Current Affairs – November 2012 Bilateral Affairs
- India and Libya on 30 November signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in New Delhi, for cooperation in the field of election management and administration, with Libyan Election Commission seeking training and electoral assistance from Election Commission of India. The MoU was signed by the Chief Election Commissioner of India, V.S. Sampath and the Deputy Chairman of the High National Election Commission of Libya, Mr. Najeeb Abdessalam Mohammed Arrabiti. The major aims of MoU are: promotion of exchanges of knowledge and experience in electoral processes; exchange of information, materials, expertise and training of personnel; production and distribution of materials pertaining to electoral systems, voting technology, voters’ education and awareness, and participation of women and minorities in electoral process. Election Commission of India has so far signed sixteen MOUs with Election Management Bodies and international organizations across the world. Some of the MoU signed recently are with Egypt, Venezuela, Republic of Korea and UNDP.
- A social security agreement between India and Sweden was signed in New Delhi on 26 November. The agreement was signed by Vayalar Ravi, Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs from the Indian side and Mr. Ulf Kristersson, Minister for Social Security of Sweden from Swedish side. Speaking on the occasion, Ravi said this agreement will help both the countries in more investment and work opportunities for nationals of India and Sweden. The Minister said this agreement will encourage more and more Indians to go to Sweden for employment opportunities. Mr. Kristersson said that 156 Swedish companies are operating in India and expressed the hope that this agreement will encourage Swedish people to come in large numbers to India. He said, India is the first Asian countries with which Sweden has signed this type of agreement. The Social Security Agreement will enhance cooperation on social security between the two countries. The Agreement will provide following benefits to Indian nationals working in Sweden: a) For short term contract up to two years, no social contribution would need to be paid under the Swedish law by the detached workers provided they continue to make social security payment in India. b) The above benefits shall be available even when the Indian company sends its employees to Sweden from a third country. c) Indian workers shall be entitled to the export of the social security benefit if they relocate to India after the completion of their service in Sweden. d) The self-employed Indians in Sweden would also be entitled to export of social security benefit of their relocation to India.
There are about 18,000 Overseas Indians in Sweden, most of whom are working as professional and self-employed. However, there is a huge potential for Indian workers to take employment in Sweden owing to the huge labour supply gap in the market. As such, a bilateral Social Security Agreement with Sweden is a significant requirement from the futuristic point of view to take advantage of the emerging employment opportunities and to strengthen the trade and investment between the two countries.India has singed similar agreements with Belgium, Germany, France, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Finland, Canada and Japan.
- India-Maldives Joint Military Training Exercise EKUVERIN 2012 held in Belgaum
The fourth Joint Military Training Exercises between the Indian Army and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) – EKUVERIN 2012 – was held in Belgaum, India from 12 to 25 November 2012. A total of 45 personnel from the MNDF are taking part in the exercises along with the personnel from the Indian Army. The bilateral annual exercises, which commenced in 2009 in Belgaum, are alternately held in India and Maldives. The aim of the exercises is to enhance the close military cooperation between the two countries. In April 2012, both countries, along with Sri Lanka, held joint Coast Guard/Naval exercises – DOSTI XI – off the coast of Male (Maldives) to strengthen the bonds of friendship and enhance mutual operational capability and cooperation in the region.
- The 2nd India-China Strategic economic Dialogue held in New Delhi
The 2nd India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue was held in New Delhi on 26 November, 2012. During the 2nd meeting of the Dialogue, India and China discussed a wide range of topics including greater cooperation at the global level, strengthening communication on macro-economic policies, deepening and expanding trade and investment and promoting bilateral cooperation in the financial and infrastructure sectors. The proposals and recommendations made by the five Working Groups were considered during the 2nd Dialogue and directions given for their future activities.
