Qatar Airways pilot dies on Manila-Doha flight

Qatar Airways today said that the captain of its flight QR 645, operating from Manila in the Phillipines to Doha, Qatar passed away on board.

The official Qatar News Agency (QNA) quoted a statement from the airline as saying that the flight was diverted to Kuala Lumpur and landed at approximately 0335 hours UTC today, where a new crew boarded.

The statement said the flight departed Kuala Lumpur at 0561 hours UTC and was due to land at the Doha International Airport later today.

"Qatar Airways’ priority, as always, remains the comfort and safety of its passengers and staff," the statement added, without giving any further details.


India and Vietnam to expand defence cooperation

India and Vietnam have agreed on a series of measures to expand defence cooperation between the two countries, including the holdingof mountan and jungle warfare exercises in India next year.

The measures were discussed by Defence Minister A K Antony at bilateral meetings with the top Vietnamese leadership, including his counterpart Gen Phung Quang Thanh and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi.

Mr Antony said India would provide support to Vietnam to enhance and upgrade the capabilities of its Services in general and Navy in particular. He said India would help Vietnam in its capacity-building for repair and maintenance of its platforms.

The Armies of the two countries will also cooperate in areas like information technology and English-language training of Vietnamese Army personnel.

An official press release said the two sides wouldwork towards developing cooperation among defence institutes and establishing linkages for sharing experience and knowledge. Mr Antony also offered assistance to Vietnamese Forces in UN Peacekeeping operations, in which India has vast experience.

The two sides also discussed global and regional security issues. Mr Antony said Vietnam occupies a strategic position in New Delhi’s policy priorities, both bilaterally as well as under its "Look East Policy".

Mr Antony was in Hanoi to attend the first ASEAN Plus Eight Defence Ministers' Meeting, in which India played a constructive role in defining the scope and objectives of the Forum.

Gen Thanh thanked India for its valuable contribution in making the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting a great success. He said India occupied a special position in Hanoi’s foreign policy framework and was "moved" by India's support.

He welcomed more port calls by the Indian Navy to Vietnam and offered maintenance and repair facilities at Vietnamese ports.

Mr Antony extended an invitation to his Vietnamese counterpart to visit India next year.

Mr Antony is due to return home tonight.


Antony calls for cooperative approach for security of sea lanes

Defence Minister A. K. Antony signing the Joint Declaration of the First ASEAN plus Eight Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Hanoi on October 12, 2010. The Chinese Defence Minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie, is also seen.
Defence Minister A. K. Antony signing the Joint Declaration of the First ASEAN plus Eight Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Hanoi on October 12, 2010. The Chinese Defence Minister, Gen. Liang Guanglie, is also seen.

Defence Minister A K Antony today stressed the need for "cooperative approaches" between countries for ensuring the security of sea lanes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Addressing the first ever ASEAN Plus Eight Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Hanoi, Mr Antony said India was participating in two projects together with the Malacca countries, within the framework of International Maritime Organisation (IMO), to improve the safety of navigation in this region.

He said the Indian Navy was conducting anti-piracy patrolling and escort operations in the Gulf of Aden for over two years now.

Mr Antony said piracy remained a serious challenge for the world community and expressed India’s commitment to work together with other countries to address the problem.

"The security of sea lanes of communication is vital in today’s world. It is in the common interest of nations to keep sea lanes open, secure and free for navigation, trade and energy supplies. Piracy remains a serious challenge for the world community, as we have witnessed in the Gulf of Aden and adjoining areas. The Indian Navy is actively engaged in providing anti-piracy patrolling and escort operations in the Gulf of Aden for over two years now. India is committed to working together with other countries in the efforts to address piracy," he said.

"The security of sea lanes is important for the Asia-Pacific region, which is now one of the most important drivers of global economic growth. Through the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) and the Malacca Straits mechanisms, we are partnering with other countries in the region to improve the safety of navigation in the region. Cooperative approaches on maritime security would offer benefits for the region as a whole," he said.

The ADMM Plus forum has for the first time brought together the defence establishments of all the key nations in the region with the objective of addressing non-traditional security challenges.

Complimenting the ASEAN for this, Mr Antony said Asia, in general, and South East Asia, in particular, had learnt, through harsh experience, the various forms that such challenges took. He called for the development of synergy to counter such challenges.

