Current Affairs – December 2012 Bilateral Affairs
- Defence deals worth around $4 billion (Rs 22,000 crore) were among 10 key pacts inked on 24 December, between India and Russia after comprehensive talks including on differences over $3 billion investment by Russian telecom major Sistema, whose license was cancelled. Visited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh undertook an extensive review of bilateral cooperation, especially in the field of nuclear energy and discussed ways to expedite an agreement for nuclear reactor 3 and 4 at Kudankulam. All key bilateral issues, including defence, space, trade and investment, science and technology, education, culture and tourism were discussed in the meeting which also witnessed Russians raising their concerns over the issue of Sistema.Sistema, with investment of $3.1 billion, has 56.68% stake in Shyam Sistema Teleservices (SSTL) whose 21 out of 22 licences were cancelled by the Supreme Court on February 2 as irregularities were found in their allocation. About their discussions on regional and international issues, P.M Manmohan Singh said, “India and Russia share the objective of a stable, united, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan, free from extremism, terrorism and external interference. We reviewed the ongoing developments in Afghanistan, and agreed to work together against threats posed by extremist ideologies and drug trafficking. “The pacts include Foreign Office consultations protocol, cultural exchanges, science, technology and innovation, telecommunications; financing of projects and promoting investments which envisages investments up to $2 billion in important bilateral projects or companies, privatisation and other opportunities. The defence deals include contract for delivery of 71 Mi -17V-5 helicopters and contract for delivery of 42 technological kits for SU-30MKI aircraft licenced production. The leaders also expressed satisfaction at the improved bilateral trade during 2011 and 2012 and agreed to enhance efforts to achieve the target of $20 billion bilateral trade by 2015. India welcomed Russia’s recent accession to the WTO and both sides agreed that it provided further opportunities to augment bilateral trade and investment and business-to- business linkages.
- The much awaited Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in investments and services was finalised between India and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 20 December 2012. The actions would be beneficial in enhancing the trade to around 100 billion dollar by 2015. Also, it will help in enhancing the economic ties.FTA in the goods was operationalised in 2011 and since then both the sides were busy in widening the pact by also including investments and services. Trade between the two sides is at present 80 billion dollar. India’s Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh declared that after implementation of FTA in the goods, the trade between the two sides increased by 41 percent in the year 2011-2012. Manmohan Singh announced at the summit that two-way flows in terms of investment grew rapidly and reached the mark of 43 billion dollar over last 10 years. Because the investments through ASEAN in India grew, therefore the ASEAN countries also emerged as lucrative destination for the Indian companies. The agreement would create new pathways for greater economic integration. Post, FTA in investments and services, India was also planning to hold market opening negotiations like these with other members of the group. FTA was already implemented with Malaysia and Singapore. Negotiations with Thailand and Indonesia were still on its way. Final legal paper work on investment and services pact would be given a concrete shape by February 2013. Signing of the agreement would take place in August 2013.
- India and Ukraine have agreed to forge a comprehensive partnership and have identified areas for commercial ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced on 10 December. Addressing the media after a meeting with visiting Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, the Prime Minister said that they had identified a number of areas such as fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, information technology, mining and heavy machinery for special attention. The Prime Minister also conveyed to Yanukovych, India’s interest in visa arrangements to facilitate travel by businessmen, professionals, students and people. The two countries signed five documents during the visit, including an agreement on co-operation in defence. The agreement will provide the framework for expanding military technical co-operation on an institutionalised basis. An agreement was also signed between the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board and the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspector of Ukraine for exchange of technical information and co-operation on nuclear safety and radiation protection. The agreement envisages co-operation in some important regulatory activities including legislative regulations, safety guides and technical criteria on nuclear safety, design, construction, operation decommissioning of nuclear facilities waste management and environmental impact, among others.
- India and Pakistan jointly operationalized the new Visa Agreement on 14 December 2012 in New Delhi during the visit of Pakistan interior minister A. Rehman Malik to India. However, the Visa-on-Arrival will come into effect from 15 January 2013 and the Group Tourist Visa from 15 March 2013. Government of India and the Government of Pakistan had signed on 8 September 2012, a new Visa Agreement to facilitate travel for the citizens of both countries desirous of travelling to the other country and to promote people to people contact.Main features of the India-Pakistan new Visa Agreement are as following:1)Places of visit allowable increased from three to five places 2)In exceptional cases visitor visa for one year could be issued in the past. 3)Exemption from Police Reporting for Business visa granted to businessmen with an annual income above Pak Rs. 5 million or equivalent or annual turnover above Pak 30 million rupees or equivalent.4)Group Tourist Visa for 30 days may be issued for travel in groups, with not less than 10 members and not more than 50 members in each group, organized by approved tour operators/travel agents (effective from 15 March 2013).
- A delegation led by Dr. Lee Ju-ho, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Republic of Korea met Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development, in New Delhi on 12 December.Both leaders appreciated the ongoing cooperation between the two countries in the field of education and discussed the need to have more arrangements for cooperation in the field of education and research. Both sides appreciated the existing collaborations between the Universities from both the countries and highlighted the need for more collaborations in the areas of scientific research as well as research in social sciences and humanities. A Memorandum of Understanding on Educational Cooperation between the two countries was also signed during the meeting. Both the countries agreed to cooperate in education in different fields through Exchange of scholars, teachers, researchers ; organization of training programmes for teaching professionals; facilitating mutual recognition of educational qualifications; exchange of academic scholarships for higher education; organization of seminars; promotion of languages of both the countries and application of Information Technology and open educational education resources. It was also agreed to form a Joint Working Group (JWG) to monitor the implementation of the programmes envisaged in the MoU.
- India and Japan on 4 December, signed a currency swap agreement for up to USD 15 billion to address short-term liquidity problems. The bilateral swap arrangement (BSA) between the Reserve Bank of India and the Bank of Japan enables both countries to swap their local currencies either Japanese yen or Indian rupee against US dollar for an amount up to USD 15 billion. “The arrangement aims at addressing short-term liquidity difficulties and supplementing the existing international financial arrangements, as one of the efforts in strengthening mutual cooperation between Japan and India,” RBI said in a statement. The arrangement to be effective from December 4, 2012 would be for a three year period. Earlier, both countries had a similar arrangement for an amount of up to USD 3 billion for a period of 3 years between June 2008 and June 2011. The arrangement was signed by RBI Governor D Subbarao and Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa.
- The Minister for Human Resource Development Dr M M Pallam Raju has announced the Ministry’s ‘in-principle’ approval for setting up the Indira Gandhi Centre for Sustainable Development at the Somerville College, University of Oxford. The Minister said this after discussions with a delegation led by Dr. Alice Prochaska, Principal, Somerville College in New Delhi on 7 december. An Inter-Ministerial Committee is already in place to discuss the proposal.Somerville College, University of Oxford had submitted a proposal to establish the centre. The institution is a constituent college of University of Oxford and is Smt. Indira Gandhi’s alma mater. The Indira Gandhi Centre will honour the late Indian Prime Minister’s legacy to the world by addressing key issues of sustainable development and will result in building up India’s intellectual capital and expertise in the area. The proposed Centre will enhance scholarship opportunities at Oxford for the bright and talented students from India in the field of sustainable development. It will invest in intellectual capital and build a platform for strengthening partnerships with Indian scholars and leading institutions thereby creating a community of alumni engaged in lifelong learning. The Centre is aimed at having a transformational impact on the lives of future leaders, who will help to direct a new paradigm of Sustainable Development in India and beyond.