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Monkeypox declared global health emergency

Expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency.

The World Health Organisation on Saturday declared the monkeypox as public health emergency of international concern.

The global health body said the expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency.

“WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Gherbreyesus said in a statement.

The statement also said further that it is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment.

“So in short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations,” the WHO chief added.

“For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” he added.

The WHO had previously declared emergencies for public health issues such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

Meanwhile, India has confirmed three cases of monkeypox, all reported in Kerala.

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‘Ukraine war shows West’s dominance ending’

The Ukraine war shows that the West’s dominance is coming to an end as China rises to superpower status in partnership with Russia at one of the most significant inflection points in centuries, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said…reports Asian Lite News

The world, Blair said, was at a turning point in history comparable with the end of World War Two or the collapse of the Soviet Union: but this time the West is clearly not in the ascendant.

“We are coming to the end of Western political and economic dominance,” Blair said in a lecture entitled “After Ukraine, What Lessons Now for Western Leadership?” according to a text of the speech to a forum supporting the alliance between the United States and Europe at Ditchley Park west of London.

“The world is going to be at least bi-polar and possibly multi-polar,” Blair said. “The biggest geo-political change of this century will come from China not Russia.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands and triggered the most serious crisis in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when many people feared the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

President Vladimir Putin says the West has declared economic war by trying to isolate Russia’s economy with sanctions and the Kremlin says Russia will turn to powers such as China and India.

The war in Ukraine, Blair said, had clarified that the West could not rely on China “to behave in the way we would consider rational”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has continued supporting Putin and criticised sanctions “abuse” by the West. Putin has forged what he calls a “strategic partnership” with China.

China in 1979 had an economy that was smaller than Italy’s, but after opening to foreign investment and introducing market reforms it has become the world’s second-largest economy.

ALSO READ:Ukraine carrier cargo plane crashes in Greece

Its economy is forecast to overtake the United States within a decade and it leads in some 21st century technologies such as artificial intelligence, regenerative medicine and conductive polymers.

“China’s place as a superpower is natural and justified. It is not the Soviet Union,” said Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 to 2007. Its allies are likely to be Russia and Iran.

The West should not let China overtake militarily, he said.

“We should increase defence spending and maintain military superiority,” Blair said. The United States and its allies “should be superior enough to cater for any eventuality or type of conflict and in all areas.”

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Russia has lost 50,000 soldiers, says military chief

Russia has lost some 50,000 killed or wounded soldiers in its invasion of Ukraine and nearly 1,700 tanks have been destroyed, the head of Britain’s armed forces says…reports Asian Lite News

But Admiral Tony Radakin told the BBC in an interview broadcast on July 17 that any speculation the losses could bring down the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin was just “wishful thinking.”

“I think some of the comments that he’s not well or that actually surely somebody’s going to assassinate him or take him out, I think they’re wishful thinking,” he said of Putin.

“As military professionals, we see a relatively stable regime in Russia. President Putin has been able to quash any opposition. We see a hierarchy that is invested in President Putin and so nobody at the top has got the motivation to challenge President Putin,” Radakin added.

“And that is bleak.”

The British military chief said that, with the setbacks in Ukraine, Russia’s land forces may now pose less of a threat than they did before the war.

Along with the losses in personnel and tanks, Russia has seen some 4,000 of its armored fighting vehicles destroyed since its February 24 invasion, according to his estimates.

ALSO READ: ‘Russia doesn’t want to end war’

“But Russia continues to be a nuclear power. It’s got cyber-capabilities, it’s got space capabilities, and it’s got particular programs underwater, so it can threaten the underwater cables that allow the world’s information to transit around the whole globe.”

G20 members denounce war

Many participants in the G20 meeting of finance ministers in Indonesia’s Bali have strongly condemned Russia’s war against Ukraine and called for an end to it.

Indonesia’s G20 presidency said this in a statement after the meeting of the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors held on July 15-16, Ukrinform reported.