- A delegation of Saudi – India Business Network (SIBN) which called on the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Dr. S Jagathrakshakan in New Delhi on 22 November,showed keen interest on investing in India and forming joint ventures with Indian companies. The 15 member ISBN delegation was led by its President Dr. Ghazi Binzagar. The Saudi delegation showed particular interest in petroleum, petrochemicals, fertilizers, infrastructure, food processing, health care, herbal and medicinal sectors. Addressing the delegation, Dr Jagathrakshakan detailed the vast investment potential available in India following the spate of new initiatives and liberalization. He said the proposed US $ 750 million Saudi – Indo Investment Fund, jointly set up by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and the Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) will start in the near future. The fund focuses on channelizing Saudi investments into Indian infrastructure projects. The Minister called upon the delegation to utilize the services of ‘India Invest’ a joint venture special purpose vehicle of the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion with FICCI and the State governments. ‘Invest India’ gives a fillip to investment promotion and handholding services to foreign investors particularly to the Small and Marginal Enterprises (SMEs) and family owned overseas enterprises in a structured manner. Dr. Jagathrakshakan also invited the Saudi business community to participate in the oncoming 4th GCC-India Industrial Conference (IGIC) to be held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia from 19th to 21st February 2013.
- India and Israel diplomatic relations were established in 1992. To mark the occasion of 20 years of diplomatic relations, India Post has issued a set of two stamps (Joint Issue-each stamp of Rs. 5 denomination)depicting the festival of lights, Deepavali & Hanukkah, on 5th November, 2012. Hanukkah, is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabeen Revolt of the 2nd century BC. Hanukkah is observed for eight night and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar by lighting candles in windows or doorways on each of the eight nights of Hanukkah. The candles are lit in a unique candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukkah. Like the ‘diyas’ of Deepavali, the Hanukkah candles symbolize the triumph of good over evil and the victory of justice over injustice. The stamps are valid for postal use till the stocks last. India Post Commemorates National and International events by releasing Commemorative and Special Postage Stamps.
- Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad laid the foundation-stone of PPD Secretariat Building in Dhaka on 12 November. Azad is currently on an official tour to Bangladesh capital Dhaka in connection with the International Conference on “Evidence for Action: South-South Collaboration for ICPD beyond 2014” organized jointly by Partners in Population and Development (PPD) and Bangladesh and also for attending PPD governance meetings. Bangladesh is one of the 10 founding members of PPD. It has since 1996 not only been hosting the Secretariat but has also created a conducive environment for seamless functioning of the Secretariat. PPD was created in Cairo in 1994, where during the landmark International Conference on Population and Development, ten developing countries united to establish Partners in Population and Development; a unique inter-governmental organization to facilitate the implementation of the ICPD Program of Action in developing countries through South – South Cooperation. PPD currently serves over 57% of the world population and is a permanent observer to the United Nations. Its membership has grown from 10 founding members in 1994 to 25 member countries in 2012 across the global south. Apart from the Secretariat in Dhaka, Bangladesh, PPD has an Africa Regional Office in Kampala, Uganda and a Programme Office in China.
- Hamid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan paid a state visit to India from 9 November to 13 November 2012 following the invitation of the President of India Pranab Mukherjee. During his India Visit the Afghanistan’s President attended a business meet at Mumbai on 10 November 2012 participated by the business leaders of India. On 12 November 2012, he delivered a Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Memorial lecture that was organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) in New Delhi. The good relations started between the two nations after the two signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement in October 2011 for creation of strong ties between both the nations.
- India and Japan on 16 November inked two strategic agreements including one that will enable Tokyo to import rare earth minerals that is vital for producing a range of high-tech products. The agreements were inked in Tokyo by Japanese foreign minister Koichiro Gemba and India’s ambassador to Japan Deepa Wadhwa. Under the signed agreement, Japan will import over 4,000 tonnes of rare earths a year from India. This is its second deal this month to diversify supply from China for the metals used in mobile phones and hybrid cars to missile guidance systems. Japan has in the past imported all its rare earth requirements from China but has been scouting for alternatives after political turbulence hit its ties with Beijing. With rare earth production at full throttle, India could supply around 4,100 tons annually, equivalent to around 10 percent of Japan’s peak annual demand. The production and exports will be conducted by a joint venture between Japan’s Toyota Tsusho Corp. and India’s state-run Indian Rare Earths Ltd. The other deal is Social Security Agreement which will immediately benefit about 30,000 citizens of both countries. About 22,000 Indians working in Japan and about 8,000 Japanese are employed in India and their social security contributions won’t be deducted in both countries.
