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India, Krygyz Republic raise ties to strategic partnership

India and Kyrgyz Republic on Friday raised their bilateral relationship to level of a "strategic partnership" and signed a slew of agreements including on a bilateral investment treaty.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the President Sooronbay Jeenbekov of Kyrgyz Republic, in Bishkek on June 14, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting the President Sooronbay Jeenbekov of Kyrgyz Republic, in Bishkek on June 14, 2019.
India and Kyrgyz Republic on Friday raised their bilateral relationship to the level of a "strategic partnership" and signed a slew of agreements including on a bilateral investment treaty.
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who attended the SCO summit here, later held bilateral talks with Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov -- who had come to India to attend the swearing-in of Modi for his second term -- and said that there was immense scope in their bilateral relationship. 
 
"We have decided to take our bilateral relations to the level of strategic partnership. This will help us for long-term cooperation in every field of our partnership," he said, adding that the two countries have decided to set up a joint working group to boost defence cooperation. 
 
He also said that 2021 will be observed as friendship year between the two countries. 
 
"We have agreed on a roadmap for five years on trade and economic cooperation. We will hold 'Namaskar Eurasia' trade show in Bishkek," Modi said and urged Indian companies and investors to explore areas such as medicine, textiles, railway, hydro power, mining, minerals and tourism in the Central Asian country. 
 
He also announced a $200 million concessional Line of Credit to meet development needs of the Kyrgyz Republic. 
 
Modi also addressed the first India-Kyrgyzstan Business Forum meeting and said the world economy was transforming fast and growth of a big economy like India and its technological progress was a big factor for stability and hope in the world. 
 
He said there were three catalysts to promote trade and investment -- right atmosphere, connectivity and business-to-business exchange. 
 
Connectivity was also important to ease trade, he said, noting that Chabahar port has emerged as a new link between India and Afghanistan. "We will have to give more attention to connectivity between Central Asia and India," he said. 
 
Among the agreements signed were an MoU for cooperation between the National Security Council Secretariat of India and Office of the Security Council of the Kyrgyz Republic and a Protocol to Amend Article 26 of the India-Kyrgyzstan Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA).
 
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Countries supporting terrorism should be held responsible: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday made a veiled attack on Pakistan and said that countries that support, encourage or provide finance to terrorism should be held responsible for their activities.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the delegation=-level meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic on June 14, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the delegation=-level meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit, in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic on June 14, 2019.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday made a veiled attack on Pakistan and said that countries that support, encourage or provide finance to terrorism should be held responsible for their activities.
 
Addressing the SCO summit here, Modi said the vision of its member-countries was to strengthen healthy cooperation in the region and the word 'HEALTH' created a good template.
 
He explained that in the word "HEALTH", 'H' stood for Healthcare Cooperation, 'E' for Economic Cooperation, 'A' for Alternate Energy, 'L' for Literature and Culture, 'T' for a terrorism-free society and 'H' for Humanitarian Cooperation.
 
Modi said during his visit to a terror-hit site in Sri Lanka earlier this month, he saw the evil face of terrorism which manifested itself anywhere and took lives of innocent people.
 
"To deal with this, all humanitarian forces should come out of their narrow concerns and get united. It is vital to hold responsible, countries that encourage, support or finance terrorism. SCO countries should use the possibility of cooperation under SCO-RATS (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure) to eliminate terrorism. India calls for an international conference to deal with terrorism," he said.
 
Modi said that India had extended constructive cooperation to all activities of SCO and kept up its engagements to increase the role of the organisation in the international arena.
 
IANS
 

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12 Indians among 17 people killed in horrific bus accident in Dubai

Twelve Indians were among 17 people who died when a bus carrying tourists returning from a break in Oman after the Eid holidays met with a horrific accident here on Thursday evening, official sources said.
Twelve Indians were among 17 people who died when a bus carrying tourists returning from a break in Oman after the Eid holidays met with a horrific accident here on Thursday evening, official sources said.
 
At least five others suffered injuries in the mishap, which occurred around 6 pm near the Rashidiya exit on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road in Dubai.
 
The bus, which was carrying 31 people, overran a traffic signal and crashed into a height barrier on a road that was not meant for buses near a Metro station. The victims belonged to different nationalities but full details were not immediately available.
 
The injured were rushed to the Rashid Hospital here. The bodies of the deceased passengers were also taken to the hospital, the sources said.
 
"With great sadness, we inform that Indian fatalities in Dubai bus accident have gone up to 12. Our officers are at Rashidiya police station and mortuary to extend all assistance. Our effort now is to get formalities completed soon so that mortal remains can be repatriated soon," Consul General of India Vipul said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
A statement from the consulate said that local authorities and relatives of the victims had confirmed that 12 Indians had died in the accident.
 
Officials of the consulate were in touch with the relatives of the deceased as well as the local authorities.
 
According to the consulate, the names of those who died in the accident are: Vikram Jawahar Thakur, Vimal Kumar Karthikeyan Kesavapilaikar, Kiran Johny Vallithottathil Paily, Firoz Khan Aziz Pathan, Reshma Firoz Khan Aziz Pathan, Ummer Chonokatavath Mammad Puthen, Nabil Ummer Chonokatavath, Vasudev Vishandas, Rajan Puthiyapurayil Gopalan, Jamaludeen Muhamedunni Jamaludeen, Prabula Madhavan Deepa Kumar and Roshni Moolchandani.
 
"The police authorities have said that there are still some unidentified bodies and the number of Indians who died could increase further," the statement said.
 
"Our Consulate expresses sincere condolences to the families of those who passed away in this tragic accident. CG along with other officials and community members met the concerned relatives as well as hospital and police authorities late in the night to assure them of all help," the consulate had said earlier on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
Four Indians had been discharged from hospital after receiving first aid for minor injuries.
 
Local newspapers reported that the bus crashed into a height barrier, which cut into the left side of the bus, killing passengers sitting on that side.
 
Senior police and other government officials rushed to the scene of the accident to oversee the rescue and relief efforts.
 
Meanwhile, Mwasalat, the Omani company that operates the bus service, said it had temporarily suspended its services on the Muscat-Dubai-Dubai route.
 
The Dubai authorities are carrying out investigations to establish the cause of the mishap.
 
Vipul said repatriation of the bodies of the Indians who died in the mishap was expected to begin in a day or two. "Our teams have been working with the respective Dubai government departments to ensure paperwork is completed as soon as possible," he told the Dubai-based English language newspaper Khaleej Times.
 
"Our officers are posted at Al Baraha Hospital and Al Rashidiya Police Station. Once death certificates are issued, the bodies will be sent for embalming and other procedures," he said. 
 
Social worker Naseer Vatanappally is working with the consulate to complete formalities relating to issue of death certificates, the newspaper said.
 
Friends and relatives of the victims were seen gathered at the hospital and outside the Al Rashidiya Police Station.
 
Jamaludeen, one of the victims, was working for a local media company. He had travelled to Oman to visit a friend during the holidays.
 
Vikram, another Indian  who died, was working for UAE telecom company Etisalat. His wife Manisha went into a state of shock when she heard of her husband's death.
 
Ummer, 65 and his son Nabeel, 25, were two other Indians who died in the mishap. Ummer had travelled to Oman with his son to meet his daughter, who lives in Muscat.
 
"They were on their way back from Muscat after celebrating Eid with them. My uncle has had a business here for many years," Ummer's nephew told Khaleej Times.
 
Dubai Police expressed its condolences on Twitter, "The General Directorate of Dubai Police extends its sincere condolences to the families of the deceased who were involved in a bus crash at Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, which killed 17 passengers," it said.
 
India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar expressed grief over the tragedy. "Deeply grieved by the unfortunate bus accident in Dubai that has claimed 12 Indian lives. My sincere condolences to the families. Our Consulate is extending all help," he said on Twitter.
 
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Sri Lanka bombings toll rises to 290; 24 suspects arrested

With the death toll in the deadly Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka increasing to 290, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on Monday confirmed that 24 people have been arrested for their involvement in the island's bloodiest attacks in a decade.
 
Sri Lanka bombings death toll passes 200
With the death toll in the deadly Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka increasing to 290, police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera on Monday confirmed that 24 people have been arrested for their involvement in the island's bloodiest attacks in a decade.
 
Gunasekera confirmed the toll and the arrests to the media here. He also added that 500 people were injured.
 
The Sunday night toll was at 207, which was revised as more bodies were recovered and some more succumbed to their injuries, the Guardian reported. 
 
Gunasekara said that the police has seized a van and its driver who is suspected of transporting the suspects into Colombo and also raided a safe house used by the attackers. 
 
No group has yet claimed direct responsibility for the eight bombings that ripped through churches and hotels, mostly in the capital Colombo, on Sunday -- the bloodiest day in  the island antion since the civil war ended a decade ago.
 
Four Indians, two of them women. were among the dead while some others had a narrow escape.
 
Sri Lanka declared a nationwide curfew and placed curbs on social media to kill fake news after the suicide bombers carried out the string of well-planned explosions targeting luxury hotels and Catholic churches in Colombo and elsewhere, triggering international outrage.
 
The first of the eight blasts took place in the morning in three luxury hotels in the heart of Colombo and in a church each in Colombo, Negombo, 30 km from here, and in the Tamil-majority Batticaloa town in the island's east that was once a Tamil Tiger stronghold.
 
In the afternoon, another blast hit a guest house near the zoo in Dehiwala in Colombo, killing two persons, and a housing complex at Dematogoda in the city leaving three policemen dead.
 
A total of 27 foreigners, including four Indians and also people from Turkey, the US, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and China, perished in the mayhem. 
 
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, quoting official reports from Colombo, identified the Indians as Lakshmi, Narayan Chandrashekhar and Ramesh. 
 
The fourth was a Kerala woman holidaying in Colombo. P.S. Razeena, 58, had arrived there along with her husband to meet their relatives engaged in business there and was staying at one of the three hotels targeted by suicide bombers.
 
Razeena and her husband, who hail from Kerala's Kasargode, lived in Dubai. 
 
Many Indians, including noted Indian Tamil actress Radikaa Sarathkumar and a party of businessmen from Andhra Pradesh's Anantpur, had a narrow escape. Radikaa tweeted that she was staying at the Cinnamon Grand, located near the official residence of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister, and had just left it prior to the blast there. 
 
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Officials and survivors painted a horrific picture of what happened.
 
Kieran Arasaratnam, who was staying in the Shangri-La, one of the three hotels, said he heard what sounded like a "thunder", forcing him to sprint all the way down from the 17th floor, BBC reported.
 
He saw the second floor restaurant gutted and realized he was alive only because he delayed his breakfast.
 
In Cinnamon Grand, survivors said that a suicide bomber had joined the line at the breakfast buffet and detonate the explosives.
 
Member of European Parliament, Nirj Deva said he had just arrived at one of the hotels after the blast and saw scenes of carnage all around.
 
The bloodbath started around 8.30 a.m. at the St Anthony's Shrine at Kochchikade in Colombo during Easter Mass where one man said he heard a booming explosion and saw virtually the whole roof come crashing down. "We just ran," he told the media.
 
The other places hit were St Sebastian's Church in Negombo, the Zion Church in Batticaloa, 250 km east of Colombo, and the Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury Hotels.
 
Photos and videos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost fully blown away in the blast. The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood, media reports said.
 
Many people could be seen covered in blood. Some helped those with more serious injuries. Ambulances, their sirens wailing, rushed the dead and seriously injured to hospitals -- once a familiar sight in Colombo.
 
IANS
 

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Trump announces intent to end preferential trade treatment for India

United States President Donald Trump on Monday announced his intent to terminate the designation of India as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preference program.
File photo of United States President Donald Trump
File photo of United States President Donald Trump
United States President Donald Trump on Monday announced his intent to terminate the designation of India as a beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preference (GSP) program.
 
"I am taking this step because, after intensive engagement between the United States and the Government of India, I have determined that India has not assured the United States that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to the markets of India as set forth in section 502(c) (4) of the Trade Act (19 U.S.C. 2462(c)4)," Trump said in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.
 
"I will continue to assess whether the Government of India is providing equitable and reasonable access to its markets, in accordance with the GSP eligibility criteria," he said.
 
The decision was announced in a statement by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).
 
"At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced today that the United States intends to terminate India’s and Turkey’s designations as beneficiary developing countries under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program because they no longer comply with the statutory eligibility criteria," it said.
 
"India’s termination from GSP follows its failure to provide the United States with assurances that it will provide equitable and reasonable access to its markets in numerous sectors.  Turkey’s termination from GSP follows a finding that it is sufficiently economically developed and should no longer benefit from preferential market access to the United States market.
 
"By statute, these changes may not take effect until at least 60 days after the notifications to Congress and the governments of India and Turkey, and will be enacted by a Presidential Proclamation," it said.
 
Under the United States GSP program, certain products can enter the United States duty-free if beneficiary developing countries meet the eligibility criteria established by Congress.  GSP criteria include, among others, respecting arbitral awards in favor of United States citizens or corporations, combating child labor, respecting internationally recognized worker rights, providing adequate and effective intellectual property protection, and providing the United States with equitable and reasonable market access.  
 
Countries can also be graduated from the GSP program depending on factors related to economic development.
 
"The United States launched an eligibility review of India’s compliance with the GSP market access criterion in April 2018.  India has implemented a wide array of trade barriers that create serious negative effects on United States commerce.  Despite intensive engagement, India has failed to take the necessary steps to meet the GSP criterion," the statement said.
 
"The United States designated Turkey as a GSP beneficiary developing country in 1975.  An increase in Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, declining poverty rates, and export diversification, by trading partner and by sector, are evidence of Turkey’s higher level of economic development," it added.
 
Reacting to the announcement, the US-India Business Council said that, in keeping with its longstanding support for the GSP program, it had urged the continuation of GSP benefits for India. 
 
"Despite a number of serious bilateral trade issues, both India and the U.S. have gained from trade under the GSP program.   
 
"USIBC is in the process of collecting more information from both Governments on next steps, including any possible reactions by India. We will keep our members updated of this fast-moving development including convening a member call in the coming days," a statement from the council said.
 
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373 dead in Indonesia amid fear of more tsunamis

The death toll in a devastating tsunami that hit the coast of Indonesia after a volcanic eruption reached 373 on Monday, as rescuers continued digging through the rubble with bare hands and heavy machinery to find survivors amid warnings of more deadly waves in the coming days.
 
Indonesia grapples with devastation after deadly tsunami
The death toll in a devastating tsunami that hit the coast of Indonesia after a volcanic eruption reached 373 on Monday, as rescuers continued digging through the rubble with bare hands and heavy machinery to find survivors amid warnings of more deadly waves in the coming days.
 
At least 128 people were still missing and nearly 1,500 were injured after the tsunami struck the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra almost without warning late Saturday, shortly after the Anak Krakatau volcano erupted in the Sunda Strait dividing the islands, said the National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB).
 
According to the figures released on Monday, at least 11,687 people were displaced by the tragedy, which damaged 611 houses, 69 hotels, 60 shops and 420 boats. President Joko Widodo visited the disaster zone to monitor rescue efforts and said he was praying for the victims, CNN reported.
 