“Many [G20] members agreed that the recovery of the global economy has slowed and is facing a major setback as a result of Russia’s war against Ukraine, which was strongly condemned, and called for an end to the war,” the statement said.

“The majority of members agreed that there is an alarming increase of food and energy insecurity, which are felt disproportionately by vulnerable groups. Some also expressed concerns about fertilizer availability which has the potential to further exacerbate the food crisis. Members affirmed their commitment to use all available policy tools to address current economic and financial challenges, including the risk of food insecurity,” the statement said.

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More nations keen to join BRICS

The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) account for over 40 per cent of the global population and nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP…reports Asian Lite News

Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt plan to join BRICS, and their potential membership bids could be discussed and answered at next year’s summit in South Africa, BRICS International Forum President Purnima Anand told Russian media on Thursday.

“All these countries have shown their interest in joining (BRICS) and are preparing to apply for membership. I believe this is a good step, because expansion is always looked upon favourably, it will definitely bolster BRICS’ global influence,” Anand told Russian newspaper Izvestia.

The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) account for over 40 per cent of the global population and nearly a quarter of the world’s GDP. The bloc’s stated purposes include promoting peace, security, development, and cooperation globally, and contributing to the development of humanity, RT reported.

Anand said the issue of expansion was raised during this year’s BRICS summit, which took place in late June in Beijing.

The BRICS Forum President said she hopes the accession of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt will not take much time, given that they “are already engaged in the process”, though she doubts that all three will join the alliance at the same time, RT reported.

“I hope that these countries will join the BRICS quite shortly, as all the representatives of core members are interested in expansion. So it will come very soon,” Anand added.

The news of the three nations’ plans to join the BRICS comes after Iran and Argentina officially applied for membership in late June, with Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh touting the bloc as a “very creative mechanism with broad aspects”.

ALSO READ: I2U2 vision progressive and practical: Modi at first leaders’ summit

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Covid-19 nowhere near over, warns WHO

Last Friday, the WHO’s Emergency Committee concluded that the virus remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and warned of several interlinked challenges….reports Asian Lite News

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is “nowhere near over” as the number of new cases worldwide has risen by 30 per cent in the last two weeks, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

“I am concerned that cases of Covid-19 continue to rise — putting further pressure on stretched health systems and health workers. I am also concerned about the increasing trend of deaths,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists here on Tuesday, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, the recent increase in the number of newly reported Covid-19 cases has been largely driven by Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, and by the lifting of public health and social measures. Recent changes in testing policies have also been hindering the detection of new cases and the monitoring of the evolution of the virus, he said.

Global Covid caseload tops 526 mn

Last Friday, the WHO’s Emergency Committee concluded that the virus remains a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) and warned of several interlinked challenges.

For instance, though Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 continue to drive the new waves of infections, hospitalizations and deaths around the world, surveillance – including testing and sequencing — has dropped significantly, making it increasingly difficult to assess the impact of variants on transmission and the effectiveness of countermeasures.

“New waves of the virus demonstrate again that Covid-19 is nowhere near over, and the virus is running freely and countries are not effectively managing the disease burden based on their capacity,” Tedros said.

He urged governments to deploy tried and tested measures like masking, improved ventilation and test and treat protocols, while regularly reviewing and adjusting Covid-19 response plans based on the current epidemiology and also the potential for new variants to appear.

ALSO READ: Covid-19 booster dose gap reduced to 6 months

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Jaishankar meets Indonesian FM in Bali

On the sidelines of the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting here, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday met his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi and appreciated the arrangements done for the summit…reports Asian Lite News

“Pleasure to meet again FM Retno Marsudi of Indonesia. Appreciated the excellent arrangements for the G20 FMM in Bali. India supports the Indonesian Presidency and will do utmost to ensure its success. @Menlu_RI,” Jaishankar tweeted.

Notably, this year, the G20 Foreign Ministers’ meeting is being organised by Indonesia.