"The growth of terrorism, the growing role of non-state actors, cyber threats etc are markers in the evolution of the global security construct during the last decade or so. Asia has been the theatre for the unfolding of many of these developments. Given the transnational nature of the challenges, it is important to develop synergy and build institutionalized cooperative arrangements," he said.

Mr Antony welcomed the Hanoi Joint Declaration, saying, it provided a viable framework for multilateral defence and security dialogue and cooperation in the region.

He extended New Delhi’s support for the five priority areas identified for cooperation and the idea of having expert groups to develop cooperation in these areas.

"India looks forward to contributing to the deliberations and activities of each of these Groups," he added.


TVNZ journalist resigns after racist remarks about Delhi CM, Sir Anand

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit

Controversial New Zealand television journalist Paul Henry, whose racist remarks about Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit some days ago caused outrage in India, today resigned from TVNZ, an announcement on the company's website said.

Only three weeks ago, Mr Henry was named the People's Choice at the Qantas media awards.

But last week he was suspended without pay after asking the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key whether the country's Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand, who is of Indian origin, was "even a New Zealander".

Even as those remarks evoked a lot of criticism within New Zealand, his attempt to make fun of Ms Dikshit's name, by deliberately mispronouncing it, appeared to have come as the last straw for many.

"Paul Henry and I met earlier today and Paul offered me his resignation, which I have accepted," TVNZ chief executive Rick Ellis said in a statement that was posted on the channel's website.

"In doing so, I offer my sincere apology on behalf of myself and TVNZ, to all those who have been offended by Paul's inappropriate on-air comments. I will be apologising in person to the Governor General. I also apologise to the Indian community, both here and in India," Mr Ellis said.

"I have resigned from TVNZ, effective immediately. It is no longer practical in the current environment for me to do the job I was employed to do, and have so enjoyed doing. It is also difficult for TVNZ to get on with the business of being a first class broadcaster as long as I remain," Mr Henry said in a separate statement, also posted on the website.

"I have apologised twice, and have meant every word. I again apologise to all those who were genuinely hurt by what I said. However, it is clear that things have now reached a point where my actions will have to speak louder than my words," the journalist said.

India had strongly and unequivocally denounced the remarks of the journalist against Ms Dikshit. The Ministry of External Affairs had called in the High Commissioner of New Zealand, Mr Rupert Holborow, on October 7 and issued him a strong demarche on the matter.

"It was conveyed to him that the Government strongly and unequivocally denounces the racist remarks of the journalist in question. It is shocking that such bigoted views have been aired by representative of a mainstream media organization of a multiethnic democracy like New Zealand," a statement from the Ministry had said on that day.

"These remarks are totally unacceptable to India and should be condemned by all right thinking people and nations. It is hoped that the Government of New Zealand would take immediate demonstrative action against the said individual to send out a clear signal that such behavior is totally unacceptable," it had said.

According to the statement, the High Commissioner of New Zealand conveyed deep regret for the hurt caused by the comments of the media commentator which he characterized as culturally insensitive, inappropriate and vulgar and certainly not the views of the Government of New Zealand.

He also acknowledged the vital contribution of the Chief Minister to the Commonwealth Games.

"I am astonished and dismayed that my comments have created a diplomatic incident. My style is conversational and of course unscripted. I walk the finest of lines and accept that I have inadvertently crossed it from time to time," Mr Henry said.

"But I recognise the realities of the situation. I do not want to continue to be used as a lightning rod for racial disharmony in this country. Likewise, I certainly do not want to have my elderly mother staked out at her nursing home by tabloid media, as has happened this weekend," he said.

"I am saddened by this whole episode - sad that I crossed the line in the first place, and sad that an employer I have always served with pride has had to suffer slings and arrows," he said.

Mr Ellis said he believed Mr Henry had done the right thing. "The reality is that his comments have split the community and damaged New Zealand's international relationships, and there is no going back from that," he said.

"As an organisation committed to the principals (sic) of free speech it is our job to steer a course between the sometimes conflicting demands of freedom of opinion and respect for others.

"This is not always easy. However what is clear as an outcome of this episode is that any suggestion of racism, whether intended or not, is unacceptable. We are quite clear about that," Mr Ellis said.

