(Current Affairs) India and The World | NOVEMBER : 2017


India- France defence ties

  • India and France decided to expand military cooperation in the strategically key Indo-Pacific region, besides resolving to ramp up the overall defence and security ties.
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her French counterpart, Florence Parly, held extensive talks covering a variety of issues, including the regional security situation, joint development of defence platforms and expansion of military-to-military ties.
  • The two sides also agreed to expand counter-terror cooperation, and said a lot more could be done in the maritime sphere, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, where China was trying to expand its footprint.
  • India had signed a Rs. 58,000-crore deal with France for the supply of 36 Rafale jets last year and the IAF was pitching for procuring another fleet of 36.
  • In a statement, the Defence Ministry said the Ministers reviewed ongoing initiatives to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation further as a key pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries.
  • “Recognising the growing significance of maritime security in the Indo-Pacific and the need for greater maritime domain awareness, India and France will further expand information sharing arrangements,” it said.

Tokyo would call for a quadrilateral dialogue

  • Citing growing international partnerships, India said it was “open” to working with partner countries for regional issues that are “relevant”. The comments from the External Affairs Ministry came after Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono declared in a media interview that Tokyo would call for a quadrilateral dialogue with Australia, India and the U.S.
  • The official indicated that India was not alarmed about the regional situation especially in the context of reports about continued Chinese military build-up in the Doklam region.
  • Dismissing reports of a build-up on the contested plateau, Mr. Kumar said, “I would like to reiterate that there are no new developments at the face-off site and its vicinity since the August 28 disengagement.”
  • The Ministry’s reaction to the quadrilateral came days after the re-election of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, indicating that the new government is expected to push for overhauling of the post-World War strategic doctrine of Japan.
  • However, the comment indicated that such regional partnerships will have to suit Indian interests and said, “As far as we are concerned, we have an open mind to cooperate with countries with convergence but obviously on an agenda which is relevant to us.”
  • Indications of regional partnership between India and Japan came also during Mr Abe’s visit, with both sides indicating willingness to manage the maritime domain from Indian Ocean and the Asia-Pacific zone.

Gulf’s VAT regime to benefit Keralites

  • Beginning New Year’s, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (the UAE), where citizens do not pay personal income tax, will launch a value-added tax (VAT) regime. This is expected to create thousands of jobs in the accounting, auditing, tax consultancy, and tax administration sectors in the two countries for Indians, especially Keralites. Currently, these two countries are home to by far the largest number of Indian expatriate workers in the world.
  • At a time when hundreds of non-resident Indian (NRI) workers are forced to return home every day from these two countries on account of increasing nationalisation of the labour force and the deep slump in oil prices, the potential opening up of new job avenues is a welcome news for Keralites.
  • Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have announced that the VAT regime will begin on January 1, 2018. The tax would be 5%, with a few exceptions of higher rates, in both the countries. Struggling to tide over the oil-price crisis, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (others are: Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) had recently decided to introduce uniform VAT in the countries. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are launching it shortly while others will follow suit later next year.
  • The oil price slump, continuing for over three years, has deeply hurt the Gulf economies that heavily rely on their oil supplies. The oil price, which has fallen by around two thirds, forced some of these countries to run deficit Budgets, and hence look for other sources of revenue.
  • Taxes have been extremely low in the Gulf states and personal income tax is generally unfamiliar to their citizens. Since imposition of personal income tax would require a huge administrative infrastructure, the GCC has opted for the indirect value-added tax.
  • The VAT will throw open new avenues of jobs as it will require a large number of financial-sector professionals to implement. According to one report, the UAE alone will require around 5,000 professionals in accounting, auditing, and tax consultancy immediately. Saudi Arabia might require more.
  • It would be hard for Saudi Arabia, which is on an intense labour market nationalisation drive, and the UAE, which has a small local population, to find such professionals locally. This would mean that trained accounting and auditing professionals from India, especially Kerala, would be recruited. When the other four countries in the GCC too launch the VAT later next year, several thousands more trained professionals would be hired.

