Tuesday March 19, 2019
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Modi to Address both Houses of Congress in The US Next Week

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U.S. President Barack Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) talk as they have coffee and tea together in the gardens of Hyderabad House in New Delhi January 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

NEW DELHI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two years ago there were questions over whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi could get a visa to enter the United States. Next week he visits Washington as one of President Barack Obama’s closest international allies.

Obama invited Modi for one of the last big visits by a world leader before his term ends in January. Although the trip won’t feature a lavish state dinner, the Indian leader will address both houses of Congress, considered a rare honor.

This will be their seventh meeting since Modi became prime minister in May 2014, an impressive tally for a U.S. president and a leader who is not a formal ally, said Ashley Tellis at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India's Republic Day parade from behind rain streaked bullet proof glass as they stand in the rain together in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama watch India’s Republic Day parade from behind rain streaked bullet proof glass as they stand in the rain together in New Delhi January 26, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/File Photo

“The personal relationship between the president and the prime minister … is really one of the unanticipated surprises of the past two years,” said Tellis, an expert on India.

The developing relationship is seen as an Obama foreign policy success. Washington views India as an important part of its rebalance to Asia and as a counterweight to China.

The two countries are finalizing agreements that would make it possible for their militaries to cooperate more closely, and for U.S. defense manufacturers to both sell and make high-tech weaponry in India.
A deal on logistics would govern issues such as how the two countries account for costs of military exercises. Another involves encrypted communications and geospatial data transfer.

A history of colonial rule followed by decades of non-alignment has, however, made New Delhi wary of an embrace by the more powerful United States, which has overtaken Russia as India’s top arms supplier.

“It is neither a strategic partnership nor an alliance,” said Nitin Gokhale, founder of defense portal Bharat Shakti. “It can be a long-term arrangement, but to call it a strategic partnership would be premature.”

There are frustrations, too, on the U.S. side.

The two countries reached a civil nuclear agreement in 2005, but it has yet to yield any contracts for U.S.-based companies. Only now is Westinghouse, a unit of Japan’s Toshiba, approaching the finish line on a deal to build six reactors in India.

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The visit gives Modi a chance to network with U.S. lawmakers who may feature in a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton administration but, as it coincides with the California primary, he is not expected to meet either.

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Modi is generally popular with U.S. lawmakers, who extended his invitation to address Congress. But they criticize what they see as lingering unfriendliness to U.S. firms and a stifling bureaucracy, and question New Delhi’s record on human rights.

“The economic engagement between our two countries should increase and it should be more accessible for U.S. companies,” Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a telephone interview.

Obama and Modi are expected to discuss India’s desire to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a 48-member club of nuclear trading nations.

India was shut out for decades because of its weapons program, and the civil nuclear agreement with the United States gave it access to foreign suppliers without giving up its arms.

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Obama administration officials have said they backed India’s desire to join the group, but the idea faces resistance among some on Capitol Hill, as well as from China, an ally of India’s arch-rival Pakistan.

“Existing NSG guidelines were established to guard against nuclear proliferation, and we should not create exceptions for particular countries,” Corker said.

There is lingering concern in Washington over Modi’s handling of communal riots in 2002 that killed at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in Gujarat.

Modi was chief minister of the state at the time and, though a court-ordered inquiry found insufficient evidence to prosecute him, the issue prevented him from getting a U.S. visa for years.

Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised human rights on a visit to New Delhi this week, saying the two largest democracies had “special obligations” to set the highest standards.

Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission has scheduled a hearing on India for June 7, the day Modi arrives in Washington and the day before his address to the combined House of Representatives and Senate. He leaves the United States on June 8.

Corker promised to ask Modi about India’s record on human trafficking, which he brought up recently in an emotional Senate hearing with Obama administration officials.

“The country we believe has 12-14 million slaves, which is close to half the number we believe exists worldwide,” Corker said. “It’s obviously a very significant issue and when he’s here, it’s one I certainly plan to raise.”

 

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WhatsApp and NASSCOM To Come Up With Digital Literacy Training To Curb Fake News

"This training educates people throughout India to be mindful of the messages they receive and to verify the facts before forwarding,"

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The first training will be on March 27 in Delhi and will be followed by more planned interventions like hosting training workshops for representatives from rural and urban areas along with roadshows across numerous colleges. Pixabay

As part of the partnership, WhatsApp and NASSCOM Foundation will train nearly 1,00,000 Indians to spot false information and provide tips and tricks to stay safe on WhatsApp.

The co-created curriculum, which includes real-world anecdote tools that can be used to verify a forwarded message and actions that users can take like reporting problematic content to fact checkers and other law enforcement agencies, will be disseminated in multiple regional languages.

“We are excited to expand our partnerships with civil society to advance crucial digital literacy skills that can help combat misinformation share on WhatsApp,” Abhijit Bose, Head of India, WhatsApp, said in a statement.

“This training educates people throughout India to be mindful of the messages they receive and to verify the facts before forwarding,” he added.

The training will be imparted by volunteers from NASSCOM Foundation who will launch the “each one teach three” campaign that mandates every volunteer to share their learnings with three more persons leading to a network effect.

These volunteers will post their takeaways from the workshops on their social media handles to increase the reach of these safety messages.

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As part of the partnership, WhatsApp and NASSCOM Foundation will train nearly 1,00,000 Indians to spot false information and provide tips and tricks to stay safe on WhatsApp.
Pixabay

The first training will be on March 27 in Delhi and will be followed by more planned interventions like hosting training workshops for representatives from rural and urban areas along with roadshows across numerous colleges.

“The use of technology platforms like WhatsApp are inherently meant to foster social good, harmony, and collaboration, but are sadly being used by a small number of miscreants to entice anger and hatred by spreading false and doctored information,” Ashok Pamidi, CEO, NASSCOM Foundation, said.

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“This training educates people throughout India to be mindful of the messages they receive and to verify the facts before forwarding,” he added. Pixabay

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“I would like to urge all the connected citizens who want to join this fight against the spread of fake information, to come and help volunteer towards the cause,” Pamidi added.

Aspiring volunteers can register at www.mykartavya.nasscomfoundation.org

NASSCOM Foundation is the social arm of the industry body, National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM). (IANS)