Wednesday August 15, 2018

PM Modi reaches Saudi Arabia, focus on trade agreements

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Abu Dhabi (UAE): Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque, at Abu Dhabi, UAE on Aug 16, 2015. Photo: IANS/

Riyadh: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia on Sunday is part of a broader diplomatic offensive to put pressure on arch rival Pakistan by forging ties with some of Islamabad’s closest allies, government officials have said, according to news agency Reuters.

The PM is expected to sign trade agreements, including contracts to secure investment for infrastructure projects, and offer security and military cooperation, such as training and joint exercises, they said.

The visit comes just months after he travelled to another major Pakistan ally, the United Arab Emirates, and signed a security cooperation agreement that includes regular meetings between top security advisers.

“It’s simple. We have to do everything to deal with Pakistan – use economics, strategy and emotional ties to win the hearts of Islamabad’s friends,” said Ram Madhav, General Secretary of the ruling BJP.

New Delhi has been frustrated that often its ties with countries have been coloured by concerns about its relationship with Pakistan. One foreign ministry official (unnamed by Reuters) said the Saudis tended to bring up Pakistan during discussions with India.

Government officials described the PM’s diplomatic push as an effort to “de-hyphenate” India from Pakistan, especially as Delhi tries to play a bigger geopolitical role in Asia to counter China’s influence.

Until now, India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been driven primarily by trade and the Indian diaspora in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is India’s top energy supplier and home to more than 3.5 million Indian expatriates and labour reforms would also be key talking points.

Still, there are limits to what the PM can hope to achieve. The relationship between Pakistan and the Saudis goes back decades, based in their shared Sunni Muslim heritage.

Saudi Arabia has long been a source of financial aid for Islamabad. In 2014, the Saudis gave Pakistan $1.5 billion as a “gift” to shore up its foreign reserves.

But Indian officials said the timing was right for PM Modi’s visit, as relations between Riyadh and Islamabad enter a rough patch.

Pakistan declined to provide ships, aircraft and troops to the Saudi-led fight to halt Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen last year. It has also sought to avoid taking sides in the escalating dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

“Pakistan knows that relations with Saudi have come to a low. That doesn’t mean that India can fill that gap,” said Zahid Hussain, a former newspaper editor in Pakistan. “But certainly this is part of Modi’s diplomatic offensive in the region.”

Credits: NDTV

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Amazon’s Alexa Can Now Learn Hindi And Other Indian Languages

Apart from Hindi, using "Cleo" customers can respond to Alexa's English statements in Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati and other Indian languages.

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Amazon,com. Flickr
Amazon,com. Flickr

Amazon on Tuesday launched a new category of Alexa skills that would enable customers in India help Alexa learn Hindi and other Indian languages.

Using the new “Cleo” skill, Amazon allows users to teach Alexa more about Indian languages and culture by interacting with the voice assistant.

“During each round, Alexa will ask you to say at least five things in your language. She may ask you to say something specific in the chosen language or to just say anything at all,” the company said in a statement.

Amazon Alexa. Flickr
Amazon Alexa. Flickr

The process of creating new languages for Alexa benefits data availability, computing power and machine learning, in which systems improve organically as they incorporate more data.

Cleo’s availability in India will help improve Alexa’s language model and help her to gradually speak in local languages, the company added.

Also Read: Amazon India, HackerEarth partner for Alexa Hackathon

These skills can be accessed on all Amazon Echo devices as well as the free Alexa app for smartphones.

Apart from Hindi, using “Cleo” customers can respond to Alexa’s English statements in Tamil, Marathi, Kannada, Bengali, Telugu, Gujarati and other Indian languages. (IANS)