PM Modi, Japan counterpart discuss ways to strengthen peace and stability in Indo-Pacific

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japan counterpart Fumio Kishida on Monday exchanged views on defence equipment and technology cooperation, trade, health, digital partnership and also had a fruitful discussion on importance of reliable supply chains in semiconductor and other critical technologies.

The two leaders had "excellent talks" during Kishida's visit to New Delhi with PM Modi stating that strengthening bilateral partnership is not only important for both our countries, it also promotes peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

He said that the two countries had last year set a target of Japanese investment of 5 trillion yen (Rs3,20,000 crore) in India in the next five years and it is a matter of satisfaction that there has been good progress in this direction.

PM Kishida's visit assumes significance as India is chairing the G20 and Japan is chairing the G7.

Following talks between the two leaders, there was an exchange of notes between the Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan of tranche-IV JICA ODA Loan of JPY 300 billion for Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR).

The two countries also signed a Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of Japanese Language Education in India.

Personal rapport between the two leaders was visible during their visit to Buddha Jayanti Park in Delhi. In a special gesture, PM Modi gifted a sapling of Bal Bodhi tree to PM Kishida.

PM Modi shared a video on Facebook which showed Kishida eating gol gappas. He shared the video alongside the caption: "My friend Japan PM Fumio Kishida enjoyed gol-gappas."

During his hectic schedule in Delhi, PM Kishida delivered the 41st Sapru House Lecture on "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)" in which he termed India as in Indispensable partner.

Briefing about the talks between PM Modi and the Japan PM, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said the two leaders spoke about how India, Japan and other like-minded countries work together to address the challenges, particularly in the wider-expanse of Indo-Pacific.

Asked if Chinese aggressiveness was discussed by two leaders, Kwatra said the two leaders spoke about the ongoing developments in the region and also globally.
"Naturally, as part of those discussions, they spoke about the challenges that we face in the region. How India and Japan and other like-minded countries can work together to address those challenges and not just focus on challenges, but also focus on cooperation, particularly in the wider-expanse of Indo-Pacific."

"How do you take the other countries of the Indo-Pacific together? That is cut across several domains. So, for example, how do you partner within the Indo-Pacific to build resilient and trustworthy supply chains, for example? How do you come together to mitigate some of the challenges that the development template of many of these countries within the Pacific face in terms of debt burdens etc? So all that formed part of a larger, a broad platform of discussion so far in the region, sub-region specifically, and the larger field of Indo-Pacific is concerned," he added.

Kwatra said that there was no discussion regarding the expansion of Quad between PM Modi and Kishida.

"All the Quad members are very clear in their mind that Quad needs to undergo a very-very appropriate phase of consolidation before we look to anything other than Quad." Quad includes Australia, India, Japan and the United States.

Kwatra said PM Kishida had extended an invitation to PM Modi for attending the G7 Leaders' Summit to be held in Hiroshima in May and it has been accepted.

In the joint press meeting after talks with PM Kishida, Prime Minister Modi said India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership is based on shared democratic values, and respect for the rule of law in the international arena.

"Strengthening this partnership is not only important for both our countries, it also promotes peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. In our conversation today, we have reviewed the progress made in our bilateral relations. We exchanged views on Defence Equipment and Technology collaboration, Trade, Health, and Digital partnership. We also had a fruitful discussion on the importance of reliable supply chains in semiconductor and other critical technologies," he said.
PM Modi said he and PM Kishida ave met several times in the last one year.

"And each time, I have felt his positivity and commitment towards India-Japan relations. And therefore, his visit today will be very useful to maintain the momentum of our cooperation," he said.

PM Modi said he outlined India's priorities during its presidency of G20

"Our meeting today is special for another reason as well. This year India is chairing the G20, and Japan is chairing the G7. And therefore, this is the perfect opportunity to work together on our respective priorities and interests," he said.

"Today, I explained in detail to Prime Minister Kishida about the priorities of India's G20 Presidency. Giving voice to the priorities of Global South is an important pillar of our G20 Presidency. We have taken this initiative because we are a culture that believes in "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", and in taking everyone along," he added.

The Prime Minister said that India-Japan Industrial Competitiveness Partnership was set up in 2019.

"Under this, we are increasing the competitiveness of Indian industry in areas such as logistics, food processing, MSME, textiles, machinery and steel. Today we also expressed happiness over the activeness of this partnership. We are also progressing fast on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail. I am also happy that we are celebrating 2023 as the Year of the Tourism Exchange. And for this we have chosen the theme 'Connecting Himalayas with Mount Fuji'.

PM Modi said he will have the opportunity to welcome Prime Minister Kishida to India again for the G20 Leaders' Summit.

Erin O’Toole: China targeted me in election, says 2021 rival to Canada’s Trudeau

International Desk,
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Canada’s spy agency told former Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole that China campaigned to discredit him and suppress votes ahead of the 2021 election he lost to Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, O’Toole has said.

In a briefing on Friday, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (Csis) informed O’Toole about intelligence saying Beijing had targeted him in 2021, when he was Conservative leader and running to defeat Trudeau.