Indonesia's Ministry of Maritime Affairs said the tsunami was triggered when the Anak Krakatau volcano erupted in the Sunda Strait, prompting a series of underwater landslides. Most of the victims were Indonesians, but foreigners were also visiting the affected areas ahead of Christmas.
 
"Sixty four hectares of the slope collapsed ... Our sensors did not sound early warning because they are for tectonic activity not volcanic activity," spokesman Rahmat Djamaluddin said.
 
According to local media reports, the wave reached as high as three metres (10 feet). Eyewitnesses described fleeing for their lives as beachfront homes were swept away in the wave.
 
BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho warned that more tsunamis were possible as long as the volcano remained active.
 
"We are cautioning the people to remain cautious. Agencies are still continuing to analyze the root cause ... the Krakatau volcano continues to erupt, which could potentially trigger another tsunami."
 
Sutopo also raised the issue of Indonesia's outdated tsunami buoy network which he said hasn't worked properly since 2012. The country established the early warning system after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck on December 26, 2004, killing 226,000 people in 14 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia. 
 
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This time, there was no warning from the sensors, said Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency head Dwikorita Karnawati. 
 
A lack of warning was also blamed for the death toll in Indonesia's October tsunami which killed over 2,000 people on the western coast of Sulawesi.
 
Just over 20 minutes after the eruption, a wall of water between 6 and 10 feet high hit the coastline of northwestern Java and southeastern Sumatra, washing away everything in its path along the shoreline, including people, boats and cars. Pandeglang in northern Java's Banten province was the worst affected area.
 
Other hard-hit areas with casualties and damages were Serang, Lampung Selatan, Tanggamus and Pesawaran.
 
Footage shared on social media showed a large wave crashing into a tent in the Tanjung Lesung beach resort in west Java, where popular Indonesian rock band Seventeen was performing.
 
Members of the band were seen being swept away as the wave destroyed the stage.
 
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) was providing assistance to local health services, while the UN offered humanitarian and logistical assistance, mainly for transport and mobile kitchens. The Indonesian Red Cross was providing first aid.
 
Anak Krakatau had been spewing ash and lava for months, with plumes reaching hundreds of feet in the air in the weeks leading up to the tsunami. 
 
The volcano's name means "Child of Krakatau", the island rising from the sea in 1927, after one of the largest, most devastating eruptions in recorded history occurred at the original Krakatau volcano in 1883.
 
That eruption, which caused the original volcano to collapse into the sea, killed over 36,000 people in far-reaching tsunamis and sent so much ash into the sky that global temperatures fell.
 
This tsunami has added more deaths and misery to a year of tragedies in Indonesia, a vast archipelago of more than 17,000 islands and 260 million people that lies on the "Ring of Fire", an area of great seismic and volcanic activity that is shaken every year by some 7,000 earthquakes.
 
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Africa remains at top of India’s priorities, Modi tells Uganda Parliament

Stating that Africa will be at the top of India’s priorities, visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said the country would continue to intensify and deepen its engagement with the region, as already shown. on a sustained and regular basis.
 
India is proud to be Africa's partner: Modi
 
 
Stating that Africa will be at the top of India’s priorities, visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the country would continue to intensify and deepen its engagement with the region, as already shown. on a sustained and regular basis.
 
Addressing Members of the Uganda Parliament here, Mr Modi said India's engagement with Africa will continue to be guided by 10 principles. 
 
Besides deepening the relationship, “our development partnership will be guided by your priorities. It will be on terms that will be comfortable for you, that will liberate your potential and not constrain your future. We will rely on African talent and skills. We will build as much local capacity and create as many local opportunities as possible.
 
“We will keep our markets open and make it easier and more attractive to trade with India. We will support our industry to invest in Africa, he added.
 
Mr Modi promised to harness India’s experience with the digital revolution to support Africa’s development; improve delivery of public services; extend education and health; spread digital literacy; expand financial inclusion and mainstream the marginalised.
 
“This will not just be our partnership to advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but also to equip the youth of Africa for their place in the digital age,” he said.
 
Noting that Africa has 60% of the world’s arable land, but produces just 10% of the global output, he said, “We will work with you to improve Africa’s agriculture.”
 
The partnership will address the challenges of climate change. “We will work with Africa to ensure a just international climate order; to preserve our biodiversity; and, adopt clean and efficient energy sources. We will strengthen our cooperation and mutual capabilities in combating terrorism and extremism; keeping our cyberspace safe and secure; and, supporting the UN in advancing and keeping peace,” he added.
 
“We will work with African nations to keep the oceans open and free for the benefit of all nations. The world needs cooperation and not competition in the eastern shores of Africa and the eastern Indian Ocean. That is why India’s vision of Indian Ocean Security is cooperative and inclusive, rooted in security and growth for all in the region.
 
“As global engagement in Africa increases, we must all work together to ensure that Africa does not once again turn into a theatre of rival ambitions, but becomes a nursery for the aspirations of Africa’s youth,” he said.
 
“Just as India and Africa fought colonial rule together, we will work together for a just, representative and democratic global order that has a voice and a role for one-third of humanity that lives in Africa and India. India's own quest for reforms in the global institutions is incomplete without an equal place for Africa. That will be a key purpose of our foreign policy,” he added.
 
Mr. Modi said the people were among the many threads that connect Uganda and India together. Over a century ago, the heroic labour connected Uganda to the shores of the Indian Ocean by the railway. He praised Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s visionary leadership that enabled Ugandan people of Indian origin to return to their cherished home, regain their lives and help rebuild the nation that they deeply love.
 
“In opening the State House to the celebration of Deepawali, you have lit up the many strands of ties that connect India and Uganda. Among these, the most sacred is the site at Jinja, at the source of River Nile, where a portion of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi was immersed. In his life and beyond, he is one with Africa and Africans. And, at the sacred site in Jinja, where a statue of Gandhiji now stands, we will build a Gandhi Heritage Centre.
 
“As we approach the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, there can be no better homage than a Centre to remind us of Africa’s role in shaping his mission that even inspired Africa to freedom and justice; and the universal and timeless values of his life and message,” he added.
 
“India is proud to be Africa’s partner. And, Uganda is central to our commitment to the continent. Yesterday, I announced two Lines of Credit for Uganda. The first, of 141 million US dollars for electricity lines. And the second, of 64 million US dollars for agriculture and dairy production.
 
“As in the past, we will continue to support the aspirations of the people of Uganda – in agriculture and healthcare, education and training, infrastructure and energy, capacity building in government and training in defence. I compliment President Museveni and this House on the decision to join the International Solar Alliance,” he added.
 
“As with Uganda, we have deepened our partnership and engagement across the vast expanse of Africa. In the past four years, our President, Vice President and I have collectively visited no less than 25 countries in Africa. Our Ministers have covered virtually all African nations.
 
“We were honoured to host all 54 countries - over 40 at Heads of State and Government level - at the third Africa-India Forum Summit in October 2015. We were also privileged to host many African leaders for the inaugural summit of the International Solar Alliance.
 
“Other than all these, 32 Heads of State or Government from Africa have visited India in the last four years. My home state Gujarat was proud to be the host of the first ever meeting of the African Development Bank in India last year. And we are also opening 18 new embassies in Africa,” the Prime Minister said.
 
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“Our development partnership currently includes implementation of 180 Lines of Credit worth about USD 11 billion in over 40 African countries. At the last India Africa Forum Summit, we had committed a concessional Line of Credit of 10 billion U.S. dollars and 600 million dollars in grant assistance.
 
“Every year, over 8000 African youth are trained in a diverse set of programmes. As always, our efforts will be driven by your priorities. Indian companies have invested over US$ 54 billion in Africa. Our trade with Africa is now over US$ 62 billion.
 
“This is over 21% more than in the previous year. Africa's exports to India are growing. And, our economic ties are now increasingly driven by new partnerships of innovation in the digital economy. The Pan Africa E-Network links 48 African countries to India, and to one another. It can become the new backbone for digital innovation in Africa. With several coastal nations, our partnership now increasingly seeks to harness the benefits of Blue Economy in a sustainable manner. And, India’s medicines turned the tide on diseases that were once a threat to Africa’s future. They also continue to make healthcare affordable and accessible to many.
 
“As we work together for prosperity, we have stood together for peace. Indian soldiers have served in blue helmets so that Africa’s children can look to a future of peace. We are proud of the work of Indian peacekeepers in over a dozen UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, since our first mission in Congo in 1960.
 
“In all the UN Peacekeeping Missions in the world, 163 Indians have made the supreme sacrifice. This is among the highest number for any country. Almost 70% embraced martyrdom just in Africa. Today, over 6,000 Indians serve in five peacekeeping operations in Africa. Indian women established a landmark with the first all-female Police Unit of the United Nations in Liberia. Our defence and security cooperation is growing with nations in Africa, as we work together to counter terrorism and piracy, and keep our seas secure,” he added.
 
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India, ASEAN can ensure peace, prosperity in Indo-Pacific: Modi

In a strong reaffirmation of India's growing ties with southeast Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that India and the Asean regional bloc can jointly ensure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
 
Modi receives ceremonial welcome at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta
 
 
In a strong reaffirmation of India's growing ties with southeast Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that India and the ASEAN regional bloc can jointly ensure peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
 
"In today's changing scenario in the Indo-Pacific region, we (India and Indonesia) are geostrategically located," Modi said in a joint address to the media with Indonesian President Joko Widodo following a bilateral summit here.
 
"Under India's Act East Policy, we have SAGAR - Security and Growth for All in the Region - that matches with President Widodo's Global Maritime Fulcrum," he said.
 
While Modi's SAGAR initiative underscores India's engagement in the Indian Ocean region, Jokowi's Global Maritime Fulcrum seeks to capitalise on Indonesia's geographic position to make the southeast Asian nation a "fulcrum" of Indo-Pacific maritime activity.
 
Highlighting India's growing ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Modi said: "The partnership between India and ASEAN can guarantee peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond."
 
The ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
 
India is also part of a recently revived quad, including the US, Japan and Australia, that seeks to work for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
 
In a significant announcement, Modi said that India and Indonesia have decided to elevate their bilateral ties to that of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
 
He also condemned the terror attacks in Indonesia earlier this month.
 
"I express my and the people of India's deep grief in the recent terror attacks in Indonesia that killed claimed the lives of innocent people," the Indian Prime Minister said.
 
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"India strongly condemns this and stands in solidarity with the people and government of Indonesia."
 
At least 11 people, including a suicide bomber, were killed on May 13 in bomb attacks on three churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya.
 
A fourth bomb blast near a police station in East Java killed three persons later the same day.
 
Modi said that it is time for the world to come together in the fight against terrorism.
 
Stating that India and Indonesia share strong cultural linkages, he said that 2019 will mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
 
He said that for creating employment for the large youth populations of the two countries, India and Indonesia can learn a lot from each other in terms of education and skill development.
 
Prior to the bilateral summit, Modi and Widodo held a tete-a-tete on the verandah of the Merdeka Palace here following a guard of honour to the visiting dignitary.
 
Modi arrived here on Tuesday on the first leg of his five-day three-nation tour of southeast Asia that will also see him visiting Malaysia and Singapore.
 
This is his first visit to Indonesia as Prime Minister.
 
IANS
 
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India, China agree on joint economic project in Afghanistan

India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan, China.
 
Narendra Modi, Xi Jinping hold one-on-one meeting
 
 
India and China on Saturday agreed on a joint economic project in Afghanistan, sources said after a two-day summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping here.
 
The long-standing border issue also figured in the meeting where Modi and Xi decided to give "strategic guidance" to their armies to prevent a Doklam-like military stand-off in 2017.
 
"The two leaders endorsed the work of the Special Representatives in their efforts to find a fair, reliable and truly acceptable settlement. They also underscored that in the meantime it is important to maintain peace and tranquility in all areas of the India-China border region," India's Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said here.
 
"And to this end, the two leaders decided that they would issue strategic guidance to their respective militaries to strengthen communication and to build trust and understanding to implement the various confidence-building measures which have already been agreed upon by the two sides and to strengthen existing institutional mechanism to prevent and manage situations in the border areas," he added.
 
Earlier on Saturday, Modi and Xi walked by the East Lake as they began their second round of talks.
 
On Friday, the two leaders agreed that healthy bilateral ties were important for a better world as they met to re-set the ties between the two nations hit by the military face-off.
 
IANS
 
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India, UAE resolve to strengthen cooperation in combating extremism, terrorism

India and the United Arab Emirates have resolved to deepen cooperation on combating extremism and further strengthen their efforts in countering terrorism.
 
Modi meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed
India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have resolved to deepen cooperation on combating extremism and further strengthen their efforts in countering terrorism.
 
In a joint statement issued here yesterday at the end of a two-day visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the UAE, during which he held talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan, the two sides recognized that they were multicultural and pluralistic societies and reiterated their common resolve in promoting the values of tolerance, peace, inclusiveness and in countering extremist ideologies. 
 
The two leaders recognised the critical role interfaith dialogue could play in achieving this worthy aim.
 
"Both sides underlined that as diverse societies, India and UAE exemplify as credible models against the tendencies of extremism and radicalism. While appreciating the existing cooperation in this area, including through exchange of visits and best practices, both sides resolved to deepen cooperation on combating extremism and further strengthen their efforts in countering terrorism," the statement said.
 
The two leaders agreed that extremism and terrorism cannot be defeated by use of force only, and acknowledged the need for a holistic approach, which includes disrupting the use of web and social media for promotion of extremist and violent ideologies; preventing the use of religious centres to radicalize youth and recruit terrorist cadres; and promoting tolerance. In this context, the leaders welcomed the contributions of initiatives such as the UAE-based Sawab and Hedayah centres to countering extremist ideologies and enhancing on-going international counter extremism cooperation.
 
The two leaders expressed strong condemnation of extremism and terrorism in all forms and manifestations, irrespective of who the perpetrators are and of their motivations. They reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy.
 
They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called ‘non-state actors’, and to cut all support to terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states. The two leaders agreed that resolute and credible steps must be taken to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that provide shelter to terrorists and their activities.
 
The two leaders noted the importance of efforts to disrupt and dismantle terrorist networks, their financing and movement, in accordance with the relevant principles and objectives of the UN Charter and international laws. The two sides deplored the adoption of double standards in addressing the menace of international terrorism and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system. 
 
The two sides resolved to continue working together towards the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations, the statement said.
 
The statement noted that Mr. Modi's visit had further enriched the rapport established at the highest political levels between India and the UAE and followed his earlier visit to the UAE during August 2015 and Sheikh Mohamed's visits to India during February 2016 and then during January 2017 as the Chief Guest at India’s 68th Republic Day celebrations.
 
Apart from holding one-to-one and delegation-level talks with Sheikh Mohamed, Mr. Modi also met UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum in Dubai yesterday.
 
He delivered the keynote address on the theme "Technology for Development” at the sixth World Government Summit in Dubai, where India was invited as the Guest of Honour. On the side-lines of the World Government Summit, Prime Minister Modi met with a select group of senior GCC CEOs and business leaders.
 