The G20 countries include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Moreover, the Indian External Affairs Minister also met UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall.

“Delighted to meet FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan of UAE. Took great satisfaction at the transformation of our ties. Recent meeting of our leaders has given guidance for higher growth. Appreciated his insights on contemporary regional and international issues,” Jaishankar tweeted.

Furthermore, Jaishankar upon his bilateral talks with the Senegalese Foreign Minister wrote, “A productive meeting with FM @AissataOfficiel of Senegal. Appreciate her sentiments on Vaccine Maitri and our development projects. Agreed to take forward cooperation in agriculture, health, fertiliser production, railways, power transmission and solar energy.”

ALSO READ:Jaishankar hold talks with Wang Yi in Bali

During the meeting which is set to take place from July 7 to 8, the participating foreign ministers will hold talks on issues of contemporary relevance, such as strengthening multilateralism and current global challenges including food and energy security, read a release by the Ministry of External Affairs.

Jaishankar is slated to hold several bilateral meetings with his counterparts from other G20 member states and invited countries during the visit.

The External Affairs Minister’s participation in the G20 FMM will strengthen India’s engagement with G20 member states. As a G20 troika member and as the incoming G20 Presidency, India’s role in the upcoming FMM discussions assumes even greater importance, the official statement read. (ANI)

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A New World Order

Over the last two decades, the US-led order has been facing diverse challenges security, political, economic so that commentators began to believe that a new global order was emerging that was “increasingly multipolar” and defined by several players that are “neo-authoritarian states seeking to expand their influence”…writes Talmiz Ahmad

As Russian troops commenced military operations in Ukraine on 24 February, the reverberations of this event are being felt in different parts of the world and hold out the promise of major changes in international politics.

Fareed Zakaria has described the war as a “seismic event”, perhaps the most significant event in world affairs since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; it marks, in his view, the “end of an age”, though there is no clarity as yet about the new age that will now emerge.

The war marks the culmination of Russia’s resistance to the eastward expansion of the US-led security order in Europe after the end of the Cold War. This was in the shape of NATO membership being provided to countries on Russia’s western frontiers, and even to nations that had once been part of the Soviet Union. This NATO expansion had affirmed the US continued perception of Russia as a security threat to Western interests and the need to perpetuate the world order that, after the Cold War, had the US as the sole global power.

In 1990, the Soviet Union and NATO had reached an agreement that a reunified Germany would join NATO under West Germany’s pre-existing membership, although restrictions were placed on the deployment of NATO troops on former East German territory. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, a number of former Warsaw Pact and post-Soviet states joined NATO — Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic became NATO members in 1999. NATO then facilitated the accession of seven Central and Eastern European countries Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, while two more countries — Albania and Croatiajoined on April 1, 2009.

ALSO READ:F-35 fighters arrive in South Korea

This steady encroachment into Russia’s security space was supplemented by the “Colour Revolutions” the replacement of existing pro-Moscow governments in Russia’s neighbourhood with pro-West leaders, following widespread street protests that, Russia believed, had been organised by western powers. These included: the “Rose” revolution in Georgia (2003); the “Orange” revolution in Ukraine (2004), and the “Tulip” revolution in Kyrgyzstan (2005). After this, there were other attempts at regime change, though without the “colour” label: the April revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in 2014, and the agitations in Armenia in 2018.

Towards war in Ukraine

Russia under President Vladimir Putin viewed these initiatives as western attempts to encircle it and place it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis Western powers by depriving it of strategic depth in the West, something Russia had deemed crucial for its interests through much of Czarist Russian and Soviet history. Putin finally drew the line to limit western encroachment in Georgia and Ukraine.

In March 2007, Putin, addressing the annual Munich security conference, said that “NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders.” He added that NATO expansion “represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended?” In 2008, Russia launched a military offensive against Georgia that brought its troops to the outskirts of the capital. Thereafter, Russia permanently detached two secessionist regions and put them under effective Russian control.

