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India-US BECA pact: Now, India can see movements of elephants and ants in real time, says retired diplomat Deepak Vohra

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India and the United States of America signed several pacts during the recent visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark Esper. The two senior American officials met Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. The key aspect of the discussions is the signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA). This agreement will give India access to data available with the US military.

BECA assumes strategic importance due to the simmering tensions with China. US President Donald Trump has stayed the course of his run for re-election on the Chinese virus. Given the Democrats have Indian-American Kamala Harris on the bill, Trump has a winner on his hand by tying up with India against China. US politics aside, India has quite a bit to gain.

New equation

Brigadier (Rtd) Vinod Dutta told APN that in the new geopolitical equation, this initiative is going to give good dividends when both countries are looking for peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region. Moreover, it is a clear-cut signal to China’s abusive behaviour and its expansionist designs.

(From left) US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, India’s NSA Ajit Doval and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

“Two big democracies, 2 real powers and 2 good friends are coming together. Barring Turkey and some odd countries, the entire world has moved towards India, which is seen as a reasonable, formidable regional power,” Dutta said.

Moreover, in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the US polls are focused, as noted above, on the Chinese virus with most Chinese products rotting at the ports, he said.

In a similar vein, Japan has already given a $2.2 billion economic stimulus to help manufacturers uproot production from China and relocate else, Dutta noted.

Equal partners, not master-slave  

Ambassador (Rtd) Deepak Vohra, the special adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, countered the criticism of India’s American friendship from several quarters. “It is being said that through BECA, India has fallen into the lap of the US. This is not true. This is a partnership between equals and both have fallen into the lap of each other,” he said.

The Indian Army is more than a match to any military in the world, the US has the world’s most awesome technology and when these two powers combine, no one can dare India, Vohra added. Through geospatial intelligence, India will be in a position to see movements of elephants and ants in real time, he said.

The 9/11 effect

Listing the long Indo-US diplomatic journey, Vohra said 9/11 was a watershed moment after which America’s view of India changed. “This got polished with India’s spectacular progress in information technology and military resilience demonstrated in 1999,” Vohra said.

Perhaps, India is being seen by the US as a factor for stability in the arc of Islamic instability stretching from Nigeria to Indonesia. So what we are seeing in Indo-US defence relations in the last two decades is the convergence of security perception and world vision, he added.

Informal talks between US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, India’s NSA Ajit Doval and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Defence ties between India and USA

The world’s oldest and largest democracies have been evolving a defence deal with each other in the recent past. In 2016, the US gave India major defence partner status putting it at par with other major allies. In 2017, the US Congress passed the National Defence Authorisation Act cementing India’s major defence partner status, Vohra said.

Since then the two countries have inked two major agreements, the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) and the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), and now the BECA, he said.

This indicates the level of trust and comfort in the relations of two countries and a strong message to the world. With the US-India coming together, there is fear and frustration in Beijing and Islamabad, Vohra said.

Amid uncertainties on who will win the US polls, the signing of the BECA deal indicates growing bipartisan support for New Delhi as a bulwark against Beijing despite what occurred in Ladakh. 

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PM Modi greets nation on Ram Navmi, says Ayodhya is in incomparable bliss

PM Modi also recalled the consecration ceremony of Ram Lalla at the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on January 22.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted the country today on the occasion of Ram Navami. He said that Ayodhya is experiencing incomparable bliss as this is the first time the festival is being observed there following the consecration of the Ram temple.

He said in a series of posts on X that this is the result of the nation’s citizens’ years of hard labor and sacrifice.

Ram Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Ram, and a temple was just dedicated in Ayodhya at the place of his purported birth.

Together with a huge number of people, Prime Minister Modi expressed his gratitude and overwhelm at being present for the consecration ceremony in Ayodhya.

He claimed that the same energy still pulses through his memory of that particular moment.

Indians have a strong emotional attachment to Lord Ram. Ram Navami is also a moment to honour and remember the saints and devotees who gave their lives to build the Ayodhya temple, according to Prime Minister Modi.

Following the official opening of the Ram Mandir, Ayodhya has been decorated to greet worshipers on the first Ram Navami.

Vibrant lights have been used to brighten the entire temple complex. The Janmabhoomi Path has a crimson carpet spread on it to make it easier for devotees to walk about in the intense heat. For the comfort of devotees, carpets have also been installed inside the temple premises.