"This visit allowed leadership of the two countries to take regular stock of the bilateral ties and to review the progress made in implementing the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement signed during the last visit of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed to India in January 2017. Both sides also welcomed the signing of various agreements and MoUs during the visit," the statement said.
 
The statement said Mr. Modi and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed reaffirmed their abiding commitment to further consolidating the comprehensive strategic partnership and expressed satisfaction at the meticulous follow-up on the decisions taken during their previous meetings to achieve the set targets. Both leaders noted the robust and forward-looking bilateral engagement in the past two years across a whole range of spheres, including political, economic, trade and investment, energy, education, culture, defence and security, etc.
 
"Both leaders noted that the frequent high-level visits between the two countries have facilitated expeditious and regular implementation of a result-oriented and mutually beneficial comprehensive strategic partnership.
 
"The two leaders noted that the institutional mechanism of UAE-India Strategic Dialogue established under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership agreement has proven to be a useful mechanism to monitor the progress in the agreed areas of engagement and to steer in new promising directions. In this context, they welcomed the fruitful outcome of the second ministerial-level India-UAE Strategic Dialogue held in Abu Dhabi in October, 2017.
 
"In order to further strengthen the agreed institutional cooperation and understanding between the two countries, the two sides renewed their pledge to deepen cooperation between India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation," it said.
 
The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the ongoing bilateral cooperation in the identified areas of security, defence and space. They committed to augment this cooperation further to promote regional security, peace and prosperity and agreed to further deepen collaborations on maritime security, including joint anti-piracy, training and exercises, cyber space and outer space, and so on.
 
The two leaders noted with satisfaction the robust cooperation between the security agencies of the two countries. They also expressed satisfaction at the on-going cooperation under the institutional mechanism of the security dialogue established at the level of the respective National Security Adviser and National Security Council aimed at enhancing cooperation in counter-terrorism operations, intelligence-sharing and capacity-building.
 
The two leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress made in the area of security cooperation and directed their respective officials to hold the first meeting of the Joint Task Force on prevention and combating human trafficking during 2018. The two sides welcomed the finalisation of an MoU on Cooperation in the Exchange of Financial Intelligence related to Money Laundering, Associated Predicate Offences and Terrorist Financing, which could be signed at the earliest. They agreed to further deepen cooperation in combating transnational crimes and welcomed the proposal to establish institutional mechanism for cooperation to combat drug-trafficking.
 
The MoU signed in February 2016 has established an institutional mechanism for undertaking joint research activities. For effective implementation of the MOU, they directed that efforts to establish joint Research and Development Centres of Excellence be expedited.
 
The statement said the agreement on Defence Cooperation renewed in 2014  provides a general framework for strengthening bilateral defence ties. The two sides noted the growing defence cooperation, including through regular high-level visits, training programmes, joint exercises, participation in defence exhibitions and ship visits/port calls, etc.
 
It was noted with satisfaction that the Joint Defence Cooperation Committee (JDCC) formed under the existing Defence Cooperation Agreement has been meeting regularly. The two leaders welcomed the decision taken during the latest round of JDCC held in New Delhi in December 2017 to conduct the first bilateral Naval Exercise during 2018. They also noted the holding of the sixth round of Naval Staff Talks in New Delhi during September, 2017.
 
The two sides renewed their commitment to work closely to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of both countries.
 
The UAE side renewed its interest in the coastal surveillance systems and patrol vessels developed by India. The two leaders noted with satisfaction the agreement for supply of Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels by India to UAE and the successful testing for Factory Acceptance Trials in Sharjah during March 2017.
 
Acknowledging India’s highly successful and cost-effective space programme, the UAE side evinced interest in deepening cooperation with India in space exploration under the existing MoU on Space cooperation signed during February 2016. In this context, both sides welcomed the launch of UAE Nano satellite Nayif-1 by Indian Space Research Organisation in February, 2017. The UAE side welcomed the joining of the former ISRO Chairman on the Advisory Board of the UAE Space Agency.
 
The leaders expressed satisfaction at the holding of the first Joint Working Group Meeting in December 2017 under the existing MoU on space cooperation. They welcomed proposed cooperation in the identified areas of remote sensing, space science, satellite navigation, launching services, academic cooperation and industry interactions.
 
The two sides expressed satisfaction at the current level of trade, which amounted to about $ 53 billion in 2016-17, and agreed to further strengthen these ties, particularly through diversifying non-oil trade.
 
With an aim to devise a long-term strategy on trade enhancement, the two leaders decided to examine various tariff and non-tariff barriers, and agreed to focus on encouraging trade in identified commodities and to expand access of goods and services in both markets. 
 
They welcomed the decision to open of an office of Confederation of Indian Industry in Dubai and of the Dubai Chambers of Commerce in Mumbai to support businesses at both ends.
 
"Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan valued the continued efforts by India to enhance economic growth, and the recent economic reforms undertaken by the Indian Government, which would facilitate the ease of doing business and promote market integration. Both sides noted the improvement in the ease of doing business in India and the UAE as per the World Bank's latest global rankings.
 
"Both leaders reviewed the progress in realizing the USD 75 billion target for UAE investments in India committed towards infrastructure development. Prime Minister Modi welcomed ADIA’s participation in India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund as an anchor investor and welcomed DP World's agreement with NIIF to create a joint investment platform for ports, terminals, transportation and logistics businesses in India. He also welcomed UAE’s continued interest in investing in infrastructure development in India, especially in priority areas such as renewable energy, power generation and transmission, defence production, real estate, industrial corridors and parks, railways, roads, ports, shipping, logistics and food processing among others. Similarly, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed interest from Indian IT and technology companies in investing in the UAE, and encouraged them to use the UAE as a platform for expanding their businesses in the region. Both leaders welcomed the signing of an MOU for strengthening of technical cooperation in the Railways sector during the visit," it said.
 
Both leaders reiterated their common desire to transform the buyer-seller relationship in the energy-sector to one of deeper partnership with focus on investment and joint ventures in petrochemical complexes, and cooperation in joint exploration in India, UAE and in third countries. Prime Minister Modi invited ADNOC and Mubadala to invest in downstream projects in India’s hydrocarbon sector also.
 
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Both sides reviewed the progress being made in early implementation of the agreement on Oil Storage and Management between Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited signed in January 2017 and underscored that crude oil supply from UAE for the Mangalore cavern would be a significant transformational step in building a strategic partnership in the energy sector.
 
Mr. Modi welcomed the decision to award a major oil concession to ONGC-led consortium from India in the ADMA-OPCO field in Lower Zakum. Both sides described this as another example of the emerging strategic engagement in the energy sector.
 
The two sides agreed to further enhance their cooperation in areas of green energy and Climate Change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They took note of the strides made by the two countries in achieving the ambitious renewable energy targets and welcomed Masdar’s intention to invest in India’s solar energy projects.
 
Sheikh  Mohamed conveyed appreciation for the positive contribution made by the Indian community in the UAE in the development of their host country. Mr. Modi thanked the UAE leadership for ensuring continued welfare and well-being of the Indian community and for the continuing labour reforms by the UAE Government.
 
Mr. Modi thanked Sheikh Mohamed for allotting land and for facilitating the construction of a temple in implementation of the decision conveyed by the UAE Government in August 2015 to address the request of Indian community in UAE. He noted that the temple would be an important symbol of UAE’s firm commitment to the principles of tolerance and to building a pluralistic society where diverse communities enjoy the freedom to practice their religion, language and culture.
 
The two sides welcomed participation of India as the "Guest of Honour Country” at the prestigious Abu Dhabi Music and Art Foundation Festival in March 2018 and Sharjah’s participation as the Guest of Honour at the New Delhi World Book Fair 2019. The leaders also looked forward to intensifying exchanges between scholars, academics and cultural delegations.
 
Prime Minister Modi congratulated the leadership of UAE on opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum. Both sides agreed to enhance collaboration between the National Museum of India and Louvre Abu Dhabi.
 
Both sides agreed to enhance consultations on mutual recognition of educational degrees. They agreed to deepen cooperation especially in areas of smart classroom and digital education.
 
Appreciating the importance of cooperation in responding to global challenges, the two sides were pleased to note the growing convergence on regional and global issues and agreed to enhance India-UAE cooperation in multilateral fora. Both leaders noted the common desire to strengthen cooperation in the framework of the Indian Ocean Rim Association and other important regional bodies.
 
The two sides reiterated their common desire to work together in the spirit of South-South cooperation in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly through capacity-building, grants and loans, collaboration in trade and technology, and joint projects aimed at supporting the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals. The UAE side valued India's steadfast contribution to peace and development in Africa, including its participation in UN Peacekeeping Missions. Prime Minister Modi in turn, noted the UAE’s contribution to the G5 Sahel Force, which will be important to counter terrorism in the region.
 
The two leaders also discussed the importance of sharing each other’s experience in the field of development and aid. In line with this, they agreed to initiate joint development projects for third countries, including exploring joint projects in Afghanistan in line with the need of the people of Afghanistan. 
 
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India, UAE sign five pacts as Modi meets Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan here yesterday evening following which India and the UAe signed five agreements, including a pact under which a consortium of Indian oil companies has been awarded a 10% stake in an offshore oil concession.
 
Modi meets Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan here yesterday evening following which the two sides signed five agreements, including a pact under which a consortium of Indian oil companies has been awarded a 10% stake in an offshore oil concession.
 
Mr. Modi, who arrived here from Palestine on the second leg of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Oman, and was received by Sheikh Mohamed and several other members of the Abu Dhabi ruling family.
 
Before their delegation level talks, Mr. Modi and Sheikh Mohamed had a tete-a-tete, during which they discussed steps to upgrade the relationship between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
 
Abu Dhabi is the largest and Dubai is the second largest of the seven emirates that make up the UAE federation.
 
The talks were held at the Royal Palace here. Mr. Modi became the first foreign leader to be invited to this palace by Sheikh Mohamed, who appreciated the role played by Indian workers in the development of the UAE as a modern nation.
 
Under the MoU signed today with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), an Indian consortium consisting of ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL), Bharat PetroResources Limited (BPRL) and Indian  Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) will acquire 10% participating interest in the offshore Lower Zakum Concession.
 
The two sides also signed MoUs to institutionalise the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers in UAE; for cooperation in the rail sector; and to enhance cooperation between the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange.
 
An MoU was also signed between the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and DP World, the Dubai-based logistics major, to establish multi-modal logistics park and hub in Jammu comprising warehouses and specialized storage solutions.
 
This is Mr. Modi's second visit to the Gulf State as Prime Minister, having visited the country in August 2015. In between, Sheikh Mohamed had visited India in February 2016 and again in January 2017, when he was the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day celebrations.
 
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Apart from the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, he will also told talks with  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
 
He will address the 6th edition of the World Government Summit in Dubai, where India is the Guest Country of Honour.
 
He will also meet leading UAE and Arab CEOs in Dubai on the vast economic opportunities in India and what more can be done together to bolster business collaboration.
 
This morning, Mr. Modi will travel to Wahat Al Karama, a memorial built by the UAE in honour of its soldiers who were martyred in 1971 in the first war on Tunb Island.
 
He will also meet members of the Indian community, during which he will lay the foundation stone of a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi. The temple is coming up on land donated by the UAE leadership and members of the temple committee presented its plans and other details to Mr. Modi and Sheikh Mohamed here yesterday. This will be the first stone temple to be built in Abu Dhabi off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi highway. Plans for the construction of the temple had been announced during Mr. Modi's previous visit to the UAE.
 
The UAE, Oman and the four other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states account for almost 20 percent of bilateral trade. They are by far the largest trading bloc for India with about $ 110 billion of trade, of which oil is a very small portion. About 50 percent of India's oil comes from these countries.
 
There are some nine million non-resident Indians (NRIs) in the region and they remit some $ 35 billion every year, which sustains millions of families back home.
 
The UAE committed in August 2015 to invest $ 75 billion in India. The UAE is a partner in India's strategic oil reserves. It has also come the first partner in India's National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
 
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Modi says BRICS, G-20 must lead fight against terrorism, strengthen global economy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday that BRICS needed to show leadership on combating terrorism and strengthening the global economy and felt that the G-20 should collectively oppose terrorism funding, franchises, safe havens, support and sponsors.
Prime Minister  Narendra Modi at the informal meeting of leaders of the BRICS countries, on the sidelines of the 12th G-20 Summit, at Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the informal meeting of leaders of the BRICS countries, on the sidelines of the 12th G-20 Summit, at Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said BRICS needed to show leadership on combating terrorism and strengthening the global economy and felt that the G-20 should collectively oppose terrorism funding, franchises, safe havens, support and sponsors.
 
At an informal meeting of BRICS leaders, ahead of the G-20 Summit here, he also spoke about process of economic reforms in India, including the recent roll-out of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) across the country.
 
He said it was necessary for them to work together for sustained global economic recovery.
 
He advocated a collective voice against the practices of protectionism, especially in the spheres of trade and movement of knowledge and professionals. 
 
Mr. Modi He reiterated India's commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement in letter and spirit and described its implementation globally as essential to fighting climate change. 
 
He called for expeditious action to establish a BRICS rating agency and stated that cooperation on development of Africa should be a priority. He also called for greater people-to-people exchanges. 
 
The informal meeting of the leaders of the five BRICS countries -- Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa -- came in the run-up to the 9th BRICS Summit slated for September in Xiamen, China.
 
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Chinese President Xi Jinping said he looked forward to welcoming the BRICS leaders in Xiamen.
 
In their interventions, the leaders discussed preparations and priorities for the forthcoming Xiamen Summit. 
 
Mr. Modi appreciated the momentum in BRICS under the chairmanship of President Xi and extended full cooperation and best wishes for the Xiamen Summit. 
 
Concluding the meeting immediately after PM's remarks, President Xi appreciated India's strong resolve against terrorism and the momentum in BRICS introduced under India's Chairmanship and through the outcomes of the Goa Summit in 2016. 
 
He also appreciated India's success in economic and social development and wished India even bigger success. 
 
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Modi promises direct flights, OCI cards for Indian community in Israel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Indian community in Israel on Wednesday that Overseas Citizen of India cards would be given to them, even if they had done compulsory army service in the country, and that direct flights would soon be introduced between Tel Aviv and Mumbai and Delhi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Indian community reception in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Indian community reception in Tel Aviv, on July 5, 2017.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Indian community in Israel yesterday that Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards would be given to them, even if they had done compulsory army service in the country, and that direct flights would soon be introduced between Tel Aviv and Mumbai and Delhi.
 
Addressing members of the Indian community here this evening, Mr. Modi also said that an Indian Cultural Centre would be set up in Israel. 
 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also present at the event. Mr. Modi had arrived here on July 4 on a three-day visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister.
 
Mr. Modi began his address by remarking that it had taken very long, all of 70 years since India attained independence, for this visit to take place. He thanked Mr. Netanyahu for the warm welcome and respect accorded to him throughout his visit.
 
