PHOTO MOMENT: Ganesh Chaturthi – Mumbai Ganpati

 

May all of your obstacles be overcome this Ganesh Chaturthi. Image by Supriya Tiwari.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Mumbai Ganpati‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Mum_Ganpati

mum_ganpati, Instagram (26 August 2017) https://www.instagram.com/p/BYPw3HenCFY/

tiwarisupriya392, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/tiwarisupriya392/

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INFANT ENCEPHALITIS: New outbreak reported in Indian city

Gorakhpur – VIJAY SHAH via PRABHASH DUTTA and India Today

The latest stage in a series of infant encephalitis outbreaks has claimed the lives of around sixty children in the Indian city of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh state, India Today news magazine reported this Saturday. The city, which lies 200 kilometres north-west of India’s capital New Delhi has been the scene of yearly outbreaks of both Japanese encephalitis and acute encephalitis syndrome since 1978, a period of nearly forty years.

Official figures claim that so far, around 25,000 children have succumbed to both conditions, which is spread by mosquitoes and causes inflammation of the brain and can leave survivors mentally and physically disabled, since the first outbreak in 1978. Unofficially the death toll since then has been claimed to be double that, at 50,000. The unofficial tally includes those children who never made it to hospital and were not officially recorded by doctors. Lack of medical facilities, poor nutrition and hygiene and close contact in crowded family environments in Gorakhpur and other parts of Uttar Pradesh has seen regular encephalitis outbreaks impossible to control.

 

Government records suggest that since September 2016, 224 children had died of encephalitis at just one hospital, BRD Medical College hospital, where already sixty children died just this year. This is the only hospital within a 300-kilometre radius that has the facilities to treat encephalitis victims, some of which come to the hospital from as far away as Nepal. Most of the victims were below the ages of eight and ten. Including all age ranges, Gorakhpur has lost 114 residents to the lethal diseases this year alone..

Government support of medical facilities and initiatives to combat the outbreak, of which Gorakhpur is the epicentre, have been minimal most of the time. In 2007, a government initiative was launched to save people live’s using drugs imported from China. While successful in many other parts of India, it failed to halt the march of encephalitis in the struggling eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh.

Recently, the Yoga Adityanath administration that governs the northern state launched a massive anti-encephalitis drive, vaccinating babies against catching the illness, but it will be years before results become conclusive, and the yearly sceptre of death is lifted from Gorakhpur’s innocent children.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

annapurnapande, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/ManyaPande

Abhijit Majumder, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/abhijitmajumder

“Gorakhpur has a history of children’s deaths, 25,000 kids have lost lives to encephalitis” – Prabhash K. Dutta, indiatoday.in/Living Media India Limited. (12 August 2017) http://m.indiatoday.in/lite/story/gorakhpur-encephalitis-deaths-brd-medical-college-hospital/1/1024551.html

IMAGE CREDIT:

“How is Japanese Encephalitis transmitted?” – Sanofi Pasteur, Flickr (22 February 2013) https://www.flickr.com/photos/sanofi-pasteur/8497288143

PHOTO MOMENT: Sarvajanik Ganeshutsav Mandal

 

A photo taken of the murti of Lord Ganesh at the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal festival located in Love Lane, Mazgaon, Mumbai. Devotees of God as Ganesh are getting ready for the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival which commences on the 24th August 2017. 

Please allow a few seconds for the embedded tweet and image to load as it may be slower on some browsers/connections.

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDITS:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

@lovelanecharaja

Mumbai Ganpati‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Mum_Ganpati

AUROVILLE: A unique city

Auroville, a young city lying around 10 kilometres from the former French colony of Puducherry (Pondicherry), now an Indian union territory, is an important hub of Hindu spirituality, which draws in thousands of people from all over the world. Set deep in the forests straddling the border of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, Auroville’s buildings are laid out in a unique formation reminiscent of the stars of a galaxy. Designed by architect Roger Anger, Auroville takes its name from Sri Aurobindo, a great philosopher and was established in 1968 by The Mother, also known by her birth name Mirra Alfassa, who was a close disciple of Sri Aurobindo and who hailed from France. Auroville came about as a haven from the religious and political strife of the time, and its whole mentality is geared towards serving God and realising the inner self.

