- Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India met H.E. Edward Ssekandi, Vice President of the Republic of Uganda on 25 March, 2013 during his visit to Kampala, Uganda to chair the 22nd Executive Committee Meeting of the Partners in Population & Development (PPD), an alliance of 25 member countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Recalling the close and historical ties between the two countries, both the dignitaries stressed upon the need to further strengthen and deepen bilateral cooperation during the meeting. Hon VP recalled his very recent visit to India, stating that he was very well received there and was able to appreciate the advances made by India in fields such as telecom, petrochemicals and health & medicine. He stated that not only people from Uganda but also from developed countries were now traveling to India for health care. Azad stated that several initiatives had been taken in the recent past in health & medicine and expressed the hope that India and Uganda would be able to collaborate for mutual benefit, especially to further improve maternal and child health. He stated that a large number of Indians were settled in Uganda and were contributing to the economic progress of Uganda. The progressive policies of the Government of Uganda under President Museveni had helped in economic growth of the country. India would be able to assist Uganda in optimum development of its abundant resources, especially in agriculture, agro-processing, hydro-electric power, oil exploration and refineries. Both dignitaries welcomed the opportunities to renew age old relationships, which were multifarious, encompassing political, economic and cultural ties. .
India and Liechtenstein have signed a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) on 28 March at Bern, Switzerland. The Agreement was signed by Ms Chitra Narayanan, Indian Ambassador in Switzerland from Indian side and Madame Doris Frick, Ambassador of Liechtenstein in Switzerland on behalf of Liechtenstein.
Salient features of the agreement (TIEA) with Liechtenstein are
- It is based on international standard of transparency and exchange of information.
- Information must be foreseeable relevant to the administration and enforcement of the domestic laws of the Contracting Parties concerning taxes covered by the agreement.
- There is a specific provision that the requested Party shall use its information gathering measures to obtain the requested information even though that Party may not need such information for its own tax purposes.
- There is a specific provision for providing banking and ownership information.
- It provides for the representatives of the competent authority of the requesting Party to enter the territory of the requested Party to interview individuals and examine records.
- The Agreement has specific provisions for protecting the confidentiality of the information obtained under the Agreement. Information is to be treated as secret and can be disclosed to only specified person or authorities, which are tax authorities or its oversight body. However, the information may be used for other purposes with the express consent of the Competent Authority of the supplying State.
- The Agreement shall enter into force one month from the later of the notification. On entering into force, information can be exchanged if it pertains to taxable periods beginning on or after 1st April, 2013.
- The Agreement provides for the exchange of documents or information created in or derived from a date preceding 1st April, 2013, that are foresee ably relevant to a request relating to tax years beginning on or after 1st April, 2013.
- The Union Minister for Commerce, Industry and Textiles Anand Sharma on 29 March met the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Mr. Morgan Tsvangirai during his visit to Harare for the India-Zimbabwe Joint Trade Committee (JTC) Meeting. Sharma briefed the Zimbabwean Prime Minister on the fruitful discussions held at previous day between the two sides in the JTC meeting. Sharma informed the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe that India has offered various capacity building programmes, including scholarships and dedicated courses in bamboo craft development and handicrafts, that Lines of Credit (LOC) proposals worth USD 400 million from the Zimbabwean side will be considered and Zimbabwe could also avail the ‘Buyers Credit Scheme’ and the ‘pilot 2 % Interest subvention scheme’ for projects in Zimbabwe. Sharma agreed to the request of Mr. Tsvangirai for providing assistance in revival of its textile industry and in developing its nascent diamond industry. The India-Zimbabwe Joint Trade Committee (JTC) meeting was co-chaired by Sharma and the Prof. Welshman Ncube, Minister of Industry and Commerce of Zimbabwe. During the JTC meeting, the two sides reviewed the bilateral trade and investment relations and held discussions on the following areas of cooperation: Textiles Sector, Agro/food Processing Sector, Gems and Jewellery, industrial cluster initiatives, Lines of Credit, capacity building programmes, establishing of Commodity Exchange in Zimbabwe. During the meeting, both the Ministers emphasized that the present levels of bilateral trade and investment were much below the potential. In the year 2012, the India-Zimbabwe bilateral trade was USD 166 million, with balance of trade heavily in favor of India. The