To shield devotees from the sun, a permanent canopy has been installed on the Janmabhoomi Path, while a temporary cover has also been installed on the Bhakti Path. In addition, the Ayodhya administration has installed assistance booths at 29 locations throughout the Mela region, extending from Tedhi Bazar to Naya Ghat.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday at 12:15 p.m., the eagerly awaited Surya Abhishek of Ram Lalla will take place. The celestial event will run for four minutes. The Sun’s rays will create a 75 mm tilak on Ram Lalla’s forehead during this time.

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Gujarat Jain couple donate Rs 200 crore wealth, renounce world

The Bhandari couple was accompanied by 35 individuals in February and led a 4 km procession during which they donated all their belongings, from mobile phones to air conditioners.

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A Gujarat-based businessman and his wife have donated their lifetime earnings of Rs 200 crore and have taken the decision to renounce all materialistic desires to become Jain monks. In February this year, Bhavesh Bhandari and his wife donated all their wealth during a ceremony. The Bhandari family, which hails from Himmatnagar, has been in the construction business. The family decided to follow in the footsteps of their 16-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, who adopted monkhood in 2022.

Bhavesh Bhandari, who belongs to a Jain family, had been a part of construction business in Ahmedabad and Sabarkantha and was accustomed to a life of luxury and prosperity from a young age. The Bhandari couple was accompanied by 35 individuals in February and led a 4 km procession during which they donated all their belongings, from mobile phones to air conditioners. A short video clip from the event shows the couple wearing regal attire on top of a chariot and making donations. Adorned in rich attire and jewellery, they stood atop a truck adorned to resemble a chariot, tossing garments and banknotes to the people standing below,

After the couple made their pledge on April 22 to adopt monkhood, the couple is going to break all familial relations and renounce any material possessions and desires. Afterwards, they will begin a barefoot journey across India and will sustain themselves solely on alms.

According to reports the couple will be allowed to own two white garments, an alms bowl, and a rajoharan, a white broom used by Jain monks to clear insects from an area before sitting — a symbol of the non-violent path which they follow. In a similar incident in January, the 8-year-old daughter of a Gujarati diamond merchant renounced material comforts and worldly desires to embrace monkhood. Devanshi Sanghv had participated in a grand procession with camels, elephants, horses and great fanfare before embracing a life of monkhood.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Lok Sabha elections 2024: BJP releases 12th list of candidates, Udayanraje Bhonsle to contest from Satara

The BJP on Tuesday released its 12th list of seven candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections

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The 12th list of seven candidates for the Lok Sabha elections, which are scheduled to start on Friday, was announced by the BJP on Tuesday. Among the seven candidates is Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who will contest from Satara, Maharashtra, and Abhijit Das Bobby, who represents Diamond Harbour in West Bengal.

The current MP for the Trinamool Congress, Abhishek Banerjee, has been paired against Abhijit Das Bobby, who contested unsuccessfully for the Diamond Harbour seat in the general elections of 2009 and 2014.

Abhishek Banerjee won in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with 40.31 percent of the vote, while Abhijit Das secured 15.92 percent of the vote to finish third. Dr. Abul Hasnat of CPI(M), who received 34.66% of the vote, came in second.

With 7,91,127 votes, the leader of the Trinamool Congress party was able to hold onto the seat in 2019. Nilanjan Roy of the BJP received 4,70,533 votes, while Fuad Halim of the CPI(M) secured third place with 93,941 votes.

The 13th descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Udayanraje Bhosale, is another prominent figure on the list. He is contesting for the Satara Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra as a member of the BJP.

In the 2019 by-election, Bhosale—a former leader of the NCP who joined the BJP in 2022—lost the seat. There has been a back-and-forth in the seat on the Lok Sabha election candidate between the BJP and NCP.

Shashikant Shinde has received his ticket from the NCP (SP).

Shashank Mani Tripathi from Deoria and Thakur Vishwadeep Singh from Firozabad are the final candidates on the BJP’s 12th list.

In Uttar Pradesh, there are two seats.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Som Prakash’s wife Anita Som Prakash, who is a resident of Punjab, will contest for the Hoshiarpur seat in lieu of her husband.

Manjeet Singh Manna Miawind from Khadoor Sahib and Parampal Kaur Sidhu from Bathinda are the other two candidates, both of whom are from Punjab.

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