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China offers visa-free entry for citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia

China has announced temporary visa-free entry for citizens of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, and Malaysia from December 1 to November 30 next year. This move aims to boost post-pandemic tourism and revive the country’s tourism sector, which suffered due to strict COVID-19 measures. The visa exemption applies to various purposes, including business, tourism, visiting relatives, and transiting for up to 15 days. The decision follows recent efforts by China, such as restoring international flight routes, to recover from pandemic-related restrictions.

The government also seeks to improve its global image after disagreements with Western countries on issues like COVID-19, human rights, Taiwan, and trade. The move received positive responses, with hopes for similar measures for all EU member states. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna praised the announcement during her visit to Beijing, emphasizing its positive impact. This follows China’s previous expansions of visa-free transit policies and the elimination of COVID test requirements for inbound travelers. The European Chamber of Commerce in China views the decision as a positive step to boost business confidence and facilitate people-to-people exchanges.

Courtesy: Reuters.

U.S. thwarted plot to kill Sikh separatist, issues warning to India

U.S. authorities thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the country and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved, a senior Biden administration official said. The U.S. is treating the plot with utmost seriousness and has raised the issue with the Indian government “at the senior-most levels,” the White House said on Wednesday (Nov 22, 2023). The Financial Times first reported the plot. White House spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Indian officials expressed “surprise and concern” when they were informed about the incident. “We are treating this issue with utmost seriousness, and it has been raised by the U.S. government with the Indian government, including at the senior-most levels,” Watson said.

“They stated that activity of this nature was not their policy … We understand the Indian government is further investigating this issue and will have more to say about it in the coming days. We have conveyed our expectation that anyone deemed responsible should be held accountable,” she said. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who says he is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, was the target of the foiled plot, according to the senior administration official. “Just like Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination by the Indian agents on Canadian soil was a challenge to Canada’s sovereignty, the threat to (an) American citizen on American soil is a Challenge to America’s sovereign (ty),” he said. News of the incident comes two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the June murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb, something India has rejected.

Courtesy: Nikkei Asia.

Europe’s space program plays catch-up with china and India

Europe’s intention to launch a return cargo mission to the International Space Station by 2028 puts it years behind China and India, with industry experts saying that unless there is greater political will and commitment of funds, its access to space in the future will be limited. France, Germany and Italy agreed earlier this month at the European Space Agency Space Summit in Spain to commit 340 million euros ($363 million) per year to the Ariane 6 rocket program, a decision backed by all 22 members. But that is hardly enough to catch up with China and India, which have been reaching milestone after milestone.

Courtesy: Nikkei Asia.

Pakistan points Afghan Taliban to militant hideouts, urges action

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry says it has handed over intelligence on Pakistani Taliban militant hideouts in Afghanistan to the Taliban government there, demanding the authorities take action against what Islamabad considers one of its biggest security threats. “We have shared the evidence with Afghan authorities of TTP hideouts inside Afghanistan,” Zahra Baloch, the Pakistani ministry’s spokesperson, told reporters in a weekly briefing on Thursday, referring to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. “We have urged the interim Afghan government to take concrete action against these TTP elements, dismantle their networks, and prevent terrorist attacks from across the border into Pakistan.” She added.

Courtesy: Nikkei Asia.

Brics condemns Israel war on Gaza in signal to the West

Leaders of major emerging economies called for an end to Israel’s war on Gaza on Tuesday, and for a cessation of hostilities on both sides to ease the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. In a virtual summit chaired by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, the BRICS grouping denounced attacks on civilians in Palestine and Israel, with many leaders calling the forced displacement of Palestinians, within Gaza or outside the territory, “war crimes.”

 “We condemned any kind of individual or mass forcible transfer and deportation of Palestinians from their own land,” a chair’s summary read. The group, which did not issue a joint declaration, also “reiterated that the forced transfer and deportation of Palestinians, whether inside Gaza or to neighbouring countries, constitute grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and war crimes and violations under International Humanitarian Law.” The BRICS is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, all major emerging economies looking for a greater say in a global order long dominated by the United States and its Western allies. These countries are often viewed as leaders of what is referred to in international policy speak as the “Global South”. But it wasn’t just these five countries that spoke on the war on Tuesday. Earlier this year, the BRICS had agreed to expand and add Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran as members from 2024. The leaders of these six countries also participated in the meeting called by South Africa. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined the summit too.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera.

Pakistan and IMF reach deal for releasing $700m from $3bn bailout package

Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reached a preliminary deal for the release of $700m from a $3bn bailout package after two weeks of talks with the global lender. The IMF on Wednesday said it reached a staff-level agreement with Pakistan’s caretaker government on the first review of the $3bn fund. “Upon approval [from IMF executive board], around $700m will become available bringing total disbursements under the programme to almost $1.9 billion,” IMF’s Pakistan mission chief Nathan Porter said in a statement.

Courtesy: Dawn.

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