Following are the top foreign stories at 2000 hrs

·4-min read

FGN36 PAK-3RDLD PEARL Pak SC orders release of prime suspect in Daniel Pearl murder Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed appeals against the acquittal of British-born al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh in the sensational kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl in 2002 and ordered his release, a judgement denounced by the American journalist's family as 'a complete travesty of justice.' FGN38 IMF-INDIA India needs bold, multifaceted policy response to secure robust economic recovery: IMF Washington: India must ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic is well contained and the distribution and rollout of vaccines are well managed if it wants to achieve a double-digit growth rate for the next fiscal year, the IMF said on Thursday, insisting that securing a robust and sustained economic recovery will require a bold and multifaceted policy response.

FGN27 CHINA-UNSC-INDIA China for 'package solution' for UNSC permanent membership reforms Beijing: China, which has been blocking India’s efforts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has called for evolving a “package solution” acceptable to all UN members to reform the top global governing body.

FGN41 CHINA-WHO-LD TEAM China warns against presumptions over COVID-19 origin as WHO experts begin probe in Wuhan Beijing/Wuhan: An assertive China cautioned against negative speculation and politicised interpretations over the origin of the coronavirus to Wuhan, as a WHO team of experts stepped out of their hotel on Thursday ending their two-week quarantine to make field visits in the central Chinese city, where COVID-19 first emerged in 2019.

FGN2 US-SULLIVAN-DOVAL Sullivan dials Indian NSA Doval, reaffirms commitment for strong, enduring relations Washington: America’s new National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in his first call with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Wednesday reaffirmed the commitment of President Joe Biden to a strong and enduring bilateral strategic partnership based on a shared commitment to democracy, the White House said.

FGN17 US-BIDEN-H4 Biden admin withdraws move to rescind work authorisation for H-1B spouses Washington: A week after his inauguration, US President Joe Biden has withdrawn a Trump-era rule rescinding work authorisation for H4 visa holders, who are spouses of those possessing H-1B work visas, with the majority being highly-skilled Indian women.

FGN30 US-INDIAN-LD HOSTAGE Indian-origin pediatrician fatally shoots another doctor, himself after taking hostages in Texas Houston: A 43-year-old Indian-American pediatrician diagnosed with terminal cancer shot dead a lady doctor and then killed himself after taking hostages at a medical office in Austin, according to police in the capital city of the US state of Texas.

FGN42 LANKA-INDIA-LD VACCINE Sri Lanka President Rajapaksa receives 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine gifted by India Colombo: Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday thanked India for its generosity after he received 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccine donated by the country under the 'Neighbourhood First' policy.

FGN10 US-INDIA-UN-SECURITY COUNCIL India’s bid for permanent UNSC membership matter of discussion: Linda Thomas-Greenfield Washington: US President Joe Biden’s pick for the ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Wednesday did not explicitly commit the support of the new administration for India to be a permanent member of the Security Council.

FGN31 AUS-INDIA-TRADE India could be next big trade market for Australian exporters: Trade Minister Tehan Melbourne: India could emerge as the next big trade market for Australian exporters, the country's trade minister has said, after China imposed heavy tariffs and sanctions on several Australian export commodities amidst a strain in relations with Beijing.

FGN18 VIRUS-IMF-GOPINATH Improve health system, enhance global cooperation to tackle Covid-like crisis in future: Gopinath Washington: As the world gradually makes its way out of the coronavirus crisis, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath has said that countries should work on their health system and be ready to provide timely assistance to impacted segments of the society in addition to enhanced global cooperation to be better prepared for addressing such a challenge next time.

FGN13 US-KERRY-CHINA-CLIMATE US rules out any compromise with China on IP, SCS for climate change Washington: The Biden administration has ruled out any compromise with China on issues like theft of intellectual property and the South China Sea for arriving at a deal on the existential issue of climate change.

FGN28 PAK-BASMATI Pakistan gets Geographical Indicator tag for its Basmati rice Islamabad: Pakistan has received the Geographical Indicator (GI) tag for its Basmati, paving the way for creating a local registry for the particular strain of rice and making a case in the international market, as the country fights a case in the EU against India's move to get Basmati rice registered as its product.

FGN19 UN-BIDEN-CHINA Biden's pick for UN amb calls China strategic adversary, vows to push against its influence in UNSC New York: President Joe Biden's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield has described China as a “strategic adversary” and a “threat” to its neighbours, asserting that her highest priority will be to push against Chinese influence in the Security Council. PTI TEAM NSA