- India and Canada agreed on 6 November to boost cooperation in civil nuclear energy, agriculture, information technology and joint research and development in the defense field. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrived India on a six day visit .Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Indian P.M Manmohan Singh felt that “energy cooperation, particularly exports of Canadian oil and natural gas as well as renewable energy cooperation, was an area with enormous potential.”Harper said the two sides welcomed the conclusion of discussions for operationalizing an agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation they signed two years ago.The agreement provides Canada’s nuclear industry access to India’s expanding nuclear market cooperating with Indian civilian nuclear installations under international safeguards.India stressed that cooperation with Canada in the field of agriculture was crucial to its food security as it imported 40 percent of its pulses and 25 per cent of potash requirements from Canada.Indian and Canadian officials signed three agreements for avoidance of double social security contributions by workers and cooperation in the areas of information technology, electronics and joint research and development in the defense field and science and technology.Sources said, Canada is seeking to boost its presence in Asia, and two-way trade touched $5.2 billion last year, up more than 28 percent from 2010. Total Canadian investment in India was estimated about $4.3 billion. Both sides expect the two-way trade to triple to $15 billion by 2015.Canada mainly exports vegetables, fertilizers, machinery and wood pulp, while its main imports from India are organic chemicals, knit and woven apparel, precious stones and metals, electronics and machinery.
- The first ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on cooperation in Renewable Energy was held in the New Delhi on 7 November. Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy while inaugurating the meeting said that this meeting is a unique opportunity to catalize the India-ASEAN Renewable Energy family. He underlined the importance of Renewable Energy in India’s energy security, for achieving its goal of providing reliable energy supply and access through a diverse and sustainable energy mix. He stated that ASEAN member countries and India have several commonalities in their quest for targeting renewable energy. Globally, renewable energy has started making a positive impact on energy supply. The Global Renewable Energy Status Report 2012 reveals that renewable energy has grown to supply 16.7 per cent of the global energy consumption.Dr. Farooq Abdullah stated that today India stands among the top five countries of the world in terms of renewable energy installed capacity and at present renewable power, with over 26 GW installed capacity, represents about 12.5 percent of the total installed power generation capacity in India. He further said that India aims to achieve about 55 GW of renewable power by 2017. Our renewable energy programme is primarily private sector driven and offers significant investment and business opportunities. The Minister informed that the investment in renewable energy in India has now exceeded US $ 10 billion per year. It may be recalled that ASEAN-India partnership has completed 20 years of existance. To celebrate this successful partnership, the Government of India hosted this meeting of the Ministers of Renewable Energy of ASEAN countries and India. The meeting deliberated and discussed the policy and regulatory framework for promotion of renewable energy in ASEAN member countries and India. The issues of financing of renewable energy, cooperation in research and development, technology transfer were some of the issues that came up for discussion. Prior to this meeting, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), organized an ‘ASEAN-India Workshop on Cooperation in Renewable Energy’ of experts and policy planners from ASEAN countries and India on 5-6 November 2012 at Vigyan Bhavan New Delhi.
- India and Malaysia have agreed to promote cooperation in renewable energy, especially in the areas of biomass and biogas, micro hydropower, solar energy and wind power. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to this effect was signed in New Delhi on 8 November. The MoU was signed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy and Data’ Sri Peter Chin Fah Kui, Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water, Malaysia. Both the countries also agreed to form a Joint Working Group for better coordination through joint research on subjects of mutual interest, exchange and training of scientific and technical personnel, exchange of available scientific and technologies information and data, organization of workshops, seminars and working groups, transfer of know-how, technology and equipment, on non-commercial basis etc. Dr. Farooq Abdullah briefed his Malaysian counterpart on the progress made by India in renewable energy with special reference to the National Solar Mission launched in 2010 under the National Action Plan on Climate Change.
