Talks between Indian and Chinese military delegates over the disengagement in Eastern Ladakh at various friction points lasted for 13 hours.
The dialogue that started at 10.30 a.m. ended at 11.30 p.m..
They discussed disengagement at friction areas like Hot Springs, Gogra and the 900 sq-km Depsang plains.
The 11th round of the Corps Commander talks at Chushul took place after almost a two-month gap.
The Indian military delegation was led by Lieutenant General P.G.K. Menon, Commander of the 14 Corps based in Leh.
The focus of the talk is disengagement on other friction points. After Pangong lake disengagement, both the countries have planned to carry out disengagement on other friction points like Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang
"The military dialogue is still on and it is important that before the onset of summer de-escalation takes place at Line of Actual Control (LAC). Both sides need retreat to original positions for things to ease," said a senior Indian Army officer.
The build-up in Depsang was not being considered as part of the current stand-off that started in May 2020 as escalations here took place in 2013, India has insisted during recent military commander meetings to resolve all issues across the LAC.
On February 20, Indian and Chinese military held the 10th round of military dialogue to deescalate tension at the LAC.
So far, the disengagement process at both banks of the Pangong Lake has taken place.
It was on February 10 that China made an announcement that New Delhi and Beijing had agreed to disengage at Pangong Lake.
As per the agreement, Chinese troops moved back to Finger 8 and Indian troops pulled back to the Dhan Singh Thapa post between Finger 2 and 3 of the north bank of Pangong Lake.
A temporary moratorium on military activities, including patrolling to the traditional areas.
The mountain spur jutting into the lake is referred to as Finger in military parlance.
The north bank of the lake is divided into 8 Fingers.
Indian has claimed its territory till Finger 8 and China dispute it claims till Finger 4.
India and China are engaged in a year long stand-off at the LAC.
The confrontations began on the north bank of Pangong Lakeas Chinese incursions increased in May last year.
The US has announced that it conducted the Freedom of Navigation Operation (FONOP) in Indian waters in the Lakshadweep Islands, leaving the Indian security establishment in a surprise leading to an assessment to ascertain if an operational exercise was actually carried out or was it just an innocent passage.
The US Navy announced that it carried a Freedom of Navigation Operation inside India's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without prior consent.
Reacting to it, a senior government official stated that if it was an innocent passage it's not an issue.
"We don't object to normal transiting but if there has been an operational exercise without informing then it needs to be taken up," the official said.
The US Navy statement said: "On April 7, 2021, the USS John Paul Jones asserted navigational rights and freedoms approximately 130 nautical miles west of the Lakshadweep Islands, inside India's EEZ, without requesting India's prior consent, consistent with international law.
"India requires prior consent for military exercises or manoeuvers in its exclusive economic zone or continental shelf, a claim inconsistent with international law."
The statement further said the FONOP upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognised in international law by challenging India's excessive maritime claims.
US forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis.
All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the US will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, the statement said.
"We conduct routine and regular FONOP), as we have done in the past and will continue to in the future. FONOPs are not about one country, nor are they about making political statements."
Indian government officials said it's unusual for such a statement to be released.
Any activity within 200 km nautical miles, which falls under EEZ or Indian waters needs prior permission as per Indian laws.
Chinese vessels on the pretext of carrying out research activities in Indian waters have been tracked and sent back in the past.
The US Department of State has called on both India and Pakistan to hold direct talks and resolve pending issues with an aim to normalise relations.
Refraining to comment on the recent approval and then cancellation by Pakistan to import sugar and cotton from India, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the US supports direct dialogue between the nuclear-powered neighbours.
"I wouldn't want to comment on that specifically. What I would say is that we continue to support direct dialogue between India and Pakistan on issues of concern," he said.
Pakistan cancelled its trade ties with India during August 2019 after the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Indian government abrogated Article 370 and 35A and changed the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.
Pakistan was quick to respond to Indian actions, as it cut off diplomatic relations with India, sending back the sitting Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad, closing the borders, disallowing visas and suspending all trade ties.
Pakistan demanded that there can be no talks with India until the reversal of the decisions Indian government took on August 5, 2019.
However, a change in policy was witnessed recently when the two sides mutually agreed to observe a ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC), ending the escalating tensions.
