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India's Dalveer Bhandari re-elected as judge of International Court of Justice

India's Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected on Monday as a judge of the International Court of Justice by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council at the end of several rounds of voting in a keenly contested election, in what is being seen as a major diplomatic victory for the country.

Justice Dalveer Bhandari
Justice Dalveer Bhandari
India's Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected on Monday as a judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council at the end of several rounds of voting in a keenly contested election, in what is being seen as a major diplomatic victory for the country.
 
Mr. Justice Bhandari, 70, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, won on the basis of the solid backing of the UN General Assembly, prompting Britain, one of the five permanent members of the Un Security Council, to withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood.
 
He got 183 votes in the General Assembly and 15 in the Security Council. "A vote that brings cheer to a billion," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Syed Akbaruddin said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
 
"Vande Matram - India wins election to the International Court of Justice. JaiHind," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter.
 
The election had become a test of will between the Security Council, where Britain had the support of its four other permanent members, and the General Assembly.
 
"Dalveer Bhandari, of India, received the absolute majority of votes in elections – conducted independently, but concurrently – at the Security Council and the General Assembly," a press release from the UN said.
 
"He remained the sole candidate for the position after the United Kingdom withdrew the nomination of Christopher Greenwood," it said.
 
The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected by an absolute majority in both the General Assembly and Security Council. Five seats come up for election every three years. There is no bar on consecutive terms.
 
On November 9, the General Assembly and the Security Council elected four Members of the ICJ for a term of office of nine years, beginning on February 6, 2018. 
 
Judges Ronny Abraham (France), Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia) and Antônio Augusto Cançado Trindade (Brazil) were re-elected as Members of the Court on that date. Mr. Nawaf Salam (Lebanon) was elected as a new Member of the Court. The election of a fifth Member of the Court could not be concluded on that date, since no candidate obtained a majority in both the General Assembly and the Security Council. 
 
Members of the Court are elected by the General Assembly and by the Security Council. These organs vote at the same time but independently of one another. This procedure is intended to ensure, as far as possible, that the vote in one organ does not influence the vote in the other. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive an absolute majority of the votes in both organs, that is to say, currently 97 votes in the General Assembly and eight votes in the Security Council, where no right of veto applies for the purpose of the election and no distinction is made between the votes of the permanent and non-permanent members of the Council.
 
Mr. Justice Bhandari had won a majority in the General Assembly in the first 11 rounds of voting over two meetings, but the Council had blocked his election by giving a majority of its votes to Mr. Greenwood. The Asian seat on the ICJ, however, had gone to Mr. Nawaf Salam, a Lebanese lawyer-turned-diplomat, who had the backing of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which  has 55 members in the UN. 
 
Mr. Justice Bhandari remained in the race mainly because Mr. Greenwood could not muster the majority required in the Assembly for the fifth judgeship. Permanent members of the UN Security Council have traditionally had a judge in the ICJ.
 
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In his letters to the presidents of the Assembly and the Council, Britain's permanent representative to the UN Mathew Rycroft said his country was withdrawing Mr. Greenwood's candidature keeping in mind "the close relationship that the United Kingdom and India always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy".
 
This is the first time that the UK has lost its seat on the ICJ since its creation in 1946.
 
"The UK has concluded that it is wrong to take up the valuable time of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly with further rounds of elections," media reports quoted Mr. Rycroft as saying.
 
"The UK congratulates the successful candidates, including Judge Bhandari of India. We are naturally disappointed, but it was a competitive field with six strong candidates. If the UK could not win in this run-off, then we are pleased that it is a close friend like India that has done so instead," he added.
 
India had been saying that only a candidate who enjoyed overwhelming support of the General Assembly could legitimately go through in the election. In the last round of voting on November 13, Mr. Justice Bhandari had received 121 votes, just short of the two-thirds mark in the 193-member Assembly, while Mr. Greenwood had got nine votes in the 15-member Council.
 
The ICJ was established by the United Nations Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York.
 
The Court has a twofold role: first, to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States (its judgments have binding force and are without appeal for the parties concerned); and, second, to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by duly authorized United Nations organs and agencies of the system. 
 
Also known as the “World Court”, it is the only court of a universal character with general jurisdiction.
 
In February 2018, the Court as newly constituted will proceed to elect from among its Members a President and a Vice-President, who will hold office for three years.
 
ICJ judges are chosen on the basis of their qualifications, not their nationality, but no two judges can be from the same nationality. Effort is also taken to ensure that the principal legal systems of the world are reflected in the composition of the court.
 
Born on October 1, 1947, Mr. Justice Bhandari graduated in humanities and law, he did Master of Laws from the Northwestern University,Chicago in the United States. 
 
On an International Fellowship, he visited Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka on an observational-cum-lecture tour on Legal Aid and Clinical Legal Educational Programmes associated with the Law Courts and Law Schools. He also worked on an International Project “Delay in the Administration of Criminal Justice in India” sponsored by the United Nations.
 
He was a Member of a High Level Delegation which visited many places of the then USSR to study and comprehend Soviet Legal and Judicial System and its relevance for India.
 
He practised in the Rajasthan High Court in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional branches of law from 1973 to 1976. During that period, he also taught as a part-time lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Jodhpur University. He shifted to Delhi from Jodhpur in 1977 and practised in the Supreme Court till his elevation to the Delhi High Court in March 1991.
 
He was the Chairperson of the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee for several years. He was also the Chairperson of the Advisory Board of Delhi State of COFEPOSA and NSA for a number of years.
 
He was appointed as the Chief Justice of Maharashtra and Goa on 25th July, 2004. He took special interest in Computerization, Video Conferencing facilities, Legal Aid and Legal Literacy programmes and setting up of Mediation and Conciliation Centres all over Maharashtra. He was instrumental in setting up the ‘Information Centre for the Litigants’ in the Bombay High Court.
 
Justice Bhandari was elevated to the Supreme Court on October 28, 2005 and his term of office is due to end on September 30, 2012.
 
He has served as the Chairman of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee. He also  served as the Chairman of Mediation and Conciliation Project Committee and had supervised Mediation and Conciliation Programmes all over the country.
 
Mr. Justice Bhandari was honoured by the Government with the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India, in 2014.
 
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India's Manushi Chhillar wins Miss World 2017

India's Manushi Chillar, who hails from Haryana, today won the Miss World 2017 title at Sanya in China, 17 years after Priyanka Chopra, now a well-known actress, bagged the title in 2000.

Manushi Chillar
Manushi Chillar
India's Manushi Chillar, who hails from Haryana, on Saturday won the Miss World 2017 title at Sanya in China, 17 years Priyanka Chopra, now a well-known actress, bagged the title in 2000.
 
Miss England Stephanie Hill was the first runner-up and Miss Mexico Andrea Meza was the second runner-up.
 
Manushi, 20, who is 175 cms tall, is currently studying for her MBBS degree at the Bhagat Phool Singh Government Medical College for Women in Sonipat and aspires to be a cardiac surgeon and run a run of non-profit hospitals based in rural areas. She had done her schooling in St. Thomas School in New Delhi.
 
She is also keen on outdoor sports and participates in paragliding, bungee jumping, snorkelling and scuba diving. She is a trained Indian Classical dancer and enjoys sketching and painting. 
 
In the question and answer round after reaching the top five, Manushi was asked which profession she thought deserved the highest salary and why. She responded by saying, "I think a mother is of highest respect. I don't think its just about cash but love and respect she gives to someone. She is the biggest inspiration in my life. Mother should get highest respect."
 
As many as 108 contestants from across the world participated in this year's edition of the pageant.
 
Last year's winner, Stephanie Del Valle of Puerto Rico passed on her crown to Manushi  after she was named as this year's winner of the coveted title.
 
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Prabhu holds bilateral discussions with Russian political and business leaders

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Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu, on a visit to Russia for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Meeting of the Ministers of the Member States responsible for Foreign Economic and Foreign Trade, also held bilateral discussions with Russian political and business leaders.
 
This is the first Ministerial Conference on Trade organized by the SCO after India became a full member in June 2017. This is also Mr Prabhu’s first visit to Russia as Minister of Commerce and Industry.
 
Mr Prabhu met the Member of Board (Minister) for Trade of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EaEC), Veronika Nikishina on November 15 and discussed the early start of negotiations of the Free Trade Agreement between India and the Eurasian Economic Commission, as well as the potential and opportunities for increasing trade cooperation.
 
The next day, he participated in a Round Table interaction with 30 of Russia’s leading business leaders. The companies that attended the Round Table were leaders in steel, engineering goods, railways, financial services, nuclear energy, agriculture, venture capitalists and trade promotion.
 
The Minister told the gathering about the new initiatives of the Government of India, particularly with regard to ease of doing business, priority areas like financing in the nuclear energy sector, natural gas, railways, organizing trade fairs, agro-marketing, and so on.
 
Mr Prabhu invited the businessmen to take part in the Partnership Summit in Visakhapatnam from February 24-26, 2018.
 
He also met the Minister for Economic Development of the Russian Federation Maxim Oreshkin on November 16 and discussed the current level of bilateral trade between India and Russia and ways for its enhancement.
 
They also discussed opportunities that the fast-growing economy of India provides for doing business, particularly in the field of manufacturing. Earlier in the day, he met the President of Skolkovo Foundation and Renova Group, Viktor Vekselberg and discussed the production of solar panels, bottled Baikal water and renewable energy production, official sources said.
 
The Minister will separately address a gathering of Russian small and medium enterprises and a select group of Russian investors at Delovaya Russia later today. He will also meet his Russian counterpart, Minister of Industry & Trade of the Russian Federation Dennis Manturov, they added.
 
The discussions are likely to include ways to strengthen India- Russia Investment and collaboration in creating joint ventures under the Make in India initiative.
 
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Moody's upgrades India's sovereign rating for first time in 13 years

International ratings agency Moody's Investors Service has upgraded India's local and foreign currency issuer ratings to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed the outlook on the rating to stable from positive, saying that the economic reforms implemented by the Government would foster strong and sustainable growth.