- Tourism Ministry reported that, in the month of October, a total number of 1457 (Visa on Arrivals) VoAs were issued under VoA Scheme as compared to 1234 VoAs during October 2011 registering a positive growth of 18.1 %. During the period January-October 2012, a total number of 12273 VoAs were issued as compared to 9739 VoAs during the corresponding period of 2011, registering a growth of 26 %. As a facilitative measure to attract more foreign tourists to India, Government launched a Scheme of “Visa on Arrival” (VoA) in January 2010 for citizens of five countries, viz. Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore, visiting India for tourism purposes. This scheme was extended for the citizens of six more countries, namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Laos and Myanmar from January 2011.
- The Bangladesh Minister of Agriculture, Begum Matia Chowdhury on 7 november, called on the Union Minister of Water Resources, Harish Rawat in New Delhi. During the meeting, discussions were held on matters of common interest including sharing of waters of Teesta and other common rivers, irrigation projects in Bangladesh, Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Project, dredging of rivers and other issues of cooperation. Rawat reiterated India’s commitment on signing the Interim Water Sharing Agreement on river Teesta and stated that India is pursuing the matter with stakeholders rigorously and is hopeful of resolving the issue shortly. Rawat also agreed to Bangladesh’s suggestion to help it build irrigation facilities in the South of Bangladesh. It could also help Bangladesh in conservation of ground water, so as to prevent increasing salinity in the coastal region. On the request of Bangladesh Minister to consider supply of amphibian dredgers, Rawat assured full cooperation and requested that a formal proposal be sent by Bangladesh. Both Ministers also agreed to move ahead and expeditiously resolve other minor issues to benefit people of both countries. Frequent consultations / discussions at various levels between the countries were also emphasized.
- An agreement for loan of US$ 106 million for Phase-I of the World Bank assistance for the “ICDS Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP)” was signed at New Delhi on 5 November between Prabodh Saxena (Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs) on behalf of Government of India and Mr. Onno Ruhl, Country Director, World Bank (India) on behalf of the World Bank. Representatives from Ministry of Women and Child Development and officials from the World Bank, among others, were present. The overarching Goal of the proposed two-phased Program is to improve nutritional outcomes of children in India. The Objective of the Phase-I is to support Government of India and participating states to: 1)Strengthen the Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) policy framework, systems and capacities, and facilitate community engagement, to ensure greater focus on children under three years of age. 2)Strengthen convergent actions for improved nutrition outcomes. The Phase-I of ISSNIP is for 3 years.
- India and Britain on 8 November 2012 decided to step-up cooperation in Cyber Securityduring the Foreign Minister level talks of both the nations. The representatives of both the nations, William Hague the British Foreign Secretary and Salman Khurshid India’s External Affairs Minister after agreeing on the issues of cooperation on cyber crimes, which included cooperation in defining the ways of tackling the cyber crime, bilaterally issued a joint statement on the issues discussed. The London Conference on Cyberspace of 2011 was attended at Ministerial level from the Indian side and following the results of the conference, both the countries started its first dialogue on cooperation in October 2012. India & Britain upgraded the relationship of strategic partnership in the year 2004 and since then the foreign ministers of both the nations have been working on the areas of common interest in the cyber domain. Britain also allowed its citizens to visit Srinagar and Jammu by lifting the ban because of the changed ground realities of the land.
- The Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambram will be arriving in Mexico City, Mexico on 3 November 2012 in order to participate in G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors’ meeting. The Finance Minister along with Governor, RBI D.Subba Rao will attend the session on Global Economy and Framework. On 5 November 2012, the Finance Minister Chidambram along with Governor, RBI and Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance will attend the second session on Financial Regulation and Financial Inclusion, third session on Energy, Commodities and other issues including Climate Finance and Disaster Risk and the last session on International Financial Architecture.
