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India’s Narendra Modi visits Vladimir Putin to strengthen ties in hedge against China

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India’s Narendra Modi visits Vladimir Putin to strengthen ties in hedge against China

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Narendra Modi will hold formal talks with President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Tuesday as India’s prime minister seeks to shore up relations and stem concerns about Moscow’s drift towards China.

Putin welcomed Modi on Monday to his suburban residence at Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow, where the pair held informal talks over tea and took a walk in the park. Further formal negotiations are expected on Tuesday.

Modi hailed the two-day visit as a “wonderful opportunity to deepen ties” in a post on social media platform X, adding that it would “surely go a long way in further cementing the bonds of friendship between India and Russia”.

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Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy criticised Modi for the visit trip, calling it “a huge disappointment”.

“It is a huge disappointment and a devastating blow to peace efforts to see the leader of the world’s largest democracy hug the world’s most bloody criminal in Moscow,” Zelenskyy wrote on X. A Russian barrage on Monday that struck a children’s hospital in Kyiv and civilian and critical infrastructure elsewhere killed at least 38 people, including four children, and injured 190 others, he said Tuesday morning.

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The trip is Modi’s first since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Russia has sought to rally countries such as India behind Putin’s vision of a Moscow-led “global majority” to challenge US hegemony.

India, meanwhile, has avoided taking sides in the war in an effort to protect a decades-long relationship with Russia, its largest arms supplier and — since the conflict began — a significant source of cheap oil.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said western countries were “jealous . . . and with good reason” that Modi had chosen Russia for his first bilateral visit after India’s election, in which Modi won a third five-year term last month.

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India’s ties to Russia have become particularly important Delhi as western sanctions designed to isolate Russia have pushed Moscow closer to China. Beijing has provided Moscow with an economic lifeline, increasing bilateral trade to record levels and becoming a critical supplier to Russia of western-manufactured components with potential battlefield uses.

“India wants to give Russia room for manoeuvre,” said Alexander Gabuev, director of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center in Berlin. “They might not have the levers to pull Russia away from China, but they want to give it as many opportunities as they can to stop them from putting all their eggs in the Chinese basket.”

India is also engaged with China in a stand-off along their disputed Himalayan border, and sees Russia’s neutrality as vital to national security, officials said. “China is the primary challenge,” said Pankaj Saran, a former Indian ambassador to Russia. “We really cannot afford to do anything which converts a friend into an adversary.”

Trade between India and Russia has soared to more than $65bn since Moscow’s full-scale invasion, largely due to a sharp increase in purchases of discounted oil. Russian crude accounted for 43 per cent of India’s oil imports in June, according to data provider Vortexa, making it the second-biggest buyer after China.

This has led to a sharp trade imbalance. Indian foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra told reporters ahead of Modi’s trip that New Delhi wanted to increase agricultural and pharmaceutical exports to Russia.

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The sanctions have also complicated Moscow’s ability to repatriate oil revenue due to the rupee’s low convertibility. A US crackdown has driven banks to sharply cut back on Russian counterparties, limiting their access to certain currencies and forcing traders to conduct transactions in roubles or even bartering for goods, according to financiers involved in the trade.

The US and EU have also stepped up efforts targeting the fleet shipping Russia’s oil, leaving buyers such as India vulnerable to possible future sanctions.

“Global banks will be hesitant to touch any transactions that may expose them to enforcement action by the US,” said Benjamin Hilgenstock at the Kyiv School of Economics Institute. “An expanded tanker designation campaign could become a problem for Indian buyers.”

India and Russia are attempting to promote domestic payment systems for trade, but doing so at scale will be difficult because of limited capacity, as well as the challenge of exchanging roubles and rupees for dollars and euros, he added.

Some analysts said Modi’s visit obscured the fact that India was increasingly staking its future on economic and military co-operation with the west.

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Russia’s share of Indian arms imports fell to a near 60-year low between 2019 and 2023, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, as India sought more sophisticated military technology from countries including the US and Israel.