This scenario was repeated in Ukraine. The Obama administration’s involvement in Ukraine’s internal politics in 2013 and 2014 to help demonstrators overthrow Ukraine’s elected president led Russia to seize and annex Crimea. The conflict ended with the Minsk Accords of 2015 that placed restrictions on arms supplies to Ukraine and provided limited self-rule to Ukraine’s Russian-majority eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, the region being referred to as Donbas.

There were violations of both provisions: arms continued to enter Ukraine from western sources (with Russian weaponry coming into Donbas), while elections in the Donbas were thwarted as Ukraine refused to cede full autonomy to the region as its local leaders insisted on, amidst reports that Russian troops were actually involved in backing militants in the Donbas.

In June-November last year, there were apparently positive interactions between Putin and President Joe Biden on the Ukraine issue and larger matters affecting bilateral relations and European security in general, followed by several high-level meetings between US and Russian officials; these gave the impression that the US understood Russian “red-lines” relating to Ukraine.

However, from November itself there were indications that the US was adopting a more hardline position towards Russia. It is likely that sections of the US security establishment were uncomfortable with the president’s accommodative approach towards Russian concerns and encouraged a confrontationist approach. This included: increasing supply of lethal military equipment to Ukraine, rejecting the special status for Ukraine’s eastern provinces, and, through the Charter of Strategic Partnership’ concluded with Ukraine in November 2021, affirming the US commitment to “deepening Ukraine’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions”, an obvious reference to the country’s NATO membership.

The Russian attack on 24 February was due to what Moscow saw as the massing of Ukrainian troops on the border of the eastern Donbas region and military preparations to bring the region under Ukrainian control, in violation of earlier agreements. In the background of increasing mutual distrust and escalating military movements, the assessment in Moscow at this point was that Russia’s crucial interests would be best served through a pre-emptive attack of its own, thus sending out significant challenges to the prevailing global order.

Challenging the existing world order

During the Cold War, the principal US interest was to maintain its global security interests by resisting the ideological and political challenges from the Soviet Union-led Eastern bloc and maintaining control over the political and economic institutions that it had itself helped to set up after the Second World War. These included the US maintaining 500 military bases in different parts of the world, supported by US-led collective security arrangements in Europe and Asia, i.e., NATO, CENTO and SEATO. These arrangements were complemented by global economic, financial and trade institutions represented by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariff (GATT), all of which functioned within the framework of US-prescribed norms and principles, collectively referred to as ‘Western values.’

The Cold War ended with the US and its allies as the apparent victors. This was the US’ unipolar moment, the period when the US enjoyed untrammelled global authority and influence. To safeguard its global hegemony, the US shaped the world order based on two mutually-reinforcing principles market capitalism and ‘liberal’ values. The first retained US influence over the globalised economy, buttressed by the replacement of the GATT by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), that became the instrument to enforce neo-liberal market values worldwide, and the retention of the NATO alliance to maintain US hegemony in Europe.

‘Liberal’ values taken together constituted an attempt to reshape national values on American lines, i.e., upholding the US value system of democracy, human rights and free markets. This came to be referred to as a ‘rules-based liberal world order.’ In the political area, the rules-based order meant that international relations would be shaped not by power but, instead, “international laws and norms [would] restrain the action of states” to avoid global disorder. In the economic arena, free markets would prevail, with no barriers on the free transnational flow of goods, finance, technology, information and human resources. Liberal values, upholding universal political, civil and human rights, would constitute the global standard.

Over the last two decades, the US-led order has been facing diverse challenges security, political, economic so that commentators began to believe that a new global order was emerging that was “increasingly multipolar” and defined by several players that are “neo-authoritarian states seeking to expand their influence.” An observer, Scott Lawless, noted that this is largely due to the US “experiencing a crisis of legitimacy on the world stage”; among other reasons, he cited the fact that the US itself “broke the rules” of the security order by undertaking unilateral military interventions outside the UN framework.

