinds of interactions with Taiwan, he added.

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Angus MacSwan)





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Dy. Consul General of Republic of Korea to visit Bengaluru


Deputy Consul General of Republic of Korea in Chennai, Hong-yup Lee, will be visiting Bengaluru to explore and enhance trade and investments with Karnataka from November 24 to 27.

According to a release, during his stay in the city, Mr. Lee will be meeting senior officials of the State government, the police, Customs and Immigration, and representatives of the Korean community and Korean businesses.

Given the interest of Korean companies in multiple industry sectors, the Korean government wishes to be the facilitator for the smooth investment operations between Karnataka and Korean companies, said the press release.

Mr. Lee said, “Before COVID-19, some Korean companies and regional governments showed their interest in investing in Bengaluru. Now is the time for the consulate and the Karnataka government to start a joint campaign to resuscitate Koreans’ interest here.”

Currently there are around 40 Korean companies, with more than 1,000 Korean nationals, in Karnataka.

The consulate hopes to expand and largely enhance Korean presence and business operations in and around Bengaluru, so that it meets the level of Chennai within three years.

Sponsors’ interest

An investment of $300 million in Ola by Hyundai and Kia last year and a more recent likely investment of $40 million in Zomato are few evidence of Korean sponsors’ interest and willingness to invest in Bengaluru, the release stated.



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Home Minister Amit Shah winds up Chennai visit


CHENNAI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday left for Delhi after launching various infrastructure projects worth over Rs 67,000 crore during his one day visit to the metropolis.

Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, his Cabinet colleagues including K A Sengottaiyan and P Thangamani gave him a warm send off at the airport here.

Shah, who arrived here on Saturday afternoon laid the foundation stone for projects including the Rs 61,843 crore phase II of Chennai Metro Rail, elevated highway in Coimbatore at an estimated Rs 1,620 crore, a barrage across river Cauvery in Karur district and IOCL’s projects worth over Rs 3,000 crore. Later, the senior BJP leader also addressed his party office-bearers here at a hotel.

Elaborate security arrangements were made by police for the visit of Shah, who is under Z-plus security cover.





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