Kwatra said that Modi would also raise concerns about dozens of its citizens unwittingly conscripted into the Russian army to fight in Ukraine.

Moscow’s growing dependence on Chinese supplies for its arms industry created another concern for India, the Carnegie Center’s Gabuev said, because of concerns that Moscow cannot service weapons systems or sell new arms without components supplies from China.

“The substantial part of the relationship is on a very fragile basis,” said Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, South Asia head at the Eurasia Group consultancy. “I would argue that this is a managed decline.”

Additional reporting by Christopher Miller in Lviv and Isobel Koshiw in Kyiv

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Kamala Harris, coconuts and brat – a new viral campaign

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Kamala Harris, coconuts and brat – a new viral campaign
Getty Images Kamala Harris laughing over a green backdropGetty Images

In the days since Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for US president, young people across the US have had a lot to explain.

The increasing popularity of coconut trees. A British pop superstar becoming a sudden American political force. The resurgence of chartreuse green.

Social media was abuzz last Sunday after President Joe Biden ended his re-election campaign and instead endorsed Vice-President Harris. And in the hours that followed, the Harris campaign leaned in to the excitement.

The Biden-Harris campaign Twitter account changed its username to KamalaHQ, using British pop superstar Charli XCX’s apparent endorsement of her as its new (similarly green) banner.

The campaign’s biography on X reads, “providing context”, a reference to much-lampooned remarks made by Ms Harris in May 2023.

While the president’s abrupt exit and Ms Harris’ subsequent rise have injected uncertainty into the election, social media users, particularly young people, have been enthralled. But it’s unclear if the newfound enthusiasm will help engage younger voters, a key group for Democrats in November, and whether the political momentum will continue.

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So far, the online flurry has proved fruitful: The campaign has raised more than $100 million in the roughly two days since Mr Biden decided to step aside, it hosted a fundraising call attracting more than 44,000 black women and recruited about 58,000 new volunteers.

Coconuts, brat and the online moments

Republicans have long used video clips of Ms Harris’ verbal slip-ups or awkward interviews against her. But in recent weeks, supporters have used those same clips to paint her as endearing, relatable and candid.

One video features Ms Harris at a White House event sharing an anecdote about her mother.

“She would say to us, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you young people. You think you just fell out of a coconut tree?” Harris said as she laughed. “You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.”

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But the video – panned by detractors – has been embraced by Harris supporters who now use coconut and palm tree emojis to signal their allegiance on social media.

“When your opponent says something, you just take it and you make it your thing, and then you’ve taken the power away from them,” said Katherine Haenschen, a Northeastern University professor who researches the effect of digital communications on voter turnout.

“Memes matter. Memes are actually a complex way of conveying infomation to people,” she said.

Charli XCX’s apparent endorsement of Ms Harris also fuelled the online frenzy. In the hours after Mr Biden threw his support behind Ms Harris, the singer said “kamala IS brat” in a tweet on X, a reference to the singer’s popular new album.

Ms Haenschen said the term refers to women of contradictions who “can kind of choose their own path and they can kind of set their own agenda”.

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The tweet, in turn, was viewed 50 million times by Tuesday afternoon.

David Hogg, a 24-year-old Democratic activist who founded the March for Our Lives Movement after the 2018 mass shooting at his high school in Parkland, Florida, shared the post.

“The amount this single tweet may have just done for the youth vote is not insignificant,” Mr Hogg wrote.

It will reach more young people than a million dollar cable advertisement, said Annie Wu Henry, a digital political strategist who has worked on Democratic campaigns.

Of the more than 300 videos the Biden-Harris campaign has put out on TikTok, the three videos released since Mr Biden stepped aside have amassed 20% of the likes on the entire page, according to Ms Henry.

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Grassroots enthusiasm

Some experts say the Harris campaign’s social strategy is not unlike former President Barack Obama’s in 2008.

“It’s been a while that we’ve had someone to top the ticket who’s got the pulse of younger voters and is very involved and conversant in popular culture,” said Philip de Vellis, a political advertising consultant who worked on the Obama campaign.