International ratings agency Moody's Investors Service on Thursday upgraded India's local and foreign currency issuer ratings to Baa2 from Baa3 and changed the outlook on the rating to stable from positive, saying that the economic reforms implemented by the Government would foster strong and sustainable growth.
 
Moody's has also upgraded India's local currency senior unsecured rating to Baa2 from Baa3 and its short-term local currency rating to P-2 from P-3, a statement from the agency said.
 
The agency  has upgraded India's sovereign rating to a notch above investment grade after a gap of 13 years. It had last upgraded India's rating to Baa3 in 2004 -- the lowest investment grade and just a notch above junk status. In 2015, the rating outlook was changed to "positive" from "stable".
 
"The decision to upgrade the ratings is underpinned by Moody's expectation that continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will, over time, enhance India's high growth potential and its large and stable financing base for government debt, and will likely contribute to a gradual decline in the general government debt burden over the medium term. In the meantime, while India's high debt burden remains a constraint on the country's credit profile, Moody's believes that the reforms put in place have reduced the risk of a sharp increase in debt, even in potential downside scenarios," the agency said.
 
Moody's has also raised India's long-term foreign-currency bond ceiling to Baa1 from Baa2, and the long-term foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling to Baa2 from Baa3. The short-term foreign-currency bond ceiling remains unchanged at P-2, and the short-term foreign-currency bank deposit ceiling has been raised to P-2 from P-3. The long-term local currency deposit and bond ceilings remain unchanged at A1, it said.
 
Explaining the rationale for upgrading the rating to Baa2, the agency said the government is mid-way through a wide-ranging program of economic and institutional reforms. 
 
"While a number of important reforms remain at the design phase, Moody's believes that those implemented to date will advance the government's objective of improving the business climate, enhancing productivity, stimulating foreign and domestic investment, and ultimately fostering strong and sustainable growth. The reform program will thus complement the existing shock-absorbance capacity provided by India's strong growth potential and improving global competitiveness.
 
"Key elements of the reform program include the recently-introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) which will, among other things, promote productivity by removing barriers to interstate trade; improvements to the monetary policy framework; measures to address the overhang of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the banking system; and measures such as demonetization, the Aadhaar system of biometric accounts and targeted delivery of benefits through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) system intended to reduce informality in the economy. Other important measures which have yet to reach fruition include planned land and labor market reforms, which rely to a great extent on cooperation with and between the States," it said.
 
The statement said most of these measures would take time for their impact to be seen, and some, such as the GST and demonetization, had undermined growth over the near term. 
 
"Moody's expects real GDP growth to moderate to 6.7% in the fiscal year ending in March 2018 (FY2017). However, as disruption fades, assisted by recent government measures to support SMEs and exporters with GST compliance, real GDP growth will rise to 7.5% in FY2018, with similarly robust levels of growth from FY2019 onward. Longer term, India's growth potential is significantly higher than most other Baa-rated sovereigns," it said.
 
Moody's said it also believed that recent reforms offered greater confidence that the high level of public indebtedness which is India's principal credit weakness would remain stable, even in the event of shocks, and would ultimately decline.
 
"General government debt stood at 68% of GDP in 2016, significantly higher than the Baa median of 44%. The impact of the high debt load is already mitigated somewhat by the large pool of private savings available to finance government debt. Robust domestic demand has enabled the government to lengthen the maturity of its debt stock over time, with the weighted average maturity on the outstanding stock of debt now standing at 10.65 years, over 90% of which is owed to domestic institutions and denominated in rupees. This in turn lowers the impact of interest rate volatility on debt servicing costs since gross financing requirements in any given year are moderate.
 
"In addition, however, measures which increase the degree of formality in the economy, broaden the tax base (as with the GST), and promote expenditure efficiency through rationalization of government schemes and better-targeted delivery (as with the DBT system) will support the expected, though very gradual, improvement in India's fiscal metrics over time. Moody's expects India's debt-to-GDP ratio to rise by about 1 percentage point this fiscal year, to 69%, as nominal GDP growth has slowed following demonetization and the implementation of GST. The debt burden will likely remain broadly stable in the next few years, before falling gradually as nominal GDP growth continues and revenue-broadening and expenditure efficiency-enhancing measures take effect," it said.
 
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The statement said Government efforts to reduce corruption, formalize economic activity and improve tax collection and administration, including through demonetization and GST, both illustrate and should contribute to the further strengthening of India's institutions. On the fiscal front, efforts to improve transparency and accountability, including through adoption of a new Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, are expected to enhance India's fiscal policy framework and strengthen policy credibility, it said.
 
"Adoption of a flexible inflation targeting regime and the formation of a Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) have already enhanced the transparency and efficiency of monetary policy in India. Inflation has declined markedly and foreign exchange reserves have increased to all-time highs, creating significant policy buffers to absorb potential shocks.
 
"Much remains to be done. Challenges with implementation of the GST, ongoing weakness of private sector investment, slow progress with resolution of banking sector asset quality issues, and lack of progress with land and labor reforms at the national level highlight still material government effectiveness issues. However, Moody's expects that over time at least some of these issues will be addressed, resulting in a steady further improvement in India's government effectiveness and overall institutional framework," it said.
 
The agency said recent announcements of a comprehensive recapitalization of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and signs of proactive steps towards a resolution of high NPLs through use of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act 2016 were beginning to address a key weakness in India's sovereign credit profile.
 
"While the capital injection will modestly increase the government's debt burden in the near term (by about 0.8% of GDP over two years), it should enable banks to move forward with the resolution of NPLs through comprehensive write-downs of impaired loans and increase lending gradually. Over the medium term, if met by rising demand for investment and loans, the measures will help foster more robust growth, in turn supporting fiscal consolidation," it said.
 
"The stable outlook reflects Moody's view that, at the Baa2 level, the risks to India's credit profile are broadly balanced.
 
"The relatively fast pace of growth in incomes will continue to bolster the economy's shock absorption capacity. And even in periods of relatively slower growth, as seen recently, stable financing will mitigate the risk of a sharp deterioration in fiscal metrics.
 
"However, the high public debt burden remains an important constraint on India's credit profile relative to peers, notwithstanding the mitigating factors which support fiscal sustainability. That constraint is not expected to diminish rapidly, with low income levels continuing to point to significant development spending needs over the coming years. Measures to encourage greater formalization of the economy, reduce expenditure and increase revenues will likely take time to diminish the debt stock," it said.
 
The  agency said the rating could face upward pressure if there were to be a material strengthening in fiscal metrics, combined with a strong and durable recovery of the investment cycle, probably supported by significant economic and institutional reforms.
 
"In particular, greater expectation of a sizeable and sustained reduction in the general government debt burden, through increased government revenues combined with a reduction in expenditures, would put positive pressure on the rating. Implementation of key pending reforms, including land and labor reforms, could put additional upward pressure on the rating," it said.
 
The statement said a material deterioration in fiscal metrics and the outlook for general government fiscal consolidation would put negative pressure on the rating. The rating could also face downward pressure if the health of the banking system deteriorated significantly or external vulnerability increased sharply.
 
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Jaitley says India has become most attractive destination for FDI

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Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that India has come the most favourable and attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) as evidenced by the fact that it had become one of the largest recipients of FDI in the world.
 
Speaking at an Investors' Roundtable Meet here yesterday, Mr. Jaitley also highlighted the major economic reforms undertaken by the present Government and urged investors to become part of the India story.
 
Mr. Jaitley, who reached here yesterday on a two-day visit, also met key Singapore officials.
 
The Investors Roundtable was jointly organized by the Ministry of Finance and the High Commission of India in Singapore. 
 
Mr. Jaitley said that, to provide further impetus to the economy, the  Government had implemented a slew of economy reforms, including the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1, 2017; introduction of Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) and the Re-Capitalization Package for the Public Sector Banks (PSBs) - which will help to redress the twin balance sheet problem and revive private investment. 
 
He also spoke about the major initiatives undertaken by the present Government including the crackdown against black money through demonetization and other follow-up measures; and major changes in the FDI) Policy regime, with an aim to make it more liberal and investor friendly. He also highlighted the Ease of Doing Business measures initiated by the present Government in the last three years, resulting in India jumping in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index from 146 in 2014 to 100 in October 2017.
 
Earlier in his keynote address at the Singapore Fintech Festival yesterday, Mr. Jaitley said that the three key structural reforms implemented by the present Government in recent years -- Aadhar, Demonetisation and GST -- had brought transparency and efficiency in governance and helped in the transition from cash to less cash economy and from informal to formal economy. 
 
He said demonetisation had also helped in bringing out black money by giving identity to anonymous cash. He also spoke on India’s growing economy; stable currency, liberalisation of FDI policies India’s attractiveness as a global destination for start-ups among others. He also dwelt on how Aadhaar revolution coupled with financial inclusion and its potential applications in transferring of pension, scholarship and Government subsidies directly to the actual beneficiaries under Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) Scheme is transforming the payment landscape in India. 
 
The Finance Minister also visited Singapore Expo, a global event organised by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) attracting over 35,000 fintech participants, showcasing state-of-the-art developments in the fintech sector and engaging professionals and policy makers on developments across the globe.
 
He visited the India Pavilion set up by Invest India, along with the State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal and Maharashtra which are also participating in the exhibition.
 
Mr. Jaitley later met Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, and discussed issues of mutual interest between the two countries. He also held a bilateral meeting with his Singapore counterpart Heng Swee Keat and discussed key reforms being implemented by the Government of India, along with measures to increase mutual bilateral investments. 
 
He met the CEO and senior officials of GIC, the sovereign wealth fund of the Government of Singapore, and discussed investment opportunities across multiple sectors in India, including the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF).
 
He also had meetings with the Chairman, SIA & DBS Group Holdings, CEO of Singapore Airlines, Chairman of Blackstone and President, Singapore Stock Exchange.
 
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Mr. Subhash Chandra Garg, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Ministry of Finance, who is accompanying Mr. Jaitley, had a comprehensive bilateral meeting with Ms Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of Singapore and discussed issues relating to Singapore’s concerns on the matters of Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), review of the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), possibility of mutual co-operation in Financial Innovation, Fintech and Digital Payment ecosystem, and other issues of mutual interests.
 
