India, UAE agree to settle trade in local currencies  

India, UAE agree to settle trade in local currencies  
During his one-day visit, Modi met President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. (AFP)
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Updated 16 July 2023
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India, UAE agree to settle trade in local currencies  

India, UAE agree to settle trade in local currencies  
  • The two countries will set up a real-time payment link to facilitate easier cross-border money transfers 
  • Bilateral trade between the two countries was $84.5 billion in the year from April 2022 to March 2023 

NEW DELHI: India has signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates that will allow it to settle trade in rupees instead of dollars, boosting India’s efforts to cut transaction costs by eliminating dollar conversions.

During a visit by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UAE on Saturday, the two countries also agreed to set up a real-time payment link to facilitate easier cross-border money transfers.

The two agreements will enable “seamless cross-border transactions and payments, and foster greater economic cooperation,” said a statement from the Reserve Bank of India on Saturday.

India, the world’s third biggest oil importer and consumer and whose central bank last year announced a framework for settling global trade in rupees, currently pays for UAE oil in dollars.

Bilateral trade between the two countries was $84.5 billion in the year from April 2022 to March 2023.

An official with knowledge of the details of the agreement said India could make its first rupee payment for UAE oil to Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (ADNOC), Reuters reported on Friday.

The Reserve Bank of India said the two central banks agreed to link India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and UAE’s Instant Payment Platform (IPP).

Such arrangements, which are a growing trend in Asia, typically lower the cost of payments.

Modi landed in Abu Dhabi earlier on Saturday for a one-day visit and met President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

 


Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
Updated 9 min 14 sec ago
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Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 

Saudi deputy defense minister arrives in Pakistan to finalize bilateral security projects 
  • Al-Otaibi’s visit comes after Saudi foreign minister was in Islamabad on two-day visit to discuss investments 
  • Pakistan maintains close military ties and provides extensive arms and training to Saudi armed forces 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Assistant Defense Minister Talal Bin Abdullah Bin Turki Al-Otaibi is in Pakistan on a two-day visit to finalize defense-related bilateral projects, the Pakistani defense ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Al-Otaibi’s visit comes on the heels of a two-day visit to Islamabad by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals.

“Saudi Assistant Defense Minister arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit,” a Pakistani defense ministry statement said, adding that bilateral projects in defense-related fields would be finalized during the visit. 

Photos and videos released by the defense ministry showed Al-Otaibi arriving in Pakistan on Tuesday night and being received by Pakistani military and government officials and Saudi diplomats, including the ambassador to Islamabad. 

Pakistan maintains close military ties with Saudi Arabia, providing extensive support, arms, and training to the Saudi armed forces. 

Since the 1970s, Pakistani soldiers have been stationed in Saudi Arabia to protect the Kingdom and Pakistan has also been providing training to Saudi soldiers and pilots. The two nations also regularly carry out multidimensional joint ventures and defense exercises. 


LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets

LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets
Updated 24 min 16 sec ago
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LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets

LeBron James and the Lakers beat Pelicans in play-in, earn a playoff rematch with the Nuggets
  • After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg sorenes”
  • The Pelicans will host Sacramento on Friday, with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West

NEW ORLEANS: LeBron James, Anthony Davis and their supporting cast have the Los Angeles Lakers looking like a tougher out in the playoffs than they appeared to be just a few weeks earlier.

The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, find themselves on the brink of elimination and wondering about the health of star power forward Zion Williamson, whose dominant NBA postseason debut was cut short by an injury in the final minutes of a tight game.

James had 23 points, nine assists and nine rebounds, and the Lakers secured a playoff berth with a 110-106 victory over the Pelicans in the Western Conference play-in tournament on Tuesday night.

“Tonight we showcased what we were able to do both offensively and defensively,” said James, whose team enters the playoffs having won 12 of 15 games. “We’ve got a good group going right now, good rotation, good plan and guys are coming in ready to go.”

Williamson had 40 points and 11 rebounds. But shortly after tying the game at 95 on a driving layup with 3:19 to go, Williamson went to the locker room, throwing a towel to the floor in disgust as he walked into the tunnel with an apparent injury.

After the game, Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson had “left leg soreness.”

“He’s going to have some imaging on it tomorrow and we’ll figure out more,” Green said.

Soon after Williamson went out, James hit a jumper, Davis dunked Austin Reaves’ alley-oop lob, DeAngelo Russell hit a 3 and Davis grabbed a crucial offensive rebound, after which he hit two free throws to help the Lakers hold on.

The Pelicans “threw some heavy blows at us,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They kept swinging. We kept fighting back.

“It revealed a lot about us and what we’re made of,” he added.

Davis finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Russell scored 21, hitting five times from deep. James was 10 of 10 on free throws and Davis 8 of 10.

The Lakers advance to face defending champion Denver in the first round in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals, a sweep by the Nuggets. Game 1 is Saturday night.

The Pelicans will host Sacramento on Friday, with the winner earning the No. 8 seed in the West. The Kings eliminated Golden State in the later play-in game on Wednesday night.

