Current Affairs – August 2012 Bilateral Affairs
- India and China, on 27 August agreed to set up a joint working group (JWG) to look into not only trade-related issues but also investments. The working group is expected to come out with a report within 90 days. The decision to set up the JWG was taken at the meeting of India-China Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science and Technology in New Delhi on 27 August 2012 .The working group is set up even as India has expressed serious concerns over the widening trade deficit with its neighbour and sought a correction. On its part, China expressed serious concern over the imposition of duty on import of power equipment by New Delhi. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said after the meeting, both countries had also agreed to work on a five-year plan on economic cooperation. His China’s counterpart, Mr. Chen Deming said, in times of global economic crisis, there was a need for strengthening India-China economic relationship. He also expressed the hope that bilateral trade would hit the target of $100 billion by 2015. The total bilateral trade between India and China for 2011-12, stood at 75457.42 million dollar as compared with 59000.36 million dollar in 2010-11. During 2011-12, the exports were 17902.98 million dollar while the imports stood at 57554.44 million dollar. The provisional trade deficit for 2011-12 was 39651.46 million dollar. The Joint Group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science & Technology was formed in 1988 when then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing.
- India and Belgium on 8 August decided to cooperate in the railway sector. A MoU was signed for this purpose in the presence of visiting Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders, who also holds the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs. Speaking on the occasion, Minister of External Affairs SM Krishna said India wanted to collaborate with Belgium in newer areas, particularly in infrastructure and energy sector, including port development, renewable energy, both solar and wind power. He said his discussions with Mr Reyders touched the entire gamut of their bilateral relations and touched on their cooperation in further strengthening the strategic partnership with the European Union. They took note of the fact that despite global economic slowdown, there was substantial increase in their bilateral trade, which has now crossed the 13 billion Euro mark in 2011. Belgium has now emerged as the second largest trading partner in goods sector within the European Union.
- On the sidelines of the First India-CELAC Foreign Ministers Troika Meeting in New Delhi on August 7, 2012, Vice Foreign Minister of Cuba ,Mr. Rogelio Sierra Diaz, met with External Affairs of India, S.M. Krishna. During the meeting, both sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction. Both sides reiterated their desire to sustain and consolidate these relations. Both sides noted that the total bilateral trade of US$ 40 million between India and Cuba did not correspond to the excellent bilateral ties. They emphasized that the trade turnover should be enhanced through concerted efforts and underlined that new opportunities for cooperation existed in the area of trade and investment. The Cuban side appreciated the importance of the role played by the Indian Company OVL (ONGC Videsh Ltd.) in the field of petroleum exploration in Cuba and sought OVL’s continued engagement in Cuba in this area. The Indian side reiterated its offer of Lines of Credit announced during the visit of its Minister of External Affairs to Cuba in June 2012. India and Cuba agreed on the need for the reform of the United Nations Organisation. The Indian side appreciated Cuba’s expression of support to India’s candidature for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. Both sides emphasised the continued relevance of the Non-Aligned Movement in the current context of global relations and agreed to work towards the success of the forthcoming NAM Summit in Tehran. India and Cuba expressed appreciation over the importance and significance of the First India-CELAC Troika Ministerial Dialogue and recalled the considerable opportunities available for mutually beneficial cooperation between India and CELAC both in a multilateral manner and bilaterally.
- The first meeting of the India-CELAC (The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Troika foreign ministers was held in New Delhi on 7 August 2012. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile Alfredo Moreno Charme, the pro-tempore President of CELAC, led the CELAC Troika. The Foreign Minister of Venezuela Nicolas Maduro and the Vice Foreign Minister of Cuba, Rogelio Sierra participated in the meeting as members of the Troika. The External Affairs Minister of India, SM Krishna, led the Indian delegation. The meeting was held with the objective of strengthening India-CELAC relationship India and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean countries (CELAC) agreed to work for raising their relationship to the level of Strategic Partnership and having regular Summit Level Meetings in the near future. Pending an agreement on full-fledged Strategic Partnership, both sides agreed to cooperate in diverse sectors like trade and investment, energy, minerals, agriculture, science and technology, culture, education and people-to-people contacts. They agreed to work together on common global challenges in the interest of developing countries by maintaining coordinated approach on UN reforms, financial crisis, climate change and international terrorism. They urged the international community to adopt a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the earliest. Both sides acknowledged the efforts of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) for a renewed political commitment towards Sustainable Development to achieve poverty eradication through a balanced integration of economic, social and environmental aspects.
- Giving a big boost to trade and bilateral relations with Pakistan, the Government of India on 1 August , notified law permitting investments by citizens and companies, under the government route, in sectors/activities other than defence, space and atomic energy, of the neighbouring country. The move is likely to give new direction to South Asian economic integration. Pakistan was the only country in the negative list under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which prohibits investments in India. Sri Lanka was removed from the list in 2006 and Bangladesh in 2007. The initiative is part of a road map drawn by Trade Ministers and leading chambers of commerce of the two countries to give a fillip to trade and economic engagement. Officials in the Industry Ministry said that to address security concerns over investments from Pakistan, FDI proposals from Islamabad would be routed through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), which is headed by the Economic Affairs Secretary in the Finance Ministry.
- India and Israel on 2 August, entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for launching a programme that would promote collaborative research across a wide range of disciplines from medical and information technology to social sciences, humanities and arts. The programme, which will run for five years, will provide support up to $1,00,000 a research project for three years. The MoU was signed by Professor Geiger Chairman of the Israel Science Foundation and Chairman of University Grants Commission Ved Prakash. After the signing ceremony, Israeli Ambassador Alon Ushpiz noted that both nations hosted some of the best academic institutions. “The linking of our researchers together comes only naturally,” he said. The programme was initiated during a recent visit of Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal to Israel, when he met with Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Chairman of Planning and Budgeting Committee Manuel Trajtenberg.
- India, on 2 August, invited Belgium to invest in the upcoming national manufacturing and investments zones (NMIZs) with a focused approach in energy, water disposal as well as treatment, and research and training. This was conveyed to the visiting Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs, Didier Reynders, by Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, during his meeting in New Delhi. An official statement issued after the meeting said the visiting Belgian Minister offered expertise in water treatment, waste disposal and energy sector which would be useful in NMIZs .NMIZs will be mega industrial zones with world-class supporting infrastructure.The government is offering incentives such as exemption from capital gains tax and a liberalised labour and environment norms to promote these zones.