This was followed by positive hopes filled letter from Modi to his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, expressing hopes and desire for peace.
Khan responded to the letter with similar sentiments, calling for dialogue to end the longstanding disputes between the two countries.
On March 31, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) announced that it was going to allow import of white sugar and cotton from India for the country's private sector, to cover the shortfall of requirements in the country.
However, the federal cabinet deferred the ECC's decision on April 1, putting the condition that there can be no trade with India until New Delhi reverses its decision to abrogate Article 370 and 35A.
It has been reported that friendly countries have been contacting both countries through backdoor channels, urging both sides to initiate dialogue and explore options to resolve the pertaining conflict and disputes for regional stability, peace and development.
Pakistan had called for the US' intervention in the matter during the tenure of former President Donald Trump's administration.
However, its efforts did not yield fruit as the US clarified that it cannot intervene in a bilateral matter until both sides agree to it.
India and China will hold 11th round of Corps Commander talks on Friday at Chushul to iron out differences for the next phase of disengagement in Eastern Ladakh.
After nearly a two month gap, the Corps Commander level talk is again happening between the two countries. The focus of the talk would be disengagement on other friction points. After Pangong disengagement, both the countries have planned to carry out disengagement on other friction points like Gogra, Hot Springs and Depsang.
"Important that before the onset of summer, de-escalation is discussed. Both sides need retreat to original positions for things to ease," said a senior Indian Army officer.
On February 20, Indian and Chinese militaries held 10th round of military dialogue to de-escalate tension at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Indian military delegates were led by Lieutenant General PGK Menon, Commander of 14 Corps based in Leh.
They had met to discuss disengagement at friction areas like Hot Springs, Gogra and 900 square km Depsang plains.
The build-up in Depsang was not being considered part of the current standoff that started in May last year as escalations here took place in 2013, India has insisted during recent military commander meetings to resolve all issues across the Line of Actual Control.
"The initial attempt will be to resolve Gogra and Hot Springs. Finding a solution to Depsang might be tricky and take longer," said the officer.
So far disengagement process at both banks of the Pangong Lake has taken place. It was on February 10 that China made an announcement that New Delhi and Beijing had agreed to disengage at Pangong Lake.
Indian Army team along with Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) team physically verified and re-verified disengagement at Pangong Lake.
As per the agreement, Chinese troops moved back to Finger 8 and Indian troops pulled back to the Dhan Singh Thapa post between Finger 2 and 3 of the north bank of Pangong Lake.
A temporary moratorium on military activities, including patrolling to the traditional areas was placed.
The mountain spur jutting into the lake is referred to as Finger in military parlance. The north bank of the lake is divided into 8 Fingers. India has claimed its territory till Finger 8 and China disputes it and claims its own territory till Finger 4.
India and China are engaged in a year long standoff at the Line of Actual Control. The confrontations began on the north bank of Pangong Lake, both in the waters and the bank as Chinese incursions increased in early May last year.
Continuing with the excellent tradition of strong bilateral and defence ties between India and Bangladesh, Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane is on a five-day visit to Bangladesh. He left for Bangladesh on Thursday morning.
General Naravane's visit comes in the midst of Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations which mark 50 years of the liberation of Bangladesh, made possible by the historic leadership of the Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and heroics of the Mukti Bahini who fought shoulder to shoulder with the Indian Armed Forces.
The Army Chief will pay tributes to the martyrs of the Liberation War by laying a wreath at the Shikha Anirban on Thursday.
This will be followed by one to one meetings with the three Service Chiefs of the Bangladesh's Armed Forces. General Naravane will also visit the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi, where he will pay tributes to Bangladesh's founding father.
He will interact with Bangladesh's Minister of Foreign Affairs on April 11 at Bangladesh Army's Multipurpose Complex in Dhaka where he will attend a seminar on UN Peace Support Operations and deliver a keynote address on 'Changing Nature of Global Conflicts: Role of UN Peacekeepers'.
General M.M. Naravane is also scheduled to interact with the Force Commanders of the United Nations Missions in Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic and the Deputy Chief Operations Officer of the Royal Bhutanese Army on April 12.