“The Csis briefing confirmed to me what I had long suspected – that my party, several of my parliamentary caucus members and myself were the target of a Chinese orchestrated campaign of disinformation and voter suppression in the run up to and during the 2021 general election,” O’Toole said in Canada’s House of Commons.

The prime minister has come under pressure from opposition parties to open a public inquiry into foreign election interference, even though a special rapporteur into allegations of Chinese election meddling recommended against one last week.

The opposition parties renewed calls for a public inquiry on Tuesday. O’Toole blamed the government for failing to pass on the intelligence about Chinese meddling to members of parliament.

“The [Chinese] communist government’s ideal outcome is to have its critics pull their punches and turn a blind eye,” O’Toole said, to create “a chilling effect on our parliamentary democracy”.

Members and senior advisers of the government “are being willfully blind to attacks on our parliamentary democracy”, O’Toole said.

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Trudeau expelled a Chinese diplomat this month for allegedly seeking to target a Conservative politician’s family in Hong Kong in 2021, prompting a tit-for-tat response by Beijing.

Trudeau has acknowledged there has long been Chinese interference, but has said it did not undermine the integrity of the 2019 or 2021 election results.

Trudeau’s office had no immediate response to O’Toole’s statements. The Chinese embassy in Ottawa also had no immediate comment.

O’Toole announced this year that he will be leaving politics and the House of Commons on 23 June.


Taiwan tracks 13 Chinese military aircraft, 5 naval ships around nation

International Desk,
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The Ministry of National Defense (MND) tracked 13 Chinese military aircraft and five naval vessels around Taiwan between 6 a.m. on Monday (May 29) and 6 a.m. on Tuesday (May 30).

Of the 13 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft, one Shaanxi Y-8 reconnaissance plane and one WZ-7 reconnaissance drone were monitored in the southwest corner of Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ), according to the MND. No PLA aircraft crossed the Taiwan Strait median line during that time.

In response, Taiwan sent aircraft, naval ships, and used land-based missiles to monitor PLA activity.

So far this month, Beijing has sent 326 military aircraft and 139 naval vessels around Taiwan. Since September 2020, China has increased its use of gray zone tactics by incrementally increasing the number of military aircraft and naval ships operating around Taiwan.

Gray zone tactics are defined as “an effort or series of efforts beyond steady-state deterrence and assurance that attempts to achieve one’s security objectives without resorting to direct and sizable use of force.”


China’s Young People Can’t Find Jobs. Xi Jinping Says to ‘Eat Bitterness.’

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Gloria Li is desperate to find a job. Graduating in June with a master’s degree in graphic design, she started looking in the fall, hoping to find an entry-level position that pays about $1,000 a month in a big city in central China. The few offers she has gotten are internships that pay $200 to $300 a month, with no benefits.

Over two days in May she messaged more than 200 recruiters and sent her résumé to 32 companies — and lined up exactly two interviews. She said she would take any offer, including sales, which she was reluctant to consider previously.

“A decade or so ago, China was thriving and full of opportunities,” she said in a phone interview. “Now even if I want to strive for opportunities, I don’t know which direction I should turn to.”

China’s young people are facing record-high unemployment as the country’s recovery from the pandemic is fluttering. They’re struggling professionally and emotionally. Yet the Communist Party and the country’s top leader, Xi Jinping, are telling them to stop thinking they are above doing manual work or moving to the countryside. They should learn to “eat bitterness,” Mr. Xi instructed, using a colloquial expression that means to endure hardships.

Many young Chinese aren’t buying it. They argue that they studied hard to get a college or graduate school degree only to find a shrinking job market, falling pay scale and longer work hours. Now the government is telling them to put up with hardships. But for what?

“Asking us to eat bitterness is like a deception, a way of hoping that we will unconditionally dedicate ourselves and undertake tasks that they themselves are unwilling to do,” Ms. Li said.

People like Ms. Li were lectured by their parents and teachers about the virtues of hardship. Now they are hearing it from the head of state.

outh Unemployment: As young people in China struggle to find jobs, Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, is telling them to stop thinking they are above doing manual work. Many aren’t buying it.
Space: A government official said that China planned to complete a mission to land a person on the moon by 2030 — an outcome that would be a major milestone for the country.

Covid Is Coming Back: Chinese authorities say that coronavirus cases are up, and one doctor estimates that there could soon be 65 million cases a week. But China appears determined to move on with normal life.

Housing Crisis: A real estate boom transformed Nanchang from manufacturing hub to urban center. But the city added apartments faster than its population grew, leading to vacant homes and offices.

“The countless instances of success in life demonstrate that in one’s youth, choosing to eat bitterness is also choosing to reap rewards,” Mr. Xi was quoted in a front-page article in the official People’s Daily on the Youth Day in May.

The article, about Mr. Xi’s expectations of the young generation, mentioned “eat bitterness” five times. He has also repeatedly urged young people to “seek self-inflicted hardships,” using his own experience of working in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

“Why would he want young people to give up a peaceful and stable life and instead seek suffering?” Cai Shenkun, an independent political commentator, wrote in a Twitter post, calling Mr. Xi’s proposal “a contemptuous act toward young people.”

