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Ukraine ramps up battle with neighbors over food import bans on September 18, 2023 at 9:16 pm

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Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Slovakia, Poland and Hungary on Monday at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban on food imports from the country.

In a statement released Monday, Ukraine’s economy minister Yulia Svyrydenko said that its European neighbors had violated their international obligations and defied the orders of the European Commission who on Friday decided not to extend a previous ban on Ukraine’s grain imports into Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

“It is crucially important for us to prove that individual member states cannot ban imports of Ukrainian goods,” Svyrydenko said in a statement. “That is why we are filing lawsuits against them.” “At the same time, we hope that these countries will lift their restrictions and we will not have to settle the matter in courts for a long time,” Svyrydenko added.

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Since May, bans imposed by the European Union meant that the three Central European countries could block the domestic sale of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds. The transit of such cargoes for export elsewhere was permitted. Citing a need to protect the livelihoods of their farmers, the three countries announced that they will continue to enforce these restrictions.

“Our decision is not aimed at Ukraine, it is dictated by the protection of the Polish farmer and the protection of Poland’s interests,” Radoslaw Fogiel, the head of Poland’s parliamentary foreign affairs commission, said according to reporting from Reuters.  

The Russian invasion has created an influx in agricultural products coming to Ukraine, something that has led to a decline in prices for local farmers within the countries. While the EU said that Ukraine has agreed to introduce measures to control the export of grains, countries like Poland, whose current populist right-wing government of the Law and Justice party has strong support in farming regions and will seek to remain in power in the country’s upcoming elections, have vowed to continue their bans in spite of Ukraine’s lawsuit. 

“We maintain our position, we think it is correct, it results from an economic analysis and powers derived from EU and international law,” government spokesman Piotr Mueller said on Polsat News. “A complaint before the WTO doesn’t impress us.”

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​ Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Slovakia, Poland and Hungary on Monday at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the ban on food imports from the country. In a statement released Monday, Ukraine’s economy minister Yulia Svyrydenko said that its European neighbors had violated their international obligations and defied the orders of the European Commission who… 

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Canada’s explosive claims against India put US in a pinch on September 23, 2023 at 10:00 am

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The U.S. is caught in the middle of a diplomatic war between India and Canada, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations that Indian agents were behind the killing of a Sikh Separatist leader in the country.

The explosive allegation comes amid the Biden administration’s charm offensive toward India as a key bulwark against China, with many questioning the U.S. relationship with India’s controversial prime minister, Narendra Modi.

The U.S. reportedly worked closely with Canada in investigating the apparent murder on its soil. President Biden has not publicly commented on the allegations, highlighting the tricky balancing act of standing by Canada without alienating India.

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All eyes are now on whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will present evidence to support his claims and just how bad relations between Ottawa and New Delhi will get before the U.S. is forced to step in.

Since Trudeau’s public allegations against India on Tuesday, relations between the two countries have hit rock bottom, while Canada has received no public support from its allies backing up the claim. 

Vivek Dehejia, professor of economics and an India-Canada policy expert at Carleton University in Ottawa, told The Hill that Canadian officials and Trudeau assumed they would get “unconditional support from their allies and from the U.S. in particular.” 

“They have been disappointed by the level of support that they have received. If you look carefully at [national security adviser] Jake Sullivan’s recent comments, he’s walking a tightrope because Canada’s very dramatic allegations have put the U.S. and other NATO allies in a bind,” he added.

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On Thursday, Sullivan offered a vague statement in support of Canada’s “undertaking in this investigation” and said the U.S. has also “been in touch” with India’s government.  

“It is a matter of concern for us. It is something we take seriously. It is something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country,” he told reporters at the White House on Thursday.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was “coordinating” with Canada on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly on Friday, and called for India to cooperate in the ongoing probe.

“We want to see accountability. And it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result,” Blinken told reporters in New York.

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The Washington Post reported earlier this week that several senior officials of Canada’s Five Eyes allies, of which the U.S. is a member, were informed of the allegations ahead of the G20 summit in New Delhi. Nevertheless, no public comment was made by any senior leaders among the group’s members, which also include the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

According to Sadanand Dhume, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute, the Biden administration has no intention of sacrificing its relationship with India over an “ill-judged accusation” by Trudeau.

Biden has made closer ties with India a foreign policy priority in its efforts to counter China’s influence in Asia, inviting Modi for an official state visit in June, when he also addressed Congress. 

That was the same month that masked gunmen killed Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh temple in Vancouver. The 45-year-old separatist leader had previously been designated as a terrorist by India. 