He will also attend the closing ceremony of Exercise Shantir Ogrosena, a multilateral UN-mandated counter terrorism exercise comprising the Armed Forces of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka along with observers from the US, the UK, Turkey and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia among others.
He will also witness the innovations of the Bangladeshi Armed Forces personnel during the Hardware Display.
The Chief of the Army Staff will interact with the members of Bangladesh Institute of Peace Support and Training Operations (BIPSOT) during the last leg of his visit.
This visit will further deepen the bilateral relationships between the two Armies and act as a catalyst for closer coordination and cooperation between the two countries on a host of strategic issues.
The United States has said that the recent Indian emphasis on import substitution through a "Make in India" campaign has epitomised the challenges facing the bilateral trade relationship.
These comments are part of the "2021 Trade Policy Agenda and 2020 Annual Report" released by the US Trade Representative.
As per the document, during 2020, the United States continued its engagement with India to try to resolve longstanding market access impediments affecting U.S. exporters.
"While India's large market, economic growth, and progress towards development make it an essential market for many U.S. exporters, a general and consistent trend of trade-restrictive policies have inhibited the potential of the bilateral trade relationship," the document said.
It said the recent Indian emphasis on import substitution through a "Make in India" campaign has epitomised the challenges facing the bilateral trade relationship.
Effective June 5, 2019, the United States terminated India's eligibility under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) programme, following a review of concerns related to India's compliance with the GSP market access criterion.
Subsequent to the suspension of India's GSP benefits, the United States and India resumed intensive work in the fall of 2019 aimed at producing a package of meaningful market access outcomes, and this engagement continued throughout 2020.
U.S. objectives in this negotiation included resolution of various non-tariff barriers, targeted reduction of certain Indian tariffs, and other market access improvements.
The United States also engaged with India on an ongoing basis throughout 2020 in response to specific concerns affecting the full range of pressing bilateral trade issues, including intellectual property (IP) protection and enforcement, policy development affecting electronic commerce and digital trade, and market access for agricultural and non-agricultural goods and services, the document said.
In March 2020, India adopted a two per cent DST. The tax only applies to non-resident companies, and covers online sales of goods and services to, or aimed at, persons in India. The tax applies to companies with annual revenues in excess of approximately Rs. 20 million (approximately $267,000).
The tax went into effect on April 1, 2020. On June 2, 2020, the U.S. Trade Representative initiated a Section 301 investigation of India's DST. On the same day, the USTR requested consultations with the government of India. The investigation's notice of initiation invited public comments on issues covered by the investigation. The investigation is ongoing.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has sought written comments regarding a potential trade action in connection with the Section 301 investigation of India's Digital Services Tax (DST).
India has adopted a DST that imposes a two per cent tax on revenue generated from a broad range of digital services offered in India, including digital platform services, digital content sales, digital sales of a company's own goods, data-related services, software-as-a-service, and several other categories of digital services. India's DST only applies to "non-resident" companies.
On January 6, 2021, based on the information obtained during the investigation and the advice of the Section 301 Committee, the U.S. Trade Representative determined that India's DST is unreasonable or discriminatory and burdens or restricts U.S. commerce, and therefore is actionable under sections 301(b) and 304(a) of the Trade Act, USTR said.
Pursuant to sections 301(b) and (c), USTR proposes that the U.S. Trade Representative should determine that the action is appropriate and that appropriate action would include the imposition of additional ad valorem tariffs on certain products of India.
In particular, USTR proposes to impose additional tariffs of up to 25 per cent ad valorem on an aggregate level of trade that would collect duties on goods of India in the range of the amount of DST that India is expected to collect from U.S. companies.
Initial estimates indicate that the value of the DST payable by U.S.-based company groups to India will be up to approximately $55 million per year.
The visit of US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin to India, along with Japan and South Korea within a week of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) Summit held on March 12, indicates a quick follow up. The Summit did not name China directly, but Beijing seemed nervous and rattled about the event, as its mouthpiece Global times accused the Quad members to be hyping the "China threat" before the event and expressed that India will not go US way due to its own ambition and economic dependency on China, after the visit. Apparently, China saw a major challenge to its dream of China Centric Asia Pa-cific, in Quad's call for a free, open, inclusive, healthy, Indo-Pacific region that is "anchored by democratic values, and unconstrained by coercion". China's hope that the four-country group hasn't formed a cohesive force from within, may need a revisit, after the Quad leaders agreed to give joint statement, committed to holding an in-person leaders' summit by the end of 2021 and agreed to pursue important agendas through three focused working groups.