Fareed Zakaria, writing in 2019, was even more forthright: he pointed out that the US “mishandled its hegemony and abused its power, losing allies and emboldening enemies”; he referred specifically to unilateral US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq after the events of 9/11. Commenting on the Trump administration, he simply noted that the president “has abandoned the field” and “what is most notable about Trump’s foreign policy is its absence.” Cooley and Nexon affirmed this view a year later when they said: “US global leadership is not simply in retreat; it is unravelling. And the decline is not cyclical but permanent.”

The pandemic appears to have delivered the fatal blow to the unipolar world order: the US had the highest number of infections and deaths globally, while its president and most of his advisers revealed a remarkable ineptitude in handling the challenge. As Francis Fukuyama then noted: “It was the country’s [US’] singular misfortune to have the most incompetent and divisive leader in its modern history at the helm when the crisis hit.”

The Russia-China alignment

The “neo-authoritarian states” viewed as challenging the US-led order were Russia and China. While both were members of the principal global institutions the UN Security Council, the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO — they parted company from the US’ allies in crucial areas: as Richard Haass noted in 2020, in his book, The World: A Brief Introduction, they demonstrated “little or no interest in safeguarding human rights or becoming more liberal or democratic”. Russia, he said, had violated several basic principles of the liberal order, such as respect for borders, while China had adopted aggressive policies in the South China Sea and pursued restrictive trade policies that were inconsistent with WTO rules and norms.

But Hass also admitted that the “liberal world order is now fraying”; this was due to: decline in the US’ relative power, its increasing reluctance to be the global gendarmerie, the rise and increasing assertiveness of Russia and China, and, in general, the rising tide of authoritarianism worldwide. Writing two years later, Fareed Zakaria described the new era as “post-American” and said that “Pax Americana of the past three decades was over”. Other commentators have disagreed: Michael Beckley and Hal Brands asserted in Foreign Affairs immediately after the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine that “Putin’s war is fortifying the Democratic alliance” and saw in the war an opportunity for the US and its allies “to get serious about defending the world order that has served them so well.”

To go back a few years, there is little doubt that US hostility to both Russia and China has pushed the latter closer to each other, a trend that was accelerated during the pandemic. From 2014, it was Russia, after the Ukraine attacks, that had evoked western hostility at a time when China was attempting to maintain its economic ties with the US.

However, as the Trump administration shaped US differences with China into an ideological divide and imparted to this confrontation the trappings of a ‘new Cold War,’ Russia and China expanded their relations in economic, energy, military and logistical connectivity areas. Thus, the share of China in Russia’s trade went from 10.5 per cent ($88.8 billion) in 2013, to 15.7 per cent ($108.3 billion) in 2019; in the first quarter of 2020, it became 17.3 per cent ($31.8 billion) of total Russian trade.

Energy became a significant part of the expanding relationship. In April 2020, Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the top oil supplier to China, providing 18 per cent more oil (7.2 million tonnes) than in 2019; in May, Russia sold 19.2 per cent more than the previous year. Russian energy companies and Chinese financiers have developed a mutually beneficial relationship: in 2009, the Russian company, Rosneft, took a loan of $15 billion from the China Development Bank to complete the Eastern Siberian Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline that brings oil to China.

This pattern has continued: in 2013, Rosneft took multibillion-dollar loans from three Chinese oil companies to fund domestic projects; it paid for these loans through sales of oil to China over a 25-year period. In a gas-related transaction in May 2020, the Russian company, Gazprom, revived the $55 billion Power-of-Siberia-2 (POS-2) gas pipeline project to provide 50 billion cubic metres of gas to China. This pipeline will transit through Mongolia and will transport gas from operating fields in eastern Siberia and Yamal.

Railway is the other flourishing area in their expanding bilateral ties: Russia is investing heavily in upgrading the Trans-Siberian and the Baikal-Amur railways that are important transport corridors linking Russian and Chinese markets.

