::INDIA AND WORLD::
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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
- 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