 

 

One of the main ideas that governs the city is the improvement of personal relations among people, at a time when there was much strife and rivalry, and nowadays it encourages the perfection of people collaborating together as one humanity, and the devotees of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo courageously work together to improve relations between different groups of humanity. Auroville even received recognition in this dynamism from once Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, who spoke of the commune’s work in promoting harmony between different cultures and furthering understanding of how coexistence among human beings can help promote spiritual growth.

According to the Census of India 2014, only around 2,300 people live in Auroville, tiny by Indian standards. Around two-thirds originate from India, France and Germany. They are all governed by the civic cardinal rule, unique to Auroville, which states that no political, religious or spiritual organisation should use Auroville as a platform to proselytise for their faith or recruit followers. As a result, there are no political parties or political operations in Auroville, and there is also no concept of private property or money, with the land and homes held under a communal basis, via the auspices of the Auroville Foundation. Auroville also engages with intra-community activities with neighbouring villages and social outreach work.

Unlike the mayor’s office and local councils found in mainstream cities around the world, Auroville is administered by a committee elected by the locals, and residents can support or veto any measures put forward by the committee without having to deal with council red tape. In return, residents are expected to engage in daily programmes of work, for at least five hours a day, seven days a week, either on their own or collectively. When not working, many of Auroville’s inhabitants like to congregate at the Matrimandir to meditate and pray to and honour God, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother of Pondicherry.

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Tecnología GM‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TecnologiaGM
“Esta es la ciudad más extraña del mundo: Auroville” – GrandesMedios.com – Cultura/Grandes Medios (21 February 2016) https://www.grandesmedios.com/esta-es-la-ciudad-mas-extrana-del-mundo-auroville/
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Auroville puducherry.jpg” – sillybugger/Ian.A, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (1 May 2008) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Auroville_puducherry.jpg  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

HEM: Diwali 2016 wallpaper

 

 

The Half-Eaten Mind wishes all its readers and community a very happy Diwali.

 

 

IMAGE CREDITS:
“File:Traditional Aakash Kandil, Diwali, Pune India 2013.jpg” –  Ramnath Bhat, Wikimedia Commons (24 October 2013) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Traditional_Aakash_Kandil,_Diwali,_Pune_India_2013.jpg
“Wish Happy Diwali To Your Website Visitors!” – Mehul Mohan, Happy Diwali http://diwali14.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/happy-diwali-blog-widget.html
Canva https://www.canva.com/

INDIA ENCEPHALITIS OUTBREAK: 11 children dead, 15 hospitalised

Gaya, INDIA
VIJAY SHAH via Ace Worldwide News and Times of India

 

Bihar, the state in India where majority of Bi...
Bihar, the state in India where majority of Bihari People live (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Eleven children have died from an outbreak of the brain disease acute encephalitis syndrome and 15 others have been admitted to hospital in India, the Times of India reports via the Ace Worldwide News Group network of blogs has reported today.

The outbreak occurred in the town of Gaya in Bihar state, which lies around 100 kilometres from the state capital Patna.

Acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) is a severe inflammation of the brain caused by a variety of pathogens including viruses, bacteria, fungi and brain-dwelling parasites. In adults, AES can cause fever, headaches, confusion, and occassionally, seizures. In children, the most reported symptoms are irritability, poor appetite and drowsiness.

It is not yet known which pathogen is responsible for today’s outbreak.

In June 2014, a similar AES incident in the city of Muzaffarpur, also in Bihar, claimed the lives of 30 people, including several children, which was blamed on poor environmental hygiene and lack of ‘proper food’, according to the Times of India.

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
#AceBreakingNews, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AceBreakingNews
“#Breaking144 – 11 children die, 15 patients admitted to hospital over Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in Gaya, India – @timesofindia – @AceBreakingNews” – Ace Worldwide News Group (9 July 2016) https://acebreakingnews.wordpress.com/2016/07/09/breaking144-11-children-die-15-patients-admitted-to-hospital-over-acute-encephalitis-syndrome-in-gaya-india-timesofindia-acebreakingnews/
Times of India, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/timesofindia/status/751670897514196992
“No let-up in acute encephalitis syndrome, four more kids die” – Priti Nath Jha, The Times of India – City/Times Group (8 June 2014) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/patna/No-let-up-in-acute-encephalitis-syndrome-four-more-kids-die/articleshow/36227642.cms
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:India Bihar locator map.svg” – Planemad, Wikimedia Commons (29 December 2008) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_Bihar_locator_map.svg

112: New countrywide emergency number for India from 2017

New Delhi, INDIA
VIJAY SHAH via PTI & Deccan Herald

India will follow in the steps of Europe and North America by instituting a single number for emergency services as of 1st January 2017, enabling more convenience for the services and the public, the Deccan Herald reports.