He said that there was a fine balancing act between giving people freedom to express their opinion, which is critical in a democracy, and causing offence. He said he had asked TVNZ News and Current Affairs management to begin reviewing the company's editorial policies and presenter code of conduct, and in particular, practices around live broadcasts.


Obama to address business summit in Mumbai on Nov 6

United States President Barack Obama will address a business summit organised by the US-India Business Council in Mumbai on November 6 during his first State Visit to India.

The Council said the "Business and Entrepreneurship Summit in Mumbai" was being organised in partnership with the US Department of Commerce and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII),

It would highlight the benefits of export-led American growth being generated by India's rising economy and new purchasing power, the new investment flowing from India reviving American businesses, and the innovation by young entrepreneurs utilizing U.S. know-how and technology.

"This Business and Entrepreneurship Summit in India's financial capital will be the President's first stop with the business community in India, enabling the President to experience first-hand the excitement underway, generated by the entrepreneurial spirit that unites our business communities, and which binds our two countries," USIBC President Ron Somers said.

"The fact the President has agreed to address this Business Summit demonstrates the priority this President places on creating jobs for America by cultivating deeper commercial ties with India, the world's largest free-market economy," he said.

Mr Somers pointed out that Mr Obama would be only the sixth US President to visit India, and the first to travel there during his first term. He said Mr Obama's aspirations for a stronger US-India partnership would help align the two democracies to shape the economic destiny of the 21st century.

"The commercial focus of this visit will unleash jobs and opportunities that will benefit the American economy at a time when jobs are needed, while providing nurturing collaborations in technology that will ensure inclusive growth in India for decades to come," he said.

USIBC is the primary business advocacy organization at the forefront of the bilateral commercial relationship, driving closer relations between the world's largest free-market democracies.

The Council is launching its largest and most important Executive Mission to India to participate in the President's November 6th visit.

A press release from the Council said its goal was to greatly enhance two-way trade, now surpassing $50 billion; spur investment by India into the United States; create opportunities for greater U.S. export-led growth of high technology and high-end manufactured goods that will support India's $1.7 trillion infrastructure build-out; and foster new frontiers of technology collaboration that will help address the global challenges facing both countries - energy security, food security, water security, and environmental protection.

"The scope for cooperation on every level by our companies and their Indian counterparts is limitless," said Mr Somers. "Our aim is to organize a Business Summit that highlights these opportunities for American companies, and which results in new business partnerships and collaborations."

"One simple example of how a rising India translates into greater prosperity for the United States," said Mr Somers, "is Mumbai's new airport, which involved US high-end manufacturing. The largest petroleum refinery in the world at Jamnagar was recently completed by Bechtel. Boeing aircraft are filling India's skies - helping India maintain a growing civilian airline industry growing at 30% annually. This list goes on and on."

According to the release, American companies are exporting billions of dollars worth of goods and services to India, driving growth, job creation, and innovation throughout the United States. As Indian companies with strong balance sheets continue to invest billions of dollars into the United States, these investments have become important engines for the US economic recovery.

"The USIBC Presidential Executive Mission and Business Summit will underscore the synergies for growth that bind us as partners and highlight why increased trade and investment is a 'win-win' for both countries," the release said.

It said the relationship of mutual reward, investment, and discovery would foster new and innovative solutions to key challenges, including clean water, green energy, health care, improved agriculture, technology cooperation, as well as modern infrastructure development - all areas where American and Indian entrepreneurs could excel together.

"This is the time when the governments and private sectors of both countries must focus on sustained economic growth and job creation. USIBC stands ready with its partners to support the President's ambitious and vital agenda in India," Mr Somers said.

The US-India Business Council, formed in 1975 at the request of the Government of India and the US Government to advance commercial ties between the world's two largest free-market democracies, is hosted under the aegis of the US Chamber of Commerce.


Salman Khurshid unveils stone of hospital project in Abuja

Minister of State for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid unveiling the foundation stone of India-Nigeria Friendship Hospital Project in Abuja, Nigeria on October 02, 2010. Nigerian Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Navy Captain Caleb Olumolade and Dr. Shabihul Hassan, Abuja-based Indian physician, chairman of the project, are also seen.
Minister of State for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid unveiling the foundation stone of India-Nigeria Friendship Hospital Project in Abuja, Nigeria on October 02, 2010. Nigerian Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Navy Captain Caleb Olumolade and Dr. Shabihul Hassan, Abuja-based Indian physician, chairman of the project, are also seen.

Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs and Corporate Affairs Salman Khurshid unveiled the foundation stone of the India-Nigeria Friendship Hospital Project in Abuja yesterday.

Nigerian Minister of State for Federal Capital Territory Abuja, Navy Captain Caleb Olumolade and Dr Shabihul Hassan, Chairman of the hospital project, were also present on the occasion.

The ceremony was also attended by Dr Okwesilieze Nwodo, National Chairman of Nigeria's Ruling Peoples' Democratic Party.

The project will be completed in two years and will be the biggest healthcare project of its kind in West Africa.

Mr Khurshid was on a four-day visit to Abuja at the head of an official delegation that represented India at the 50th Independence Day celebrations of Nigeria.

At his meetings with Nigerian leaders, Mr Khurshid strongly condemned the bombings that took place on October 1 when the country was celebrating its Independence Day.

Mr Khurshid delivered a letter of condolence and solidarity to the President of Nigeria in which he said India expessed its heartfelt sympathy to victims and their families and that India is ready to assist Nigeria on security issues, too.

The hospital project is expected to further strengthen the robust relations between the two countries. Nigria is India's largest trading partner in Africa, with bilateral annual trade at more than $ 9 billion.

The two countries share common perspectives on international political, social and development issues and these have manifested in various meetings at the United Nations, World Trade Organisation and other fora.

Nigeria, like India, is strongly opposed to all forms of terrorism. India and Nigeria have regularly exchanged visits at governmental and commercial levels to strengthen bilateral economic and commercial relations. Indian companies have sizeable investments in Nigeria in textiles, chemicals, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, plastics, fishing and so on, an official press release added.


Menon says Obama's visit will add content to India-US strategic partnership

National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC on September 30, 2010
National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC on September 30, 2010

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon has said that United States President Barack Obama's visit to India in November would offer both countries an opportunity to put into place a longer term framework for the India-US strategic partnership and to add content to it in several areas that are now ripe.

"Our goal must be to gear our bilateral cooperation towards making our two countries stronger, safer and more prosperous," Mr Menon said in an address at the Carnegie Endowment here on Thursday.

"As we add substance to the framework for the future of our relationship, we must consider the changing nature of our societies. Twenty-seven years of over 6% growth, (now trending at around 9%), demographic changes and sociological changes (including urbanization and the growth of services) have profoundly impacted how India sees herself in relation to the world," he said.

Mr Menon said a major area for initiatives was the economy and trade. He said India today offered a growing market and a partner in improving the international competitiveness of US companies, creating jobs in both countries. "I would hope that the visit will result in several concrete initiatives in this area," he said.

He said India's priorities did not in any way conflict with those of the US. "We seek a peaceful, secure and stable periphery around us in West, Central and South East Asia, engaging China, attempting to build a relationship with Pakistan, contributing to Afghanistan’s reconstruction, and working for good neighbourly relations with our immediate neighbours," said.

According to him, in today's international situation, India-US relations were an important factor for world peace, stability and progress.

"An open, balanced, and inclusive security architecture in Asia and the world would be a goal that is in our common interest. So too would be rules of the road (or codes of conduct) for the global commons, developed internationally through a democratic process of consultation and negotiation. These become ever more important as we move to a world where several major powers both compete and cooperate with each other, interdependent due to globalization but still driven by balance of power considerations," he said.

Mr Menon said that, traditionally, India and the US had viewed each other across the Eurasian landmass and the Atlantic Ocean. "We get a different perspective if we look across the Pacific, across a space that we share and that is vital to the security and prosperity of our two countries," he pointed out.

Apart from changing geopolitics, the emergence of new transnational and global threats also brings the two countries together, he said.

"For instance, there is much we have in common in disarmament and non-proliferation. We both have a shared vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. We should support moving step by step to reduce the salience of nuclear weapons, pending their complete elimination. And we both seek to reduce nuclear dangers, whether from terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons or from nuclear proliferation.

"And it seems to me that we both have a common interest in reforming the institutions of global governance to reflect today’s realities and to make them capable of dealing with today’s challenges," he said.

Mr Menon said India and the US stood at an important moment in their partnership.

"As a result of consistent efforts by successive governments and administrations in both countries, our bilateral strategic partnership is strong. The time has come to realize its international significance. President Obama’s visit gives us an opportunity to do so," he said.

