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NEW DELHI, June 21, 2018 (News Wires) - From the Himalayan region of Ladakh to the deck of an aircraft carrier, tens of thousands joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday to celebrate the fourth International Day of Yoga, with a few wearing masks to highlight poor air quality.

Modi pushed for the annual event to be held worldwide after winning power in 2014, with the lifestyle industry centered on the ancient physical and spiritual discipline estimated to be worth around $80 billion.

Pictures on social media showed participants braved rising mercury levels and unhealthy air quality in some places to spotlight yoga, India’s cultural export to the world.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Japan and Peru held yoga sessions, while Australia and South Africa celebrated on Monday.

In India, more than 50,000 people joined Modi in performing yoga in the lawns of Dehradun’s Forest Research Institute, in the Himalayan foothills of the northern state of Uttarakhand.

SRINAGAR, India, June 10, 2018 (News Wires) — A group of militants sneaked into the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the disputed territory on Sunday, sparking a gunbattle that left at least six suspected rebels dead, the Indian military said.

The fighting began early Sunday when soldiers intercepted a group of insurgents along the highly militarized de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, said Col. Rajesh Kalia.

He said soldiers were still carrying out search operations in the remote and forested northwestern Keran sector, where the incident occurred.

There was no independent confirmation.

On Thursday, at least one soldier was killed and another wounded after suspected militants attacked an Indian patrol in the same area, the army said.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 and demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side.

Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.

NEW DELHI, June 9, 2018 (News Wires) - China and India on Saturday settled a dispute over the flood-prone Brahmaputra river that flows from Tibet to Bangladesh in a sign of growing cooperation between them.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed the agreement as they began the two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.

“Our talks will add further vigour to the India-China friendship,” Modi said on Twitter, as the two countries try to reset troubled ties months after a border standoff.

The SCO, launched in 2001 mainly to combat radical Islam and other security concerns across Central Asia, added traditional rivals India and Pakistan as members last year.

Under two deals signed on the sidelines of the SCO summit today, China will share hydrological data on the Brahmaputra river and amend certain requirements on Indian exports of rice other than the premium Basmati variety to China, India’s foreign ministry spokesman, Raveesh Kumar, said on Twitter.

India said last year that China had not stuck to an agreement to share hydrological data, or scientific information on the movement, distribution and quality of water for the Brahmaputra river. China had cited “technological” reasons.

New Delhi has also been concerned about the rising trade deficit with China, and has sought greater access to the world’s second-largest economy for products such as rice, rapeseed, soybeans and sugar.

India’s trade gap with China has widened to $51 billion, a nine-fold increase over the past decade.

The rice deal should help India finally crack the market in China, the world’s biggest buyer of the commodity, traders said.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that China will buy 6.4 million tonnes of rice in 2018, while India will export a total of 11.9 million tonnes.

“Despite competitive prices, India was unable to export rice to China due to their phytosanitary norms,” said a New Delhi based dealer with a global trading firm, referring to food standards as well as animal and plant hygiene.

“As the norms are going to change, India can easily export more than 1 million tonnes rice every year to China.”

SRINAGAR, India, June 3, 2018 (News Wires) — Two paramilitary soldiers were killed and eight civilians wounded Sunday when Pakistani soldiers attacked dozens of forward posts along the highly militarized frontier in disputed Kashmir, Indian officials said.

The fighting comes barely a week after the two nuclear-armed rivals agreed to stop trading fire along the volatile frontier and uphold a cease-fire accord dating back 15 years. The two sides on Tuesday agreed to defuse tensions in Kashmir and use existing mechanisms of hotline contacts and border meetings at local commanders’ level to resolve the issues.

Pakistan did not immediately comment.

Indian border guards said Pakistan “yet again blatantly” violated the 2003-cease-fire agreement and they were retaliating. They said the Pakistani shelling was “indiscriminate and unprovoked” and was not just targeting paramilitary outposts but also villages.