He said that though diplomatic relations between the two countries are only 25 years old, ties between India and Israel go back several centuries. He said that he has been told that, in the 13th century, the Indian Sufi saint Baba Farid had come to Jerusalem, and meditated in a cave.
 
The Prime Minister described the relationship between India and Israel as one of traditions, culture, trust and friendship. He noted the similarity in festivals between India and Israel. In this context, he mentioned Holi and Purim; and Diwali and Hanukkah.
 
Mr. Modi was all praise for the technological progress achieved by Israel, and its long traditions of bravery and martyrdom. He recalled that Indian soldiers had played a key role in the liberation of Haifa during the first world war. He noted the great contributions of the Indian Jewish community, both in India and Israel.
 
The Prime Minister praised the spirit of innovation in Israel, and noted that Israel had made great progress in areas such as geo-thermal power, solar panels, agro-biotechnology and security.
 
He provided an overview of economic reforms undertaken in India in the recent past. He mentioned the roll-out of GST, auctioning of natural resources, insurance and banking sector reforms, and skill development, among others. He said the Government aims to double income of farmers by 2022. He said the partnership with Israel is key to ushering in the second green revolution in India. He said science, innovation and research would be the foundation of ties between India and Israel in the future.
 
He also recalled his meeting with Moshe Holtzberg, survivor of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, earlier in the day.
 
 
Modi addresses Indian community in Israel
Mr. Netanyahu said, "Prime Minister, these are the Jews of India. They love India, they love Israel. They love our friendship. We are in a historic meeting, your visit, of two ancient peoples seizing the future.
 
"There was a time, a few decades ago and a few years ago, when this natural partnership was somehow frozen. There was a young woman, her name was Tzipora Meir, a young Jewish woman in Cochin. She wrote an essay 50 years ago, just before the Six-Day War, and the essay was the deep desire she had to see the partnership between India and Israel.
 
"She won a prize for that composition but it didn't happen. Tzipora Meir, like so many of you, came to Israel, built her home here, contributed to her life, maintained the love of Indian Jewish customs, prayers and continued to hope that one day Israel and India will form this partnership and this friendship.
 
"Tzipora and her husband Sasson, who are here - that day has come. That day is today," he said.
 
Mr. Netanyahu said Mr. Modi and he had, at their bilateral talks earlier in the day, decided on a vast program to take their partnership and friendship to new heights. "But we always remember that there's a human bridge between us - you. We admire you, we respect you, we love you."
 
"Seventy years ago, our countries achieved independence. Israel achieved independence, India achieved independence and our countries rise and rise and rise and rise and now they meet.
 
"We have decided to cooperate in so many areas but there's one area that really guarantees the future, and Prime Minister Modi speaks of it all the time – it's the young people: the young people of India, the young people of Israel.
 
"So, Indian students are coming here, we're very flattered. Israeli young people are going there but there is something that we want to achieve: today when Israelis go to India, they go backpacking, they go on what is called, the 'Hummus Trail', there are signs in Hebrew, you hear Hebrew spoken, 'The Hummus Trail'. I want to see young Indians come here backpacking on the 'Curry Trail'. I don’t want many, just an equal proportion.
 
"We are building this future today between us, between our two great democracies, between our two ancient peoples, who believe in the future. It's a partnership made in heaven but it's happening right now here on earth today," he added.
 
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India, Russia lay foundation of future character of strategic partnership

India and Russia on Thursday agreed on several steps to lay the foundation of the future character of their strategic relationship, including in areas such as defence manufacturing, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 24, 2015.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit, at the Kremlin in Moscow on December 24, 2015.
India and Russia today agreed on several steps to lay the foundation of the future character of their strategic relationship, including in areas such as defence manufacturing, civil nuclear energy and hydrocarbons.
 
"As I look to the future, I see Russia as a significant partner in India’s economic transformation and in shaping a balanced, stable, inclusive and a multi-polar world," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the 16th Annual India-Russia Summit at the Kremlin.
 
Mr. Modi first met Mr. Putin in the restricted format for some time before the two sides held delegation-level talks over a working lunch, official sources said. Mr. Putin had hosted Mr. Modi for a tete-e-tete at the Kremlin here yesterday evening.
 
"We have had excellent conversations over the past two days and very productive outcomes. It has deepened my conviction that this relationship truly meets the test of a special and privileged strategic partnership," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the Inter-Governmental Agreement on manufacture of Kamov 226 helicopter in India signed today was the first project for a major defence platform under the Make in India mission. 
 
"It is rightly with our most important defence partner. We have made progress on a number of other defence proposals. These would boost defence manufacturing in India and India's defence readiness with next generation equipment," he said.
 
"The pace of our cooperation in nuclear energy is increasing. We are making progress on our plans for twelve Russian nuclear reactors at two sites. The agreement today will increase Indian manufacturing content in these reactors. It supports my mission of Make in India. I thank President Putin for his support," he said.
 
The Prime Minister said that, with one of the world’s largest reserves of hydrocarbons, Russia could be a critical source of energy security for India, especially because of their strategic partnership. 
 
"With President Putin's support, we are enlarging Indian investments in Russian hydrocarbon sector. 
 
"President Putin and I are moving creatively in expanding our economic relations. Following our last Summit, India has created a special notified zone to facilitate direct trade between the world’s largest uncut diamond exporter, Russia, and India, which processes 90% of the world’s uncut diamond," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the two sides were working on logistics, and their Green Corridor project had taken off. He said the International North South Transit Corridor through Iran would significantly reduce transportation time and cost.
 
"Third, we are moving forward on the India-Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement. This will also benefit us in Central Asia.
 
"Fourth, we are encouraging our private sector to connect with each other more. We have just had an excellent meeting of CEO Forum. The agreements and the announcements today give me confidence that we will see huge increase in investments and trade in both directions," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi began his statement by expressing his deepest condolences on the lives in the terrorist attack on a civilian Russian aircraft and in the downing of a military jet in Syria.
 
"In this moment of grief and challenge, we stand in solidarity with the people of Russia," he said.
 
He said Mr. Putin was the architect of the India-Russia strategic partnership and, in a changing world, his leadership had kept bilateral relations on a steady course of progress and growth.
 
"Mr. President, I have always had great respect and appreciation for our strategic partnership. It has been a source of strength and success for India in defence, development and diplomacy. And, there is genuine goodwill and mutual respect between our people.
 
"President Putin and I have a high degree of convergence in our positions on global issues and a strong commitment to deepen our international cooperation," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the two sides had strong collaboration in the United Nations. 
 
"Our membership of BRICS, East Asia Summit, G20 and now Shanghai Cooperation Organisation gives our partnership a global character. It is particularly important in the arc from Eurasia to Asia Pacific, including in Central Asia and Afghanistan. 
 
"We are one in our belief that the world must unite and take concerted action on combating terrorism, without distinction and discrimination between terrorist groups and target countries," he said.
 
He said both sides agreed that an early political settlement through dialogue in West Asia was essential for restoring stability and containing extremism in the region.
 
"Indeed, all nations must come together, with sensitivity to each other, to address the challenges of our times.
 
"I am very pleased to have deepened my association with President Putin. Together, we have also given new direction and added more momentum and content to our strategic partnership.
 
"Just as I have had the pleasure of visiting Russia twice this year, I look forward to welcoming President Putin in India next year for the BRICS Summit as well as the Annual Summit," he added.
 
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A joint statement issued by the two sides said Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin had held extensive and substantive discussions to review progress in bilateral relations since the last Annual Summit and their meeting on the margins of the BRICS Summit in Ufa in July 2015. 
 
"The interactions between the two Leaders were marked by deep warmth and mutual trust that characterize the special and privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India," it said.
 
The two sides signed several agreements in diverse fields of bilateral cooperation, including several commercial agreements between Russian and Indian companies.
 
The reconfirmed their commitment to realize the target set at the last annual summit to increase annual bilateral trade and investment.
 
Both sides reiterated their assessment that Mr. Modi's "Make in India” initiative provided a new and durable framework for engagement by Russian corporate entities in the fast growing Indian economy as well as noted the efforts made by the Indian Government to improve ease of doing business.
 
They welcomed recent announcement of several major bilateral investment proposals and called on companies in both countries to finalize new and ambitious investment proposals in promising sectors such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, chemical industry, mining, machine building, implementation of infrastructure projects, cooperation in railway sector, fertilizer production, automobiles and aircraft construction as well as collaborative ventures in modernizing each other's industrial facilities.
 
National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar are among those who are part of Mr. Modi's delegation.
 
Earlier in the day, Mr. Modi, who arrived here yesterday on his first bilateral visit to Russia, visited the National Crisis Management Centre (NCMC) here, where officials briefed him on its functioning.
 
Mr. Modi also laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here today.
 
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Not just paas-paas, but also saath-saath, Modi tells Bangladesh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday that, even as his two-day visit to Bangadesh was drawing to a close, the real journey was beginning only now and the world would see that the two countries were not just "paas-paas" (near to each other) but also "saath-saath" (together).
 
Journey for us has just begun, Modi tells Bangladesh
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that, even as his two-day visit to Bangadesh was drawing to a close, the real journey was beginning only now and the world would see that the two countries were not just "paas-paas" (near to each other) but also "saath-saath" (together).
 
Addressing a gathering comprising eminent Bangladeshis, including politicians, cultural figures, business persons, academicians and Dhaka University students, as well as members of the Indian community, he said the welcome accorded to him was, in effect, a welcome to 125 crore Indians.
 
He said he was especially happy that a Mukti Jodha President, in the presence of the Bangabandhu's daughter, had presented the Bangladesh Liberation War honour to former Atal Bihari Vajpayee, which he had the honour to receive on behalf of the veteran leader.
 
He said that as a young man, his first exposure to politics was in the form of a satyagrahi in support of the liberation struggle in Bangladesh. 
 
Mr Modi said the world rarely noticed developing countries. He said Bangladesh had had to often face natural disasters. But nevertheless, he said, Bangladesh had done unparalleled work in many fields. He said the work done by Bangladesh in the garment sector is well appreciated. He said that he was happy to hear this on a recent visit to China, for the fact that a developing country had achieved such a feat. He said that if Bangladesh prospers, India too would benefit. 
 
The Prime Minister said many states in India could learn from Bangladesh on several social indicators, such as infant mortality rate. He said when Bangladesh progresses, India feels proud, because Indian soldiers too have shed blood for the birth of the country.
 
Mr Modi congratulated Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her single-minded focus on economic development. He said a firm foundation is being laid for Bangladesh's economic progress. 
 
He said India and Bangladesh were both blessed to be young nations, with young dreams. He said a nation with such leadership and such strength, like Bangladesh, would progress inexorably. 
 
The Prime Minister said the era of expansionism in geopolitics had ended. He said the world now needs vikaswaad (development), not vistaarwaad (expansionism). 
 
Referring to the Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries, he described it as one which bonded hearts together. 
 
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Mr Modi said both India and Bangladesh wanted to establish the Buddhist circuit - and where there was Buddha, there could be no Yuddha (war). He quoted a newspaper editorial that said that the Land Boundary Agreement was equivalent to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He said the world would have to acknowledge that they were people who find ways to move ahead. 
 
He said the younger generation deserved the chance to achieve its aspirations. He appreciated the contribution of the Dhaka University to Bangladesh. He said that India would work with Dhaka University on oceanography, to build the ocean economy. 
 
The Prime Minister said SAARC countries were keen to establish connectivity at the last SAARC summit - but then - not every country is Bangladesh. He said India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan had now decided to move ahead in this direction. He said the European Union had developed a lot because of better connectivity. He said today no country could work alone, as the whole world has become interdependent. He said India and Bangladesh had recognized this fact, and this was reflected in the 22 agreements that had been signed during his visit. He congratulated the farsighted leadership of Bangladesh for accomplishing this. 
 
Mr Modi said a satellite picture would reveal that the SAARC countries were still dark - had no access to electricity. He said if India Nepal Bhutan and Bangladesh worked together, this darkness would be dispelled. He said recently Bangladesh helped India transport equipment for a power plant in Tripura, and now Bangladesh was receiving 100 MW of power from that power plant. 
 
He spoke of shared potential in sectors such as solar energy and space. 
 
Mr Modi noted that Bangladesh had done a lot for women empowerment and that it was a matter of pride. He recalled billboards in Dhaka featuring the woman cricket player, Salma Khatun. He added that the rise of the Bangladesh cricket team reflects the potential of Bangladesh. He said that he was proud that he had come to walk together with this Bangladesh. 
 
The Prime Minister acknowledged that some tasks were still to be accomplished. He said he believed that panchhi (birds), pawan (wind), and paani (water) needed no visa - and therefore - the Teesta issue had to be solved with a human approach. 
 
Referring to unfortunate incidents on the border, he said it was the responsibility of both sides to ensure that a solution is found. He said illegal human trafficking and fake currency were issues which Bangladesh had expressed an intention to resolve. 
 
Mr Modi called for reform of the United Nations. He said India still had not got a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. He said this was a country which never fought to gain land. He said 75,000 Indian soldiers had sacrificed their lives for others in the First World War, and 90,000 in the Second World War. He referred to India's role in peacekeeping operations across the world. He said Indian soldiers had fought alongside Mukti Jodhas as well, for Bangladesh. Yet India had still not got a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. 
 
Referring to the Pakistani prisoners of war after the 1971 war, he said India released 90,000 soldiers, because it was only interested in the welfare and progress of Bangladesh. He said this incident, in itself should have been enough to convince the world that India should get a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. 
 
Mr Modi said that on the first day itself, his Government had invited SAARC leaders, indicating its intention to progress together with SAARC.  
 
He said he was happy that the Prime Minister of Bangladesh had declared zero tolerance for terrorism. He said terrorism was the  enemy of humanity, and therefore all humanitarian forces had to unite to fight it. 
 
Mr Modi said his vision and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's vision matched perfectly - that of development. 
 
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India, Mongolia agree to upgrade ties to Strategic Partnership, renew friendship treaty

India and Mongolia on Sunday decided to upgrade their relationship to a "Strategic Partnership", in a reflection of their commitment to further deepen their ties, and also agreed to renew their Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation.
 
Modi meets his Mongoolian counterpart Chimed Saikhanbileg in Ulaanbaatar
 
 
India and Mongolia today decided to upgrade their relationship to a "Strategic Partnership", in a reflection of their commitment to further deepen their ties, and also agreed to renew their Treaty of Friendly Relations and Cooperation.
 
"So, at a significant milestone in our relationship, we are starting a new era in our partnership," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a joint media interaction with his Mongolian counterpart Chimed Saikhanbileg in Ulaanbaatar after the two leaders met for bilateral talks.
 
"We will take our economic partnership to a new level," he said, announcing a $ 1 billion line of credit to support expansion of Mongolia's economic capacity and infrastructure.
 
Mr Modi said Mongolia was an integral part of India's Act East Policy and that the destinies of the two countries were closely linked with the future of the Asia Pacific Region.
 
"We can work together to help advance peace, stability and prosperity in this region. So, I am also here in commitment to our shared responsibility to our region," he said.
 
"I was very pleased with my discussions with Prime Minister today. We have strong convergence of views on bilateral relations and our regional and international partnership," he said.
 