Benign agenda but clear trajectory
Besides unanimity in need for free, open rules-based order, rooted in international law to advance security and prosperity and counter threats to both in the Indo-Pacific, the key agenda which attracted global attention was collective response to Covid-19 pandemic in terms of synergizing the vaccination efforts for humanity, with India as manufacturing hub, assisted by others to roll out one billion vaccines by 2020. The other two issues of working groups being emerging critical technologies and climate change. The agenda seems benign, but Beijing did not miss the connection of freedom of navigation, overflight and the concerns over "aggression" and "coercion" against members of Quad by China in its first summit meeting. No-one during the Summit called out China directly, but China knows that it challenged rule-based order by junk-ing PCA's decision in South China Sea (SCS) and continues to coerce countries in Indo-Pacific region.
The list of shared challenges to be addressed also includes cyber space, critical tech-nologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, and humanitarian-assis-tance and disaster-relief (HADR), some of which echo Chinese alleged involvement like cyber attacks and transparency of World Health Organization. The Quad's assertion to support the rule of law, freedom of navigation, overflight, democratic values, and territorial integrity has added to frustration of Beijing, which has started firing salvo of propaganda through its mouthpiece Global Times, calling India (the only Non-NATO partner) as "Negative Asset for BRICS and SCO" failing to understand Chinese good-will! Quad's announcement of forthcoming naval drills of Quad plus countries and will-ingness of some NATO members like the UK, France and Germany, to join in responding to challenges in Indo-Pacific, has further added to discomfort of China, indicating for-ward trajectory of Quad.
China overplays divergences in Quad
China will like the world to believe that there are wide divergences in four democracies getting together, but in the evolution process, Quad seems to be getting over some of them. There is much more acceptability regarding divergent definitions and focus ar-eas within the Indo-Pacific region. With the series of foundational agreements like COMCASA, BECA, LEMOA and CISMOA signed between US and India, and naval exercises, the inter-operability of India with other Quad members, operating within NATO military alliance framework, has improved. The joint statements of Defence Ministers of the US and India on March 20 indicates convergence in approach and intention to have better defence cooperation between both countries in line with Quad commitments and strategic partnership.
India is the only country amongst Quad members, which has unsettled land border with China. After Doklam and Ladakh standoffs, it's quite clear to Indians that China can't be trusted, which has brought relatively better clarity in Indian position. The economic entanglement of each of the Quad members with China necessitates a resilient supply chain, digital and technological eco system, with minimal dependence on China. There has been consensus regarding support for ASEAN's centrality in the Indo-Pacific as well, but their inclusion into it will be a debatable issue, due to Chinese influence over them. China has always tried to deal with every country on bilateral terms, using its Comprehensive National Power (CNP) to its advantage and will continue to do so even with Quad members.
Countering Chinese Challenge? The 'Incremental Encroachment Strategy' of China exhibited in SCS, East China Sea (ECS) and Ladakh is a serious concern not only to the countries directly affected by overlapping EEZ or unsettled borders, but also to rest of the world, as China continues to convert features/atolls into military bases, expect others to accept them as islands and apply 'Baseline principle' under UNCLOS-III to claim its 200 nautical miles of EEZ thus converting SCS into 'Chinese lake' over a period of time. It poses threat to free-dom of navigation (FON) and flight along global Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and may lead to some restrictions like Air Defence Identification Zone in SCS. Any such action by any country to restrict FON/flight or violation of rule of law must be challenged in UN Security Council backed by Quad. All members of Quad except US have ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III); hence the US needs to ratify the same, to have a moral high ground to implement it.
China seems reasonably confident that the US or any other country will not use military force to dismantle their infrastructure constructed in SCS. It is also increasing its naval capability at unprecedented pace. In this context it is necessary that Quad strengthens itself beyond Malabar exercises, gets some teeth in the form of maritime capacity building of its members and capacity to dominate choke points sensitive to China, as it's not a military alliance so far. Quad will therefore need a formal structure and a secretariat to take it forward.