Detailed interaction took place with more than 25 investors present in the Investors’ Roundtable, which was co-chaired by Mr. Garg and Ms Tan Ching Yee, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance, Government of Singapore. 
 
During the conference, a number of questions were posed on the Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) with Singapore, currency stability, fiscal deficit, India’s sovereign rating, supply chain and issues in the power sector among others. 
 
Mr. Sujoy Bose, CEO, NIIF briefed investors on the fund and about the first close of the Master Fund with a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and four Domestic Institutional Investors (DIIs) joining in October, 2017.
 
Mr. Garg also met senior officials of Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and the participants from Andhra Pradesh, Uttarakhand and other States to discuss development of the Fintech Ecosystem in Singapore, and how India can participate and lead the Fintech Revolution and the possibility of entering into Bilateral Regulatory Cooperation with MAS on fintech related issues.
 
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Modi assures ASEAN of support for rules-based regional security architecture

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today assured ASEAN of India's steady support towards achieving a rules-based regional security architecture that best attests to the region's interests and its peaceful development.
 
"We have individually strived very hard to fight terrorism and violent extremism. It is time that we jointly address this challenge by intensifying cooperation in this crucial area," he said in his opening statement at the 15th ASEAN-India Summit here.
 
The  Prime Minister said India's Act East Policy is shaped around the ASEAN, and that its centrality in the regional security architecture of the Indo-Pacific region is evident.
 
"Maritime links established thousands of years ago between India and ASEAN countries have enabled our trade relations in the past and we have to work closely to further strengthen them," he said.
 
Mr. Modi began by noting that this was his first visit to Manila in this landmark 50th year of ASEAN's establishment. "We are also celebrating 25 years of ASEAN – India dialogue partnership," he said.
 
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"ASEAN’s remarkable journey is indeed worthy of reflection as much as it is of celebration. On this historic occasion, I am confident that ASEAN will further resolve to work together with one vision, one identity and as one independent community," he said.
 
He said their wide-ranging agenda of cooperation under the 3rd ASEAN-India Plan of Action has progressed well covering the three crucial pillars of politico-security, economic and cultural partnership.
 
"The befitting theme of ‘Shared Values, Common Destiny’ for our 25th anniversary celebrations has been jointly celebrated with a number of commemorative activities.
 
"I look forward to a befitting culmination of the commemorative year and receiving you at the India-ASEAN Special Commemorative Summit on 25 January 2018 in New Delhi.
 
"The 1.25 billion people of India are keen to welcome the ASEAN Leaders as our Chief Guests at India’s 69th Republic Day Celebrations.
 
"I am committed to working with you to realize our common destiny," he added.
 
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India hopes developed countries would earmark part of ODA assistance for solar projects

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India has expressed the hope that, in a spirit of affirmative action, the developed countries would earmark a percentage of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) towards solar energy projects in developing countries.  
 
Speaking at the curtain raiser for the founding ceremony of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) here yesterday, Mr Anand Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy suggested that Multilateral Development Banks and other financial institutions provide wholehearted support for solar projects through low cost finance.
 
Research and technology institutions worldwide should try their utmost to bring the cost of solar power and storage within the reach of all. Mr Kumar also invited corporates and other institutions to support solar energy development and deployment in every possible manner.
 
Saying that the ISA initiative is the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he reaffirmed the Indian Government’s continued support. He also spoke about the plans to increase the share of renewable energy in India’s energy mix, especially towards achieving cumulative installed renewable power capacity of 175GW by 2022.
 
Secretary, Environment, Forest and Climate Change, CK Mishra, underlined the need for visualising solar energy in the context of sustainable development goals. He emphasised the need for arranging technologies, finance and capacity building for solar energy projects, as well as for developing storage technologies. He also suggested that there is a need to work in the areas of renewable power evacuation and application of off-grid solar energy.
 
Interim Director General of the ISA, Upendra Tripathy, said ISA will become a treaty-based international intergovernmental organisation on December 6, 2017. As many as 44 countries have already signed the ISA treaty, and many more are set to join.
 
He spoke of the ISA’s three ongoing programmes: facilitating affordable finance for solar, scaling up solar applications for agriculture, and promoting solar mini-grids in Member Nations.
 
The discussions also covered the ISA’s Common Risk Mitigation Mechanism (CRMM) project, aimed at de-risking investments into solar energy projects in developing countries, and thereby, encouraging flow of funds into the sector.
 
 Ségolène Royal, Special Envoy for the implementation of the ISA, Government of France, stressed upon five key points to accelerate global solar deployment. These are: setting concrete goals, developing and leveraging common tools, enhancing projects, establishing decentralised PV solutions, and forging new partnerships that capitalise on complementary capabilities.
 
The ISA was jointly launched on November 30, 2015 by Mr Modi and then-President of France, François Hollande, on the side lines of the UNFCCC Conference of Parties 21 (CoP21) in Paris. The ISA is a treaty-based alliance of 121 prospective solar-rich Member Nations situated fully or partially between the tropics, and aims at accelerating development and deployment of solar energy globally.
 
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Iran earthquake death toll rises to 430, more than 7150 injured

At least 430 people died and more than 7150 others suffered injuries in a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck the mountainous Kermanshah province of western Iran and adjoining areas of eastern Iraq late on Sunday night, official sources said.

 
Hundreds dead as 7.3 earthquake strikes Iran, Iraq
At least 430 people died and more than 7150 others suffered injuries in a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck the mountainous Kermanshah province of western Iran and adjoining areas of eastern Iraq late on Sunday night, official sources said.
 
"Latest reports on the 7.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Kermanshah Province, western Iran, on Sunday night, said that it has so far claimed at least 430 lives and injured over 7,156 others," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said.
 
Officials said the number of casualties could rise when rescue teams managed to reach remote villages in the affected areas.
 
Preceded by three smaller jolts, the earthquake occurred at 2148 hours localtime (1818 hours GMT) on Sunday night near the Iran-Iraq border.
 
The epicentre of the quake was registered at latitude 34.86 degrees N and longitude 45.9 degrees E at a focal depth of 11 km in the Ezgeleh  region of Kermanshah province.
 
The tremors were felt as far away as in the Gulf States of Qatar and Kuwait in the south, Palestine and Israel in the west and Turkey and Armenia in the north.
 
The worst damage was caused in the cities Kermanshah, Qasr-e Shirin and Sarpol-e Zahab, about 15 km from the Iraqi border, the report said.
 
Soon after reports of the earthquake were received, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, First Vice-President Eshaq Janhangiri and Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli  issued messages expressing condolences to the families of the deceased and directed the local authorities to take swift search, rescue and relief measures in the affected areas.
 
Dozens of rescue and relief teams have rushed to the quake-hit areas and are searching for survivors under the debris of collapsed buildings. The lack of power supply and the mountainous terror posed difficulties during the early hours after the quake last night, but the operations picked up pace this morning, the reports said.
 
Relief camps have been set up in Kermanshah and neighbouring areas to accomodate the afflicted people.
 
Electricity and water supply to the area was disrupted and the fear of aftershocks kept thousands of people in the open in the cold weather. Several roads in the region were blocked.
 
Sitting on several major fault lines, Iran is one the most seismically active countries in the world and prone to near daily quakes. In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake killed 26,000 people in Bam in southeastern Iran and flattened the historic city. In August 2012, an earthquake killed more than 250 people in East Azerbaijan Province, northwestern Iran.
 
Condolence messages were received from world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a visit to the Philippines, also condoled the loss of lives in the earthquake in Iran and Iraq.
 
“My thoughts are with all those who have lost their loved ones in the tragic earthquake that has affected parts of Iran and Iraq. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest," Mr. Modi said.
 
The Iranian Cabinet declared Tuesday as a day of public mourning for the victims of the devastating quake.
 
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Modi addresses Indian community, visits IRRI, Mahaveer Philippine Foundation in Manila

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Saying that the ASEAN region is very important for India with the long shared heritage and emotional bonding through the Buddha and the Ramayana, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the Indian diaspora in the region had a key role to play in nurturing this heritage.
 
Addressing the Indian community in the Philippines capital last evening, Mr Modi said India has never harmed another country. He spoke of the sacrifice of one and a half lakh Indian soldiers, who laid down their lives in distant lands during World Wars I and II.
 
He said that India's present too must be equally bright, and radiant. He said the country should do everything possible to ensure that the 21st century, which is termed "Asia's century" becomes "India's century."
 
The Prime Minister spoke of initiatives such as ‘Jandhan Yojana’ and ‘Ujjwala Yojana’, taken by the Government for empowering the poor. He also mentioned the gains made through Aadhaar linking of subsidy.
 
Mr Modi also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), at Los Banos, in the Philippines. IRRI is a premier research organisation dedicated to reducing poverty and hunger through rice science; improving the health and welfare of rice farmers and consumers; and protecting the rice-growing environment for future generations.
 
He also viewed a photo exhibition that showcased flood, drought and salinity tolerant rice varieties, drought tolerant rice varieties and IRRI's work with women farming cooperatives.
 
The Prime Minister undertook a symbolic groundbreaking for a new plot for submergence tolerant rice varieties. He unveiled a plaque to mark the inauguration of the Shri Narendra Modi Resilient Rice Field Laboratory. He presented two Indian rice seed varieties to the IRRI gene bank.
 
During the course of the visit, the Prime Minister interacted with several Indian scientists working at IRRI.
 
The Prime Minister also visited the Mahaveer Philippine Foundation in Manila. This is a long-running humanitarian cooperation programme, between India and the Philippines, and was set up by an Indian origin Mayor of Manila Dr Ramon Bagatsing. The Foundation, in association with Mahaveer Viklang Sahayta Samiti, has been instrumental in the fitment of Jaipur Foot to needy amputees. The Prime Minister interacted with people who have benefited from the Jaipur Foot.
 
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Moderate earthquake jolts Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale, jolted the Hindu Kush region of Afghanistan today, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 36.0°N and longitude 70.0°E, occurred at 1512 hours IST at a focal depth of 82 km, an IMD bulletin said.
 
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Modi says committed to make India a manufacturing hub

 
India is front-runner in drawing FDI: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said that, through the Make in India initiative, his government was committed to transforming India as a major player in the global value chain and make it a manufacturing hub.
 