Mr Modi said the agreements signed by the two countries -- covering economic relations, development partnership, defence and security, and people-to-people contacts -- spoke to the depth of the relationship.
 
Mr Modi reached Ulaanbaatar yesterday evening from Shanghai on the second leg of a six-day three-nation tour that had earlier taken him to China and will later take him to South Korea.
 
This is the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia. "It is a special privilege to come on the occasion of two important milestones that unite us – 25 years of democracy in Mongolia and 60 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries," he said.
 
Mr Modi began the day with a visit to the historic Gandan Monastery, where he handed over a sapling of the Mahabodhi Tree as a token of friendship from the people of India.
 
"I am here in respect and appreciation for our timeless kinship. You have called us your spiritual neighbour and third neighbour. We will always fulfil the responsibility that comes with this honour," he said.
 
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Stressing that supporting development of human resources is the best way to secure a nation's development, he reiterated India's commitment to continue its efforts in Mongolia. India will increase the ITEC training slots for Mongolia from 150 to 200. It will also establish an India-Mongolia Joint School, he said.
 
Apart from addressing the Mongolian Parliament later in the day, Mr Modi will lay the foundation stone for the expansion and upgrading of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Center of Excellence for Information and Communication Technology. He will also visit the National Cancer Centre to gift Bhabhatron II. It is a state-of-the-art nuclear medicine cancer therapy machine, developed and manufactured in India. 
 
Mr Modi said India attached high priority to security cooperation between the two countries. "We will continue to participate in each other's defence exercises. The agreements today will deepen our cooperation in border security and cyber security. Cooperation between National Security Councils will provide a strategic framework for cooperation. We have also agreed that India will help establish a cyber security centre in Mongolia’s defence and security establishment," he said.
 
Describing bilateral trade and investment relations as modest, he said both sides recognized that there are physical limitations. 
 
"But, we agreed that economic growth in our two countries is opening up new opportunities. There is huge potential in civil nuclear sector, mining, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and dairy. We should also explore the possibilities of using digital technology to expand our economic relations," he said.
 
Mr Modi conveyed to Mr Saikhanbileg that India greatly valued their international partnership, which is based on their friendship, shared spiritual heritage and democratic values. These also provide solid foundation for their cooperation in their region, he said.
 
He also expressed India's sincere appreciation for Mongolia's strong support for India's permanent membership of United Nations Security Council. 
 
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Modi reaches Xian at start of China visit, will have summit meeting with Xi Jinping

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Xian, the home town of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in China on Thursday morning at the start of a six-day three-nation tour that will also take him to Mongolia and South Korea.
 
Modi reaches Xian at start of China visit
 
 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Xian, the home town of Chinese President Xi Jinping, in China this morning at the start of a six-day three-nation tour that will also take him to Mongolia and South Korea.
 
Mr Modi was greeted on arival at the Xian Xiangyang International Airport by senior Chinese and Indian officials as well as groups of small children and traditional dancers, who staged a performance to welcome him.
 
This is Mr Modi's fist visit to China as Prime Minister though he has been there earlier as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
 
The Prime Minister will have his summit meeting with President Xi this afternoon and will also visit some places associated with Chinese history and civilisation before travelling to Beijing late in the evening today.
 
In Beijing, he will be formally welcomed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang tomorrow. The two leaders will hold talks tomorrow and later witness the signing of a number of agreements between the two sides, which is expected to be attended by Chief Ministers and Mayors, both Indian and Chinese.
 
There will also be some cultural evens, including a Yoga-Tai Chi joint event at the Temple of Heaven.
 
Mr Modi will then travel to Shanghai, where will interact with CEOs of Chinese companies and address a business gathering. Some business agreements are expected to be signed during the trip.
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He will also visit the Fudan University and inaugurate a Centre for Gandhian Studies there.
 
During the visit, Mr Modi will deliver one public address at the Tsinghua University in Beijing and address a community function in Shanghai.
 
Briefing journalists about the visit here on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar had said that the two sides would discuss a full range of political issues during the visit, including bilateral ties, regional issues and multilateral issues. Economic issues, including those related to trade, investment and collaboration on infrastructure projects, will also come up for discussion.
 
The talks are also expected to cover people-to-people contact related issues such as tourism, travel and local level contacts, he said.
 
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Modi invites German companies to take advantage of "historic opportunity" in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invited German companies to take advantage of the "historic opportunity" presented for them by his Government's Make in India campaign and said he was committed to creating and improving the business environment in India.
 
Modi invites German investment, assures all support
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today invited German companies to take advantage of the "historic opportunity" presented for them by his Government's Make in India campaign and said he was committed to creating and improving the business environment in India.
 
"I can assure you that once you decide to be in India, we are confident to make you comfortable," he said in his address at the Indo-German Business Summit in Hannover today, which was jointly inaugurated by him and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
 
Earlier, the two leaders had jointly opened the India Pavilion at Hannover Messe, at which India is the partner country this year. They also walked around the pavilion and met the various participants there. Ms Merkel had hosted a working dinner for him last night, over which they had a "very good interaction".
 
In his address, Mr Modi dwelt at length on the direction and the steps being taken by his Government for the development of India.
 
He said the visitors to the fair could see for themselves the winds of change blowing in India.
 
"We are very keen to develop the sectors where you are strong. We need your involvement. The scope and potential, the breadth and length of infrastructure and related developments is very huge in India," he said.
 
He went on to give the examples of some of the programmes, such as the plan to build 50 millin houses by 2022 and to develop smart cities and mega industrial corridors.
 
"For this purpose, we have refined our FDI Policy in construction. We have also come up with a regulatory framework for this sector," he said.
 
He said the Government had targeted 175 giga watt of renewable energy in the next few years. In addition to generation, the issues of transmission and distribution of electricity are equally important, he said.
 
He said plans had been drawn up to modernize the Railway systems, including signals, and railway stations. He said metro rail networks were planned in 50 cities and high speed trains in various corridors. Similar plans are being drawn up for highways, he said.
 
He said new ports were being built and old ones modernized through the ambitious Sagarmala scheme. He said similar focus was being given for upgrading existing airports and putting up regional airports to enhance connectivity to places of economic and tourist importance.
 
"In financial services too, we are moving towards a more inclusive and faster delivery of financial products including bank loans and insurance. For this purpose, we opened 140 million bank accounts; increased FDI in insurance upto 49% and have set up MUDRA Bank. 
 
"We also announced innovative schemes for insurance and pension to enhance social security for our citizens. 
 
"We also want to promote manufacturing in a big way particularly to create jobs for our youth," he said.
 
He said Germany ranked eighth among foreign investor countries in India. About 600 Indo-German Joint ventures are presently operating in India. 
 
"The purpose of my being here and participating in the Hannover Fair is to highlight that there is more potential in Indo-German economic collaboration. Though we have a vibrant relationship, our economic partnership is not as much as both countries would like to have. The flow of investments from Germany is well below the potential and less than Indian investments in Germany. 
 
"Many more German companies have the possibility of investing in India to take advantage of India’s potentials. The potential lies in manufacturing as well as infrastructure and in skill development for that purpose. I know that the reason for this situation may not be from German side. It is from the Indian side also," he said.
 
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Mr Modi assured German companies that India was now a changed country. "Our regulatory regime is much more transparent, responsive and stable. We are taking a long-term and futuristic view on the issues. Lot of efforts have been made and are still underway to improve the ‘Ease of Doing Business’ in the country," he said.
 
"Reducing the complicated procedures, making them available at one platform, preferably online, simplifying the forms and formats has been taken up on war footing. Definite mechanisms for hand holding have been set up in the form of hub and spoke. Invest India is the nodal agency for this purpose," he said.
 
"We do believe that FDI is important and it will not come in the country without a globally competitive business environment. Therefore, in this year's budget we have rationalized a number of issues which were bothering you," he sid.
 
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Mr Modi said that the Government had, in particular, removed lot of regressive taxation regimes. 
 
"In our very first Budget, we said we will not resort to retrospective taxation. And if such issues do arise, they will have to be reviewed at the highest level. We have taken bold steps of not dragging the litigation in a few cases where we felt that the steps of the previous government were not on right lines. 
 
"In this budget, we allowed Tax pass through for AIFs, rationalization of capital gains of REITs, modification in PE norms and deferring the implementation of GAAR for two years. We are constantly working to improve the business environment further," he said.
 
He said the Government was trying to introduce an element of transparency and predictability in taxation system. He said it had fast tracked approvals in industry and infrastructure. This includes environmental clearances, extending the industrial licences, delicencing of defence items, and simplification of cross-border trade. 
 
"Within a very short time, we introduced GST Bill in Parliament. Such measures have helped in building up an enhanced investor confidence. The sentiments for private investment and inflow of foreign investments are positive. FDI inflows have gone up by 36% during April-2014 and January-2015 against the same period in previous year," he said.
 
Mr Modi said India's growth rate was about 7%-plus. "Most of the international financial institutions including the World Bank, IMF, UNCTAD, OECD and others are predicting even faster growth and even better in the coming years. Moody’s have recently upgraded the rating of India as 'positive' on account of our concrete steps in various economic segments," he said.
 
He also spoke of his Government's efforts to encourage innovation, research & development and entrepreneurship in the country.
 
On infrastructure development, he outlined the steps taken, including an all-time high allocaiton for roads and railways.
 
In addition, we are setting up India Infrastructure Investment Fund. We have also allowed Tax free Bonds in the Infrastructure sector including roads and railways," he added.
 
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Modi reaches Hannover, invites German CEOs to invest in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Hannover in Germany on Sunday on the second leg of his three-nation tour and went straight into meetings with CEOs of major German companies to invite them to participate in his government's Make in India initiative.
 
Indian expats greet Modi at Maritim Grand Hotel in Hannover
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Hannover in Germany on Sunday on the second leg of his three-nation tour and went straight into meetings with CEOs of major German companies to invite them to participate in his government's Make in India initiative.
 
Mr Modi was received on arrival at the Langenhagen Airport in Hannover by Mr Michael Steiner, German Ambassador to India, and other senior officials from both countries.
 
Later, large numbers of members of the Indian community greeted Mr Modi on his arrval at the Maritim Grand Hotel in the city.
 
With business high on his agenda, Mr Modi went into the meeting with CEOs soon after his arrival. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was also present at the meeting.
 
"Business is 1st in order of priority. PM @narendramodi assisted by @CimGOI engages with German business leaders," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"Movers & shakers of German economy/industry meet with PM @narendramodi," he said.
 
"Thank you France! Substantial ground was covered during my visit. Thankful to French Govt & people. Will always cherish the enthusiasm," Mr Modi had said earlier on Twitter as he left France after a two-day visit during which he had held talks with French President Francois Hollande.
 
Mr Modi will leave from Germany on April 14 for a two-day visit to Canada on the third and final leg of his eight-day, three-nation tour.
 
India is the partner country at the Hannover Messe, the Hannover Fair, this year and there is a large presence of Indian companies there this time.
 
India has taken about 7000 square metres of space at the fair, including a central pavilion of 1200 sq m and about 400 Indian companies are displaying their products and services at the event. About 120 Indian CEOs are expected to be present.
 
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Later today, Mr Modi will visit the City Hall and thereafter unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Hannover.
 
He will be present at the opening of the Hannover Fair this evening by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who will later host a working dinner for him.
 
Tomorrow morning, Mr Modi and Ms Merkel will jointly inaugurate the Indian pavilion at the fair, after which they will walk about the Central Pavilion and then inaugurate and address an India-Germany Business Summit.
 
Later tomorrow, Mr Modi will leave for Berlin, where he will visit the Siemens Technical Academy, a leader in vocational education. Later, he will meet Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of Germany who is also the Minister of Economics and Energy. That will be followed by a community reception in the evening.
 
On April 14, Mr Modi will have a call on him by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Following this, there will be a ceremonial welcome by Chancellor Merkel at the Federal Chancellery. Ms Merkel will host a working lunch for him, over which they will have their talks, followed by their formal statements.
 
Before leaving for Ottawa, Mr Modi will visit a German railway station.
 
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US Court dismisses indictment against Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade

In a major relief for Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest in New York in December 2013 sparked off a major row between India and the United States, a US Court on Wednesday dismissed the indictment against her on the ground of diplomatic immunity.
Devyani Khobragade
Devyani Khobragade
In a major relief for Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, whose arrest here in December 2013 sparked off a major row between India and the United States, a US Court on Wednesday dismissed the indictment against her on the ground of diplomatic immunity.
 
"Khobragade's conditions of bail are terminated, and her bond is exonerated. It is ordered that any open arrest warrants based on this Indictment must be vacated. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close this motion (Dkt. No. 15) and this case," Judge Shira A Sheindlin of the US District Court of Southern New York said.
 
Ms Khobragade, 39, an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1999 batch, was the Deputy Consul General of India in New York when she was arrested on December 12, 2013 but the Government of India later, on January 8, 2014 transferred her to the Permanent Mission of India (PMI) to the United Nations here to enable her to get full diplomatic immunity. She later flew back to India after being accorded full diplomatic immunity.
 
She had been indicted by a jury on January 9, 2014 on charges of visa fraud and making false statements related to the salary paid by her to her India-based domestic help, Sangeeta Richard, also an Indian.
 
She was, among other things, accused of paying her help much less than promised to her and of filing false documents showing that she was being paid the minimum wages due to her under US laws.
 
According to Indian officials, Ms Khobragade was arrested in front of her daughter while dropping her off at school, handcuffed, strip-searched and held in a cell with hardened criminals.
 
The court noted that Ms Khobragade had, from October 26, 2012 to January 8, 2014 served in a position that cloaked her with consular immunity pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. 
 
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Ms Khobragade had contended that she additionally obtained diplomatic immunity on August 26, 2013 by virtue of another appointment as Special Adviser to the United Nations, and that such immunity continued through at least December 31, 2013.
 
The US Government denied that Ms Khobragade ever had diplomatic immunity as a Special Adviser, and alternately argued that any period 
of diplomatic immunity ended well before December 2013.
 
The US Government had also questioned her entitlement to bring her motion for dismissal of the indictment against her in light of the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which "bars a defendant from invoking the authority of this Court while simultaneously evading it." 
 
The Court pointed out in this regard that it had expressly modified Ms 
Khobragade's conditions of bail to permit her return to India, she could not be  deemed to have evaded the authority of the Court.
 
The court noted that there was no dispute that Ms Khobragade's position as a Deputy Consul  General at the Indian consulate rendered her a consular officer within the terms of the VCCR. The court also said it was undisputed that she acquired full diplomatic immunity at 5:47 PM on January 8, 2014, and did not lose that immunity until her departure from the country on the evening of January 9, 2014.20 
 
On January 9, immediately following the return of the Indictment, Ms Khobragade appeared before the court through counsel and moved to dismiss the case.
 
The prosecution argued that the indictment should not be dismissed because she did not have diplomatic immunity at the time of her arrest and had no immunity at the present time.
 