Way ahead for Quad
Covid-19 vaccines will be manufactured in India, financed by the US and Japan with logistical support from Australia. The intention of Quad to synergize medical, scientific, financing, manufacturing, critical emerging-technology and developmental capabilities in future, is a step in right direction. Sharing of innovative technology and capacity building for climatic challenges will serve the interest of humanity and make Quad an effective grouping.
Quad members must continue freedom of navigation exercises and military posturing in Indo-Pacific, as China continues to do so. If the strategic situation worsens there may be a need to position 'UN Maritime Military Observers Group', as prevention of accidental triggering of conflict is possible in a region having high density of combat ship on FON missions.
The Summit did not signal expansion, but it needs to have flexibility to incorporate like-minded democratic countries, as many would be keen to join Quad in future, because Indo-Pacific region is becoming the global economic centre of gravity and manufacturing hub. Support of other navies like France, UK, Germany and other NATO members will be good deterrence to peace spoilers. Quad in its present form may not be structured to check Chinese adventurism, but it seems to be on right trajectory to become one of the most effective instruments to do so. Chinese aggressive reactions during meeting of top officials of US and China indicates that Quad has put China on notice, without even naming it, forcing it to showcase its strong stance to domestic audience behind nervousness.
"The government continued taking steps to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir by gradually lifting some security and communications restrictions," according to the State Department's annual human rights report.
The report released in Washington by Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday noted the release of detained political activists, the restoration of some internet access and the holding of local elections where an opposition coalition won most seats.
The report also drew attention to the killing and torture of government officials and civilians by terrorists while also mentioning human rights abuses by security forces.
The separatists, the report said, "committed serious abuses, including killings and torture of armed forces personnel, police, government officials, and civilians, and recruitment and use of child soldiers."
The 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which took a comprehensive look at the human rights situation across India, devoted a part of it to Kashmir. It was based on secondary and tertiary sources, including government reports and statements, news stories and reports by nongovernmental organisations (NGOs).
The State Department report quoted the United Nations special rapporteurs as saying that since August 2019 when Kashmir's special status was rescinded, "the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in free fall" and that they were "particularly concerned that during the Covid-19 pandemic, many protesters are still in detention and internet restrictions remain in place."
But the report also said, "The government released most political activists from detention. In January, the government partially restored internet access; however, high-speed 4G mobile internet remained restricted in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir."
The State Department said that according to the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) 662 individuals were arrested under the Public Safety Act in 2019, of whom 412 remained under detention as of August.
The report said that the government released most political activists from detention and that on September 15, the Home Affairs Ministry said that only 223 Kashmiri political leaders who had been detained after August 2019, remained in detention "but added 'no person is under house arrest'."
On the political front, it said "Local district development council elections took place in December in which a coalition of Kashmiri opposition parties won the majority of seats."
The report took note of the plight of Kashmiri Pandits and said that tens of thousands of them "fled the Kashmir Valley after 1990 because of conflict and violent intimidation, including destruction of houses of worship, sexual abuse, and theft of property, by Kashmiri separatists."
It said that according to the Home Affairs Ministry, there were "65,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families across the country."
The Prime Minister's Development Package announced in 2015 included the creation of 3,000 state government jobs for "Kashmiri migrants" and according to the government "the selection process had concluded for 1,781 posts and that 604 of the positions had been filled as of February 22," the report said.
According to the report, the Home Ministry has accused Mohammed Yasin Malik and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) that he led of participating in the "genocide" of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits in 1989.
Malik, who was arrested and charged with murder in the death of four Air Force officials in 1990, was denied the right to be physically present in court for his trial, it said.
The report said while there were killings by "insurgents and terrorists", there were also extrajudicial killings by government forces.
Overall, it said that the JKCCS "reported 229 killings in 107 incidents in the first six months of the year. JKCCS also reported 32 extrajudicial killings in the first half of the year in Jammu and Kashmir."
Till July terrorists had killed six political party leaders, according to the report.
The report took note of government action against security force personnel accused of excesses.