"Ours is a partnership that has come a long way in a relatively short time, and that still has enormous potential. It has not always been easy, but to my mind, now is the time for both our countries to be ambitious about the relationship," he said.

Mr Menon spoke about the farsighted decisions taken by leaders from both sides of the political aisle in both countries - US Presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Obama and Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh - to transform the India-US relationship into a strategic partnership.

"The intensity and breadth of engagement is unprecedented. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Obama have met six times in less than 18 months so far. Whether it is their shared vision on global economic recovery, or an effort to find a way forward at Copenhagen, or their shared concern on nuclear terrorism and security, there is growing capacity and will in the two countries to work together on the global stage," he said.

He said that, flowing from the pace set by the leadership, the engagement and dialogue at every level of government had been equally intense.

"Today India and the USA cooperate in every significant aspect possible between two nations, peoples and states. If anything, the creativity of our entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists has sometimes exceeded that of our political structures. We work together in innovation and technology, creating jobs and promoting inclusive growth and development. We do so in national security, counter-terrorism and defense. And we also do so on regional and global issues.

"Political dialogue and strategic consultations have grown immensely. It is comprehensive, candid and comfortable, and is characterized by mutual respect, even when we do not necessarily agree," he said.

Mr Menon said the transformation in relations was epitomized by the civil nuclear initiative which is now in the final stages of inter-governmental action before commercial decisions make it practical reality.

He said the US was India’s largest trading partner. Over the last five years US exports to India have grown faster than those to any other major destination. They have also grown faster than India’s exports to the US, he said.

"India has consistently and consciously chosen to run a current account deficit of between 2.5-3% of GDP. Our bilateral trade is largely balanced. It is not very well known that our trade in services too is in balance. The more we sell to the USA the more we buy. India’s exchange rate is set by the market. India’s experience has taught us that mercantilism and protectionism are not the way forward," he said.

He said the two countries were working together on clean energy. He said science and modern technologies offered a chance to work together to solve historically stubborn problems of hunger, disease and illiteracy.

Mr Menon said the Indian diaspora in the US provided living proof of and encouragement to the benefits of US-India engagement.

"With dialogue forums ranging from education and health to space and counter terrorism, and the high level strategic dialogue headed by Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton and (External Affars Minister) Krishna, India and the US are more engaged than ever," he said.

"The bilateral underpinnings of the relationship are strong," he stressed.

Mr Menon said there was indeed a congruence of interests between the two nations.

"For India the US is a crucial partner in our enterprise to abolish mass poverty within a democratic framework and open society, while respecting human rights and rule of law. Our first Green Revolution, which made us self sufficient in food-grains, was achieved with the US. Looking forward, we hope to work with the US on the entire range of developmental issues from clean energy to food security to infrastructure. As we seek to build the knowledge societies necessary to meet future challenges our scientific, technological and innovation collaboration becomes ever more important, as does opening up high technology exchanges by modifying outdated export controls.

"I would suggest that for the US as well India offers a reliable partner as both countries secure their economic futures. India offers a large and growing market for the US, creating jobs in both economies, adding competitiveness to US firms, and synergy in innovation and technology," he said.

He said that, as India's capacity grows, the congruence of interests on international security issues is expressed more and more practically, in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, in their cooperation against terrorism, and in their work on the global commons of the oceans, space, cyber space and the air.

"It is expressed in what we do for regional stability, disarmament and non-proliferation," he said.

"Ours is also a relationship that is based on shared values and a common quest for a world that reflects those values. Those values are pluralism, democracy, rule of law, enterprise, respect for diversity and human rights, tolerance and secularism. Those values lead us to seek an open, rule based and democratic world order, where each of our citizens is free to achieve their full potential.

"It is the commitment to these values that sometimes also leads to elevated expectations and the higher standards that we hold ourselves and each other to. Indians sometimes feel that we are held to standards that the US does not always impose on other states. Equally, when American friends find Indians preachy, it may be because we expect you to live up to our shared values," he said.

Mr Menon said the two countries must be sensitive to each other's vital and important national interests and strengthen the habit of working together, intensifying strategic consultations.

"As I have tried to show, this partnership is based on more than immediate transactional advantage. I do not underestimate the human capacity for folly. But, with common values and a vision of a better world order and shared interests, I am confident that if we each proceed from our own ideals and interests, we will impart long term stability and an enduring significance to our partnership," he added.


