Morning Digest: Afghanistan and counterterrorism top on agenda for Modi-Biden meet; all eyes on Rajasthan Congress after Punjab revamp, and more

A select list of stories to read before you start your day

PM Modi-Biden bilateral meeting ahead of Quad summit meet

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden will meet on Friday for their first in-person discussion, the White House announced on Monday. In a publicly released schedule, the bilateral was listed first, followed by a summit-level meeting of Quad leaders.

Afghanistan and, more broadly, counterterrorism will be part of the agenda for the bilateral discussions, the official said. India has been concerned that Afghanistan will become a safe haven for terrorists and a base from which they can step up attacks on the Indian territory.

All eyes on Rajasthan reshuffle after Punjab revamp

The turmoil in the ruling Congress in Punjab, leading to the appointment of a new Chief Minister, has had a ripple effect in Rajasthan, where the promised Cabinet expansion and reshuffle as well as political appointments have been inordinately delayed.

U.S. to end travel bans for vaccinated passengers

President Joe Biden will ease foreign travel restrictions to the U.S. beginning in November, allowing foreigners into the country if they have proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, the White House said on Monday.

The new rules will replace a hodgepodge of restrictions that had barred non-citizens who had been in Europe, much of Asia and certain other countries in the prior 14 days from entering the U.S. The changes will allow families and others who have been separated by the travel restrictions for 18 months to plan for long-awaited reunifications.

September rain in excess in the country

Until August-end, a crippling rainfall deficit had brought India dangerously close to a drought like situation with a nearly 9% deficit, but a resurgence of rainfall since September has narrowed the deficit to 3%.

The September rainfall in India is 27% more than what’s normal for the month. With a fresh rain-bearing pressure system forming in the Bay of Bengal, it is also likely that the withdrawal of the monsoon, which normally starts by September 17, is expected to be delayed.

Rajnath, Austin hold telephonic conversation

Ahead of the first in-person meeting of the Quad leaders later this week, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday held a telephonic conversation with U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin and discussed bilateral and regional matters, including developments in Afghanistan.

“They discussed defence cooperation and looked forward to working closely,” a Defence Ministry statement said. “Both sides appreciated the mutual cooperation in the recent evacuation operations in Afghanistan and agreed to remain in regular contact in view of evolving situation,” it stated.

Florence Nightingale Award for Brig. Saraswati

In a virtual ceremony on Monday, President Ram Nath Kovind conferred the National Florence Nightingale Award 2020 on Deputy Director General of Military Nursing Service (MNS) Brig. S.V. Saraswati for her immense contribution to the MNS as nurse administrator, a Defence Ministry statement said.

National Florence Nightingale Award is the highest national distinction a nurse can achieve for selfless devotion and exceptional professionalism.

2 wounded in shooting at Virginia high school: Police

Two students were wounded in a shooting at a Virginia high school Monday afternoon, police said. A male juvenile was taken into custody in the case, police said in a statement. The police chief said authorities believe the suspect and victims knew one another but did not provide details.

The building was evacuated, and FBI agents and state troopers were searching the school for anyone remaining inside.

Afghan women outraged by Taliban restrictions on work

Fears were mounting in Afghanistan on Monday as the Taliban tightened their grip on women’s rights, slashing access to work and denying girls the right to secondary school education.

After pledging a softer version of their brutal and repressive regime of the 1990s, the Islamic fundamentalists have been stripping away at freedoms one month after seizing power.

“I may as well be dead,” said one woman, who was sacked from her senior role at the Foreign Ministry.

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

Pfizer said on Monday, its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon— a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.

Indian Premier League 2021 | Varun and Russell leave Royal Challengers shellshocked

Kolkata Knight Riders whipped Royal Challengers Bangalore in their opening match of the second leg of the IPL, recording a nine-wicket victory at Abu Dhabi on Monday.

On a pitch which held no demons, RCB fumbled inexplicably and folded for 92. KKR made short work of the chase, reaching the target in just 10 overs.

RCB may look at the auction for Kohli’s successor

Who will take over captaincy duties at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) after Virat Kohli steps down at the end of IPL 2021?

With no obvious successors in the squad, RCB might view the 2022 IPL mega auction as a chance to revamp — leadership et al. — and march in a new direction.

Kohli himself hinted at the likely change in landscape, stating that RCB is set to go through a transitional phase after the auction next year.

‘Recovery signals are mixed since August’

Signalling a softening in the momentum of the economic recovery, eight of 15 high-frequency indicators weakened in August, with diesel consumption, domestic passenger traffic and vehicle registrations falling below pre-COVID levels, ratings agency ICRA said on Monday.

While the August numbers indicated that the recovery after the second COVID-19 wave has been patchy, the early data for September also remained mixed, the agency said in a note on the state of the economy.

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