The Army initiated disciplinary proceedings against those involved in an incident in which three labourers were killed in July and in December it charged an officer and two others with extra-judicial killings, while local police also filed charges against them, the report said.
It added that the National Human Rights Commission can also ask for information about incidents involving the Army or the paramilitary forces.
The report said, "Insurgent groups reportedly used children to attack government entities."
It said that according to the United Nations, at least five children were recruited by militant groups in Kashmir, and at least two of them died in encounters with security forces. It added that according to the UN, 68 children between the ages of nine and 17 were detained by security services in Kashmir on national security-related charges.
The report mentioned the killing of a prominent journalist allegedly by the Lashkar-e-Taiba which has not been resolved and the perpetrators are still at large.
It said, "Formal charges have yet to be filed in the 2018 killing of Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief Shujaat Bukhari and his two police bodyguards. A police investigation alleged that terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba targeted Bukhari in retaliation for his support of a government-backed peace effort. While a police special investigation team arrested three persons in 2019 'for their alleged role in arranging the logistics,' the perpetrators were still at large, and the case remained open."
The State Department quoted an Amnesty International report on the situation in the year since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution abrogating Kashmir's special status that documented 14 instances of detention, police interrogations, and assaults on journalists.
"The government also introduced a new media regulation policy in Jammu and Kashmir empowering local administration to determine 'fake and anti national news' and to initiate related action against journalists," the report said.
Germanys willingness to go ahead with Russias Sputnik V vaccine comes as a major step forward in the worlds war against the deadly coronavirus that jumped species to inflict death and suffering on humankind. At a time when there is an acute shortage of vaccines, geopolitics cannot be used to deny vast populations a proven vaccine needed to save lives and livelihoods.
As many as five Indian pharmaceutical firms including Dr Reddy's Labs have also signed agreements with Russia to roll out Sputnik V, which will go a long way in bridging the current deficit in vaccines worldwide and speeding up the inoculation drive against the relentless surge in Covid-19 cases. India as the largest vaccine maker in the world has already supplied 76 countries with shots of the two vaccines that it is currently producing-- AstraZeneca-Oxford and Bharat Bitoech's homegrown Covaxin. The tie-up with Russia will help to step up this effort and meet the huge demand.
The German government said on Friday that it would be open to using the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine once it had been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself directly referred to Sputnik jabs and said Germany "should use any vaccine that has been approved" by the EMA.
A spokesman for Germany's health ministry echoed the same sentiment on Friday, saying that "all vaccines are welcome if they have been approved by the EMA".
The EMA this month launched a rolling review of Sputnik V, in a key step required for its approval as the first non-Western coronavirus vaccine to be used across the 27-nation bloc.
"This is a good vaccine that will probably also be approved in the EU at some point. The Russian researchers are very experienced with vaccines. Sputnik V is cleverly built," Thomas Mertens, head of Germany's vaccine commission Stiko, told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.
However, Sputnik has faced criticism in Western countries, and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Drian has accused both Russia and China on Friday of using their vaccines to gain influence abroad.
"In terms of how it is managed, it (the Sputnik V vaccine) is more a means of propaganda and aggressive diplomacy than a means of solidarity and health aid," Le Drian told France Info radio.
Moscow hit back with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying : "We absolutely disagree with the fact that Russia and China are using the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines as tools of influence."
Russia registered Sputnik V in August, ahead of large-scale clinical trials, which had raised concerns among many experts over the fast-track process.
However, later reviews have shown the vaccine to be both safe and effective in preventing Covid-19. Over 3.5 million people in Russia have already received both doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.
Leading British medical journal The Lancet announced on Tuesday that the Sputnik jab was 91.6 per cent effective against symptomatic Covid-19 cases, which laid to rest much of the international scepticism.
The green signal from Germany also comes at a time when Europe has fallen behind in its inoculation drive and there is a major controversy raging on the issue with EU blaming Britain for the shortfall in supplies of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. The 27-nation bloc has accused Britain of cornering most of the shots in what is being termed as "vaccine nationalism."
The EU has also recently temporarily suspended the use of the vaccine saying that it was not safe and resumed only after the EMA gave the go-ahead for the shots. The move was also attributed to political reasons in the wake of the strained ties between the EU and Britain.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that New Delhi will donate military equipment used the country's in the 1971 Liberation War to be displayed in museums in Bangladesh.