As with America’s ‘911’ and the U.K.’s 999 services, Indian citizens looking to report a crime or incident will be able to dial ‘112’ to give them direct access to the fire brigade, ambulance service and the police, and this will be operational as of the first day of next year, a senior governmental official told the country’s Press Trust of India (PTI). The new easy to dial number has been formally approved by Telecoms Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

English: Emergency service in The Czech Republ...
English: Emergency service in The Czech Republic. Firemen and Emergency medical services are getting injured person from the car – practice show for public. Česky: Integrovaný záchranný systém. Hasiči a zdravotnická záchranná služba vyprošťují zraněnou osobu z auta – ukázkové cvičení pro veřejnost. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

112 will be available even to mobile phones and landlines that are out of coverage, low on credit or that are barred from making outgoing calls. Currently, the emergency services are contactable via different numbers. To dial the police, callers must use 100, for the fire brigade, it is 101. Ambulances are reached through the number 102 and Emergency Disaster Management crews are contacted via 108. Having 112 as a single number to cover all the services will greatly improve response times and co-ordination between emergency responders in the nation of 1 billion people.

The unnamed official told PTI: “Telecom operators have been asked to direct all emergency calls to 112. The process to direct calls made on to 112 to concerned departments is being worked out,”

“At present, there are call centres which handle emergency number calls. They will be asked to handle calls on 112 as well. Besides, requirement of additional capacity is being worked out which will be in place by January 1,”

People will also be able to contact emergency services by texting 112, and operators will be able to obtain their location via their mobile signal. The telecoms ministry also plans to bring in an associated ‘panic button’ system which will be made compulsory for all mobile handsets sold in India as of 2017, the Herald reports. GPS navigation systems will also be made compulsory on all handsets to enable emergency services to trace callers in distress.

All calls to the police and others will be routed through a call centre with operators on hand who will be able to take calls and texts in English, Hindi and regional languages such as Gujarati and Tamil.

SOURCES:
HEM News Agency, The Half-Eaten Mind, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind/lists/hem-news-agency
Deccan Herald, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/TheDeccanHerald
“India’s single emergency number ‘112’ to be active from Jan 1” – Press Trust of India via Deccan Herald – Home – National/The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd. (8 May 2016) http://www.deccanherald.com/content/545167/indias-single-emergency-number-112.html
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Integrovany zachranny system.jpg” – Michal Maňas, Wikimedia Commons (20 September 2006) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Integrovany_zachranny_system.jpg

INDO-PAK DIALOGUE: New trade talks stutter over conditions; hostilities

A new round of talks on commerce and security between South Asian neighbours and bitter enemies India and Pakistan, designed to facilitate links and friendship has ground to a halt over tensions during the high-level government meetings, the Voice of America reported yesterday.

In Pakistan‘s capital Islamabad, the Pakistani delegation called off the talks after the two sides began ‘trading barbs’ over the meeting’s agenda, VOA reports. The national security advisors of both countries were due to meet in India‘s capital New Delhi today and tomorrow, but the reluctance of the two nations to step away from their pre-conditions for the meetings has hampered dialogue.

Jammu, June 25. Pakistan Ranger stands near th...
Jammu, June 25. Pakistan Ranger stands near the flags of India and Pakistan during the ancient shrine of ‘Dalip Singh’ Baba Chamliyal annual fair at zero line international border in RamGarh sector about 45 KM’s from Jammu on Thursday. Pix by Vishal Dutta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Indian position wanted the bilateral talks to focus on cross-border terrorism, in particular incursions of Pakistan-sponsored militants across the heavily fortified border of the disputed region of Kashmir. They wanted assurances that Pakistan would rein in the militants and help maintain peace in the restive northern region. Pakistan however, wanted to also communicate on other issues, in particular resolving the Kashmir dispute which has seen the two neighbours go to war three times since their joint independence in 1947 after the dismantling of the British Raj.

The foreign affairs minister of India, Sushma Swaraj, told her opposite number, NSA adviser Sartaj Aziz that he could only participate in the New Delhi phase of the talks if he was prepared to address the terrorism issue.

“If you want to come, I have two messages for you,” Swaraj told Aziz via a press conference in the Indian capital. “Don’t create a third partner, the talks should be between India and Pakistan. And keep them limited to terrorism. If you do so, you are welcome to come.”