"At the same time, we want our youth to be job creators; not just job seekers. For this purpose, we have launched drives called Start up India and Stand up India," he said in his address at the ASEAN Business & Investment Summit here.
 
Mr. Modi told the gathering that there was a lot that India and the Philippines share in common.
 
"We are both pluralistic societies and vibrant democracies. Our economies are among the fastest growing economies in the world. We have large, young and aspiring populations that are innovative and enterprising. The Philippines is a services power house just as India is," he said.
 
Mr. Modi noted that, just as in India, in the Philippines, too, the government wanted to see change, bring about inclusive growth, develop infrastructure, and fight corruption. "No wonder so many of our top IT companies have invested here. They are creating thousands of jobs and promoting the Philippines services sector worldwide," he said.
 
Referring to the dance drama Rama Hari based on the Ramayana, staged at the opening ceremony of the ASEAN Summit, depicted the way, historically, the people of India and ASEAN were bound together. 
 
"These are not only historical bonds. This is a living shared heritage. The Act East policy of my government puts this region at the centre of our engagement. We have exceptionally good political and people-to-people relations with each and every country in the ASEAN region. We wish to bring our economic and business relations up to the same level," he said.
 
Mr. Modi said the task of transforming India is proceeding on an unprcedented scale. "We are working day and night to ensure good governance which includes easy, effective and transparent governance," he said.
 
In this context, he referred to the open auction for natural resources in the country, including telecom spectrum, coal mines, minerals and private radio channels and said these had contributed about $ 75 billion in revenue.
 
"Using technology, we are enhancing responsibility and reducing discretion and corruption. We are using our Unique ID system in financial transactions and taxation for this purpose and the results are already visible. These steps, coupled with demonetization of high value notes has resulted in formalizing a large part of our economy. The number of new tax payers filing income tax returns has more than doubled. Digital transactions have increased by 34 per cent in one year, as we march towards a less-cash economy. We have used technology to reach out to people. An online citizen engagement platform, MyGov has harnessed ideas, suggestions and inputs on policies and programmes from 2 million pro-active citizens," he said.
 
The Prime Minister also mentioned PRAGATI (Pro-active Governance and Timely Implemntation), the repeal of 1200 outdated laws, new laws and institutions for bankruptcy and insolvency as well as IPR and arbitration, simplied industrial licensing and online application processes for environment and forest clearances.
 
He referred to India's jump by 30 places to 100 in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index this year and the improvement in its rankings in the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum; the  Global Innovation Index of WIPO; and the Logistics Performance Index of 2016 of the World Bank.
 
Mr. Modi said most sectors of the Indian economy were now open for foreign direct investment (FDI), with more than 90 percent of FDI sectors on an automatic approval route. "Compared to last three years, we have received 67 per cent more FDI in this year. Now, we are a globally integrated economy. Moreover, these milestones have been achieved even before some of the major recent reforms," he said.
 
"This year in July, we have implemented the highly complex task of migrating to a uniform Goods and Services Tax (GST) for the whole country. This has done away with a vast range of State level and central level taxes throughout India. This is no small achievement given the vastness and diversity of our country and the federal nature of our polity. At the same time, we strongly believe that this is not enough," he said.
 
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Mr. Modi went on to speak about steps being taken by the Government to ensure financial inclusion, including  the Jan Dhan Yojana and the issuance of Ru-pay  cards.
 
"Access to banking services by the poor has also played a major role in tackling corruption in government. Now, subsidies meant for the poor get directly deposited into their accounts in the form of direct benefit transfers, eliminating leakages and possibility of any discrimination. More than 146 million people are receiving direct cash subsidies through bank accounts on cooking gas alone. Today, the government is using Direct Benefit Transfers for 59 different schemes. Subsidies worth nearly 10 billion US dollars are being directly transferred to the bank accounts of the intended beneficiaries," he said.
 
Mr. Modi also mentioned the Mudra scheme, under which collateral-free loans are being disbursed to small entrepreneurs.
 
He said that, for the near future, South and South East Asia will be the growth engine of the world. Hence, building connectivity with ASEAN is a key objective for India. "We wish to build land, sea and air connectivity to this dynamic region. Work is already on in the construction of the tri-lateral highway through Myanmar and Thailand to connect to other countries in South East Asia," he said.
 
He said the Government  was working on the early conclusion of the Agreement on Maritime Transport between India and ASEAN and exploring coastal shipping services with countries that are India's immediate maritime neighbours.
 
"In the area of air connectivity, ASEAN countries enjoy the facility to operate a daily service to the four metro cities in India and to eighteen other destinations. We have taken steps such as electronic visa system to boost tourism to India. Outbound tourism from India is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world. Given the primacy of connectivity, India is organising an ASEAN – India Connectivity Summit in New Delhi next month with Ministers, officials and business representativs from all ASEAN countries participating.
 
"Just as India sees business opportunities in the region, I am sure that the ASEAN business community recognises the potential for business in India. While some of you are already deeply involved in India, others are just discovering the possibilities that remain to be tapped. To coincide with the ASEAN –India Commemorative Summit of ASEAN leaders in January next year, we are also organising the ASEAN-India Business and Investment Meet and Expo. I invite you all to attend it. It will be the biggest ASEAN-focused business event India has ever organised. India wishes to participate in your growth story and we invite all of ASEAN to participate in ours," he added.
 
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348 dead, 6600 injured as magnitude 7.3 earthquake strikes Iran

At least 348 people died and more than 6600 others suffered injuries in a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck the mountainous Kermanshah province of western Iran and adjoining areas of eastern Iraq late on Sunday night, official sources said.

 
Hundreds dead as 7.3 earthquake strikes Iran, Iraq
At least 348 people died and more than 6600 others  suffered injuries in a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck the mountainous Kermanshah province of western Iran and adjoining areas of eastern Iraq late last night, official sources said.
 
"The 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Kermanshah Province, western Iran has so far claimed the lives of 348 people and injured 6.603 more," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said.
 
Officials said the number of casualties could rise when rescue teams managed to reach remote villages in the affected areas.
 
Preceded by three smaller jolts, the earthquake occurred at 2148 hours localtime (1818 hours GMT) on Sunday night near the Iran-Iraq border.
 
The epicentre of the quake was registered at latitude 34.86 degrees N and longitude 45.9 degrees E at a focal depth of 11 km in the Ozgoleh region in Kermanshah province.
 
The tremors were felt as far away as in the Gulf States of Qatar and Kuwait in the south, Palestine and Israel in the west and Turkey and Armenia in the north.
 
The worst damage was caused in the cities Kermanshah, Qasr-e Shirin and Sarpol-e Zahab, about 15 km from the Iraqi border, the report said.
 
Soon after reports of the earthquake were received, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, First Vice-President Eshaq Janhangiri and Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli  issued messages expressing condolences to the families of the deceased and directed the local authorities to take swift search, rescue and relief measures in the affected areas.
 
Dozens of rescue and relief teams have rushed to the quake-hit areas and are searching for survivors under the debris of collapsed buildings. The lack of power supply and the mountainous terror posed difficulties during the early hours after the quake last night, but the operations picked up pace this morning, the reports said.
 
Relief camps have been set up in Kermanshah and neighbouring areas to accomodate the afflicted people.
 
Electricity and water supply to the area was cut off and the fear of aftershocks kept thousands of people in the open in the cold weather. Several roads in the region were blocked.
 
Sitting on several major fault lines, Iran is one the most seismically active countries in the world and prone to near daily quakes. In 2003, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake killed 26,000 people in Bam in southeastern Iran and flattened the historic city. In August 2012, an earthquake killed more than 250 people in East Azerbaijan Province, northwestern Iran.
 
Condolence messages were received from world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a visit to the Philippines, also condoled the loss of lives in the earthquake in Iran and Iraq.
 
“My thoughts are with all those who have lost their loved ones in the tragic earthquake that has affected parts of Iran and Iraq. I pray that those injured recover at the earliest," Mr. Modi said.
 
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210 dead, more than 2500 injured as magnitude 7.3 earthquake strikes Iran

At least 210 people have died more and than 2500 were injured in a powerful magnitude earthquake that struck the Kermanshah province in western Iran and adjoining areas of eastern Iraq late Sunday night, official sources said.

 
Deadly earthquake strikes Iran, Iraq
At least 210 people have died more and than 2500 were injured in a powerful magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck the Kermanshah province in western Iran and adjoining areas of eastern Iraq late last night, official sources said.
 
"The 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Kermanshah Province, western Iran has so far claimed the lives of 210 people and injured over 2,500," Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said.
 
"The death toll and casualties are increasing," the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) quoted a senior official as saying.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 34.86 N and longitude 45.81 E, occurred at 2105 hours local time (1735 GMT) at a focal depth of 11 km in the Ozgoleh region of Kermanshah province, the report said.
 
The tremors were felt in several parts of western Iran, eastern Iraq and in Gulf states such as Kuwait, the report said. However, the city of Kermanshah suffered the brunt of the quake and accounted for most of the dead and injured, it said.
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani discussed the situation with Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and directed him to take all necessary steps for quick search, rescue and relief operations.
 
Meanwhile, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, expressed his condolences over the tragedy in which scores of people lost their lives.
 
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India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Consultations on Indo-Pacific held in Manila

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Officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and United States' Department of State met here on Sunday for consultations on issues of common interest in the Indo-Pacific region.
 
The discussions focused on cooperation based on their converging vision and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in an increasingly inter-connected region that they share with each other and with other partners.
 
A press release from India's Ministry of External Affairs said the officials agreed that a free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region served the long-term interests of all countries in the region and of the world at large. The officials also exchanged views on addressing common challenges of terrorism and proliferation linkages impacting the region as well as on enhancing connectivity.
 
The Indian side highlighted India’s Act East Policy as the cornerstone of its engagement in the Indo-Pacific region, the release added.
 
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Embassy of India hosts Commonwealth Remembrance Day Service in The Hague

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The Embassy of India on behalf of the Commonwealth-Netherlands Joint Committee of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission hosted a Commonwealth Remembrance Day Service at the Westduin Cemetery in The Hague on Sunday to honour the sacrifices of Commonwealth forces in the First and Second World Wars. 
 