Modi made the announcement on Saturday in Dhaka on the last day of his two-day official visit to Bangladesh, which was his first trip abroad after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Saturday evening, Modi met his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina for one-on-one talks at the latter's office in Dhaka after which the two sides signed five MoUs, inaugurated and launched eight projects and made 10 announcements.
During his visit, he also laid the foundation stone for a memorial honouring martyrs from the Indian Armed Forces who were killed during the Liberation War.
It will be built at Ashuganj, near Dhaka.
This is the first memorial in Bangldesh exclusively honoring the Indian martyrs.
Modi arrived in Dhaka and participated in a gala event commemorating the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, as well as the celebrations marking golden jubilee of Bangladesh independence.
On Saturday evening, the Indian head of state announced a Bangabandhu Chair at the Delhi University to facilitate Bangladesh studies aimed at increasing mutual understanding.
After visiting the historic Jeshoreshwari Temple in Shyamnagar, Satkhira, Modi announced that India will build a community hall-cum-cyclone shelter under a grant funding of the government for the benefit of all at the district.
At Orakandi, Modi announced that India will build a primary school for children and upgrade a middle school for girls under government of India funding.
He announced that to commemorate 50th year of Liberation of Bangladesh and 75th year of India's Independence, ‘Best of India, Best of Bangladesh Exhibition' and business meet will be held.
He also announced that India will participate in the first-ever air dhow to be held in Bangladesh in 2022.
Modi left Dhaka for New Delhi on Saturday night.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen saw him off with an album of the photographs of all memorable moments in Bangladesh during his two day state visit.
US President Joe Biden has invited 40 heads of state, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to join him for the World Leaders Summit on Climate to be hosted by his administration on April 22-23.
The other leaders including Presidents Xi Jinping of China and Vladimir Putin of Russia, and Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Lotay Tshering of Bhutan have also been invited to the virtual meeting to highlight the urgency of action to combat climate change, the White House said on Friday.
European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson were invited.
So were Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"The Leaders Summit on Climate will underscore the urgency, and the economic benefits, of stronger climate action. It will be a key milestone on the road to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) this November in Glasgow," the White House said.
The virtual summit will be live-streamed for people everywhere to watch the proceedings.
Biden has made fighting climate change a pillar of both his foreign and domestic policies and one of his first actions on taking office in January was to have the US rejoin the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The summit is meant to position Biden, and the US, as the global leader in meeting the climate change challenge and boost his stature.
"By the time of the summit, the US will announce an ambitious 2030 emissions target as its new Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement for limiting the damage from climate change, the White House said.
Biden has asked all US government agencies to come up with ways to cut greenhouse emissions and harness green energy.
He appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his international emissary for climate change reflecting the high priority it has on his agenda.
He is reaching out to the leaders of China and Russia, who he has harshly criticised over their human rights record and their international rivalry with the US to work together on the climate agenda despite their differences.
Biden wants countries around the world to take steps to limit emissions to a level that would limit planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius "in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change", the White House said.
"The President urged leaders to use the Summit as an opportunity to outline how their countries also will contribute to stronger climate ambition."
India will be under US pressure to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by being shown as the world's third-highest emitter of greenhouse gases after Beijing and Washington.
However, that picture is misleading as on a per capita basis the US emissions were nearly nine times that of India.
An Indian emitted only 1.96 tonnes of greenhouse gases in a year, while an American was responsible for 16.56 tonnes.
For all the posturing and preaching, Biden or the climate change activists in the US are not going to bring down the US per capita emissions anywhere near the Indian level while demanding that India cut down its emissions overall.
India is already promoting green energy to eventually eliminate fossil fuel-generated electricity.
It is reportedly working on a goal of achieving a net-zero emissions by 2050. Net-zero emission is achieved by removing all greenhouse gases that are put out by various means ranging from aforestation to technologies to capture the emissions.
The Climate Summit will be Modi's second multilateral virtual meeting with Biden.
Earlier this month, Biden and Modi were joined by Prime Minister Yoshihide Sugo of Japan and Scott Morrison of Australia at a summit of the Quad.