The ‘third partner’ that the Indian foreign minister was referring to are the numerous Kashmiri separatist factions such as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, who are agitating for complete independence for Kashmir or its annexation to Pakistan. Pakistan itself had originally invited leaders of the region’s separatist factions to meet with Sartaj Aziz before Aziz was to travel to New Delhi to meet the Indians, angering Indian politicians whose patience has been worn thin from separatist agitated violence in the Kashmir area over the past fifteen years or so.

A previous round of meeting with separatists from Kashmir by the Pakistanis caused India to call off talks between their foreign secretaries. Pakistan considers the Kashmiris to be ‘legitimate stakeholders’ in the ongoing debate over their region’s status, and has met with them as a matter of course for many years. India in turn regards the separatists as troublemakers and their position is that Kashmir and the wider Jammu and Kashmir state is an integral part of India without dispute. India regards the meetings between Pakistan and the Kashmiris as a violation of the 1972 Shimla Agreement, a document that implores both sides to bilaterally settle their differences.

The security meeting was a follow-up to a previous Indo-Pak meeting which took place in Ufa, in the Bashkiria region of Russia. On the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Council summit, which was taking place at the same time, the prime ministers of the two nations reached an agreement to discuss bi-national security arrangements and issues.

Both sides accused each other of trying to re-interpret that agreement and violating its spirit.

“We were clear that if we say all outstanding issues then Kashmir is included… Ask anyone sitting here what is the biggest outstanding issue between the two countries, everybody will say Kashmir,” Aziz said referring to the joint communiqué issued at the Ufa meeting.

“All outstanding issues will be discussed once violence and terrorism end. This meeting was supposed to discuss how to end those,” Swaraj retorted. The foreign minister also said that Aziz had not referenced the communiqué properly, only referring to what was noted in its preamble, rather than the main actionable body of the document from Ufa. Tensions over the exact agenda of the NSA meeting were further exacerbated by recent incidents of cross-border firing between Indian and Pakistani troops over the Line of Control, which separates Pakistani-occupied Kashmir from India’s autonomous Jammu and Kashmir state.

The good news is that despite the tensions over cross-border terrorism and security concerns, India and Pakistan have said that the talks will still continue, and despite the hard-hitting rhetoric between Swaraj and Aziz, the door has been left open for further negotiations between the Asian subcontinent’s two largest nations. According to Sartaj Aziz, however it is too early to say if the parties will meet again on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session to be held in New York next month.

Swaraj in turn commented of her hope that talks will persist, stating to the VOA that despite the difficult and complicated Indo-Pak relationship, the two sides have had worse falling-outs and was confident the problems could be negotiated.

“In diplomacy, there’s never a full stop, only commas or semi-colons,” she said.

SOURCES:
newsmap, Marcos Weskamp, Newsmap http://newsmap.jp/
“Pakistan: No High-level Talks With India” – Ayesha Tanzeem & Anjana Pasricha, Voice of America – News – Asia (22 August 2015) http://www.voanews.com/content/india-pakistan-trade-blame-as-proposed-talks-falter/2928347.html
IMAGE CREDIT:
“File:Baba Chamliyal Mela at Indo-Pak international Border, near Jammu.jpg” – Vishal Dutta, Flickr via Wikimedia Commons (14 August 2009) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Baba_Chamliyal_Mela_at_Indo-Pak_international_Border,_near_Jammu.jpg

 

PHOTO MOMENT: Happy Hindu New Year 2072

This Saturday marks the Hindu New Year V.S. 2072. This new year’s day is most keenly celebrated in north India and Nepal, although some peoples such as the Gujaratis, Tamils and Bengalis mark their new year’s on a different date. This new year also marks the beginning of spring and the agricultural season in the northern parts of the Asian subcontinent. It also marks the beginning of the nine-day festival of Navratri, in honour of Goddess Durga.

The Hindu New Year 2072 or Vikram Nav Varsh Samvant,is celebrated on Chaitra Shukala Pratipada (March – April).
In 2015, the Nav Samvat begins on March 21. The New Year is first day after the Amavasi (No moon) in the month of Chaitra. The current year is known as Keelak Samvatsar.” (Sanwaliya Seth mandir, Chittorgarh)

According to the Vikram Samvat calendar in use by those celebrating New Year’s today, it is now the year 2072, fifty-seven years ahead of the Gregorian calendar used in the West.

