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Why is Japan Unhappy with Bullet Train Project in India?

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The construction of a new high-speed railway line or Bullet Train Project in India, connecting Mumbai with the industrial city of Ahmedabad is underway. The Bullet Train Project in India is to be constructed after Japan’s Shinkansen system is a result of an agreement between Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

The Japanese Government seems to be perturbed by Bullet Train project in India. Tensions are already mounting due to rising costs due to haphazard policies of the Indian government, as per Japan Times.  The land acquisition for the Bullet Train project is advancing at a very slow speed. Since India is a democratic country, the government is unable to acquire land at a fast speed, which is delaying the project and mounting the costs.

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Indian PM Narendra Modi recently approved, in principle, for the diversion of 77 hectares of forest land for the ₹1.08 lakh crore bullet train project. The authorizations have come with a rider that the remaining insufficiencies on pending claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, in proposals submitted by Gujarat and Maharashtra, must be cleared out as soon as possible. 

A pathbreaking commemoration was held in Ahmedabad which was attended by both Abe and Modi for the Bullet Train project in India. The total cost of the project was set at 1.08 trillion INR. Of that total, 880 billion INR designated for the actual construction work is to be funded by loans from the Japanese government with an astonishing interest rate of 0.1 percent per annum and repayable in 50 years. The agreement of the loans, which a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said are “exceptionally generous,” demonstrate how fascinated Tokyo is with the Bullet Train project.

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Even though elevated tracks were initially planned to cover 144 km’s which is approximately 28% of the total the elevated portions have been made much longer and the embankments much smaller. According to Japan Times, the Indian government made the modifications as they believed it was time-consuming to purchase land and pose inherent vulnerability of trains colliding with people and cattle. The real reason for modification was that purchase of land is not covered by loans from Japan and India just wanted to reduce the cost of constructing Bullet Train. Eventually, about 90% of the entire Bullet Train project in India will be elevated. Now Japan faces the probability of foolishly pouring in massive amounts of Japanese taxpayers’ money into the Indian Bullet Train project.

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Comet Neowise in India: Rare Neowise Comet will be visible in North-West India from Today – NASA

NASA Comet Neowise India: NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet on 27 March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about five kilometres across and its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

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The Comet Neowise, or C/20202 F3  will be noticeable in the northwest sky in India from 14 July onwards. As per NASA, Neowise should be visible just before and around the time of first light till 11 July. It will again start to be visible in the evening between 15 and 16 July.

“From July 14, C/2020 F3, a comet discovered on March 27, will be clearly visible in the north-western sky. It will be visible after sunset for around 20 minutes for the next 20 days. People can observe it from naked eyes,” said Subhendu Pattnaik, deputy director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium in Bhubaneswar told ANI.

“In the evenings to follow, the comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky and will be visible for a longer period,” he added.

Comet Neowise swept within Mercury’s orbit a week ago. Its close vicinity to the sun caused dust and gas to burn off its surface and create an even bigger debris tail. According to CNET, Neowise passed a critical point when it survived its closest brush with the sun without cracking up from the heat last week.

NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet on 27 March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about five kilometres across and its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Soon after, numerous amateur photographers began sharing stunning images of the comet just above the horizon during predawn hours. Twitter user Jeremy Perez shared the image shot from close to the Wupatki National Monument showcasing the bright celestial body.

According to the CNET report, as the comet moves farther away from the sun and closer to Earth, it will be visible in the evening sky and not before dawn. As per NASA solar system ambassador Eddie Irizarry, Neowise should be visible just before and around the time of first light till 11 July. It will again start to be visible in the evening between 15 and 16 July.

While it’s visible with the naked eye in dark skies with little or no light pollution, binoculars are needed to see the long tail, according to NASA. It will be about 7,000 years before the comet returns, “so I wouldn’t suggest waiting for the next pass,” said the telescope’s deputy principal investigator Joe Masiero of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Recently, astronauts from the International Space Station managed to get a stunning glimpse of a natural light show from a comet this weekend. NASA astronaut Bob Behnken shared a tweet highlighting Neowise. He captioned the post, “Last night’s fireworks, for real. Because Science.”

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Iran-India Chabahar Port Deal: Iran Kicks-Out India from Chabahar Rail Project citing funding delays

Iran-India Chabahar Port Deal: The railway project was meant to be part of India’s vow to the trilateral deal between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing a hostile Pakistan.