In support, the US Government submitted a declaration from Mr Steven Kerr, Attorney-Advisor in the Office ofthe Legal Advisor of the United States Department of State. Mr Kerr concluded that "Dr. Khobragade did not enjoy immunity from arrest or detention at the time of her arrest in this case, and she does not presently enjoy immunity from prosecution for the crimes 
charged in the Indictment."
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The court held that, even assuming Mr Kerr's conclusions to be correct, the case must be dismissed based on Ms Khobragade's conceded immunity on January 9,2014. 
 
"The fact that Khobragade lost full diplomatic immunity when she left the country does not cure the lack of jurisdiction when she was indicted. Courts in civil cases have dismissed claims against individuals who had diplomatic immunity at an earlier stage of proceedings, even if they no longer possessed immunity at the time dismissal was sought. These courts reasoned that the lack of jurisdiction at the time of the relevant procedural acts, such as service of process, rendered those acts void. Because Khobragade moved to dismiss on January 9,2014, the motion must be decided in reference to her diplomatic status on that date. 
 
"Similarly, Khobragade's status at the time of her arrest is not determinative. The State Department has explained that 'criminal immunity precludes the exercise of jurisdiction by the courts over an individual whether the incident occurred prior to or during the period in which such immunity exists.'
 
"Furthermore, several courts have held that diplomatic immunity acquired during the pendency of proceedings destroys jurisdiction even if the suit was validly commenced before immunity applied," the court said.
 
The court noted that the precedent cited by it involved civil claims rather than criminal charges. "However, the Government has not cited any criminal case in which immunity was acquired after arrest, and the Court is not aware of any such case," it said, adding that the precedent was persuasive, given that the standard for dismissing criminal and civil cases based on diplomatic immunity is the same.
 
"Furthermore, because diplomatic immunity is a jurisdictional bar, it is logical to dismiss proceedings the moment immunity is acquired. Even if Khobragade had no immunity at the time of her arrest and has none now, her acquisition of immunity during the pendency of proceedings mandates dismissal.
 
"The Court has no occasion to decide whether the acts charged in the 
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Indictment constitute 'official acts' that would be protected by residual immunity. However, if the acts charged in the Indictment were not 'performed in the exercise of official functions', then there is currently no bar to a new indictment against Khobragade," it said.
 
The Court said that Ms Khobragade had conceded that "[t]he prosecution is clearly legally able to seek a new indictment at this time or at some point in the future now that [she] no longer possesses diplomatic status and immunity ...."
 
"However, the Government may not proceed on an Indictment obtained when Khobragade was immune from the jurisdiction of the Court," it said.
 
The arrest of Ms Khobragade had evoked strong reactions in India, including a slew of measures by the Government reducing the privileges enjoyed by US diplomats in the country.
 
Among other things, the Government asked the US mission to return the identity cards issued to all its consular officers posted in India, to review the immunity and benefits enjoyed them.
 
The Government also asked the Delhi Police to remove all traffic barricades near the US Embassy in Chanakyapuri in Delhi.
 
It is also learnt to have asked the US mission to provide it with details of visas, salaries and so on of all teachers at US schools to ascertain whether all Indian laws were being followed in their cases.
 
The Government also withdrew all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the Embassy as part of measures aimed at ensuring reciprocity in matters of diplomatic immunity.
 
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India to achieve double-digit growth in five years: Mukherjee

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that it was entirely possible that India would break into double-digit growth within the next five years.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US INDIA CEOs Forum Meeting in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010. Also seen is Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US INDIA CEOs Forum Meeting in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010. Also seen is Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that he is optimistic about India's long-run growth prospects and that it was entirely within the realm of the possible that the country would break into double-digit growth within the next five years.


Addressing the India-US CEO Forum in Washington on Tuesday, Mr Mukherjee said the recovery from the global economic crisis for India seemed to be on a surer footing.


"The Indian economy has done exceedingly well in these difficult times through a combination of careful policymaking, dynamic industrial leadership and luck. Last quarter our GDP grew at 8.6% and this year my Ministry has predicated a growth rate of 8.5%," he said.


"I notice that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has recently challenged our prediction. For once, however, I am not going to argue with the IMF. The IMF believes that the Indian economy will grow by 8.8%!" he remarked.


The India-US CEO Forum was reconstituted last year with 12 CEOs from India and the United States nominated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama, repectively.


This was the second meeting of the Forum, the first having been held in November last year on the sidelines of Dr Singh's visit to Washington. It is co-chaired by Mr Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Sons and Dave Cote, CEO of Honeywell Corporation.


Yesterday's meeting was attended by eight CEOs from each side. There was very high level government participation from both sides reflecting the importance attached by both Governments.


Apart from Mr Mukherjee, those attending the meeting from India included Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. From the US side, there were six Secretary-level representatives, who included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, US Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg.


Mr Mukherjee told the Forum that India today saved and invested around 34 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and this was still rising. He said India's growth was coming not just from Government action but from a variety of sectors and stakeholders from all over the economy, including the private corporate sector. "To me, this multiple source growth is a sign of robustness," he said.


He said a significant part of India’s growth impulse was from the rural sector which had been prioritized in the country's developmental plans for inclusive growth. He said the focus was on innovation with a broader outreach at the grassroots level and engaging medium-sized companies in the US and India in the development process.


The Finance Minister said India offered investment opportunities in excess of $ 850 billion over the next five years. In the infrastructure sector, it envisaged investment at $ 1 trillion between 2012-13 and 2016-17, with a potential funding gap of 25-30% bridged through innovative modes of financing, he said.


He said efforts were being made to make the Government more efficient, transparent, and in step with the modern world. He metioned the draft Direct Tax Code in this context. He said he was committed to bring down the public debt as a percentage of GDP from the current level of around 75% to below 68% in three years.


Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee with US Secretary of the Treasury Timothy F. Geithner in Washington, DC on June 22, 2010.

"India’s fiscal health is good now and this new target will make it even better. It will also make more room for private sector borrowing and investment. Our ultimate aim is to make India a vibrant economy that attracts global capital and trade," he said.


Mr Mukherjee said the relationship with the US was one of the most important bilateral relationships for India today.


"As India pursues its developmental goals, we would like to work with the US – especially where our priorities converge, to realize outcomes that are to the mutual benefit of our peoples. We have a unique advantage which is the existence of strongest possible people-to-people linkages that any bilateral strategic partnership could wish for. We have, in our Strategic Dialogue, innovation as the principle that should guide our work ahead," he said.


He said the CEOs Forum had established itself as a bridge between the private sectors and the Governments of India and the US.


"With your leadership and vision, you have created synergies that are invaluable. The initiative to take this strong economic partnership to a new level of innovation and sustained growth is indeed welcome," he said.


"I am sure that the dynamism and energy of our private sectors and the public-private partnerships that we envision will help to take our cooperation and achievement to unprecedented heights," he said.


Mr Mukherjee said the trust that India had built up through its 100% compliance record in the safeguarding of imported technology should help it to increase its bilateral high technology trade.


"I am aware that this is presently under discussion and I would only underline that India has a record of being a trusted a customer. I am sure that our Governments should be able to work together to create the conditions for a win-win situation in advance technology trade between our two countries," he sad.


He noted the two countries had launched the Financial and Economic Partnership when Secretary Geithner visited Delhi in April this year to strengthen engagement in economic, financial and investment related issues.


He said the two countries were currently negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty and were committed to take further initiatives that would contribute to creating a more conducive environment for investment flows. He said the economic Ministries of the two countries had taken steps to gradually liberalize policies.


"I am aware that as captains of industry you will have a major focus on profits. I am sure you are equally aware that, as a politician, I have to keep a watch on votes. But, at the same time, all of us must have ambitions that go beyond these. Our ultimate aim has to be the well-being of human beings. We have to strive for inclusiveness not only in our individual nations and corporations but in the world and across nations. We live today in a world where all our fates are tied together. For that reason, if for no other, we have to strive together to create a better world.

"Our ambitions must go beyond the economy. India’s founding fathers had a vision very similar to what the founding fathers of the United States had. India is today a secular, democratic nation and, as a political leader of India, I am proud of that.

"To hold on to these ideals and to run to a growing robust economy means having to face lots of challenges. We must collectively rise to those challenges.

"I know that this sounds as if I am trying to reach for the stars. I want to assure you that that is exactly what I am doing. Together we must try to reach for the stars," Mr Mukherjee added.


Ms Clinton said that, as both Mr Obama and Dr Singh had said numerous times in the last 16 months, the increased cooperation between the US and India was the cornerstone of the 21st century Strategic Partnership between the two countries.


She said Mr Obama and Dr Singh had reinvigorated the CEOs Forum last year based on the idea that Washington and Delhi needed to catch up to the business and innovation cooperation that is already happening in New York and Mumbai.


She quoted a recent report which said Indian investment in the US grew by an estimated 60 per cent in 2009, to over $7 billion. That same report indicated that trade in goods between the two countries tripled between 2004 and 2008, and that since 2004 Indian acquisitions in the United States had supported approximately 40,000 jobs in the US, with manufacturing exports to India linked to another 96,000 jobs. "That’s great progress and it’s a solid base on which to build," she said.


"But I think that we are just getting started in exploring all of the ways to improve opportunities for trade and investment and foster the kind of inclusive growth that lifts people out of poverty and strengthens our democracies. We want to turn recommendations for improving access to education into reality. We want to lay the groundwork for future cooperation to fight climate change, develop clean energy solutions, and so much more," she said.


Noting that President Obama was due to visit India in early November, she said a lot of hard work was needed to translate a lot of the ideas that had been discussed into accomplishments and realities for that visit.


An official press release said the CEOs had met in a smaller format before interacting with the Government representatives.


They presented recommendations to both Governments in four core areas - Infrastructure; Clean Energy; Education and Health/Biotechnology. The Forum also discussed impediments and some breakthrough long-term ideas, it said.


According to the release, the recommendations included some interesting and ambitious ideas such as creation of an Infrastructure Debt Fund of $10 billion for development of infrastructure in India, collaboration under the National Solar Mission of India, a long-term initiative on diabetes research and treatment, linkages between educational institutions and joint research in clean energy, including bio-fuels.


Mr Mukherjee announced that, to follow up on the ideas, a committee headed by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission would be formed in India to carry forward the ideas with implementable action plans.


CEOs from both sides and representatives of the two Governments agreed that there was tremendous potential and synergy in the economic partnership between India and the US. The visit of President Obama to India later this year would provide an opportunity to intensify the economic engagement and translate some of these ideas into deliverables, they felt.


Mr Mukherjee also had a separate meeting with Mr Geithner when they discussed bilateral issues and the outlook for the global economy. They also discussed the euro-zone crisis and how this would impact on the global economy. They discussed issues relating to fiscal consolidation and Mr Mukherjee suggested that fiscal exits could be staggered and be country specific, depending on market conditions in each country.


Mr Sharma met Mr Kirk separately and discussed issues relating to India-US trade relations. Mr Ahluwalia had a meeting with US Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack to discuss progress in India-US Agriculture cooperation, the release added.


Photos: Courtesy: Website of Embassy of India, Washington


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PM: India ready to walk extra mile, Pakistan must act against terror

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism and offered to walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in bilateral ties if it cooperated with India.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the Majlis Al Shura in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 01, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking at the Majlis Al Shura in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on March 01, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism to realise the vision of peace and prosperity in South Asia and offered to walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in bilateral relations if it cooperated with India.

"India wishes to live in peace and friendship with its neighbours. I believe that all countries of South Asia should work to realize a common vision of peace and inclusive development for the region," Dr Singh said in his address to the Majlis-al-Shura in Riyadh today.

Dr Singh, who was on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, said India sought cooperative relations with Pakistan.

"Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognise that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole," he said.

"But to realise this vision, Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism. If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries," he said.

Pointing out that the interests of peoples and countries in the world were intertwined, Dr Singh said that, as two countries representing old civilizations, India and Saudi Arabia should work together to promote dialogue and peaceful co-existence among nations, religions and societies.

"We should work together as partners in shaping the global discourse on issues such as energy security, food security, climate change and terrorism. We should cooperate to deal with regional challenges such as maritime security, piracy, narcotics, human trafficking and other non-traditional threats to security," he said.

"Our two peoples are desirous of peace and goodwill. Together, India and Saudi Arabia can become a potent moral force for a better world and for a more secure future for our children," he said.

The Prime Minister said both India and Saudi Arabia were today threatened by extremism and violence. He stressed that the pursuit of terror in the name of religion or any other cause or grievance could not be acceptable to civilised societies.

"It has no sanction in any religion. History teaches us that the scourge of terrorism must be confronted with determination and united effort," he said.

He said that nowhere was this challenge greater than in Afghanistan. "The people of Afghanistan have suffered for far too long. They deserve an atmosphere of peace and the opportunity to pursue a life of dignity and hope," he said.

Dr Singh said the government of Afghanistan needed the support of the international community in restoring peace and development in the country. He said the international community should support all sections of Afghan society who wish to work towards the emergence of Afghanistan as a modern, stable and sovereign nation. No sanctuary should be given to those who promote terror, violence or instability in the country, he said.

Describing Saudi Arabia as the cradle of Islam, he said he was carrying a message of peace, brotherhood and friendship as well as the fraternal greetings of the people of India.

He said India regarded Saudi Arabia as a pillar of stability in the Gulf region and noted that, under King Abdullah, the kingdom had taken rapid strides towards modernisation.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, at the Al Rawdah Palace at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on February 28, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, at the Al Rawdah Palace at Riyadh in Saudi Arabia on February 28, 2010.

"As I stand before you, I am conscious of the wealth of history behind us, and the promise of a new partnership ahead of us," he remarked, as he traced the links between the two nations dating back to more than 5000 years ago, when ships made with teak from Kerala freely traversed the waters of the Indian Ocean and linked the people of Sindh, Gujarat and Malabar with the different ports of the Gulf and the Red Sea, going up to Basra and Alexandria.

He pointed out that, today, Islam was an integral part of India’s nationhood and ethos and of the rich tapestry of its culture.

"Our 160 million Muslims are contributing to our nation building efforts and have excelled in all walks of life. We are proud of our composite culture and of our tradition of different faiths and communities living together in harmony," he said.

Referring to King Saud's visit to India in 1955 and the visits by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Saudi Arabia in 1956 and by Indira Gandhi in 1982, Dr Singh said the tone for bilateral realtions in the 21t century was set by the landmark visit of King Abdullah to India in January, 2006.

He said the Delhi Declaration that he signed with King Abdullah on that occasion enshrined the shared vision of the two countries for a new relationship, in which they pledged to work not just for the development and prosperity of their peoples but for the security and peace of the region as a whole.

He told the gathering that his dialogue with King Abdullah in Riyadh yesterday and his meetings with other Saudi leaders had led to the reaffirmation of the close bilateral ties and the common interests of the two countries.

"We have agreed to impart a strategic character to our relations, and have put in place a roadmap for bilateral economic, political and security related cooperation that will constitute the core of our relationship in the coming years," he said.

Dr Singh said India was in the midst of rapid socio-economic transformation, hoping to achieve a growth rate of about 7.5 per cent in the current financial year.