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India has long maintained that Canada has turned a blind eye toward extremist elements against India, especially Khalistani secessionists who demand a separate homeland for Sikh in the Punjab region. 

“The fact is that the Canadians have allowed some pretty dodgy people to use Canadian soil and to spread violent messages,” Dhume said. 

“It’s not as though there’s deep sympathy for Canada given that Trudeau has not handled this really well. He’s really been forced into a corner here.”

Trudeau has also come under scathing criticism from some former officials back home. 

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Omer Aziz, a former foreign policy advisor for Trudeau’s administration in Canada, wrote in The Globe and Mail that Ottawa’s foreign policy initiatives have never understood South Asia or India, but were instead aimed at winning over the sizable ethnic Sikh vote at home. 

“Under Trudeau, the foreign policy choices have been subordinated to domestic diaspora politics, given the importance of the Sikh diaspora in Canada, which have been important liberal voters. Trudeau, who has a minority in [Canadian] parliament, is only in power because of the [New Democratic Party] led by Jagmeet Singh,” Dehejia told The Hill.

Singh is the first Sikh to lead a major federal party in Canada, and helped Trudeau form a minority government last year after the Liberals failed to win a majority in parliament. 

In New Delhi, the Canadian allegations have united a fractious political landscape. 

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“The Indian response has been ferocious, and it’s been uniform,” said Dhume, adding that it has dredged up memories of the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 and Air India bombing the next year, both of which were linked to Sikh separatists. 

Even Modi’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress has backed his government’s stance on Trudeau and Canada in a rare show of unity. 

“The Congress reiterates that the country’s fight against terrorism has to be uncompromising, especially when it threatens India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity,” it said in a statement.

Pressure is now on Trudeau to reveal how Canada obtained the intelligence that led it to so publicly suggest the Indian government was behind the killing. 

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The prime minister doubled down on his claims Thursday, again saying Canada had “credible reasons to believe that agents of the government of India were involved in the killing of a Canadian on Canadian soil.”

Reuters reported that an unnamed senior Canadian government source said Ottawa worked “very closely” with the United States on the intelligence assessment. 

The White House did not respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

“Canada may not be in a position to reveal” where it got the information, Dhume said, but the Indian view is that “if you’re not in a position to corroborate … then don’t make the allegation in public.”

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Yet ultimately it may depend on the U.S. to settle the growing feud, which has resulted in India halting new visas for Canadians and expelling a Canadian diplomat. 

“Only the U.S. has the ability to solve this as only they have both trust and influence in both Ottawa and New Delhi,” Dhume added. 

​ The U.S. is caught in the middle of a diplomatic war between India and Canada, after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations that Indian agents were behind the killing of a Sikh Separatist leader in the country. The explosive allegation comes amid the Biden administration’s charm offensive toward India as a key bulwark against China,… 

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Zelensky visit shows McCarthy walks ‘thin line’ on Ukraine aid on September 23, 2023 at 9:00 am

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Speaker Kevin McCarthy publicly gave a cold shoulder to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Washington on Thursday, denying the wartime leader’s request to address Congress — but that’s not the whole story.

McCarthy’s allies said he’s committed to arming Ukraine, despite growing skepticism within his caucus. And Zelensky said the speaker delivered a similar message during their private meeting Thursday.

Zelensky’s visit highlighted the balancing act McCarthy faces on Ukraine, especially during a broader spending fight that has exposed the deep divides within his narrow majority.

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Bill Monahan, senior director for policy at Foreign Policy for America, said McCarthy is walking a “thin line” between supporting Ukraine and appeasing a growing share of House Republicans disillusioned with the war.

“He wants to be supportive of Ukraine, but he also has to [address] this faction that is kind of disrupting U.S. policy,” said Monahan. “I think he’s trying to keep his eye on what really matters, which is the Ukraine supplemental. He’s trying to hold together the bipartisan support for that.”

But Monahan argued that if McCarthy continues to push the Ukraine issue aside, it could lend more power to skeptical House Republicans.

“This remains a very vocal minority, but it may be getting larger,” he said. “McCarthy is going to have to step up and help make the case for this aid and its wider implications for national security.”

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While Zelensky addressed the majority of the Senate during his Thursday visit to Capitol Hill, he only met with a bipartisan group of senior leaders in the House.

McCarthy denied a chance for Zelensky to address Congress jointly because they “didn’t have time,” which effectively blocked the Ukrainian leader from even trying to convince critics in the House to approve more aid.

Still, McCarthy appears to have had a positive meeting with Zelensky. The pair posed for pictures, and Zelensky himself said McCarthy showed support for future Ukraine aid.