‘constructive’ approach for Rohingya issue

  • Seeking a ‘constructive’ approach to dealing with the exodus of the Rohingya, India said that the displaced members of the community will have to return to their place of origin in the Rakhine province of Myanmar.
  • Speaking at a think tank event, on the prospects of India-Japan cooperation in the Bay of Bengal and Asia-Pacific regions, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar highlighted India’s regional humanitarian responsibilities and growing convergence with Tokyo.
  • The exodus of a large number of people from the Rakhine state to Bangladesh is clearly a matter of concern.
  • One of the areas we want to see in the agenda of BIMSTEC is collaboration on the HADR— that, we would like these member countries to cooperate on humanitarian assistance to disaster situation. In the last three years, Nepal earthquake relief, (India’s response to) Yemen civil war, Maldivian water crisis, and even Operation Insaniyat for the Rohingyas are part of cooperation.

Talks on terror to be revived

  • In a surprise move, the Afghanistan Foreign Ministry has announced a revival of the Pakistan-led Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) to bring the Taliban into talks, saying that the next meeting of the group comprising officials from the U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, would be held in Oman, Muscat on October 16.
  • Two topics will be discussed: counter-terrorism, and Pakistan’s honesty in fulfilling its promises that it will make in the presence of China and the U.S. at the meeting. The meeting is also significant for its timing just ahead of the visit of American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who will travel to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India from October 23.
  • Mr. Tillerson is the most senior U.S. State Department official to visit all three countries after the announcement of U.S. President Donald Trump’s new ‘South Asia policy’ for Afghanistan which suggested a tougher line on Pakistan’s support to terror groups, and greater cooperation with India.
  • Both Mr. Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis, who will visit Islamabad shortly after, are expected to convey a “zero tolerance” policy for support to the Haqqani group and other groups targeting Afghan forces.
  • Some say Pakistan’s push to revive the QCG process now may be a reaction to the growing number of strong statements from the U.S. accusing its intelligence agency ISI of supporting terrorism in the neighbourhood.
  • The announcement of the QCG meeting came even as senior MEA officials travelled to Moscow to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s Afghanistan “contact group”, a first for India and Pakistan, who became members of the Russia and China led SCO grouping this year.
  • “India shared its perspectives on the situation in Afghanistan, including terrorism imposed from beyond its borders, the need to strengthen Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, need for an Afghan led and controlled peace and reconciliation process,” the MEA said on Thursday.
  • However, India is not a part of the QCG, and officials said no request had been made to invite India to the revived version.

India planning to enhance infrastructure along Sino-India border

  • The Ministry of Defence has decided to significantly enhance infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border including near Doklam, where the militaries of both sides were engaged in a two-month standoff.
  • The decision was taken at the Army’s commanders conference from October 9 to 15 which extensively deliberated on the recent face-off with China, besides analysing all possible security challenges on the northern border, according to official sources.
  • “It has been decided that there would be a concerted heft towards road construction activities in this sector. To that end four passes to Niti, Lipulekh, Thangla1 and Tsangchokla have been decided to be connected by 2020 on priority,” Director General Staff Duties (DGSD) Vijay Singh said.
  • He said the commanders also examined organisational changes of some of the formations to enhance existing capability, indicating that the Army leadership was looking at bolstering its current operational preparedness.
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also addressed the conference and lauded the swift and effective response of the Army in dealing with external and internal threats.
  • Referring to the government’s ‘Make in India’ programme, Ms. Sitharaman also stressed on the urgent need to become self-reliant in the defence sector.
  • Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Bipin Rawat said the Army will have to be prepared for “all eventualities at all times” and therefore utmost priority has to be given to procurement of arms, ammunition and equipment.

India - U.K.