But, Mr de Vellis cautioned, that does not mean it will translate into votes.

While some point out that online political enthusiasm traditionally has been crafted by a campaign then filtered down to voters and social media users, this push for Ms Harris feels more grassroots, Ms Haenschen said.

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Mr Obama’s success was result of a grassroots effort, but in a different context. TikTok did not exist and Facebook was just becoming popular outside of college campuses, she said.

Americans want to be part of a Zeitgeist and the Harris campaign, in its current very online iteration, allows them a chance to do that, she said.

The campaign should allow the Harris meme moment to run its course or risk losing steam, Dr Haenschen said.

Will this make a difference in November?

The virality of Ms Harris in this moment allows her to embrace her many identities, according to Rachel Grant, a professor of cultural scholar studies, media activism and social movements at the University of Florida.

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Younger voters can find clips of her speaking about something that resonates, like her experience attending Howard University or abortion rights.

For now, the millions Ms Harris raised in a few days has energised voters in a tight election now four months away. Still, the Democrats will have to strike a balance of leaning into the virality and key issues to ensure voter turnout.

“Her campaign shouldn’t be focused on coconuts and context and unburdened and all of that,” Ms Henry, the digital political strategist said. “It should be focused on what she can do for the American people.”

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Video: Biden Says It’s Time to ‘Pass the Torch’ to a New Generation

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Video: Biden Says It’s Time to ‘Pass the Torch’ to a New Generation

new video loaded: Biden Says It’s Time to ‘Pass the Torch’ to a New Generation

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Biden Says It’s Time to ‘Pass the Torch’ to a New Generation

Speaking from the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, President Biden defended his record and celebrated the vice president, Kamala Harris, saying it’s time for new, younger voices to lead the country.

You know, in recent weeks, it’s become clear to me that I need to unite my party in this critical endeavor. I believe my record as president, my leadership in the world, my vision for America’s future all merited a second term. But nothing, nothing can come in the way of saving our democracy. And that includes personal ambition. So I’ve decided the best way forward is to pass the torch to a new generation. You know, there is a time and a place for long years of experience in public life. There’s also a time and a place for new voices. Fresh voices. Yes, younger voices. I would like to thank our great vice president, Kamala Harris. She’s experienced. She’s tough. She’s capable. She’s been an incredible partner to me and a leader for our country. Nowhere else on Earth could a kid with a stutter from modest beginnings in Scranton, Pa., and Claymont, Del., one day sit behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office as president of the United States. But here I am. I hope you have some idea how grateful I am to all of you. The great thing about America is here kings and dictators do not rule. The people do. History is in your hands. The power is in your hands. The idea of America lies in your hands. You just have to keep faith. Keep the faith, and remember who we are. We’re the United States of America. And there is simply nothing, nothing beyond our capacity when we do it together. So let’s act together. Preserve our democracy. God bless you all. And may God protect our troops. Thank you.

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Live news: AI demand propels SK Hynix to highest profit in 6 years

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Live news: AI demand propels SK Hynix to highest profit in 6 years
Shoppers crowd Seoul’s Myeongdong district, but analysts expect South Korean domestic spending to deteriorate © Hon Wah Oong/Dreamstime

South Korea’s economy unexpectedly contracted in the second quarter on cooling consumer spending despite stronger exports, increasing expectations of an interest rate cut in the coming months.

Gross domestic product in the April-June quarter shrank 0.2 per cent from a quarter earlier in seasonally adjusted terms, according to the Bank of Korea, while analysts polled by Reuters forecast a 0.1 per cent rise.

This marks the sharpest contraction in six quarters, following 1.3 per cent growth in the first quarter.

Private consumption fell 0.2 per cent and construction spending dropped 1.1 per cent, while exports rose 0.9 per cent.

Capital Economics expects domestic spending to deteriorate, prompting the Bank of Korea to cut interest rates in October, but cautioned that there was an increased chance of a rate cut in August.  

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