“I started my day in the American Capitol with Congress, with very frank, detailed conversations,” Zelensky said in a video message posted on X. “I felt trust.”

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In turn, McCarthy told reporters on Thursday he had a good discussion with Zelensky over his concerns about accountability of U.S. weapons and battlefield developments.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said McCarthy asked questions to help convince his colleagues that the Ukraine war was winnable, according to the New York Times.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chair of the same House panel, said the Zelensky meeting went well and that despite the skeptics in the House, he expects the majority will support another Ukraine package.

But McCaul said supporters have to do a better job of arguing why it’s important to support Ukraine.

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“We have to explain why it’s a national security issue and whatever happens in Ukraine directly impacts Taiwan,” McCaul told reporters. “This is a great power struggle with Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, against the West.”

That might be an uphill battle. More than two dozen GOP lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden ahead of Zelensky’s visit, vowing to oppose further Ukraine aid.

For the moment, with the House unable to agree on government spending bills, Ukraine aid is on the backburner. And McCarthy appears unwilling to make Ukraine a priority or publicly show more enthusiasm on the issue.

After the Zelensky meeting, McCarthy demurred when asked about including Ukraine funding in a continuing resolution, stressing there were other priorities to immediately fund, like the border.

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“I’m more than willing to look at that,” he told reporters of Ukraine aid, “but one thing I know is if the president’s only focused on that while you got 10,000 people coming across the border, and he wants to ignore that? I think there are priorities.”

Jordan Cohen, defense and foreign policy analyst for the conservative Cato Institute, said McCarthy has shown he is supportive of Ukraine but only so far as it doesn’t threaten his speakership.

If McCarthy had allowed Zelensky to address Congress, he would have broadcast “a very clear statement” that he supports Ukraine, potentially angering conservative lawmakers in the House Freedom Caucus who oppose more aid.

“McCarthy has bigger things he wants to accomplish as speaker that don’t have to do with Ukraine,” Cohen said. “He doesn’t want to just shut down Zelensky and pretend like he doesn’t exist because again, at its core, I think McCarthy probably would want to get that aid.

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“Beyond that, McCarthy doesn’t want to lose the speakership and to not lose the speakership means to keep the Freedom Caucus behind him,” he added.

Even smaller amounts of Ukraine aid is already becoming a major problem in the House. McCarthy on Friday said he would remove the $300 million for Ukraine in a defense appropriations bill and will instead hold a separate vote on the funding.

That move may have been designed to appease critics who voted against the defense appropriations bill on Thursday. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) was among the lawmakers who opposed the legislation because it contained Ukraine aid.

McCarthy’s position is increasingly contrasting with the Senate, where the vast majority of lawmakers are wholly supportive of continuing to back Ukraine.

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To underscore the dire need of supporting Ukraine, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) shared a quote from Zelensky in his remarks after the meeting: “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also emphatically backed supporting Ukraine, a position he emphasized after the Zelensky meeting, saying Ukraine aid was not charity but an “an investment in our own direct interests” and national security.

Cohen, from the Cato Institute, said concerned House Republicans have legitimate questions about Ukraine aid, including how more funds will help toward the goal of accomplishing the Biden administration’s end-game in Ukraine, as well as greater transparency on weapons transfers. 

However, Cohen explained there is an opportunity for McCarthy to get critics on board if there are clear answers to those questions.

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“Long term, that may be how McCarthy gets [skeptical] House Republicans to not necessarily support Ukraine aid, but to not threaten his speakership over it,” Cohen said.

​ Speaker Kevin McCarthy publicly gave a cold shoulder to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his visit to Washington on Thursday, denying the wartime leader’s request to address Congress — but that’s not the whole story. McCarthy’s allies said he’s committed to arming Ukraine, despite growing skepticism within his caucus. And Zelensky said the speaker delivered a similar message… 

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India’s PhonePe launches app store with zero fee in challenge to Google on September 23, 2023 at 6:28 am

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PhonePe launched the Indus AppStore Developer Platform on Saturday, promising zero platform fee and no commission on in-app purchases as the Walmart-backed fintech races to win Android developers in Google’s largest market. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup, which has amassed over 450 million registered users on its eponymous payments app, said developers can start registering and uploading […]

​ PhonePe launched the Indus AppStore Developer Platform on Saturday, promising zero platform fee and no commission on in-app purchases as the Walmart-backed fintech races to win Android developers in Google’s largest market. The Bengaluru-headquartered startup, which has amassed over 450 million registered users on its eponymous payments app, said developers can start registering and uploading 

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