"In the next 25 years we aspire to growth rates of between 9 to 10 per cent annually. This will enable us to lift millions of our people out of poverty and to transform India into one of the largest economies of the world. India looks to the future with confidence and hope," he said.

Noting that Saudi Arabia itself was witnessing remarkable progress as it modernised and diversified its economy, he said there was vast potential for cooperation between the two countries based on their inherent strengths and complementarities.

He sought Saudi investment in a range of sectors from infrastructure and manufacturing to the services and hospitality sector. Equally, Indian industry is ready to take advantage of the many opportunities that are opening up in the IT, banking, telecommunications, pharmaceutical and hydrocarbon sectors in Saudi Arabia, he said.

The Prime Minister said the kingdom was one of India’s major trading partners, with bilateral trade touching $ 25 billion in 2008-09. He said the two countries were looking at ways and means of expanding their traditionally strong collaboration in the energy sector.

He also took note of the contribution of the 1.8 million strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia - the largest abroad. He also pointed out that as many as 165,000 Indian pilgrims perform the Haj annually, the second largest group from any single country, with a similar number performing the Umrah every year.

Dr Singh spoke of the need for more contacts among the parliamentarians, scholars, scientists and students of both countries to renew the intellectual bonds between India and West Asia.

He also felt there was scope for considerable expansion of bilateral interactions in the political, defence and security spheres.

"West Asia is a vital part of India’s extended neighbourhood. We have deep and intricate ties with the Gulf countries. We have a high stake in the peace and stability of the region. Neither the countries of the region nor the world can afford fresh turmoil. We sincerely hope that wisdom will prevail and that in the resolution of conflicts and differences, dialogue will triumph over confrontation," he said.

The Prime Minister said there was no issue more important for peace and stability in the region than the question of Palestine.

For far too long the brave people of Palestine have been denied their just, legitimate and inalienable rights, including most of all the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state," he said.

He paid a special tribute to King Abdullah for the initiatives he has taken to bring about a just settlement. "We applaud and support the Arab Peace Initiative," he said.

"I take this opportunity of reiterating the principled, strong and consistent support of the government and people of India for the struggle of the Palestinian people. India has been making a contribution to the development of the Palestinian economy and its human resources and we will continue to do so," he added.

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PM says India ready to take on global targets for emission cuts

India has said it is willing to sign on to a target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase if it is accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and other Heads of Commonwealth countries, during the CHOGM 2009, in Port of Spain on November 27, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma and other Heads of Commonwealth countries, during the CHOGM 2009, in Port of Spain on November 27, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India is willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reductions or limiting temperature increase but made it clear that this must be accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.

"We acknowledge the imperative of science but science must not trump equity. Climate Change action based on the perpetuation of poverty will simply not be sustainable," he said in his intervention on Climate Change at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) - 2009 at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Friday.

Speaking at a special session devoted to Climate Change, Dr Singh said India had repeatedly emphasised the need for the outcome at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen next month to be comprehensive, balanced and, above all, equitable.

He said it must be comprehensive in the sense that it must cover all the inter-related components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

He said this meant that a partial outcome must be resisted and that there must be balance and equal priority given to each of the four components.

"Mitigation is important but cannot take precedence over adaptation which, for many countries represented here, poses a greater challenge. And most important from our perspective, is the need to ensure an equitable outcome corresponding to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," he said.

Referring to the view expressed in some quarters that, given the limited amount of time available, it would be better to aim for a political outcome rather than a legally binding outcome, Dr Singh said the Copenhagen negotiating process must not be pre-empted.

"Whatever time is still available to us before the High Level Segment meets from December 16, should be used to achieve as much convergence as possible. If the consensus is that only a political document is feasible then we must make certain that the post-Copenhagen process continues to work on the Bali mandate and the UNFCCC continues to be the international template for global climate action. We must avoid any lowering of sights," he stressed.

The Prime Minister said the special session would enable CHOGM to send a powerful political message to Copenhagen so as to ensure an ambitious, substantive and equitable outcome.

He welcomed the participation of the Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in the session, saying his perspective on the multi-lateral negotiations was particularly useful. He assured Mr Rasmussen that India would play a constructive and positive role and support all his efforts to secure a successful outcome at Copenhagen.

Similarly, he said French President Nicolas Sarkozy's presence at the deliberations added to their quality. "We have benefited from his insights and his wisdom and, in particular, his concern over the challenges posed to developing countries by Climate Change," he said.

He said UN Secretary General Bank Ki-moon had played a key role in raising awareness of the dangers posed by Climate Change to humanity and had repeatedly stressed the need for urgency in our actions. "We agree with his assessment that the time for action is now," he said.

Dr Singh expressed India's complete solidarity with the sentiments expressed by several leaders from Small Island Developing States and from Africa, who, he said, were the least responsible for climate change and yet were the most vulnerable to its impact.

"Their very survival is at stake. We appreciate their concern because India, too, has extensive island territories and low lying coastal plains, which are vulnerable to sea-level rise ad extreme climatic events," he said.

He said India had modest resources at its disposal but was willing to share whatever it had to build adaptive capacity among the least developed countries and the Small Island Developing States.

The Prime Minister said that if the outcome at Copenhagen diminished rather than enhanced the implementation of the UNFCCC in respect of the specific components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, it would represent a serious setback, no matter how the result was characterised.

He emphasised that Climate Change was a challenge of global dimensions which deserved a global and a collaborative response. He said it was unfortunate that the global discourse on Climate Change had become enmeshed with arguments about maintaining economic competitiveness or level playing fields.

"Climate Change is becoming the pretext for pursuing protectionist policies under a green label. This would be contrary to the UNFCCC and a violation of the WTO as well. India and other developing countries will strongly resist this," he said.

He also said that the attempts by some countries to dispense with the Kyoto Protocol altogether had generated avoidable misgivings and had been strongly resisted by all developing countries without exception.

"We hope that a legally valid instrument to which we too are parties, will not be set aside in a cavalier manner. This will undermine credibility in any future legally binding instrument," he said.

Dr Singh told the meeting that India had adopted an ambitious National Action Plan on Climate Change with 8 National Mission covering both mitigation and adaptation. He said India had not made their implementation conditional upon obtaining international support, but it could certainly do more if there were a supportive global regime.

"Each of the National Missions, including those on renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency and expanding forest cover, are platforms on which we would be happy to pursue cooperative partnership with sister Commonwealth countries," he said.

Dr Singh welcomed the proposal made by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for the mobilisation of at least $ 100 billion by 2020 for supporting climate change action in developing countries. He also welcomed the priority he had given to the needs of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States.

"However, much of this finance is market-based and hence subject to market volatility and unpredictability. We can hardly plan long-term action on this basis. Furthermore, adaptation requirements do not lend themselves to market based finance," he added.

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India, US say perpetrators of 26/11 must be brought to justice

India and the United States have underscored the absolute imperative to bring to justice the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.

India and the United States have underscored the absolute imperative to bring to justice the perpetrators of the November 26, 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, which claimed more than 180 lives.

"On the eve of its first anniversary, President Obama reiterated the United States’s condemnation of the terrorist attack in Mumbai in November 2008," Mr Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a Joint Statement between them after their talks in the White House in Washington on Tuesday.

The two leaders recognised that the India-US partnership was indispensable for global peace and security and said that, in this context, the interests of both countries were best advanced through the values mirrored in their societies.

They acknowledged the common threat that international terrorism poses to regional and global security. They condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere.

The two leaders expressed their grave concern about the threat posed by terrorism and violent extremists emanating from India's neighborhood, whose impact is felt beyond the region. The two leaders agreed that resolute and credible steps must be taken to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries that provide shelter to terrorists and their activities. These undermine security and stability in the region and around the world.

The statement said the two leaders vowed to redouble their efforts to deal effectively with terrorism, while protecting their countries’ common ideals and shared values and committed themselves to strengthening global consensus and legal regimes against terrorism. They decided on a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to expand collaboration on counterterrorism, information sharing, and capacity building.

The two leaders reiterated their shared interest in the stability, development and independence of Afghanistan and in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to the statement, President Obama appreciated India’s role in reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in Afghanistan. The two leaders agreed to enhance their respective efforts in this direction.

The two leaders committed to continue pursuing mutually beneficial defence cooperation through the existing security dialogue, service-level exchanges, defence exercises and trade and technology transfer and collaboration. They recognised the scope for cooperation in the areas of non-traditional threats to security, peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster relief, and maritime security and protecting sea lanes of communication. They agreed to expedite necessary arrangements to facilitate these activities.

The two leaders agreed that strengthening high technology trade between their countries is in the spirit of their strategic dialogue and partnership. They reiterated their shared commitment to technology security and that it is in their mutual interest to invigorate this area of their partnership.

The statement said Dr Singh and Mr Obama had reaffirmed the global strategic partnership between their two countries and had launched a new phase in this partnership today.

They commended the deepening bilateral cooperation between the world's two largest democracies across a broad spectrum of human endeavours and recognised that the common ideals and complementary strengths of the two countries today provided a foundation for addressing the global challenges of the 21sr century.

Mr Obama stated that the US looked forward to a stable and prosperous India playing an increasingly important role in world affairs.

The joint statement also touched upon the cooperation between the two countries in areas such as energy security, food security, climate change, elimination of poverty, ensuring sustainable development and a clean energy future. They agreed to enter into a Green Partnership to address these global challenges.

The two leaders reaffirmed their intention to promote the full, effective and sustained implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in accordance with the Bali Action Plan. Recognizing their special role in promoting a successful and substantive outcome at the UNFCCC 15th Conference of Parties at Copenhagen in December, 2009, they reaffirmed their intention to work together bilaterally and with all other countries for an agreed outcome at that meeting.

The two leaders also affirmed that the Copenhagen outcome must be comprehensive and cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology, and in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, it should reflect emission reduction targets of developed countries and nationally appropriate mitigation actions of developing countries. There should be full transparency through appropriate processes as to the implementation of aforesaid mitigation actions. The outcome should further reflect the need for substantially scaled-up financial resources to support mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, in particular, for the poorest and most vulnerable. It should also include measures for promoting technology development, dissemination and transfer and capacity building, including consideration of a centre or a network of centres to support and stimulate climate innovation. India and the United States, consistent with their national circumstances, resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change. They resolved to stand by these commitments.

They agreed to collaborate in the application of their space technology and related scientific capabilities in outer space and for development purposes, including in the field of agriculture.

The two leaders reiterated their intention to realize the full potential of the India-U.S. Agreement for Cooperation concerning the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy through the implementation of its provisions. They agreed to expedite U.S. firms' participation in the implementation of this agreement.

The Joint Statement also talked about stimulating the global economic revival, and announced their intention to develop a Framework for Cooperation on Trade and Investment. This Framework is expected to foster an environment conducive to technological innovation and collaboration, promote inclusive growth and job creation, and support opportunities for increased trade and investment - including for small and medium-sized enterprises. They agreed to launch the U.S.-India Financial and Economic Partnership to strengthen engagement on economic, financial, and investment-related issues.

The two leaders welcomed the progress achieved in the discussions on a Bilateral Investment Treaty and pledged to take further initiatives that would contribute to creating a more conducive environment for investment flows.

They recognized the contribution of the business and industrial sectors of both countries in this regard and called upon the India-U.S. CEOs Forum to identify new directions in the India-U.S. economic relationship.

Other areas covered by the statement included cooperation in the fields of education and health.

Overall, the two leaders recognised that the India-US relationship was important for managing the challenges the world will face in the 21st centry and underscored the compelling need to put in place global institutions which are both inclusive and effective to meet present and future challenges.

They welcomed the emergence of the G-20 as a premier forum to deal with international economic issues. The two leaders recognized the scope for their countries to increase cooperation in peacekeeping, development and the promotion of essential human freedoms. They committed themselves to achieving genuine reform of the United Nations including in its Security Council in a manner that reflects the contemporary realities of the 21st century and thereby enhances its ability to carry out its mandate as a representative, credible and effective forum for meeting the challenges of the new century.

Earlier, addressing a joint press conference at the White House after their talks, Mr Obama said Pakistan had an enormously important role in the security of South Asia region by making sure that the extremist organisations that often operate out of its territories are dealt with effectively.

"And we've seen some progress.  The work that the Pakistan military is doing in the Swat Valley in west -- in south Waziristan all indicates the degree to which they are beginning to recognize that extremism, even if initially directed to the outside, can ultimately also have an adverse impact on their security internally," Mr Obama said.

Dr Singh said he and President Obama had a very useful and productive exchange of views relating to security, peace and counter-terrorism. He said he was very satisfied with the outcome of their discussions.

He also said that, as far as the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement was concerned, Mr Obama had re-affirmed that it was the common resolve of the two governments to operationalise the deal as early as possible.

"There are a few 'i's' and 't's' which have to be crossed -- and I am confident and I have the assurance of the President that that process can be completed without much further loss of time," he said.

Mr Obama said that it was obvious that there were historic conflicts between India and Pakistan but it was not the place of the US to try to, from outside, resolve all those conflicts. On the other hand, the US wanted to be encouraging of ways in which both India and Pakistan could feel secure, and focus on the development of their own countries and their own people, he said.

"With respect to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan's military, I think that there have probably been times in the past in which we were so single-mindedly focused just on military assistance in Pakistan that we didn't think more broadly about how to encourage and develop the kinds of civil society in Pakistan that would make a difference in the lives of people day to day," he remarked.

He hoped that, over time, there would be further clarity and further cooperation between all the parties and all peoples of goodwill in the region to eradicate terrorist activity, to eradicate the kind of violent extremist activity that has been seen in Pakistan. "I think that will benefit the peoples of Pakistan and India and the world community as well," he said.

In his opening remarks at the joint press conference, Mr Obama said the fact that Dr Singh's was the first official state visit of his presidency reflected America's admiration for the Prime Minister's leadersip, the deep bonds between the peoples of the two countries and the historic opportunity they had to strengthen and broaden the partnership between the two nations.

"India today is a rising and responsible global power.  In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region.  And the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia.

"Beyond Asia, as the world's largest multiethnic democracy, as one of the world's fastest-growing economies, and as a member of the G20, India will play a pivotal role in meeting the major challenges we face today.  And this includes my top economic priority, creating good jobs with good wages for the American people," he said.

Mr Obama said he believed the relationship between the US and India would be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century and Dr Singh's visit underscored the strengthening of that partnership, which he hoped would continue throughout his presidency. "That's why I've made it a priority to broaden the cooperation between our nations," he remarked.

He said his administration's commitment to India could be seen in the new strategic dialogue between the two countries, which addresses the full range of challenges and opportunities before them.

"And our commitment to India can be seen in my personal partnership with Prime Minister Singh.  We've worked together on economic matters at our G20 summits in London and Pittsburgh, as well as L'Aquila.  I consider him a wise leader who has helped unleash India's extraordinary economic growth.  He is a man of honesty and integrity.  I respect him and I trust him, and I have happily accepted his gracious invitation to visit India next year," he said.

The US President said the two sides had agreed to strengthen the economic recovery and expand trade and investment so that they could create jobs for both their peoples.