  • India and Britain hope to agree on concrete measures to take forward their defence partnership by next year, ahead of the next meeting of the two Prime Ministers, India’s Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra said during a three-day visit to the U.K. The meeting of the two leaders is widely expected to take place at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London in April 2018.
  • Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to London in 2015, the two countries agreed to hold regular dialogues, as part of the India-U.K. Defence Consultative Group. Since then, a step change in terms of depth had taken place in cooperation and dialogue in the area, Mr. Mitra said.
  • Mr. Mitra has met with Michael Fallon, who heads the Ministry of Defence, and the department’s Permanent Secretary during his trip which focussed on meetings of the Defence Consultative Group.
  • “The military community dialogue has been going well and there have been a wide range of visits that have been taking place at the level of chief of staff, and senior operatives … we have a road map going and we hope that by the time of the meeting of the Prime Ministers, we will have some meat on this,” he said, adding that talks had ranged from capability development, defence equipment and cybersecurity to counter-terrorism.
  • India has pegged the defence sector as one of the major areas where the bilateral partnership could be expanded around the “Make in India” campaign. During Mr. Modi’s visit in 2015, the two sides agreed to move towards a new Defence and International Security Partnership that would “intensify cooperation on defence and security, including cybersecurity, and maritime security” pushing for joint working in key strategic areas.
  • “We are very keen that U.K. firms participate in our ‘Make in India’ process and in our strategic partnership exercise that we’ve just begun,” the Defence Secretary said.

India-EU talks are low

  • India and the European Union have “failed to live up to their potential”, said German Ambassador Martin Ney, expressing disappointment at the failure of the EU-India summit held in Delhi last week to agree on the resumption of talks on the investment and free trade agreement.
  • There is no decision to resume negotiations on free trade agreement despite the possibility being at hand. There was no such decision taken at the last EU summit in March 2016, and the EU leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to take such a decision during the summit two days ago.
  • Diplomatic officials say the tough comments are a signal of the growing unhappiness among European diplomats over the long period it has taken to get talks on the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), as it is known, back on track after they broke down in 2013.
  • Since then, despite several commitments made by the leaders on the issue, including a statement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in June, there has been no movement towards resuming the talks.
  • Chief negotiators on both sides have met several times both formally and on the sidelines of other summit, and are expected to meet again in November, but diplomats hold that no real progress is yet on the cards
  • There had been some hope the EU-India summit would yield a political decision on resuming the talks, as top leaders Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, met for the summit 18 months after they failed to make a breakthrough in Brussels last year.
  • Commerce Ministry officials have repeatedly said that India is ready to restart talks, but would like to discuss a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement including investment, while the EU is keen to finalise the bilateral investment treaty first, given that India has allowed all its BITs with European countries and others to lapse in the past year.
  • Another point of disagreement has been over whether the talks would begin afresh, or will incorporate decisions from the previous talks that broke after 16 rounds in 2013.

India’s is significant peacekeeper

  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, on a three-day visit to India, held extensive discussions with his counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, for the upcoming inter-governmental commission dialogue between two sides.
  • He briefed Ms. Swaraj on the situation in eastern Ukraine, which has left a part of its eastern province, Donbas, in the hands of the rebels that Kyiv claims are backed by Moscow.
  • India is already a significant peacekeeper in the region and across the globe and could definitely play a similar role in our region,” said Mr. Klimkin.
  • During last month’s debate on reform of global peacekeeping at the UN Security Council, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked the organisation to send a peacekeeping mission that would control the violence, which has intensified in the last few weeks.
  • Mr. Klimkin said discussion on India’s participation in the peacekeeping mission was at a preliminary level and further consultations were needed to fine-tune the composition of the mission. “The recipe is simple — Russia should go out of Ukraine,” he said.
  • He also gave details of bilateral talks on the issue and said “Indian and Ukrainian Permanent Representatives at the UN have already met on this issue and we need to discuss conceptual approach for the mission. After we have convinced Russia on such an approach .. it is highly likely we will come back to our Indian friends”.
  • However, an issue with this peacekeeping mission is the location for the troops. While Ukraine insists that the troops should be stationed at the original Ukraine-Russia border, Russian sources indicated that Moscow would prefer the troops to be placed at the ‘Line of Contact’ between Ukraine and the rebel held territory.

India Bangladesh

Bangladesh signed a $4.5billion loan deal with India for developing its infrastructure, health and education.