The ceremony was attended by over 300 people despite inclement weather, a press release from the Embassyy of India in The  Hague said.
 
Mr. Venu Rajamony, Ambassador of India to The Netherlands, laid a wreath on the memorial on behalf of the Commonwealth countries. He was joined by Mr Roelof van Ees Director of Protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of The Netherlands, Ambassadors of Belgium, Ireland, Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Ghana and Venezuela and representatives of South Africa, Cyprus, Kenya, Canada and Saudi Arabia.
 
Mr. Rajamony read the poem ‘The Gift of India’ by Indian poet Sarojini Naidu and spoke about the contribution of Indian soldiers in the First and Second World War. He said that the forces of undivided India played a significant part in both World Wars and her 163,000 dead are buried and commemorated in war cemeteries spread across 60 countries. 
 
“Despite the harsh weather and myriad of obstacles, Indian soldiers fought bravely with a sense of duty towards their regiment and for izzat (honour)”, he said.
 
A photo exhibition showcasing the contribution of Indian soldiers in World War I was displayed by the Embassy of India at the Westduin cemetery after the service. The exhibition will be moved to the City Hall in The Hague and will be opened by Ms Pauline Krikke, Mayor of The Hague on Monday. It will continue until November 17.
 
The Commonwealth-Netherlands Joint Committee organises the Remembrance Day ceremony annually and different embassies host the event in turns and this year it was the turn of the Embassy of India.
 
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Boeing, Emirates announce commitment for 40 787-10 Dreamliners

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Aircraft manufacturer Boeing and Dubai-based Emirates, one of the world's largest airlines, announced a commitment to purchase 40 787-10 Dreamliners at the 2017 Dubai Air Show.
 
The deal, including airplanes and related equipment, is valued at $15.1 billion at current list prices, a press release from Boeing said.
 
Emirates is the world's largest Boeing 777 operator and will be the first to receive the new 777X in 2020. In selecting the 787-10, Emirates complements its 777 fleet with a medium twin-aisle airplane that offers 25 percent better fuel efficiency per seat and emissions than the airplanes it replaces, it said.
 
"Emirates' orders today will be delivered from 2022, taking the airline well into the 2030s. Some of these will be replacements so that we maintain a young and efficient fleet, and others will power our future network growth. We see the 787 as a great complement to our 777 and A380 fleet, providing us with more flexibility to serve a range of destinations as we develop our global route network," said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline and Group.
 
"It has always been Emirates' strategy to invest in the most advanced and efficient aircraft, and today's orders reflect that. Today's announcement also speaks to our confidence in the future of aviation in the UAE and the region," it said.
 
"We are excited that Emirates has selected the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner to power its fleet expansion and future growth. This is an airplane that will set a new benchmark for operating economics in the commercial aviation industry when it enters service next year," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President & CEO Kevin McAllister. 
 
"Emirates' endorsement of the 787 Dreamliner extends our long-standing partnership and will sustain many jobs in the United States," he said.
 
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce formula, a deal of this size would support more than 75,000 direct and indirect US jobs, the release said.
 
"The 787-10 is the largest member of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner family, which is the fastest-selling twin-aisle airplane in history. More than 65 customers have ordered more than 1,275 Dreamliners to date thanks to the family's ultra-fuel efficiency and passenger-preferred experience. Emirates' commitment pushes the total number of new 787 orders and commitments this year to more than 180; and more than 210 orders and commitments for the 787-10 overall," the release said.
 
Boeing has delivered more than 600 787s since deliveries began in 2011. The 787 fleet has flown more than 200 million passengers while saving over 19 billion pounds of fuel, enabling airlines to open more than 170 new nonstop routes around the world, it said.
 
"The 787-10 Dreamliner is 5.5 meters (18 ft) longer than the 787-9 yet shares more than 95% commonality with its smaller sibling. With its unprecedented low fuel use and operating costs, the 787-10 is the most efficient replacement for older twin-aisle jets such as the A330-300," the release added.
 
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Consulate General of India, Birmingham organises series of seminars on Make in India

Mr. Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary Ministry of Electronics &Information Technology, Government of India, delivering the keynote address at the Make in India event at Innovate 2017 at the National Exhibition Center, Birmingham in the UK, on November 8, 2017.
Mr. Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary Ministry of Electronics &Information Technology, Government of India, delivering the keynote address at the Make in India event at Innovate 2017 at the National Exhibition Center, Birmingham in the UK, on November 8, 2017.
The Consulate General of India (CGI), Birmingham, in association with Invest India, conducted a five-day series of business seminar this week across seven cities across the Midlands and North England in the United Kingdom on the Government's Make in India initiative.
 
The multiple-location events, held from November 6-10, were a first-of-its-kind effort to showcase business and investment opportunities in India and create awareness about the Access India Programme (AIP) launched by the High Commission of India, London.
 
The delegation included the Acting High Commissioner of India to the UK, Mr. Dinesh Patnaik; Consul General of India, Birmingham, Dr. Aman Puri; British Deputy High Commissioner, Chennai, Mr. Bharat Joshi; Mr. Vivek Abraham, Assistant Vice-President and Shruti Chandra from Invest India; and Ms. Rita Hunt, Consultant, CII, UK.
 
Invest India is the official investment promotion and facilitation agency of the Government of India.
 
The series of business seminars began on November 6 at Leicester and went on to Nottingham, Warwick, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Manchester and Leeds over the five days. Six of these events were hosted in reputed Universities across these cities – while the remaining one took place at the prestigious National Exhibition Center (NEC), Birmingham. 
 
"All the events witnessed enthusiastic participation from representatives of the business community, academicians, well established alumni of reputed universities, business school students and other interested stakeholders," a press release from CGI, Birmingham said.
 
During these events, the team members spoke about the opportunities available to investors in India, the latest reforms and developments in India and highlighted the recent highest jump by any country made by India (from 130 to 100) in World Bank's Ease of Doing Business rankings.
 
Additionally, the High Commission made a detailed presentation on the Access India Programme, a market entry support programme for UK SMEs, talking about the comprehensive support programme available to all SMEs wishing to invest in India. CII spoke about their initiatives to support companies wishing to enter India. 
 
"At each of these locations, the business seminars were received well as this was one of the first such comprehensive outreach programmes with cooperation between the UK and Indian governments, within the Midlands and Northern England," the release said.
 
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At Leicester, representatives from the Leicester City Council appreciated the presentations and requested that they be followed up with more such presentations and specific facilitation, as small businesses in the UK required support to invest in India. 
 
At Nottingham, renowned entrepreneur and founder of the Purico Group, Professor Nathu Puri spoke about the transformation happening in India, which has radically improved the business climate in India, and exhorted the local businesses to seriously consider India as a growth option in the context of Brexit.
 
At Warwick University, Professor Lord S Kumar Bhattacharyya, Founder and Chairman of the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and also one of the key drivers behind the Tata's acquisition of Jaguar-Land Rover, spoke about the increasing focus on R&D of Indian companies in the UK and how India has been the second largest job creator in the UK. 
 
At the same time, he added, British companies are increasingly finding India as a very attractive destination for their investment.  WMG is one of the UK's first industry-academia collaborations.
 
The seminar at Birmingham was timed to coincide with the inauguration of Innovate 2017, the Annual Flagship Innovation Conference of UK showcasing world class technologies and featured keynote address by Mr. Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, (MeitY), where it was emphasized that India is the investment destination of choice, and is rapidly becoming the home to many innovations and also has the fastest growing start-up ecosystems. 
 
At the University of Wolverhampton, Mr. Joshi spoke about how British companies in India are extremely successful in India and are looking to expand and access the India opportunity. 
 
At  Manchester, Professor Nalin Thakkar, Associate Vice President, University of Manchester gave a presentation drawing on historical linkages between India and the UK. The series concluded on November 10 with the event at University of Leeds which saw active participation from the audience, and the strong linkages between the Universities and India were highlighted, and they are now looking forward to take an active part in the growth story of India. 
 
Mr. Patnaik said India today had so many opportunities across every imaginable sector and the government was taking a lead in ensuring that potential investors would be given necessary hand holding and mentoring under the AIP. Additionally, the British SME sector now has the Access India Programme to provide comprehensive support across all aspects of their plans in India, including strategic, financial and legal aspects, he said.
 
Dr. Puri said, “If there is one word which aptly describes today’s world it is interdependence, and therefore, UK SMEs cannot afford any longer to remain inactive, and should seriously consider India as a platform to accelerate their growth."
 
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Pakistan offers to arrange meeting of Kulbhushan Jadhav with his wife

Kulbhushan Yadav
Kulbhushan Yadav
In a surprise move, Pakistan yesterday said it would arrange a meeting between former Indian Naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav, who has been sentenced to death in an espionage case, and his wife on humanitarian grounds.
 
"The Government of Pakistan has decided to arrange a meeting of Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav with his wife, in Pakistan, purely on humanitarian grounds. A Note Verbale to this effect has been sent to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, today," a statement from the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
 
Jadhav was awarded the death sentence on April 10 this year by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Pakistan, which tried him under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) for his alleged involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against that country, drawing sharp reactions from India.
 
Two weeks after Jadhav was sentenced to death, India had sought visas for his parents to visit Pakistan and meet him. India has not so far sought a visa for Jadhav's wife, and the Ministry of External Affairs will soon take a view on the latest development.
  
Pakistan has accused Jadhav of being an agent of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and claimed that he was arrested on March 3, 2016 through a counter intelligence operation from Mashkel, Balochistan.
 
"He confessed before a Magistrate and the Court that he was tasked by RAW to plan, coordinate and organize espionage / sabotage activities aiming to destabilize and wage war against Pakistan by impeding the efforts of Law Enforcement Agencies for restoring peace in Balochistan and Karachi," a press release from Pakistan's Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had said at that time.
 
India had then warned Pakistan that, if the sentence were carried out, the Government and people of India would regard it as a case of premeditated murder.
 
"Shri Jadhav was kidnapped last year from Iran and his subsequent presence in Pakistan has never been explained credibly. The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, has repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities.
 