India, UK sign MoU on road transport, highways

India and the United Kingdom have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the area of road transport and highways.

The MoU was signed by Road Transport and Highways Minister Kamal Nath and his British counterpart Philip Hammond in London on Monday, an official press release said here today.

It said that, as part of the MoU, both the countries would engage in consultations and would exchange information and best practices in the areas of motor vehicle testing, driver training and delivering and maintaining of highway networks.

During his stay in London, Mr Nath addressed a round table session on highway infrastructure organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Confederation of British Industry on Tuesday.

He urged financial institutions to diversify their investments and also invest in the equity of the road construction companies in India. He informed the participants of the session about the rapid progress made in India's highways development programme. He said that by the end of March 2011, 22,000 km of work would be in progress.

Mr Nath said the issues raised by different stakeholders in the tender procedures and process of financial closure had been addressed and the remaining ones were also being looked into. The capacity-building process is also being addressed, he said.

The Minister said road construction activities were being taken up in the far-flung areas of the country, including the North-Eastern States. He also pointed out that the automobile sales in India had gone up by 37 per cent as a result of the increase in the disposable incomes of the families in the rural and urban areas.

He also met Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills on Wednesday. They discussed ways of deepening the economic engagement between the two countries and stepping up investments in India's highway sector.

Mr Nath also met members of the British India Roads Group (BIRG), who expressed keen interest in participating in India's National Highway Development Programme.

Members of BIRG made suggestions for bringing about changes in the areas of financing, procurement, concession, engineering, design, construction and operation and maintenance.

The meeting decided to hold an interactive workshop to discuss various suggestions made by members of BIRG in New Delhi in December or January.

The workshop will see the participation of members of BIRG and all stakeholders including Government officials, concessionaries, contractors, consultants and financers, the release added.


Krishna says Pakistan must fulfill commitment on curbing terrorism

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna addressing the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 29, 2010
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna addressing the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 29, 2010

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said Pakistan must fulfill its solemn commitment of not allowing territory under its control to be used for terrorism directed against India.

"Credible and firm action by Pakistan against terrorist groups operating from its soil is in the interest of the region as it is in Pakistan’s own interest," Mr Krishna said in his statement to the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) here today.

He also said Pakistan could not impart lessons to India on democracy and human rights, in an obvious reference to the remarks on Jammu and Kashmir made by his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the UNGA yesterday.

"If, however, Pakistan were to live up to its commitment not to allow use of its soil by terrorists acting against India, this would significantly help reduce the trust deficit that impedes the development of better bilateral relations between our two countries. We are neighbours, and as neighbours, we have an obligation to work together," he said.

Mr Krishna said it was well known that many countries had deep-rooted concerns about the growth and consolidation of militancy and terrorism in Pakistan.

"We share these concerns, particularly because Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of India, is the target of such Pakistan-sponsored militancy and terrorism. Pakistan must fulfill its solemn commitment of not allowing territory under its control to be used for terrorism directed against India," he said

The External Affairs Minister said the peoples of South Asia shared a common destiny and India had consistently stressed that it would work together with its South Asian brothers and sisters to build a future that brings prosperity and development through strengthened dialogue and cooperation.

He said peace and stability in South Asia was one of India's highest priorities and it was committed to good neighbourly relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan.

He said it was in this spirit of solidarity with the people of Pakistan in their hour of need that India had pledged $ 25 million aid which was being channeled through the UN for flood relief efforts in that country.

"As a neighbor we wished to provide succor and relief in a timely manner to the victims of this natural disaster. We are saddened by the loss of life and property that Pakistan has suffered as a result of these unprecedented floods," he said.

Mr Krishna said it was imperative for the global community to build on international cooperation and take concerted action against terrorists and their sponsors.

"Acts of terrorism need to be condemned by all, wherever and whenever they are committed, by whomsoever and for whatever purposes. There can be no justification for terrorism just as there can be no good and bad terrorists. It is important for every Member State of the UN to note that it is no longer possible to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds," he said.

He said India was a party to all major international conventions against terrorism and fully supported implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism strategy.

He said that, however, there remained considerable gaps in the international legal framework against terrorism. Pointing out that the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism was designed to fill these gaps, he urged Member States to display the necessary political will to finalise and adopt it.