“Obviously a tough loss for us,” said Green, whose team could have secured the sixth seed in the playoffs on Sunday but lost at home to the Lakers, 124-108, setting up the rematch in the play-in. “We’ve got to feel this one tonight and regroup and get ready for another one.”

Williamson, Green said, was “fantastic.”

“He settled into the game. He just continued to attack. He found seams. He rebounded the ball. He played fast,” Green continued. “(If) we have him for a few more minutes, maybe we have a chance to pull this thing out.”

The Lakers went 14 of 35 from 3-point range. The Pelicans hit 9 of 29 from deep and Williamson didn’t get a lot of help from the Pelicans’ usual high scorers. Brandon Ingram — in his second game back from a 12-game absence because of a knee injury — missed 8 of 12 shots and finished with 11 points after spending the final few minutes on the bench.

“I just like the group that was on the floor at that time,” Green said. “BI is still getting back, he’s still finding his rhythm. So, I didn’t want to force the issue.”

CJ McCollum missed 11 of 15 shots and scored nine points.

Trey Murphy III scored 12, hitting two 3s from beyond 28 feet in the second half to help New Orleans come back from an 18-point second-half deficit to tie it.

The Lakers led 75-57 after Rui Hachimura’s layup in the third quarter. But New Orleans got back in the game by outscoring Los Angeles 19-8 during the final 5:31 of the period.

Williamson sparked the surge with a pair of layups. Murphy pulled up for a 31-foot 3-pointer in the final minute of the quarter and Williamson’s free throw made it 83-76 at the end of the period.

The Pelicans finally tied it when Williamson slammed down Jose Alvarado’s alley-oop lob in transition to make it 93-all with 3:53 to go.

Looking to redeem themselves for a lackluster loss to the Lakers on Sunday, the Pelicans put together a promising opening quarter and took a 34-28 lead on Herb Jones’ 3.

Los Angeles surged into the lead by outscoring New Orleans 34-16 in the second quarter, leading by as many as 14 after James, who had 15 first-half points, hit two free throws to make it 58-44.

In the final seconds of the half, Williamson sprinted nearly the length of the court on the dribble for a floating layup at the horn that made it 60-50.


Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics

Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics
Updated 34 min 29 sec ago
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Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics

Boston Marathon winners hope victories will earn them spot in Paris Olympics
  • Even before his Boston win, Lemma already had good credentials with a course-record 2 hours, 1 minute, 48 seconds in Valencia last year
  • Hellen Obiri won her second straight Boston Marathon, outkicking fellow Kenyans Sharon Lokedi and Edna Kiplagat in the final mile to finish in 2:27:37 and win by eight seconds

NEW YORK: There are two main things to look for when picking an Olympic marathon team: speed and success.

Sisay Lemma has both.

The 2024 Boston Marathon champion says he expects to be on the roster for the Paris Games when Ethiopian officials make their decisions in the coming weeks. Even before his Boston win, Lemma already had good credentials with a course-record 2 hours, 1 minute, 48 seconds in Valencia last year that was the fourth-fastest ever run in a competitive marathon.

“Because of the fast race I ran in Valencia, the time that I got the fastest time, and also the marathon that I won here, right now from all the Ethiopian athletes I’m the fastest,” Lemma said on Tuesday, a day after winning in Boston. “So I’m confident I am the one who is going to be selected.”

Lemma blistered the Boston course with a 1:00:19 first half, opening a lead of almost three-quarters of a mile with six miles to go. He slowed over the final stretch and finished in 2:06:17 but still beat fellow Ethiopian Mohamed Esa by 41 seconds — the length of more than two football fields.

Lemma said he wanted to redeem himself after finishing 30th and dropping out in two previous Boston attempts. The Olympics are next on his redemption tour; he also dropped out of the race at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

“When I ran in Tokyo, the Ethiopian people were expecting a gold medal, and a good result. But we were not able to do it because there was so much heat,” Lemma said. “But now in Paris and we try, we will try to redeem that again and, you know, win the gold for Ethiopia.”

Hellen Obiri earned her second straight Boston Marathon crown when she outkicked fellow Kenyans Sharon Lokedi and Edna Kiplagat in the final mile to finish in 2:27:37 and win by eight seconds. The Kenyan federation first announced a provisional roster of 10 women and has since trimmed it to six.

The win makes Obiri, who also won in New York last fall, a virtual lock for Paris. But she hopes Lokedi will join her.

“We were 10 and now we are six. And Sharon was still with me,” Obiri said Tuesday. “I do hope I will be on the team with Sharon because the Paris course, it’s a tough course. It’s even tougher than Boston. If Sharon is my teammate in Paris, I will have a fantastic moment racing with her.”

Boston wheelchair winners Marcel Hug and Eden Rainbow-Cooper are also aiming for Paris. But first both are planning to race in the London Marathon next week. (Unlike elite runners, who run at most three marathons a year, wheelchair racers can be back on the road in a week.)