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"The proceedings that have led to the sentence against Shri Jadhav are farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It is significant that our High Commission was not even informed that Shri Jadhav was being brought to trial. Senior Pakistani figures have themselves cast doubt about the adequacy of evidence. The claim in the ISPR release that Shri Jadhav was provided with a defending officer during the so-called trial is clearly absurd in the circumstances.
 
"If this sentence against an Indian citizen, awarded without observing basic norms of law and justice, is carried out, the Government and people of India will regard it as a case of premeditated murder," India had said.
 
India had moved the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague in The Netherlands against the verdict and, on May 18 this year, the world court asked Pakistan to take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Jadhav was not executed, pending the final decision in the proceedings intiated by India in the matter.
 
The Government of India, through its High Commission in Islamabad, had repeatedly sought consular access to him, as provided for by international law. Requests to that effect were formally made 13 times between 25 March 2016 and 31 March 2017. This was not permitted by the Pakistani authorities, India has said.
 
India has also said that the proceedings that led to the sentence against Mr. Jadhav were farcical in the absence of any credible evidence against him. It said its High Commission had not even been informed that Mr. Jadhav was being brought to trial.
 
In its plea before the ICJ, India said it was not informed of Mr. Jadhav’s detention until long after his arrest and that Pakistan failed to inform the accused of his rights. It further alleges that, in violation of the Vienna Convention, the authorities of Pakistan are denying India its right of consular access to Mr. Jadhav, despite its repeated requests. 
 
India also pointed out that it learned about the death sentence against Mr. Jadhav from a press release. 
 
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INSV Tarini departs from Fremantle as part of global circumnavigation voyage

Indian Naval Sailing Vessel Tarini embarking from Fremantle in Australia on second leg of global circumnavigation vogage and shapes course to Lyttleton in New Zealand, on November 5, 2017.
Indian Naval Sailing Vessel Tarini embarking from Fremantle in Australia on second leg of global circumnavigation vogage and shapes course to Lyttleton in New Zealand, on November 5, 2017.
Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini, with an all-women crew, left Fremantle port in Australia yesterday for its onward journey to Lyttleton, New Zealand as part of its maiden voyage to circumnavigate the globe.
 
The vessel had reached Fremantle on October 23 after the completion of the first leg of its journey.
 
The historic circumnavigation attempt by an all-women crew is being led by Lieutenant Commander Vartika Joshi, and the crew comprises Lieutenant Commanders Pratibha Jamwal, P Swathi, and Lieutenants S Vijaya Devi, B Aishwarya and Payal Gupta. 
 
The crew of INSV Tarini was officially welcomed to Western Australia (WA) by Tourism, Defence Issues and Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister Paul Papalia and Women's Interests Minister Simone McGurk on November 1.
 
The WA Ministers were accompanied by two Indian-origin members of WA Parliament, Mr Yaz Mubarakai and Mr Kevin Michel. Federal MPs from Western Australia, Madeleine King and Dr Anne Aly visited the vessel.
 
Chief of Royal Australian Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett also visited the vessel on November 1 to welcome the crew. He also handed over a personal message from Australian Minister for Defence Marise Payne for the crew. 
 
The crew had several engagements during its stay in Fremantle, including call-on meetings with Governor of Western Australia Kerry Sanderson and Deputy Mayor of City of Fremantle Ingrid Waltham. 
 
President of WA Legislative Council Kate Doust also hosted the crew at WA Parliament for an interaction with female MPs from all major parties. 
 
The INSV Tarini crew had an opportunity to interact with a wide range of stakeholders during the welcome reception hosted by the Indian  consulate on October 28, which was attended by about 100 distinguished guests, including members of WA Parliament, state officials, businessmen, academicians, consular corps, leaders from Indian community and mediapersons. 
 
The crew of INSV Tarini also had an opportunity to interact with strategic thinkers and academia during a presentation and reception event hosted by Perth US-Asia Centre, leading think tank focusing on geopolitical issues based in the University of Western Australia, on October 31. More than 200 students attended a presentation and interaction session with the crew at Perth Modern School on the same day.
 
The crew also visited the scientific facilities at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre at University of Western Australia. They also had a chance to meet renowned Australian scientist and Australian of the Year 2017 Professor Alan Mackay-Sim, who is famous for his work on stem cell research. The crew also had a trip to few tourist places in Perth and Fremantle, including Rottnest Island. 
 
The visit of INSV Tarini to Fremantle was covered widely in Australian print and electronic media, and ethnic media, an official press release added.
 
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Accountability in financing of education crucial to achieve SDG 4 targets: Javadekar

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India recognises that accountability in the financing of education is critical to achieving SDG4 and associated targets, according to Union Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar.
 
In a statement yesterday during a meeting on SDG4-Education 2030 at the 39th General Conference of UNESCO, Mr Javadekar said it involves accountability in the financing of education on the part of both the development partners and individual countries.
 
Accountability on the part of development partners relates to the commitment to enhance funding that is needed to implement SDG4-Education 2030 agenda. The latest Global Education Monitoring Report released recently points out that “at the global level, international commitments to finance the education sector, remains weak”.
 
The Report indicates that “only 6 of 28 OECD-DAC countries met their commitment to allocate 0.7% of national income to aid.” Therefore, OECD developed countries must fulfil their commitment. Ultimately, investing in education is investing in peace and sustainable future.
 
Accountability on the part of individual countries relate to the commitment to set nationally appropriate spending targets for education, mobilising financial resources and achieving in a progressive manner the international benchmarks of allocating at least 4% to 6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to education; and/or allocating at least 15% to 20% of public expenditure to education. Accountability on the part of individual countries also relates to efforts aimed at ensuring that the available funds are used efficiently and effectively.
 
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The Government recognises that achieving the education development goals and targets set in the context of SDG4-Education 2030 agenda requires increased and well-targeted financing and effective and efficient utilisation of allocated funds.
 
The Government is investing nearly 4.5 % of GDP in education, despite competing demands on resources. The Central and State/ UT governments have been making efforts to provide adequate and equitable financing to educational priorities. There has been a broad consensus that investment in education is gradually increased to reach a level of six percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
 
Efforts are being made to step up the outlay on education by facilitating a substantial increase in both public and private sector investment in education. Furthermore, improved coordination, monitoring and evaluation processes have been attempted to ensure that the available funds are used efficiently and effectively, and with measurable education outcomes and impacts for children and youth, especially in terms of attainment of expected learning outcomes, he said in the statement.
 
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Magnitude 5.7 earthquake jolts Hindukush region of Afghanistan, north Pakistan

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An earthquake of moderate intensity, measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale, shook the Hindukush region of Afghanistan late last night and the tremors were felt in many parts of North Pakistan, too.
 
The quake, which had its epicentre at latitude 36.2°N and longitude 70.5°E, occurred at 2315 hours IST yesterday at a focal depth of 100 km, a bulletin from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) said.
 
Media reports from Pakistan said tremors were felt in several parts of the northern parts of that country, including Abbottabad, Malakand, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Balakot, Mardan, Chitral and North Waziristan.
 
People rushed out of their homes as a precautionary measure, but no casualties or damage to property was reported, the reports added.
 
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India-Russia tri-services exercise Indra 2017 enters final phase

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Exercise Indra 2017, the first tri-service exercise between India and Russia being held at Vladivostok, has entered its final phase where a task force successfully extricated a humanitarian aid convoy from a terrorist attack.
 
The attack on the convoy was simulated as per the exercise setting. The humanitarian assistance was to rescue trapped civilians in a counter-insurgency environment under UN mandate, a press release from the Indian Ministry of Defence said.
 
The attack, comprising armoured, mechanised infantry and infantry elements, ably supported by fighter aircrafts and Armed Helicopters tested the response mechanism of the Combined Task Force of Indian and Russian Defence Forces.
 
The terrorists were successfully isolated and the convoy was escorted to safety. Simultaneously, fighter aircraft and armed helicopters pulverized the target in an exceptional display of firepower while artillery elements comprising 122mm GRAD and howitzers further softened the target. 
 
Armoured tanks closed in on the target along with mechanised infantry elements and cordoned off the entire area, and the stage was set for the infantry to launch the final assault.
 
Later, speaking to the media yesterday, Maj Gen N D Prasad, the Task Force Commander of the Indian contingent, expressed his happiness at the professional synergy displayed during the entire exercise not only between the Air Force, Navy and the Army elements of the Indian Defence Forces, but also between the Indian and Russian Defence Forces, in spite of constraints of different language.
 
He stated that the manner in which the exercise is being conducted between India and Russia is a reflection of the high level of professionalism of both sides and that the exercise has proved to be a great learning ground. Rear Admiral Biswajit Dasgupta, the Naval Component Leader and Air Commodore RGK Kapoor, the Air Force Component Leader reiterated that the synergy on display between the three services of both sides has reinforced the importance of tri-service cooperation and is the harbinger of things to come in future operations.
 
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The last drill of Exercise Indra 2017 will be carried out on Saturday when the amphibious landing will take place. The landing of ground forces at Cape of Klerk training area will be undertaken by Indian and Russian Naval elements with air support.
 
The active sea phase of Naval component commenced on November 26 in the Sea of Japan. For the last few days, personnel of both the countries were put through various tactical and operational manoeuvres. They displayed high levels of professionalism and the exercise has generated an outstanding level of professional synergy and understanding of each other’s doctrines, concepts and methodology of execution of operations, the release said.
 
The Air Force component undertook various practice missions by the combined Indo-Russian crew in Fighters, Transport and Helicopters during the training phase. These aircraft formed an integral part of the Joint Ops that was undertaken today and will also provide Air Support for tomorrow’s amphibious landing mission.
 
The exercise will culminate on October 29 with a grand closing ceremony at Vladivostok.
 
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India says normalcy can return to Rakhine only with return of displaced persons

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali at the 4th meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission, in Dhaka on October 22, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali at the 4th meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission, in Dhaka on October 22, 2017.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said India was deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar and that it was clear that normalcy would be restored there only with the return of the displaced persons to the state.
 
"We have urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population," she said in a media interaction with Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali here after co-chairing with him the 4th meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission.
 