Vikram Samvat, also alternatively termed as Vikram Samwat, Vikram Sambt, Bikram Samvat, Bikram Samwat and Bikram Sambat, literally means “Vikram’s era”. The Vikram in question was an emperor of ancient India, whose full name was in fact Vikramaditya. He ruled over Ujjain in the Malwa region of central India. This powerful local emperor created the calendar to mark his victory over the Sakas (nomadic invaders from the eastern reaches of Persia) in 56 BC (1 VS). The calendar is a solar year with lunar months.

Celebrations have begun in earnest across much of India and Nepal, where the Vikram Samvat era is official. The governor of the Indian state of Bihar, Keshri Nath Tripathi, extended greetings and warm wishes to celebrants, remarking “I earnestly wish may the New Year bring happiness, peace and prosperity in everyone’s life..” India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi also gave greetings to the communities celebrating today. In a temple (mandir) in Udaipur, western India, dedicated to Lord Ram, priests presided over a two-hour long puja prayer ceremony using holy water from seven sacred rivers across their country.

For Kashmiri Pandits, an exiled community from the Kashmir region, it is ‘Navreh’. For Maharashtrians, today marks ‘Gudi Padwa‘. The Sindhis know it as Cheti Chand and for the southern state of Karnataka, it is Ugadi, while eastwards in the state of Manipur, the locals get down to marking the occasion of Sajibu Nongmapanba. Some Buddhists and Parsis also mark festivals around about this time.

In the spirit of the new year, the Half-Eaten Mind brings you a gallery of cool and fun images from around the web marking the first day of 2072 V.S….. “Nutan Varsh Abhinandan”  !!!

(c) Nepali Association of Western Australia
Via YouTube.
(c) Greater Rushmoor Nepali Community
(c) AstroDevam.com
(c) ImNepal.com
(c) suvichar.co.in
SOURCES:
“Vikram Samvat” – Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikram_Samvat
“Governor greets people on 2072 Vikram Samvat eve” – UNI, webIndia123 News/Suni Systems (P) Ltd. (20 March 2015) http://news.webindia123.com/news/Articles/India/20150320/2557325.html
“Sanwaliya ji New Year Vikram Samvat 2072 special, Shri Sanwaliya Seth Temple Rajasthan Chittorgarh | Bhadsoda | Mandpiya | Sanwariya” – Shri Sanwaliya Seth Temple http://www.shreesanwaliyaji.com/sanwaliyaji-new-year-vikram-samvat.php
“Nav Samvatsar-2072 festivity begins with Jyoti Kalash Pujan” – UdaipurTimes Team, Udaipur Times/UdaipurTimes.com (19 March 2015) http://udaipurtimes.com/nav-samvatsar-2072-festivity-begins-with-jyoti-kalash-pujan/
“PM greets people on various festivals, including Navratras” – Day & Night News/Kansan News Private Limited (21 March 2015) http://www.dayandnightnews.com/2015/03/pm-greets-people-on-various-festivals-including-navratras/
IMAGE CREDITS:
“NAWA NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS 2072” – Nepali Association of Western Australia/NAWA Inc. http://nawa.org.au/nawa-new-year-celebrations-2072/
“New Year Calendar 2072” – Pema Chhiring Sherpa, YouTube GB (21 February 2015) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biEAOHoJ3G4
“Happy Nepali New Year 2072” – Greater Rushmoor Nepali Community (3 March 2015) http://www.grncommunity.com/
“How to Celebrate New Year (Vikram Samvatsar 2072)” – AstroDevam.com (20 March 2015) https://astrodevam.com/blog/2015/03/20/how-to-celebrate-new-year-vikram-samvatsar-2072/
“Happy New Year 2072 Wishes Shayari in Hindi Language” – Nepal Nepali (1 February 2015) http://www.imnepal.com/happy-new-year-wishes-shayari-hindi/
“Nav Samvatsar 2072 – Happy Navratri 2015” – suvichar.co.in, Google + (17 March 2015) https://plus.google.com/+SuvichaarhindiBlogspotIn/posts/NfeFCQmmsMh

OBAMA: US President to cut short India trip after death of Saudi King

The United States President Barack Obama, who is currently on a tour of India, will cut short his diplomatic trip in the Asian subcontinent after the sudden demise of the Saudi king Abdullah, the Associated Press news agency (AP) reports.