“Paris is definitely in my plans,” said Hug, who has won 22 major marathons and two Paralympic gold medals at the distance. “We are still in the qualifying period, but I already have some good, fast qualifying times. So it should not be a problem for me.”

Rainbow-Cooper, 22, doesn’t have the same resume but she also expects to make her first British Paralympic team. She is the third-youngest woman to win the Boston wheelchair race, and the first from Britain.

“I’ve got the times to qualify,” she said Tuesday, a day after winning Boston in 1:35:11 for her first major marathon victory. “Our selection isn’t for a few months yet, so it’s just about staying consistent. But Paris is definitely in the forefront.”

Hug said he had a mixture of pride and relief after Monday’s race, when he crashed into a barrier and flipped on his side but righted himself and still set a course record by 93 seconds.

“(I was) proud to overcome, that I still could make the fast time,” Hug said. “But also grateful that nothing worse happened, that the wheelchair is OK, that nothing is broken, no bones broken. So it’s a mix of these two emotions.”


Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout

Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout
Updated 43 min 51 sec ago
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Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout

Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout
  • Pakistan is seeking at least a three-year multi-billion dollar loan package from IMF
  • US urges Pakistan and India to avoid escalation, find resolution through dialogue 

ISLAMABAD: The United States on Tuesday urged Pakistan to expand and prioritize economic reforms as Islamabad goes into negotiations for a new multi-year loan program from the International Monetary Fund. 

An ongoing nine-month, $3 billion IMF bailout designed to tackle a balance-of-payments crisis which brought Pakistan to the brink of default last summer will expire this month. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, who is on a visit to Washington for spring meetings organized by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, has said Pakistan will be seeking an at least three-year new program worth “billions” of dollars.

“Pakistan has made progress to stabilize its economy, and we support its efforts to manage its daunting debt burden,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said when asked about Pakistan going into negotiations with the IMF for a new loan deal.

“We encourage the government to prioritize and expand economic reforms to address its economic challenges. Our support for the country’s economic success is unwavering, and we will continue to engage with Pakistan through technical agreements, as well as through our trade and investment ties, all of which are priorities of our bilateral relationship.”

Speaking about remarks made by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh that India would enter Pakistan to kill anyone who escapes over its border after trying to carry out militant attacks, Miller said:

“The United States is not going to get in the middle of this, but we do encourage both India and Pakistan to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue.”

Singh’s comments earlier this month came after the Guardian newspaper published a report stating the Indian government had killed about 20 people in Pakistan since 2020 as part of a broader plan to target “terrorists residing on foreign soil.”

Relations between India and Pakistan have worsened since a 2019 suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir that New Delhi said was traced to Pakistan-based militants and which prompted it to carry out an airstrike on what it said was a militant base in Pakistan. Islamabad denies state complicity in the suicide bombing or that India hit militant targets in Pakistan. 

Pakistan said earlier this year it had credible evidence linking Indian agents to the killing of two of its citizens on its soil. This week Pakistan said investigations had suggested India was behind the death of a Pakistani man suspected of killing alleged Indian spy Sarabjit Singh in 2013.

Canada and the United States last year accused India of killing or attempting to kill people in those countries.

Canada said in September that it was pursuing “credible allegations” linking India to the death of a Sikh separatist leader shot dead in June — claims that India said were “absurd and motivated.” 

The US similarly said in November that it had thwarted an Indian plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader and announced charges against a person it said had worked with India to orchestrate the attempted murder. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said India will investigate any information it receives on the matter.


Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide

Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide
Updated 17 April 2024
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Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide

Pakistan launches second phase of Hajj training nationwide
  • Pakistan began Hajj 2024 training workshops and educational sessions in February
  • Training designed to educate pilgrims about rituals and procedures of performing Hajj

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has launched the second phase of Hajj trainings across Pakistan, state-run Radio Pakistan reported on Wednesday, as the South Asian nation prepares for the annual pilgrimage which will fall in June this year.

Last year, Saudi Arabia restored Pakistan’s pre-coronavirus Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims and lifted the upper age limit of 65 years for performing the pilgrimage. More than 81,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed Hajj under the government scheme in 2023 while the rest used private tour operators.

In Dec. 2023, Pakistan announced the results of a draw for Hajj 2024, with more than 63,000 applicants selected for this year’s pilgrimage under the government scheme. The remaining will use private tour operators.

“The purpose of the training is to educate pilgrims about religious rituals, administrative matters and regulations of the host country,” Radio Pakistan reported about the second phase of training. 

“For this purpose, the Ministry along with 40 resource persons, religious scholars and master trainers have organized training sessions at 122 different locations across the country at the district level.”

At the end of the training sessions, the mandatory vaccination process will be started at all Hajj camps, with pilgrims getting three vaccines free of cost ten days before departure to Saudi Arabia. 

“They will also be provided with a free bag, scarf, Ihram belt, shoe bag and mobile SIM from the respective bank counter,” Radio Pakistan reported. 

Pakistan began Hajj 2024 training workshops and educational sessions in February, designed by the government to educate pilgrims about the rituals and procedures of performing the annual pilgrimage.