Zimbabwean Minister sought investments and technical assistance from India to enable Zimbabwe in revival of its manufacturing sector, and to achieve greater value addition and beneficiation of natural resources, which will also enable Zimbabwe to increase the value of its exports. In his address during the JTC meeting, Sharma announced that India had approved a Line of Credit (LOC) worth USD 28.6 million for Up-gradation of Deka Pumping Station and the River Water Intake System in Zimbabwe. Further, India is actively considering two more LOC proposals received from Zimbabwe, namely, the Rehabilitation of Small Thermal Power Stations and the Gairezi Hydro Electric Project, and Bulawayo Power Station Upgrade Project. Sharma mentioned that India has been engaged in capacity building and human resource development efforts in Zimbabwe and is setting up a Food Testing Laboratory, a Rural Technology Park and a Vocational Training Centre in Zimbabwe under the India-Africa Forum Summit decisions. India has also set up three computer learning stations in Zimbabwe for children in high-density areas. The number of annual scholarships to Zimbabwe under India’s ITEC programme is now more than 250.
- South Australia on 25 March rolled out a 10-year strategy to enhance trade ties with India by holding its first meeting of South Australia-India Council in Adelaide. State Trade Minister Tom Kenyon said the strategy identified key sectors of the economy that could take advantage of India’s rapid development and create local jobs. According to an official statement, “The SA-India Council is holding its first meeting in Adelaide on 25 March as part of the State Government’s long-term strategy to become a significant trade and investment partner with India. The council is being supported by an India team within the Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE).This team will focus on the industry sectors identified in the India strategy – aerospace and defense, energy and natural resources, education and training and clean technology.
- India, Egypt ink 7 pacts and MoUs to boost talks
In a bid to deepen ties and strengthen economic bonds, India and Egypt on 19March signed seven key pacts, including one on cyber security, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi held bilateral talks in New Delhi. The two leaders also agreed to enhance cooperation in defence and at international forums like UN. Underlining that India and Egypt have enormous potential for deepening cooperation across the full spectrum of ties, Singh said economic partnership has “rich possibilities”. ”We agreed that information technology, services, electronics, small and medium enterprises, manufacturing, fertilizers, and renewable energy constitute important areas of cooperation. Egypt’s location, as a bridge between Asia and Africa, astrides a major global trade route and together with its skilled human resources makes it an attractive business destination for India,” he said.
- India and Bhutan on 8 March 2013 signed a currency swap agreement for up to 100 million US dollars to strengthen economic co-operation between both the countries. The currency swap arrangement was signed between the Reserve Bank of India and the Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan (RMAB).The Agreement enables RMAB (Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan) to make withdrawals of US dollar, euro or Indian rupee in multiple tranches up to a maximum of 100 million dollars or its equivalent. The swap agreement is intended to provide a precaution line of funding for SAARC member countries to meet any balance of payments and liquidity crisis till longer term arrangements are made or if there is need for short-term liquidity due to market turbulence. The arrangement would be for a three-year period and would help bring financial stability in the region. Earlier, In May 2012, RBI had announced it would offer swap facilities aggregating 2 billion dollars, both in foreign currency and Indian rupee, to SAARC member countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
- Britain and India on 14 March, have clinched a multi-million-pound agreement to support industry and businesses by working together on the commercialization of research in key areas like energy and healthcare. As part of the deal, Global Innovation and Technology Alliance (GITA) sponsored by the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology and UK’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) will support UK and Indian businesses and academics in joint R&D and innovation projects over a three-year period. “These programmes not only help build and strengthen links between countries but will help build the international partnerships between businesses so vital in today’s global economy,” said Iain Gray, Chief Executive, TSB after signing the ‘Programme of Co-operation’ at the Innovate UK conference in London. Britain’s minister for universities and science, David Willetts was also present at the occasion. The latest agreement is the first-ever international partnership the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), Britain’s government-sponsored innovation agency, has signed outside Europe. GITA, a not-for-profit PPP company, is promoted jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Technology Development Board of the Indian government’s Department of Science and Technology.
