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India secretly increasing its nuclear power: Foreign journal

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New Delhi: India could “deeply unsettle” its neighbours Pakistan and China as it is building a secret facility in its southern Karnataka state to augment its nuclear power for civilian use and up gradation of its weapons, a foreign policy journal has reported.

According to an exhaustive report published on December 16 in the international US magazine Foreign Policy, the work on the project in southern Karnataka began early in 2012.

The 14-page report said tribal pastureland was blocked off with a barbed-wire fence at Challakere for “a project that experts say will be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities when it’s completed, probably sometime in 2017”.

The project’s primary aim was to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for India’s nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of new submarines, says the Foreign Policy journal.

“But another, more controversial ambition, according to retired Indian government officials and independent experts in London and Washington, is to give India an extra stockpile of enriched uranium fuel that could be used in new hydrogen bombs, also known as thermonuclear weapons, substantially increasing the explosive force of those in its existing nuclear arsenal,” the report reads.

New Delhi has never made public details of its nuclear arsenal, which it first developed in 1974, the magazine said.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an independent agency, estimates that India already possesses between 90 and 110 nuclear weapons, as compared to neighbour Pakistan’s estimated stockpile of up to 120. China, which borders India to the north, has approximately 260 warheads.

The report says that China and Pakistan would see the secret project as a provocation. “Experts say they might respond by ratcheting up their own nuclear firepower. Pakistan, in particular, considers itself a military rival, having engaged in four major conflicts with India, as well as frequent border skirmishes.”

“I believe that India intends to build thermonuclear weapons as part of its strategic deterrent against China,” Gary Samore, who served from 2009 to 2013 as the White House coordinator for arms control, was quoted by ‘Foreign Policy’ as saying.

Other than the Challakere project, Western monitoring agencies were keeping an eye on a similar nuclear facility near Mysuru, also in Karnataka.

“However, Western knowledge about how India’s weapons are stored, transported, and protected, and how the radiological and fissile material that fuels them is guarded and warehoused — the chain of custody — remains rudimentary,” the report added.

According to the magazine, a retired official who served inside the nuclear cell at the Indian prime minister’s office, the apex organisation that supervises the military nuclear programme, conceded that other uses besides submarines had been anticipated “for many years”.

He pointed to a “thermonuclear bomb programme” as “a beneficiary” and suggested India had had no choice but to “develop a new generation of more powerful megaton weapons” if it was to maintain “credible minimum deterrence”.(IANS)

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Amazon To Roll Out 4 New Alexa Built-in Devices Next Month

Echo Dot and Echo Plus will start shipping this month while Echo Sub will be available later this year

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The logo of Amazon, online retailer is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, France. VOA

Four Indian manufacturers on Monday announced to launch new products like portable headsets, smart speakers and set-top boxes with the Amazon Alexa built-in.

The hardware manufacturers are iBall, Sirena Technologies, boAt and MyBox who have integrated Alexa into their products with the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) which enables developers to integrate Alexa directly into their products, bringing the convenience of voice control to any connected device.

All four devices will be available beginning next month, enabling customers to ask questions, play music, control smart home devices and more, the AVS said in a statement.

“Breathe-M” from iBall is a wireless Bluetooth over-ear headset with built-in Mic for just Rs 2,225 while “Vood” by Sirena Technologies is touted as one of the world’s smallest portable smart speakers for Rs 2,699.

“boAt Stone 700A” is a shock and water proof smart speaker for Rs 7,999 and “MyBox” Alexa Kit for the set-top box (STB), paired with a voice remote, costs just Rs 1,999.

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The Alexa Echo Dot devices include the official Saint Louis University logo and are equipped with specific skills to provide information on local events and campus life. VOA

Earlier Alexa built-in devices that were launched in India were Pulse 3 and Plus 3 Max headphones from Motorola for Rs 1,599 and Rs 2,599, respectively and Bose Home Speaker 500, Bose Soundbar 500, and Soundbar 700 for Rs 39,000, Rs 59,000 and Rs 79,000, respectively.

Amazon last month launched a new line-up of Echo devices and an Echo companion device in India.

At Rs 4,499, Echo Dot comes with a new speaker for crisper sound and an updated fabric design.

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Echo Plus with a built-in Zigbee hub, an upgraded speaker and a new design will cost Rs 14,999.

With Echo Sub, you can add rich bass to music playback on Echo devices for Rs 12,999.

Echo Dot and Echo Plus will start shipping this month while Echo Sub will be available later this year. (IANS)

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