- India and UK signed a Protocol amending the Convention between the Government of India and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect of Taxes on Income and Capital Gains (DTAC). This Protocol amends the earlier Convention that was assigned in New Delhi on 25th January, 1993. The Protocol was signed on 30th October 2012 in London by Dr Jaimini Bhagwati, High Commissioner of India to the UK on behalf of the Government of India and Mr David Gauke MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury on behalf of the Government of UK. The Protocol streamlines the provisions relating to partnership and taxation of dividends in both the countries. Now, benefits of the Convention would also be available to partners of the UK partnerships to the extent income of UK partnership are taxed in their hands. Further, the withholding taxes on the dividends would be 10% or 15% and would be equally applicable in UK and in India. The Convention, as amended by this Protocol, will provide tax stability to the residents of India and U.K. and will facilitate mutual economic cooperation between the two countries. It will also stimulate the flow of investment, technology and services between India and U.K.
- The Government of India is hosting a meeting of the Ministers of Renewable Energy of ASEAN countries and India in New Delhi on 7th November 2012. In the meeting, the Ministers in-charge of Renewable Energy of ASEAN member countries and India would deliberate upon and discuss policy and regulatory framework for promotion of renewable energy in ASEAN member countries and INDIA. Financing of renewable energy, cooperation in research and development, technology transfer and resource assessment would be specific issues that would engage their attention.Prior to the Ministerial level meeting, a two-day workshop on renewable energy of experts and policy planners from ASEAN countries and India is being organized by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Global Innovation Technology Alliance (GITA) and is scheduled in New Delhi on 5-6 November 2012.
- The Finance Minister of India, P. Chidambaram and the Minister of Strategy and Finance of the Republic of Korea, Mr. Jaewan Bahk met in Seoul, South Korea on 2 November, for their 3rd Bilateral Meeting. The two ministers and their delegations discussed a wide range of issues ranging from macro-economic trends and outlook, fiscal cooperation, revision of the Double taxation avoidance convention (DTAC), expanding information sharing between the taxation authorities, cooperation in modernising the customs system of each country, public procurement cooperation and measures to develop co-financing infrastructure projects. The first bilateral meeting of Finance Ministers of India and South Korea was held in Seoul in September 2006 and the second meeting in New Delhi in January 2011.
- India-Korea relations rest on deep historical ties based on a strong foundation of shared cultural heritage, commitment to democracy and desire to establish a long-term cooperative partnership. The cooperation between the two countries covers all areas of bilateral relations, namely political, economic and commercial, defence, information technology, science and technology, cultural exchange, etc. The bilateral meeting between the finance ministers is expected to further strengthen this relationship, increase mutual cooperation, and lead to increased investment opportunities in the two countries.
- Agriculture and Food Processing Industries Minister, Sharad Pawar is to inaugurate a world-class institution in food processing sector – called NIFTEM – at kundli, Haryana, on 7th November. Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and a number of Union and State Ministers will be present at the inaugural function.NIFTEM or the National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management has been conferred Deemed University status. The institute has begun its first academic session this summer. It will confer B. Tech. (Food Technology and Management), M. Tech. and Ph. D. in the area of Food Technology and Management. One important aspect of its functioning is that it has ‘theme centres’ on different sectors such as dairying, cereal-based products, animal protein, beverages, confectionery, and fruit and vegetable based foods. There are also themes cutting across these sectors, e.g. management, packaging, food standards and testing.
- With India and China set to hold their annual Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED) in New Delhi in the last week of November, both countries this week launched a renewed push to address a ballooning trade deficit which, officials say, is beginning to increasingly strain the trade relationship. While bilateral trade has soared from a few billion dollars to $74 billion last year — when China became India’s biggest trade partner — the trade imbalance has widened rapidly, reaching $27 billion in 2011.