- The Foreign Minister of Portugal, Paulo de Sacadura Cabral Portas visited India. This was his first official visit. Paulo de Sacadura Cabral Portas was accompanied by Minister of State for Culture of Portugal and a business delegation. The minister visited Goa and Mumbai with the delegation. During his visit, the Foreign Minister of Portugal held discussions with the India’s External Affairs Minister, Salman Khurshid. India and Portugal discussed bilateral, regional and global issues during the visit. The visit held importance because it would strengthen the friendly ties between India and Portugal.
- India has proposed the idea of a hydrocarbon pipeline with Kazakhstan that would bring fuel through a five-nation route. India unveiled the concept of the pipeline, which in future could be extended to Russia, during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his visiting Kazakh counterpart Erlan Idrissov in New Delhi on 6 March. The two Ministers will revisit the idea when they will meet twice in the coming months — first on the sidelines of the Istanbul process meeting on Afghanistan in Almaty and later during a stand-alone visit by Mr. Khurshid to the Kazakh capital of Astana. The proposed pipeline would cover about 1,500 kms (no study has yet been done), thus making it longer than the planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline which will serve as the role model. It will head from the former Silk Road caravanserai city of Shymkent, known today for oil refining, and enter Uzbekistan. From there it will go to Afghanistan and then follow the route to be taken by the TAPI pipeline into India via Pakistan. Officials said currently most hydrocarbon pipelines from Central Asia are on an east-west axis. This pipeline will, like TAPI, be on a north-south axis, providing a new route to South Asia for hydrocarbons extracted from Central Asia.
- The President of India Pranab Mukherjee and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina on 5 March 2013 jointly inaugurated the locomotives and tank wagons being supplied to Bangladesh under the 800 million US Dollar line of credit that was provided by India. The freight train was inaugurated at Dhaka cantonment railway station. The freight train comprised of twenty broad gauge tank wagons, two locomotives and one brake van. Inauguration of the railway wagons as well as locomotives in Dhaka was a part of the implementation of 14 projects which were approved under the 800 million US dollar credit line provided by India to Bangladesh. Out of the total of 14 projects, 12 are the railway projects . The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee was on a three-day visit to Bangladesh and returned back on 5 March 2013.
- A Social Security Agreement (SSA) was signed between India and Portugal on 4 March 2013 at New Delhi. The agreement was signed by Vayalar Ravi, the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs and Paulo Sacadura Cabral Portas, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs of Portugal. The bilateral social security agreement would help in taking advantage of the emerging employment opportunities and strengthening the trade and investments between the two countries. At present about 75000 Indians are living in Portugal and it includes self-employed people as well as working professionals. India has signed the Social Security Agreement with 17 countries of the world and they are Belgium, Germany (Social Insurance), Hungary, Switzerland, France, The Czech Republic, Republic of Korea, Germany (Comprehensive SSA), Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Japan, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden and Austria.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and UK to strengthen their cooperation in Earth Sciences and environmental research on 1 March 2013 in New Delhi. The MoU will allow the two countries to share information on meteorology, hydrology and climate variability. This MoU will allow the two countries to share information on meteorology, hydrology and climate variability. The MoU will also help in promoting exchange of scientific and technical capabilities. And it will facilitate India and UK to identify new opportunities for collaborative activities as well as co-funding new environmental research. The MoU was signed between the Earth System Science Organisation of the Ministry of Earth Sciences and Natural Environment Research Council of UK. Science and Technology Minister of India, S Jaipal Reddy was also present. The Memorandum of Understanding will help India in improving the forecasting capability of various weather and climate-related phenomena by sharing the expertise and knowledge. This advance forecasting will help people associated with the agriculture sector, which is the main sector of the India’s economy.