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The Iran-India Chabahar port deal had run out fuel. Iran has reportedly expelled India from the Chabahar rail project according to a report by The Hindu.

According to the report – four years after India and Iran signed a deal to construct a rail line from Chabahar port to Zahedan, Tehran has decided to proceed with the project by itself citing delays from New Delhi.

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The report writes – The Iranian Transport and Urban Development Minister — Mohammad Eslami inaugurated the track-laying process for Chabahar-Zahedan line, which will be extended to Zaranj in Afghanistan. Iranian officials told The Hindu that the complete project would be finished by March 2022 and that Iranian Railways will proceed without India’s support, using nearly $400 million from the Iranian National Development Fund.

The railway project was meant to be part of India’s vow to the trilateral deal between India, Iran and Afghanistan to develop an alternate trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing a hostile Pakistan.

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In May 2016, during PM Modi’s visit to Iran to sign the Chabahar pact President Rouhani and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, IRCON had signed an MoU with the Iranian Rail Ministry. The MoU was to construct the Chabahar-Zahedan railway as “part of transit and transportation corridor in a trilateral agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan”.

However, according to the Hindu, despite several site visits by IRCON engineers, India never commenced the work, apparently due to worries that these could attract U.S. sanctions. The U.S. had provided a sanctions waiver for the Chabahar port and the rail line to Zahedan, but it has been difficult to find equipment suppliers and partners due to worries they could be targeted by the U.S., said officials. India has already “zeroed out” its oil imports from Iran due to U.S. sanctions.

 

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Iran wanted India to accelerate the acquisition of heavy equipment and expedite work on a railway link to the Afghan border to boost the economic viability of the Chabahar port, according to experts.  As per earlier reports, – there was a written assurance from the US that will make it easier for banks to provide funds for the procurement of heavy equipment” said an expert.

In late 2018, the US had approved a waiver for Chabahar and the construction of a railway line from the port to the Afghan border from sanctions under the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012. However, banks had been reluctant to provide loans for buying heavy equipment due to US sanctions.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had earlier raised the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link at a meeting with Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar in Tehran and asked India to expedite work on it to “benefit regional trade relations”. During that visit, India and Iran had agreed to boost Chabahar’s economic viability, including steps such as providing higher subsidies to merchant shipping using the port.

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US-China ties to worsen as Trump set to block all Chinese claims in South China Sea

Ties between US and China could dramatically worsen over the South China Sea after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate. 

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Ties between the US and China are set to further deteriorate over the South China Sea as the Trump administration is set to outrightly reject almost all of Chinese maritime claims in the contentious waterbody.

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The Trump government presented the decision as an endeavour to restrain China’s increasing belligerence in the region with a commitment to recognising international law. This move in the South China Sea will further enrage the Chinese, who are already countering against various US sanctions and other penalties.

Previously, US policy had been to insist that maritime spats between China and its smaller neighbours be settled peacefully through UN-backed arbitration.

But in a statement released on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognised waters to be illegitimate.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said. “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defence of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”

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Although the US will continue to remain impartial in territorial conflicts, the announcement means Washington is now directly supporting Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all of which oppose Chinese declarations of sovereignty over maritime areas surrounding disputed islands, reefs and shoals.

“There are clear cases where [China] is claiming sovereignty over areas that no country can lawfully claim,” the State Department said in a fact sheet that accompanied the statement.

The announcement was released a day after the fourth anniversary of a binding decision by an arbitration panel in favour of the Philippines that discarded Chinese maritime claims around the Spratly Islands and neighbouring reefs and shoals.

China has declined to recognise that ruling, rejected it as a “sham” and withdrew from the arbitration proceedings. It has continued to oppose the decision with aggressive actions that have brought it into territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years.

However, as a result, the administration said China has no valid maritime claims to the fish- and potentially energy-rich Scarborough Reef, Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal. The US has repeatedly said areas regarded to be part of the Philippines are covered by a US-Philippines mutual defence treaty in the event of an attack on them.

In addition to reemphasising support for that decision, Pompeo said China cannot legitimately claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei and Natuna Besar off Indonesia. As such, Washington said it would regard any Chinese intimidation of fishing vessels or oil exploration in those areas as unlawful.

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