Defence ties between them are also witnessing an upswing since 2014. Russia has provided China with its latest Su-35 multipurpose fighter and the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system. Joint military exercises are a regular occurrence: Chinese troops joined the Russians in the Vostok-2018 exercise, the largest ever post-Cold War exercise. There are annual naval exercises as also joint air patrols.

A new area for cooperation is technology: even as the US and Europe are placing restrictions on Chinese hi-tech products, Russia is increasing its links with China. Huawei is now an important presence in the Russian telecommunications sector, with Russia sharing none of the security concerns that agitate western countries.

Both Russia and China, concerned about possible US sanctions that could deny them access to US-controlled global financial transactions, have begun to reduce their dependence on the dollar in bilateral transactions. In 2015, about 90 per cent of their transactions were designated in US dollars; this became 51 per cent in 2019, and was only 46 per cent in the first quarter of 2020. Russia, on its part, is increasing its reserves of Chinese currency: in 2019, the Bank of Russia reduced its dollar holdings by $101 billion and increased the share of the renminbi in its foreign reserves from 5 renminbi to 15 renminbi , valued at about $44 billion.

There is a substantial strategic aspect to this burgeoning cooperation: given sustained western hostility to the two countries, they know “they need to play as one team,” as Russian commentator Alexander Gabuev has noted. Chinese commentator, Zhao Huirong, has said that Russia and China were working together to build “a platform to find solutions to new crises and challenges through the author is the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, and Ram Sathe Chair for International Studies, Symbiosis International University, Puneh negotiations.”

Towards this end, the two countries are shaping ‘Eurasia’ as the centre-piece of their bilateral alignment and, over time, as the centre of a new global order.

(Talmiz Ahmad is India’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, and Ram Sathe Chair for International Studies, Symbiosis International University, Pune)

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with

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Russian FM in Iran to discuss nuclear talks, bilateral ties

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Tehran to discuss with the Iranian side bilateral cooperation and ways to solve the impasse on the Iran nuclear talks, state IRIB TV reported…reports Asian Lite News

The Russian Foreign Minister arrived in Tehran on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

The IRIB reported that Lavrov, who is on his two-day trip to Iran at the invitation of Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, held a meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi shortly after his arrival.

Having not revealed any details of the meeting between Raisi and the Russian diplomat, the state-run television said the Russian Foreign Minister is expected to meet Iran’s senior officials to discuss the negotiation that aims to restore a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

The two sides would also discuss situations in Ukraine, Syria, and Afghanistan, as well as ways to boost bilateral ties in trade and energy, it added.

Both Iran and Russia are subject to strict US sanctions, which have restricted their ability to transport their energy to international markets.

Iran signed the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with the world powers in July 2015 accepting to put some curbs on its nuclear programme in return for the removal of the sanctions on Tehran.

ALSO READ:Putin says noticeable increase in Russian oil exports to India, China

However, former President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement in May 2018 and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran, prompting Iran to reduce some of its nuclear commitments under the agreement in retaliation.

Since April 2021, several rounds of talks have been held in the Austrian capital between Iran and the remaining JCPOA parties to revive the deal.

Iran insists on obtaining guarantees that the succeeding US governments would not drop the deal again and calls for lifting the sanctions in a verifiable manner.

After witnessing good progress signaling that an agreement was only a few days away, the diplomatic process has, however, faced a pause since March, raising concerns over the fate of the negotiation.

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End of crypto craze?

More than $200 billion were wiped off the entire cryptocurrency market this week, a report by Nishant Arora

As foreign portfolio investors continue to pull out money from the Indian equity market, the sell-off in the crypto market and the digital asset space has also accelerated in the wake of global economic meltdown.

More than $200 billion were wiped off the entire cryptocurrency market this week and the globally crypto market capitalisation fell below $1 trillion for the first time since February 2021, according to data from CoinMarketCap.