"In our view, the only long term solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities living in the State. India, for its part, has committed to provide financial and technical assistance for identified projects to be undertaken in Rakhine State in conjunction with the local authorities. We have also supported implementation of the recommendations contained in the Kofi Annan led Special Advisory Commission report," Ms. Swaraj said.
 
She also said India and Bangladesh would continue to fight the scourge of terrorism, extremism and radicalization -- one of the common challenges the two countries face -- together and along with other like-minded countries.
 
"Our discussions today in the course of the 4th Joint Consultative Commission have been extremely useful. Even more important is the atmosphere of trust and understanding in which we carried out our discussions. We discussed the common challenges that we are faced with today. One such challenge is that of terrorism, extremism and radicalization and we will continue to fight this scourge together and along with other like-minded countries. We are both determined to protect our societies from the threat of ideologies of hate, violence and terror by adopting a zero tolerance policy and a comprehensive approach in fighting violent extremism and terrorism at all levels," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said India attached the utmost importance to its relations with Bangladesh. "Our partnership today touches upon virtually all areas of human endeavour. Our relations are based on fraternal ties and are reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership," she said.
 
She said the two sides also discussed various aspects of their bilateral relations and reviewed progress on key initiatives and decisions, including those taken during the recent visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India. 
 
"We are satisfied with progress achieved in areas such as trade and investment, security, connectivity, border management, power, energy, shipping, people to people exchanges, to name a few," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said India had been a long-standing and reliable development partner of Bangladesh. "Totally, three lines of credit amounting to US$ 8 billion have been extended by India to Bangladesh so far. This is by far the largest development assistance that India has extended to any country worldwide. We are confident that this credit will be invaluable to Bangladesh as it pursues its developmental priorities, especially in the areas of infrastructure development," she said.
 
"In addition, India has also been extending grant assistance for small socio-economic projects in Bangladesh. In the past three years alone, 24 such grant projects have been completed which include construction of students’ hostels, tube-wells, cultural centres, orphanages etc. Presently 58 projects, including city development projects in Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet, are under implementation. Tomorrow, we will launch another 15 projects in the areas of education, health, culture and community development," she said.
 
Ms. Swaraj said the bilateral cooperation in the power and energy sector was a source of immense satisfaction to both countries.
 
"We have achieved a great deal, only because of the friendship between us and our understanding that neighbours must help each other. India is now supplying 660 MW of much needed power to the Bangladesh people and this figure will double, if not triple, in the foreseeable future. We will work together as founding members of the International Solar Alliance, for which Bangladesh has just confirmed its accession. This Alliance is expected to make solar energy affordable by aggregating demand, promoting universal access to energy and networking R&D. 
 
"The oil and gas sector is another sector in which we are confident that the initiatives that we have jointly identified will yield immense benefits to both our peoples. We have already agreed on the construction of a petroleum products pipeline that will link Siliguri with Parbatipur, for the benefit of the people of north western Bangladesh, as a grant in aid project. Other visionary ideas under consideration include the setting up of LNG terminal, supply of natural gas by pipeline and investments in the upstream sector," she said.
 
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The External Affairs Minister said a significant area of bilateral cooperation was their quest to increase connectivity through restoration of pre-1965 links encompassing road, rail, water and coastal shipping links. 
 
"This has brought our peoples closer than ever before. The frequency of the Dhaka-Maitri express has been increased. The inaugural run with end-to-end Immigration and Customs services for the Maitri Express and the inaugural commercial run of the Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan service are all expected soon. More bus services linking our cities have begun. There are more immigration check points along our border. These are but a few of the success stories that I can share.
 
"Our people to people contacts and connections are our biggest strength and we need to take all possible steps to facilitate their interaction. I am happy to know that Bangladeshis constitute the largest number of visitors to India - our Mission and Posts in Bangladesh issued 9.76 lakh visas in 2016 and we expect this to grow to about 14 lakh visas in 2017. The steps we have taken to launch more direct train and bus services will greatly ease travel between our nations. We welcome youth, media and academic exchanges. A 100 member strong Bangladeshi youth delegation has been going to India for the past few years. 
 
"India has always stepped in to assist Bangladesh in times of need. Our cooperation dates back to the Great Liberation War of 1971. The cooperation and camaraderie between our forces is a matter of pride. In order to honour your brave Muktijoddhas, we are offering five-year multiple entry visa and are working on a scheme for their medical treatment in India. I will shortly be handing over some memorabilia of the war to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh for display in your museums. 
 
"In more recent times, we had launched ‘Operation Insaniyat’ in September to support Government of Bangladesh in its commendable efforts to provide shelter in Cox’s Bazaar to lakhs of displaced persons who have fled from Rakhine State of Myanmar. Through this operation, we have supplied essential requirements by way of parboiled rice, dal, salt, sugar, cooking oil, tea, milk powder, mosquito nets and soap to about 300,000 displaced persons. The material has been distributed to the intended recipients through the Bangladeshi district administration in Cox’s Bazar.
 
"While I have focused on the progress in our bilateral relationship, we are aware of the outstanding issues. We assure you that we are working to resolve them," she added.
 
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India-Russia Tri-Services Exercise Indra-2017 declared open

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In a glittering ceremony, Indian Task Force Commander Maj Gen N D Prasad and Chief of Staff, Eastern Military District of the Russian Federation Lt Gen Solomatin today declared the India-Russia Tri-Service Exercise INDRA 2017 open in Vladivostok.
 
Maj Gen Prasad and Lt Gen Solomatin inspected the smartly turned out contingents, which was followed by a march past by the tri-service contingents of both sides. The ceremony also witnessed a display of traditional martial arts and folk dances by the Indian troops and a flypast by four fighter aircraft of Russian Federation Air Force.
 
In his opening address, Maj Gen Prasad said the initiative taken for the first ever tri-service exercise between both countries reflects the vibrancy of the continued Indo-Russian strategic partnership. With the rich operational experience of the Russian and Indian armies in counterinsurgency operations, both sides will gain immensely from each other and further develop their capabilities.
 
Lt Gen Solomatin stated that the tri-service exercise will further strengthen the relationship between the two defence forces and lead to enhanced mutual cooperation between the two countries.
 
Lt Gen JS Negi, leader of the tri-services observer delegation, during his media interaction, said the conduct of the first ever tri-service exercise between the two countries is a significant step in mutual cooperation and marks an important milestone in the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
 
He expressed confidence that the joint training between the two defence forces over the next ten days will result in gaining from the experience and best practices of each other and would further enhance mutual confidence.
 
The opening ceremony was followed by a ceremonial banquet hosted by the Russian side, where both sides interacted in an informal atmosphere and expressed their common intent and strong resolve to conduct the exercise in a professional manner, so as to achieve the overall objectives of Exercise INDRA 2017.
 
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Tillerson says Trump, Modi committed to build an ambitious partnership

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are committed to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only the two democracies, but also other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking on “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,in Washington on October 18, 2017.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking on “Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,in Washington on October 18, 2017.
United States Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has said that US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are committed, more than any other leaders before them, to building an ambitious partnership that benefits not only the two democracies, but also other sovereign nations working toward greater peace and stability.
 
The Pacific and the Indian Oceans have linked our nations for centuries...As we look to the next 100 years, it is vital that the Indo-Pacific, a region so central to our shared history, continue to be free and open...," he said while speaking on "Defining Our Relationship with India for the Next Century” at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) here on Wednesday.
 
Mr. Tillerson said Mr. Modi's visit to Washington in June this year highlighted the many areas of cooperation that are already underway in their new area of their strategic relationship.
 
"Our defense ties are growing. We are coordinating our counterterrorism efforts more than ever before. And earlier this month, a shipment of American crude oil arrived in India, a tangible illustration of our expanding energy cooperation. The Trump administration is determined to dramatically deepen ways for the United States and India to further this partnership.
 
"For us today, it’s plain to see why this matters. India represents the world’s largest democracy. The driving force of our close relationship rests in the ties between our peoples – our citizens, business leaders, and our scientists," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson pointed out that nearly 1.2 million American visitors travelled to India last year. "More than 166,000 Indian students are studying in the United States. And nearly 4 million Indian Americans call the United States home, contributing to their communities as doctors, engineers, and innovators, and proudly serving their country in uniform," he said.
 
He said that, as their economies grow closer, they find more opportunities for prosperity for their people. "More than 600 American companies operate in India. U.S. foreign direct investment has jumped by 500 percent in the past two years alone. And last year, our bilateral trade hit a record of roughly $115 billion, a number we plan to increase," he said.
 
He said the two countries had, together, built a sturdy foundation of economic cooperation as they look for more avenues of expansion. "The announcement of the first Global Entrepreneurship Summit ever to be hosted in South Asia, to take place in Hyderabad next month, is a clear example of how President Trump and Prime Minister Modi are promoting innovation, expanding job opportunities, and finding new ways to strengthen both of our economies," he said.
 
"When our militaries conduct joint exercises, we send a powerful message as to our commitment to protecting the global commons and defending our people. This year’s Malabar exercise was our most complex to date. The largest vessels from American, Indian, and Japanese navies demonstrated their power together in the Indian Ocean for the first time, setting a clear example of the combined strength of the three Indo-Pacific democracies. We hope to add others in coming years," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said that, in keeping with India’s status as a Major Defense Partner – a status overwhelmingly endorsed last year by the U.S. Congress – and their mutual interest in expanding maritime cooperation, the Trump administration has offered a menu of defense options for India’s consideration, including the Guardian UAV. 
 
"We value the role India can play in global security and stability and are prepared to ensure they have even greater capabilities," he said.
 
He said that, over the past decade, their counterterrorism cooperation had expanded significantly. "Thousands of Indian security personnel have trained with American counterparts to enhance their capacity. The United States and India are cross-screening known and suspected terrorists, and later this year we will convene a new dialogue on terrorist designations," he said.
 
"In July, I signed the designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization because the United States and India stand shoulder-to-shoulder against terrorism. States that use terror as an instrument of policy will only see their international reputation and standing diminish. It is the obligation, not the choice, of every civilized nation to combat the scourge of terrorism. The United States and India are leading this effort in that region.
 