Obama had visited India for strategic talks for a three-day period, of which the itinerary included an open-air audience with India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi, but the sudden death of the long-reigning King Abdullah ibn Abdilaziz Al Saud yesterday after being admitted to hospital with a lung infection has caused a sudden change of plans. The Saudis are one of America’s key allies in the Middle East. Indian officials told AP that President Obama will be heading immediately to Riyadh to pay his respects to the monarch, who was widely applauded in the West as a reformer who favoured some elemental women’s rights and helped preside over Saudi Arabia’s march forward as a regional power. He was only hours away from making a scheduled touristic trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra, just outside Delhi, when the passing of the Saudi ruler was announced. An official, Pradeep Bhatnagar, who is based out of Agra, said that American counterparts informed him today that Obama would not be visiting the ‘monument of love’ and would immediately jet off to Saudi Arabia, according to AP.

The US president had intended to hold a series of meetings with prime minister Modi on Sunday (tomorrow) and then arrive in New Delhi to be a special VIP guest alongside India’s political elites for the country’s yearly Republic Day celebrations and parades the following Monday. US officials have stated that the Saudi trip is a detour and that Obama will continue to press on with his India tour at an unspecified later date.

Josh Earnest, a spokesperson with the White House – the official presidential residence – said that president Obama and First Lady Michelle would travel to Riyadh on Tuesday this week and meet with the newly-crowned Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Salman is the half-brother of the late King Abdullah and previously held the portfolio as the kingdom’s defence minister since 2011, according to Wikipedia sources. The US had planned to send a separate delegation headed by Vice-President Joe Biden to Riyadh, but spokesperson Earnest said that these plans were dropped after the White House realised that Biden’s visit would clash with Obama’s departure from India. Biden will not now be attending the Riyadh function and will remain on official duties in Washington.

President Obama’s visit to India comes during a period of strengthening relations between the two superpowers. AP reported that Obama and Modi had got along very well and had built a good rapport as leaders of two of the world’s largest democracies. The Indian prime minister, formerly the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, visited Washington in autumn 2014, and invited the US president to return the compliment as a guest for India’s Republic Day on January 26th, 2015.

It took us by some surprise,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser. “There’s a great affinity between the United States and India and our people, but there’s also a history that is complicated and that would have made it seem highly unlikely that a U.S. president would be sitting with India’s leaders at their Republic Day ceremony.

There have been tensions in the past, mostly over India’s nuclear programme, which some US observers feared would exacerbate tensions with nuclear arch-rival and neighbour Pakistan. Washington has also been perturbed by India’s reluctance to open up their carefully regulated state industries to more foreign investment and to tackle rampant infringement of often US-owned copyrights and patents, such as in pharmaceuticals and digital media.

The two countries have however enjoyed good relations particularly in the trade, science and education fields. Officials in the US also hope the warm ties between the two leaders will also help address issues such as the Indian contribution to tackling climate change, including the limitation of carbon admissions from its rapidly developing industrial areas, as well as provide American business leaders with new opportunities and linkups with big business in Asia.

After some deliberations from White House advisers, Obama was cleared to pay a visit to Modi at New Delhi. As well as attending the Republic Day celebrations in an official capacity, he was also scheduled to meet with local and US business leaders as well as attend bilateral meetings with India’s prime minister. Barack Obama has the new distinction of being the first American leader to visit India more than once. He previously visited for an economic summit held in 2010.

Obama’s tour of India is expected to be loaded with symbolism with fewer ‘substantive advances’, although significant issues such as climate change, economics and defence ties are expected to be on the agenda for discussion. Modi will also use the visit to help protect his country against any aggressive political complications from either China or Pakistan, according to AP, as well as neatly coinciding with his election promise to revolutionise Asia’s third-largest economy.

Indian political commentator Ashok Malik, speaking to AP, said expectations for concrete deliverables during the visit are “below the standards usually set by U.S. presidents when they travel across the world for a three-day visit.

The tête-à-tête with Obama also marks a significant sea-change for PM Narendra Modi, who was once denied a US visa in 2005 after protests at his alleged but unproven involvement with the Godhra incident of 2002, which saw religious riots paralyse the state he governed at the time.

 

SOURCES:
Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984
Andrew S. Ginsburg, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/GinsburgJobs
“Obama to cut short India trip to visit Saudi Arabia” –  Julie Pace, Ashok Sharma & Muneeza Naqvi, AP Mobile/The Associated Press (24 January 2015) http://m.apnews.com/ap/db_289563/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=k9MBhS0r
IMAGE CREDIT:
Getty Images via Zemanta.