“What kind of intention is behind this?” he asked. “Where does he want to lead the Chinese youth?”

A record 11.6 million college graduates are entering the work force this year, and one in five young people is unemployed. China’s leadership is hoping to persuade a generation that grew up amid mostly rising prosperity to accept a different reality.

The youth unemployment rate is a statistic the Chinese Communist Party takes seriously because it believes that idle young people could threaten its rule. Mao Zedong sent more than 16 million urban youths, including Mr. Xi, to toil in the fields of the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. The return of these jobless young people to cities after the Cultural Revolution, in part, forced the party to embrace self-employment, or jobs outside the state planned economy.

Today the party’s propaganda machine is spinning stories about young people making a decent living by delivering meals, recycling garbage, setting up food stalls, and fishing and farming. It’s a form of official gaslighting, trying to deflect accountability from the government for its economy-crushing policies like cracking down on the private sector, imposing unnecessarily harsh Covid restrictions and isolating China’s trading partners.

Many people are struggling emotionally. A young woman in Shanghai named Ms. Zhang, who graduated last year with a master’s degree in city planning, has sent out 130 résumés and secured no job offers and only a handful of interviews. Living in a 100-square-foot bedroom in a three-bedroom apartment, she barely gets by with a monthly income of less than $700 as a part-time tutor.

“At my emotional low point, I wished I were a robot,” she said. “I thought to myself if I didn’t have emotions, I would not feel helpless, powerless and disappointed. I would be able to keep sending out résumés.”

But she realized she shouldn’t be too harsh on herself. The problems are bigger than her. She doesn’t buy into the eating bitterness talk.

“To ask us to endure hardships is to try to shift focus from the anemic economic growth and the decreasing job opportunities,” said Ms. Zhang, who, like most people I interviewed for this column, wanted to be identified with only her family name because of safety concerns. A few others want to be identified only with their English names.

The party’s messaging is effective with some people. Guo, a data analyst in Shanghai who has been unemployed since last summer, said he didn’t want to blame his joblessness on the pandemic or the Communist Party. He blames his own lack of luck and abilities.

He canceled his online games and music subscriptions. To make ends meet, he delivered meals last December, working 11 to 12 hours a day. In the end he made a little over $700 a month. He quit because the work was too physically exhausting.

In other words, he failed in eating bitterness.

Mr. Xi’s instruction to move to the countryside is equally out of touch with young people, as well as with China’s reality. In December he told officials “to systematically guide college graduates to rural areas.” On Youth Day a few weeks ago, he responded to a letter by a group of agriculture students who are working in rural areas, commending them for “seeking self-inflicted hardships.” The letter, also published on the front page of People’s Daily, triggered discussions about whether Mr. Xi would start a Maoist-style campaign to send urban youths to the countryside.

Such a policy would devastate the Chinese dream of moving up socially that many young people and their parents hold dearly.

Wang, a former advertising executive in Kunming in southwestern China, has been unemployed since December 2021 after the pandemic hit his industry hard. He talked to his parents, both farmers, about moving back to their village and starting a pig farm. He said they were vehemently against the idea.

“They said they spent a lot of money on my education so I wouldn’t become a farmer,” he said.

In the hierarchical Chinese society, manual jobs are looked down upon. Farming ranks even lower because of the huge wealth gap between cities and rural areas.

“Women wouldn’t consider to become my girlfriends if they knew that I deliver meals,” Wang said. He would fare even worse in the marriage market if he became a farmer.

It’s obvious to some young people that Mr. Xi’s proposals for solving unemployment are backward looking.

Mr. Xi “talks about the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation all the time,” said Steven, who graduated from a top U.K. university with a master’s degree in interactive design and has yet to find a job. “But isn’t the rejuvenation about not everyone engaging in physical labor?” Because of the rapid development of robots and other technologies, he said, these jobs are easily replaceable.

Of 13 Chinese graduates from his school, the five who chose to stay in the West have found jobs at Silicon Valley or Wall Street firms. Only three of the eight who returned to China have secured job offers. Steven moved back to China this year to be closer to his mother.

Now after months of fruitless job hunting, he, like almost every young worker I interviewed for this column, sees no future for himself in China.

“My best way out,” he said, “is to persuade my parents to let me run away from China.”


Designer Sanjukta Dutta takes Assam Silk to 76th Cannes Film Festival

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Leading international models Ingrida Ilgin and Mirka Howard walked the red carpet at the 76th edition of the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival 2023 dressed in spectacular handmade Sanjukta Dutta’s ensemble.

Ingrida Ilegin, who has built a 15-year career in international modelling and won many accolades including the title of "Top Model United Kingdom Winner" and "Miss Film Festival International", put on a handmade Mulberry silk green gown.

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It is noteworthy that this is the third year in a row that Ingrida has chosen the label of Assam-based designer Sanjukta Dutta.

Meanwhile, top New York model Mirka Howard walked the red carpet in a black Mekhela Chador by Sanjukta Dutta.

Sanjukta recently showcased her designs at the Paris Fashion Week earlier this year. The designer has been instrumental in empowering India’s rural weavers as well as bringing the age-old art of Assamese handloom to the world stage.