Indian authorities were first trying to evacuate sick and injured villagers living near the frontier in bulletproof vehicles amid intense shelling and automatic gunfire, said top police officer S.D. Singh.

Singh said they have kept temporary shelters ready to receive frontier residents.

Tensions have soared in recent months, as both sides have shelled border posts and villagers. Each side has accused the other of starting the hostilities in violation of the 2003 accord.

India says 25 civilians and 18 soldiers have been killed this year in over 800 cease-fire violations initiated by Pakistan.

Pakistan accuses Indian forces of more than 1,050 cease-fire violations this year, resulting in the deaths of 28 civilians and injuries to 117 others.

The soldiers from the two nations have engaged in fierce border skirmishes along the rugged and mountainous Line of Control, as well as a lower-altitude 200-kilometre (125-mile) boundary separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab, where most of the latest fighting occurred.

India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which both claim. They have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over their competing claims to the region.

The fighting has become a predictable cycle of violence as the region convulses with decades-old animosities between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, where rebel groups demand that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side.

Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the militants and to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

JAKARTA, May 30, 2018 (News Wires) - Indonesia and India pledged on Wednesday to step up defence and maritime cooperation, with plans to develop a strategic Indonesian naval port in the Indian Ocean, the leaders of the two countries said after meeting in Jakarta.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss, among other issues, developing infrastructure and an economic zone at Sabang, on the tip of Sumatra island and at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, one of the busiest shipping channels for global trade.

“India is a strategic defence partner...and we will continue to advance our cooperation in developing infrastructure, including at Sabang Island and the Andaman Islands,” Widodo told a news conference after the meeting at the presidential palace.

Analysts say the move comes amid concerns over China’s rising maritime influence in the region, and is part of Modi’s “Act East” policy of developing stronger ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“The India-ASEAN partnership can be a force to guarantee peace and progress in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” Modi said in a statement read in Hindi.

Modi this year invited the leaders of all ten ASEAN nations to attend New Delhi’s Republic Day parade, the biggest such gathering of foreign leaders at the annual event.

SRINAGAR, India, May 30, 2018 (Reuters) - Thousands of people from the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir headed back to their homes near the de facto border with Pakistan on Wednesday, after their armies agreed to stop exchanging artillery fire following repeated recent clashes.

More than 50,000 people had taken shelter in schools and colleges in the Indian-ruled part of disputed Kashmir, away from the shelling that officials say killed 12 people and wounded many more on both sides over the past few weeks.

Mountainous Kashmir is divided between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who both claim it in full and have fought two of their three wars over the region since their separation in 1947. On Tuesday, their armies agreed to “fully implement” a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

“In case of any issue, restraint will be exercised and the matter will be resolved through utilisation of existing mechanisms of hotline contacts and border flag meetings at local commander’s level,” Pakistan’s military said in a statement.

Bacchan Lal, the headman of Abdullian village in Jammu and Kashmir, who has been living in a college with 350 other people over the past two weeks, said such agreements rarely last long.

“They agree to respect the ceasefire several times every year but then they violate it again. Every time people are killed, cattle perish and we end up in such camps,” he said. “We are in camps for the second time this year. We don’t want this uncertainty. We want permanent peace as we had 30 years ago”.

Farmer Chuni Lal, 45, said he was worried about a delay in sowing premium Basmati rice this year because of the hostility. He said tillers like him could not afford to miss the key planting season, urging the countries to find a lasting solution to the regular outbreaks of firing.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who runs the state with the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, welcomed the ceasefire agreement.

“This brings great relief to the people residing in the vicinity,” she said on Twitter on Wednesday. “Peace on our borders is the first essential step to a larger understanding and I truly hope it sustains.”

Tensions between the two sides had escalated since an attack on an Indian army camp in February that India blamed on Pakistan. Islamabad regularly denies Indian allegations that it trains and arms militants and helps them infiltrate across the so-called Line of Control that divides Kashmir.

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