He noted that Indian investment in America was creating and sustaining jobs across the US. The US is India's largest trading and investment partner and there is significant balance in their trading relationships, he said. He said that, to sustain this momentum, the two sides were creating new initiatives to promote trade, investment and technology cooperation, especially among their small and medium-sized businesses.

He said he had reaffirmed to Dr Singh his administration's commitment to fully implement the nuclear deal, which would increase American exports and create jobs in both countries.

They agreed to move forward with their commitments at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh to pursue balanced growth while ensuring that emerging economies like India have a greater voice in shaping the international financial architecture.

He said they had made progress in confronting climate change and commended the Prime Minister for India's leadership in areas like green buildings and energy efficiency. He said the two sides had , agreed to a series of important new efforts:  a clean energy initiative that will create jobs and improve people's access to cleaner, more affordable energy; a green partnership to reduce poverty through sustainable and equitable development; and an historic effort to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

"With just two weeks until the beginning of Copenhagen, it's also essential that all countries do what is necessary to reach a strong operational agreement that will confront the threat of climate change while serving as a stepping-stone to a legally binding treaty," he said.

Mr Obama said he and Dr Singh had reaffirmed that an agreement in Copenhagen should be comprehensive and cover all the issues under negotiation. 

"We resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change.  We agreed to stand by these commitments with full transparency through appropriate processes as to their implementation.  All this builds on the progress that we made in Beijing, and it takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen," he said.

The US President said he and Dr Singh had also agreed to deepen their cooperation against transnational threats. "The American people join our Indian friends in remembering the horrific attacks in Mumbai one year ago this week.  To prevent future attacks, we agreed that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies will work even closer, including sharing more information.  We discussed my review of our policy in Afghanistan, and I thanked Prime Minister Singh for India's substantial contributions to the Afghan people," he said.

Mr Obama welcomed Dr Singh's support for the non-proliferation agenda that he had laid out in Prague, and looked forward to India's participation in the nuclear security summit next year, as well as India's participation as a full partner in the shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

"Now, part of that vision is working together to ensure that all nations, including Iran and South -- North Korea, live up to their international obligations," he said.

Mr Obama said the two sides agreed to expand the educational exchanges that will fuel their knowledge-based economies. 

They decided to "dramatically" expand the Fulbright-Nehru program that brings students and scholars from both countries together, especially in science and technology. 

They also decided to increase ties and exchanges between their universities and community colleges as part of "a new Obama-Singh -- or Singh-Obama" -- 21st Century Knowledge Initiative.
"We think it's appropriately named," he quipped.

Mr Obama said that, to advance their historic food security initiative, American and Indian researches would collaborate to improve agricultural output and reduce hunger -- not only in India, where enormous strides have been made, but around the world. "India has much to teach the developing world in terms of achieving food sufficiency," he remarked.

He said American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention would partner with their Indian counterparts to create a new disease detection centre in India to combat infectious diseases and promote global health.

"This is the concrete progress made today across a whole range of issues to create jobs, opportunity and security for our people.  As a result, I believe the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger -- a reminder that it will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received by the US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama at a banquet hosted in honour of Indian Prime Minister at White House, Washington on November 24, 2009.

President and Ms Michelle Obama later hosted Dr Singh and Ms Gursharan Kaur at the first state dinner of his presidency. "It will be another opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister and the people of India, as India assumes its rightful place as a global leader in this century, that you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America," he added.

Dr Singh said that when India and the US met, it was a moment to celebrate the values of democracy, pluralism, liberty and freedom. "Today we have done that and much more," he observed.

He said the two leaders had, in their discussions, reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral relationship between the two countries and decided on future steps to enhance their strategic partnership.

"We have agreed to further intensify our trade, investment, and economic cooperation in a way that creates jobs and prosperity in both our two countries and stimulates global economic recovery," he said.

Dr Singh expressed admiration for the leadership that President Obama had provided to stimulate and guide the G-20 process. He said they had decided to give a fresh impetus to collaboration in the fields of education, agriculture and health. He said the two countries would deepen their ongoing cooperation in frontier areas of science and technology, nuclear power and space. "This will open new opportunities for our universities and laboratories, and create human capital to meet the global needs of the future," he said.

The Prime Minister said he and Mr Obama had had a very constructive exchange of views on strategic issues. "Our defence cooperation is progressing well.  We agreed on the early and full implementation of our Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.  Our strategic partnership should facilitate transfer of high technologies to India.  The lifting of U.S. export controls on high technology exports to India will open vast opportunities for giant research and development efforts.  It will enable U.S. industry to benefit from the rapid economic and technological transformation that is now underway in our country," he said.

Referring to the Copenhagen meeting on Climate Change in December, he said he and Mr Obama had agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome, which would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology.  "We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end bilaterally and with all other countries," he said.

Dr Singh said India welcomed President Obama's commitment to a major programme for promotion of renewable energy. He drew Mr Obama's attention to India's own ambitious national action plan on climate change, which has eight national missions covering both mitigation and adaptation.

"Just as we partnered each other in the shaping of the knowledge economy, we have the opportunity today to become partners in developing the green economy of the future.  I underlined India's desire to benefit from clean and energy-efficient technologies from the United States.  Our partnership will contribute to global efforts to combat climate change and achieve energy security," he said.

Dr Singh said the two leaders had a detailed discussion on important regional and global issues. 
"We agreed that the Indo-U.S. partnership was important for addressing the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world that we live in.  The global economic crisis has brought home the fact that our prosperity is interlinked," he said.

"Our dialogue covered the need to have an open and inclusive architecture in the Asia Pacific regions.  It is important for the international community to sustain its engagement in Afghanistan, to help its emergence as a modern state," he said.

"The focus -- the forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world and have to be defeated.  President Obama and I have decided to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counterterrorism," he said.

Dr Singh said India welcomed the renewed international interest in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, pointing out that India had been a consistent advocate of a world free of nuclear weapons.  He said India would work with the United States and other countries for the success of the nuclear security summit, which President Obama is hosting next April.

"In our discussions today, there was a meeting of minds on the future direction of our relations.  I was deeply impressed by President Obama's strong commitment to the India-U.S. strategic partnership and by the breadth of his vision for global peace and prosperity," he said.

Dr Singh said he had invited President Obama to visit India. "A very warm welcome awaits him, his gracious wife and his two daughters," he added.

In reply to a question, Mr Obama said he thought the US and India were natural allies, not just around counter-terrorism issues but on a whole host of issues.

"As we discussed earlier, we're the world's two largest democracies.  We have a range of shared values and ideals.  We're both entrepreneurial societies.  We're both multiethnic societies.  We are societies that believe in human rights and core freedoms that are enshrined in our founding documents.

"And one of the things that I think makes us such strong allies is the people-to-people contact.  It's one thing for leaders to have exchanges like this one, and that's very important, obviously.  But the incredible contributions that Indian Americans have made to the growth of our country and the degree to which they are woven into the very fabric of our society, the fact that very few Indians don't have some family member somewhere who has a connection to the United States -- that kind of exchange strengthens and deepens the bonds between our two countries in a profound way.

"Now, with respect to security issues in the region, the Prime Minister and I -- Prime Minister Singh and I had extensive discussions about that.  I think we both recognize that our core goal is to achieve peace and security for all peoples in the region, not just one country or the other.  And one of the things I admire most about Prime Minister Singh is that I think at his core he is a man of peace," he added.

Photos: Courtesy: Press Information Bureau

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India ready to do more for Sri Lankan Tamils: Mukherjee

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday India was willing to provide even more assistance for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said India was willing to provide even more assistance for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils in the north of Sri Lanka, over and above the assistance of Rs 500 crore announced by it earlier.

"India is doing and will continue to do whatever it can to assist Sri Lanka in this critical phase of its history," Mr Mukherjee said in the 4th Lakshman Kadirgamar Lecture in Colombo on the theme, "Economics as driving force of International Relations".

India is helping the Sri Lankan government in various ways in rehabilitation and resettlement of the Tamils after the Sri Lankan army decimated the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

"The effective elimination of terrorism and secessionism from Sri Lanka offers you such an opportunity; an opportunity to shape history; an opportunity to permanently change the complexion of the relationship between the majority community and the minorities; an opportunity to address the legitimate grievances of all communities; and an opportunity to bring permanent peace and stability to this nation," he said.

"These are sine qua non for building the Sri Lanka of the future – a future in which all communities will live side by side and enjoy the same rights and privileges and get the same opportunities," he said.

Mr Mukherjee said that it was natural that, after freeing the Tamils from terrorist forces, it was natural that the first and primary focus of the Government of Sri Lanka had been to ensure the immediate welfare and safety of its citizens.

"Thousands of Tamils have come out of the conflict zone traumatized by the conflict and harbouring deep concern and fear of what the future holds for them. These citizens need reassurance. They yearn to return to their homes and resume their livelihood. Several thousand Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have indeed been resettled recently and we welcome this development. However, many more await their turn for resettlement in camps. We are confident that their speedy return is receiving the highest consideration of the Government," he said

"India has not hesitated to come to Sri Lanka’s assistance at this crucial juncture. This is only natural," he said.

The Finance Minister said India was moving from purely relief efforts to a broader rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. Its assistance had so far covered humanitarian supplies such as food, medicines and other essential supplies. It set up an emergency field hospital and four Indian de-mining teams are presently working in Northern Sri Lanka. Three more are on their way.

He said India was also sending additional shelter material and providing assistance to revive agriculture and livelihood in the North. He said both sides were also discussing assistance in reconstruction of critical civil infrastructure in Sri Lanka, including railways. They were now discussing larger projects for the population in key cities who were traumatised by the conflict.

Mr Mukherjee said they had, at the same time, not lost sight of the urgent requirements in the Eastern Province as well as of the Indian origin Tamils in up-country areas.

The lecture series is held in memory of former Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar, who served under then President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Mr Kadirgamar was assassinated, allegedly by an LTTE sniper, in August, 2005.

Mr Mukherjee recalled the vision which Mr Kadirgamar had, both for close fraternal relations between India and Sri Lanka and for the future of Sri Lanka itself.

"It was he who dreamt of a world in which India and Sri Lanka would work together to build on our shared geography, history and culture in a relationship defined in his eloquent words by 'irreversible excellence'. It was also Lakshman who believed that Sri Lanka should remain united, and that its people should live together in an atmosphere of confidence and trust," he said.

He pointed out that Mr Kadirgamar believed that durable peace in Sri Lanka should be based on a constitutional arrangement acceptable to all communities in the nation based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

He recalled that the late Foreign Minister had said that it was important for all communities of Sri Lanka to realise that a political settlement was not a zero-sum game. It need not and should not come at the cost of another, he said.

He said Mr Kadirgamar's vision also drew upon the experience of the working of the Indian model. He believed that the Indian experiment with democracy was relevant in that India had chosen a democratic system which was designed to preserve the unity and integrity of the country without allowing for its disintegration.

The Finance Minister said there were many things in common between the two nations in terms of history, culture, philosophy and customs.

He said economics and international relations had a two-way relationship. "The economic strength of a country furthers international relations and vice-versa, creating a virtuous circle of growth and empowerment. The relationship has not changed though the (global economic and financial) crisis has brought in lessons that are likely to redefine the link in the interest of promoting global stability, he said.

According to him, the present crisis would be another watershed in the evolution of economics and is expected to bring about radical retooling of the theory.

He said there was a need for "visible hand" of oversight and regulation, without compromising market efficiency. Macro-prudential norms that aim at avoiding systemic risk through a watchful eye on asset price bubbles and imbalances, together with early warning indicators would be the key to this effort, he said.

Mr Mukherjee said developing countries are more vulnerable to crisis, as they have fewer cushions against shocks.

According to him, to resuscitate growth in the developing countries, the lost export demand had to be replaced by expanding other components of domestic demand.

"The best option is to expand investment. An obvious area where additional investment is required is infrastructure, including energy, transport and other public services. These investments can be made ahead of requirements and therefore are an ideal form of countercyclical activity," he observed.

He listed the various steps the Indian government had taken to cope with the crisis. He said the Indian economy had shown remarkable resilience to the crisis because the financial system had no exposure to the toxic assets.

He said the Indian growth was largely domestic economy driven, with merchandise exports accounting for only about 15 per cent of GDP.

"The extent of globalization however has increased over the years, which has been responsible for the setback that the economy received due to external shocks. The crisis hit the Indian economy initially through slowdown and reversal of capital flows, which impacted the stock market and the exchange rates. Thereafter, especially after the Lehman crisis, the real economy was affected through slowdown in exports, reduced investment activity and general risk aversion," he said.

He said that economic growth was expected to be in the range of 6-7 per cent in 2009-10, despite the setback due to the poor monsoon. The effort now was to bring the economy back on the growth path of 9 per cent per annum.

Mr Mukherjee expressed satisfaction that the Sri Lankan economy had also exhibited considerable resilience in the first few months of 2009 despite shocks from the global recession and the resultant slowdown in domestic economic activity.

He said the world economy was showing signs of recovery and global output was expected to expand by 3.1 per cent in 2010.

"The risks however, remain and the recovery would be razor edge walk, especially because signs of asset price bubble and heightened carry trade activity are re-emerging," he said.

"Against this backdrop of our shared inheritance lie the sobering realities of the current economic crisis. Global economic and financial slowdown has put the spotlight squarely on Asia as a region which can lead the global economic revival. Developing countries were in no way responsible for the crisis but have been the hardest hit. India has also been affected but fortunately not as bad as some others," he said.

The Finance Minister said India and Sri Lanka could show the way for Asia by cooperating even more with each other, building on the success of their Free Trade Agreement (FTA). He noted that the two sides had already initialed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) last year.

"I can assure you one thing – at a time when global players are investing in India to leverage their synergies with us, including in services, CEPA can only be a win-win situation for both India and Sri Lanka," he stressed.

"There are, however, hopeful signs that the future is closer to us than we think," he remarked, pointing to the fact that one of Sri Lanka’s largest companies, Brandix, has started a fully integrated textile city in Vishakapatnam.

He said Sri Lankan Airlines is already the largest foreign airline in India. Colombo Port and Colombo Dockyard feed on substantial Indian business. Many other Sri Lankan companies have realized the potential India offers. Many Indian corporations are also investing in Sri Lanka, the most prominent being Tata, Ceat, Indian Oil, Airtel, Ultratech and NTPC. Indian banks and an insurance company operate in Sri Lanka as well, he said.

He also said the two countries were looking at power-grid interconnectivity. There are more than 100 flights a week between the two countries. India already accounts for the largest number of tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka.

"Our development partnership has expanded to include several projects which India is taking up in Southern Sri Lanka including the Southern Railway corridor. Trade, connectivity, tourism and exchange of information and ideas are the key to greater economic engagement, he said.

"The future of peace, security and development of our region has to be fortified through common economic prosperity. We are already engaged in this process through SAARC, which has moved from a declaratory to an implementation stage. The challenge today is to build inter-dependencies which not only integrate our region but also create a strong interest in each other’s stability and prosperity. Critical to this is connectivity of goods, people and ideas. India and Sri Lanka have the will and determination to take a leadership role in this quest," he added.

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