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"But another more profound transformation that’s taking place, one that will have far-reaching implications for the next 100 years: The United States and India are increasingly global partners with growing strategic convergence," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson, who is due to travel to India next week, said Indians and Americans did not just share an affinity of democracy but also a vision of the future. He said the emerging Delhi-Washington strategic partnership stood upon a shared commitment upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, universal values, and free trade. "Our nations are two bookends of stability – on either side of the globe – standing for greater security and prosperity for our citizens and people around the world," he said.
 
"The challenges and dangers we face are substantial. The scourge of terrorism and the disorder sown by cyber attacks threaten peace everywhere. North Korea’s nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missiles pose a clear and imminent threat to the security of the United States, our Asian allies, and all other nations. And the very international order that has benefited India’s rise – and that of many others – is increasingly under strain.
 
"China, while rising alongside India, has done so less responsibly, at times undermining the international, rules-based order even as countries like India operate within a framework that protects other nations’ sovereignty. China’s provocative actions in the South China Sea directly challenge the international law and norms that the United States and India both stand for," he said.
 
"The United States seeks constructive relations with China, but we will not shrink from China’s challenges to the rules-based order and where China subverts the sovereignty of neighboring countries and disadvantages the U.S. and our friends," he said.
 
"In this period of uncertainty and somewhat angst, India needs a reliable partner on the world stage. I want to make clear: with our shared values and vision for global stability, peace, and prosperity, the United States is that partner," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said that, with India’s youth, its optimism, its powerful democratic example, and its increasing stature on the world stage, it made perfect sense that the United States – at this time – should seek to build on the strong foundation of its years of cooperation with India. "It is indeed time to double down on a democratic partner that is still rising – and rising responsibly – for the next 100 years," he said.
 
"But above all, the world – and the Indo-Pacific in particular – needs the United States and India to have a strong partnership," he emphasized.
 
"India and the United States must, as the Indian saying goes, 'do the needful', he said, amidst laughter.
 
Mr. Tillerson said the two countries could be the voice the world needs to be, standing firm in defence of a rules-based order to promote sovereign countries’ unhindered access to the planet’s shared spaces, be they on land, at sea, or in cyberspace.
 
"In particular, India and the United States must foster greater prosperity and security with the aim of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific – including the entire Indian Ocean, the Western Pacific, and the nations that surround them – will be the most consequential part of the globe in the 21st century," he said.
 
He said that, home to more than three billion people, the Indo-Pacific region is the focal point of the world’s energy and trade routes. "Forty percent of the world’s oil supply crisscrosses the Indian Ocean every day – through critical points of transit like the Straits of Malacca and Hormuz. And with emerging economies in Africa and the fastest growing economy and middle class in India, whole economies are changing to account for this global shift in market share. Asia’s share of global GDP is expected to surpass 50 percent by the middle of this century," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said the US needed to collaborate with India to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is increasingly a place of peace, stability, and growing prosperity – so that it does not become a region of disorder, conflict, and predatory economics.
 
"The world’s centre of gravity is shifting to the heart of the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. and India – with our shared goals of peace, security, freedom of navigation, and a free and open architecture – must serve as the eastern and western beacons of the Indo-Pacific. As the port and starboard lights between which the region can reach its greatest and best potential.
 
"First, we must grow with an eye to greater prosperity for our peoples and those throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. By the year 2050, India may boast the second largest economy in the world. India’s population – with a median age of 25 – is expected to surpass that of China’s within the next decade. Getting our economic partnership right is critical.
 
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"Economic growth flows from innovative ideas. Fortunately, there are no two countries that encourage innovation better than the United States and India. The exchange of technologies and ideas between Bangalore and Silicon Valley is changing the world. Prosperity in the 21st century and beyond will depend on nimble problem solving that harnesses the power of markets and emerging innovations in the Indo-Pacific. This is where the United States and India have a tremendous competitive advantage," he said.
 
"Our open societies generate high-quality ideas at the speed of free thought. Helping regional partners establish similar systems will deliver solutions to 21st century problems. For that to happen, greater regional connectivity is essential. From Silk Routes to Grand Trunk Roads, South Asia was for millennia a region bound together by the exchange of goods, people, and ideas.
 
"But today it is one of the least economically integrated regions in the world; intra-regional trade has languished – sitting at around 4 or 5 percent of total trade. Compare that with ASEAN, where intra-regional trade stands at 25% of total trade. The World Bank estimates that with barriers removed and streamlined customs procedures, intra-regional trade in South Asia would nearly quadruple from the current $28 billion to over $100 billion.
 
"One of the goals of greater connectivity is providing nations in the Indo-Pacific the right options when it comes to sustainable development. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is one model of how we can achieve it. The program is committed to data, accountability, and evidence-based decision-making to foster the right circumstances for private investment," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said, last month, the the US and Nepal signed a $500 million compact agreement – the first with a South Asian nation – to invest in infrastructure to meet growing electricity and transportation needs in Nepal, and to promote more trade linkages with partners in the region, like India.
 
"The United States and India must look for more opportunities to grow this connectivity and our own economic links, even as we look for more ways to facilitate greater development and growth for others in the region.
 
"But for prosperity to take hold in the Indo-Pacific, security and stability are required. We must evolve as partners in this realm too. For India, this evolution will entail fully embracing its potential as a leading player in the international security arena. First and foremost, this means building security capacity," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said US Secretary of Defense James Mattis was in Delhi just last month to discuss this. "We both eagerly look forward to the inaugural 2+2 dialogue, championed by President Trump and Prime Minister Modi, soon," he said.
 
"The fact that the Indian Navy was the first overseas user of the P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, which it effectively fields with U.S. Navy counterparts, speaks volumes of our shared maritime interests and our need to enhance interoperability. 
 
"The proposals the United States has put forward, including for Guardian UAVs, aircraft carrier technologies, the Future Vertical Lift program, and F-18 and F-16 fighter aircraft, are all potential game changers for our commercial and defense cooperation.
 
"The United States military’s record for speed, technology, and transparency speaks for itself – as does our commitment to India’s sovereignty and security. Security issues that concern India are concerns of the United States.
 
"Secretary Mattis has said the world’s two greatest democracies should have the two greatest militaries. I couldn’t agree more. When we work together to address shared security concerns, we don’t just protect ourselves, we protect others. 
 
"Earlier this year, instructors from the U.S. and Indian Armies came together to build a UN peacekeeping capacity among African partners, a program that we hope to continue expanding. This is a great example of the U.S. and India building security capacity and promoting peace in third countries – and serving together as anchors of peace in a very tumultuous world.
 
"And as we implement President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, we will turn to our partners to ensure greater stability in Afghanistan and throughout the region. India is a partner for peace in Afghanistan and we welcome their assistance efforts," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said Pakistan, too, was an important US partner in South Asia. "Our relationships in the region stand on their own merits. We expect Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups based within their own borders that threaten their own people and the broader region. In doing so, Pakistan furthers stability and peace for itself and its neighbors, and improves its own international standing," he said.
 
"Even as the United States and India grow our own economic and defense cooperation, we must have an eye to including other nations which share our goals. India and the United States should be in the business of equipping other countries to defend their sovereignty, build greater connectivity, and have a louder voice in a regional architecture that promotes their interests and develops their economies. This is a natural complement to India’s Act East policy.
 
"We ought to welcome those who want to strengthen the rule of law and further prosperity and security in the region. In particular, our starting point should continue to be greater engagement and cooperation with Indo-Pacific democracies. We are already capturing the benefits of our important trilateral engagement between the U.S., India, and Japan. As we look ahead, there is room to invite others, including Australia, to build on the shared objectives and initiatives.
 
"India can also serve as a clear example of a diverse, dynamic, and pluralistic country to others – a flourishing democracy in the age of global terrorism. The sub-continent is the birthplace of four of the world’s major religions, and India’s diverse population includes more than 170 million Muslims – the third-largest Muslim population in the world. Yet we do not encounter significant number of Indian Muslims among foreign fighters in the ranks of ISIS or other terrorist groups, which speaks to the strength of Indian society. The journey of a democracy is never easy, but the power of India’s democratic example is one that I know will continue to strengthen and inspire others around the world.
 
"In other areas, we are long overdue for greater cooperation. The more we expand cooperation on issues like maritime domain awareness, cybersecurity, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the more the nations in the Indo-Pacific will benefit.
 
"We also must recognize that many Indo-Pacific nations have limited alternatives when it comes to infrastructure investment programs and financing schemes, which often fail to promote jobs or prosperity for the people they claim to help. It’s time to expand transparent, high-standard regional lending mechanisms – tools that will actually help nations instead of saddle them with mounting debt. 
 
"India and the United States must lead the way in growing these multilateral efforts. We must do a better job leveraging our collective expertise to meet common challenges, while seeking even more avenues of cooperation to tackle those that are to come. There is a need and we must meet the demand," he said.
 
Mr. Tillerson said the increasing convergence of US and Indian interests and values offered the Indo-Pacific the best opportunity to defend the rules-based global system that has benefited so much of humanity over the past several decades.
 
"But it also comes with a responsibility – for both of our countries to 'do the needful' in support of our united vision of a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific. The United States welcomes the growing power and influence of the Indian people in this region and throughout the world. We are eager to grow our relationship even as India grows as a world leader and power.
 
"The strength of the Indo-Pacific has always been the interaction among many peoples, governments, economies, and cultures. The United States is committed to working with any nation in South Asia or the broader region that shares our vision of an Indo-Pacific where sovereignty is upheld and a rules-based system is respected.
 
"It is time we act on our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, supported and protected by two strong pillars of democracy – the United States and India," he added.
 
Mr. Tillerson, who was Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil before taking up his present assignment, began his speech by noting that his relationship with India dated back to about 1998 when he began working on issues related to India's energy security.
 
"And I’ve had many trips to the country, obviously, over those many years. And it was a real privilege to do business with the Indian counterparts then, and it’s been a great honor this year to work with the Indian leaders as Secretary of State. And I do look forward to returning to Delhi next week for the first time in my official capacity. This visit could not come at a more promising time for U.S.-Indian relations and the U.S.-India partnership," he said.
 
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