The already sinking cryptocurrency market in India is also witnessing a huge sell-off as the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies nosedive amid volatile market conditions triggered by factors like high inflation, rising interest rates, the Russia-Ukraine war, and China lockdowns.

According to experts, crypto investors and traders in India are currently exercising caution and a distinct dip in crypto buying has been noticed.

Nischal Shetty, co-founder of cryptocurrency exchange WazirX, said: “Indian investors are cautious and are taking the ‘wait and watch’ approach.”

Bitcoin (BTC), the world’s largest cryptocurrency, has plunged about 70 per cent since its record high of $69,000 in November last year.

It was hovering around Rs 20,000-Rs 21,000 per coin this week.

According to analysts, Bitcoin may hit a grim $14,000 this year at this rate.

Smaller cryptocurrencies, which tend to move in tandem with Bitcoin, also fell.

Ethererum, the second-largest digital token, fell as much as 12 per cent to $1,045, a new 15-month low.

The current decline means that Ethererum has shed 77 per cent of its value since November 2021.

According to Cointelegraph, Ethereum sell-off resumed this week, with its price risking another 25 per cent decline in June.

However, in such a gloomy scenario, India’s own Gari digital token by short-video making app Chingari has risen about 40 per cent.

Chingari, the fastest-growing Blockchain social app, this week announced the ‘GARI Mining’ programme to empower 4 crore monthly average users (MAU), becoming the first social app in the world to offer crypto to its creators and users on its platform.

“This programme will ensure a level playing field for big and humble creators. Now, creators and users on the app can earn GARI tokens which can be traded on exchanges for money and creators will not be at the mercy of brand collaborations as their only source of income,” said Sumit Ghosh, Co-founder and CEO, Chingari and GARI token.

Meanwhile, the fate of cryptocurrencies in India is still hanging in balance, and the much-awaited crypto bill is yet to see the light of the day.

In April, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated her doubts about the size of the cryptocurrency market worldwide and stressed the need for a regulatory mechanism acceptable to all countries to prevent its use to launder money and fund terrorism, which, she said, were big concerns for India.

India distinguishes between cryptocurrency and crypto assets as a result, and the minister had in February announced a 30 per cent tax on income from these transactions, which includes a 1 per cent deduction at source.

Indian Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman

The country is poised to have its own digital currency by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) next year that will be based on Blockchain technology.

According to Sathvik Vishwanath, Co-founder and CEO, Unocoin, “the cryptocurrencies industry is fast evolving and hence it would need regulations to be constantly updated”.

“It is unlikely to be successful if we just try to bring guidelines for cryptos,” he said.

Not only cryptocurrencies, investors of DeFi (decentralised finance) platforms also need to exercise “caution and scrutiny” amid growing concerns about the liquidity of this certain type of cryptocurrency service, experts have warned.

The warning came as Celsius Network, a DeFi platform and one of the largest crypto lenders, announced that it was “pausing all withdrawals, Swap, and transfers between accounts” for its 1.7 million clients.

“The wider crypto ecosystem has been rocked again — not by ‘real’ cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but by DeFi,” said Nigel Green, CEO of deVere Group, one of the world’s largest independent financial advisories.

“There are legitimate and serious concerns about networks’ high yields, links to failed dollar-pegged stablecoin Terra, and reserves,” said Green, urging people to exercise caution and scrutiny on crypto lending firms which offer clients lucrative double-digit yields on assets like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

Decentralised finance or DeFi offers financial instruments without relying on intermediaries such as brokerages, exchanges, or banks by using smart contracts on a Blockchain.

ALSO READ: Bill Gates slams crypto, NFTs

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A supermoon is seen in the sky above Singapore’s Marina Bay. (Photo by Then Chih Wey/Xinhua)

A full moon is seen over the Temple of Poseidon at cape Sounion, some 70 km southeast of Athens, Greece, on June 14, 2022.

(Xinhua/Marios Lolos)