The agreement was signed here in the presence of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and his Bangladesh counterpart, A.M.A. Muhith, by Bangladeshi Economic Relations Division Secretary Kazi ShofiqulAzam and Managing Director of the ExportImport Bank of India David Rasquinha.

Mr. Jaitley said 17 development projects had been identified under the deal. Of the total amount, about $500 million will be used for setting up new economic zones for Indian and other investors, said officials of the Finance Ministry and the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority.

Bangladesh will use the funds for 17 priority infrastructure projects, which include electricity, railways, roads, shipping and ports.

As with previous line of credit (LoC) agreements, Bangladesh will pay an interest rate of 1% a year. It will have 20 years to pay back the loans, with a grace period of five years.

Chinese beefed up their presence near Doklam

  • A conclave of Army Commanders next week is set to discuss military preparedness along the China border, amid indications that the Chinese may have beefed up their presence near the Doklam standoff site since the disengagement more than a month ago.
  • According to sources in the Indian security establishment, the Chinese have 1,500 to 1,700 troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) stationed a few hundred metres afrom the standoff site on their side.
  • In the locality, Indian surveillance has also detected new bunkers. The sources said road construction stores that were moved to the area during the Doklam standoff also remain in the area, and some road relaying has been done on the Chinese side not very far from the standoff point.
  • At least a couple of official sources admitted that they were uncomfortable about the Chinese presence and activities on the plateau. “It is not status quo ante,” an official said. “Ideally, they should withdraw the troops and equipment,” he said.
  • The nearest PLA base is at Yatung which has a battalion headquarters with at least 600 soldiers, and is 1213 km away.
  • Meanwhile, Army sources confirmed that the biannual Army Commanders conference, scheduled to be held from October 9 to 14, would be discussing the Chinese posturing and military preparedness along the border.
  • The Indian Army has carried out its own readjustments in the IndiaChinaBhutan trijunction, with forward deployment of T72 tanks and BrahMos missiles among other equipment.
  • The two Armies were engaged in a standoff at Doklam near the trijunction since June 16 after Indian soldiers prevented the Chinese from building a road in the disputed territory. After prolonged diplomatic negotiations, the two sides announced disengagement on August 28 ending the 73day standoff.


  • Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley arrived ahead of India and Bangladesh signing the third line of credit (LoC) agreement involving $4.5 billion to be spent on infrastructure and social sector development.
  • “His visit will be marked by the signing of the deal... that was announced during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s New Delhi visit,” a Bangladesh finance ministry spokesman told reporters.
  • He said two agreements for the implementation of the third LoC and the ‘Joint Interpretative Notes on the Agreement between India and Bangladesh for the Promotion and Protection of Investments’ would also be signed in the presence of Mr. Jaitley and his Bangladesh counterpart A.M.A. Muhith.
  • The two countries signed the first LoC in August 2010. The second one was inked in March, 2016.
  • According to the tour schedule, Mr. Jaitley would call on the Bangladesh premier and inaugurate, along with his counterpart, a new scheme for cashless transactions in visa services run by the State Bank of India on behalf of the Indian High Commission.

China ignores a standard practice

  • India and China may have made peace after the Doklam crisis at the BRICS summit, but suspicions still linger on the ground. China has not invited India for the ceremonial Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to commemorate its National Day on October 1.
  • “It is a standard practice to invite [India]. But we did not get any invitation from China for the BPM this time,” an official source confirmed.
  • This development comes before the crucial National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which is considered very important for President Xi Jinping.
  • The last time a similar incident occurred was on August 15 to commemorate India’s Independence Day at the height of the Doklam stand-off.
  • While India had sent an invitation, China did not respond to it. However, both sides exchanged sweets on that occasion.
  • The two sides ended the stand-off just before the BRICS summit in China, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Jinping held bilateral discussions on the sidelines.
  • Ceremonial BPMs are held on National Days and, usually, the process of inviting and confirming is carried out a couple of days in advance. It is seen as an opportunity for each side to showcase its traditions and cultural diversity to the other.
  • There are five BPM points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at Bum La and Kibithu in Arunachal Pradesh, Daulat Beg Oldi and Chushul in Ladakh, and Nathu La in Sikkim

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