Referring to the recently concluded parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, Mr Krishna said India believed the international community needed to be steadfast in its engagement with Afghanistan to ensure the success of its reconstruction efforts and its emergence as a democratic, pluralistic and prosperous society.

"The continuing existence of safe havens and sanctuaries for terrorists beyond Afghanistan’s borders is the major impediment to the restoration of peace and security in Afghanistan. This should be a primary focus of the international community," he said.

Mr Krishna said India remained fully committed to the principles and purposes of the UN and believed the UN should be at the core of global governance and efforts to meet the challenges of collective peace, security and development.

"The UN, however, needs urgent reform to reflect contemporary realities and to effectively meet emerging global challenges. The changes in the global geo-strategic order since 1945 have barely been reflected in the most vital of the UN’s organs, charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. The Security Council spends most, if not all of its time, on issues pertaining to the developing world. Developing countries contribute almost all the troops that are part of the UN’s peacekeeping presence worldwide. Yet, their voice on the Council’s high table on decisions relating to international peace and security is barely audible. Despite the agenda of the Council being seized of conflicts in Africa, yet, there is no permanent member from Africa in the Security Council," he said.

He also said that the General Assembly, as the chief deliberative, policy making and representative organ of the UN, must set the global political, economic and social agenda.

"It must reclaim its position on vital matters like the appointment of the Secretary General and in the relationship between the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions. Along with the ECOSOC, the General Assembly should also set the paradigms of multilateral engagement for the global economy and for development and development cooperation," he said.

Mr Krishna said India accorded the highest priority to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

"We, in India, understand that there can be no peace and progress unless poverty is eliminated and the fruits of development and progress shared among all countries and people," he said.

He told the assembly that India was pursuing one of the most ambitious programmes of socio-economic intervention ever undertaken, designed to free its people from poverty, provide universal education, empower women and ensure health care to all.

He said India believed that the G-20, the premier forum for international economic cooperation, could help catalyze strong, balanced and sustainable growth for the benefit of all.

In his statement, Mr Krishna also covered other topics such as climate change and nuclear disarmament.



Krishna says Qureshi's remarks on J&K unacceptable

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna speaking at the Asia Society in New York on September 28, 2010
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna speaking at the Asia Society in New York on September 28, 2010

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has termed as "unacceptable" the references made by his Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to Jammu and Kashmir in his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Tuesday.

"It is with a sense of genuine disappointment that I react to the unacceptable references to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, made by Foreign Minister Qureshi in his address at the UN earlier today," Mr Krishna said on Tuesday in response to a question at an interactive session at the Asia Society in New York.

He noted that Mr Qureshi had brought up the issue at the Asia Society also last week.

"Pakistan is a country that has enormous and serious challenges confronting it. Such unsolicited and untenable remarks will not and indeed, cannot, divert attention from the multiple problems Pakistan needs to tackle for the common good of its people, and indeed of the entire region," Mr Krishna said.

Mr Krishna said India was a vibrant, mature and thriving democracy. "Our democratic institutions guarantee fundamental rights to all our citizens under our Constitution, including to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The only path, as our Prime Minister has said, for lasting peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir is that of dialogue and discussion. Meaningful dialogue can happen only in an atmosphere free of violence and confrontation. We are ready for dialogue with anybody or any group that does not espouse or practice violence," he added.

In his statement at the UNGA, Mr Qureshi had said that, over the past two months, more than 100 people had died in clashes with the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir and condemned this "brutality".

"Jammu and Kashmir is one of the oldest disputes on the agenda of the United Nations.The Jammu and Kashmir dispute is about the exercise of the right to self-determination by the Kashmiri people through a free, fair and impartial plebiscite under the UN auspices. Pakistan views the prevailing situation in the Indian Occupied Kashmir with grave concern," he said.

Mr Qureshi said the human rights of the Kashmiri people must be respected, and their voices heard to create an enabling environment for a peaceful solution of the longstanding Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

"Pakistan reaffirms its complete solidarity with the Kashmiri people, and urges the international community to persuade India to end its repression in Kashmir. Pakistan is willing to engage India in a comprehensive dialogue to normalize relations between the two countries by finding amicable solutions to all outstanding issues, including the core dispute of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.

Mr Qureshi said a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UN Resolutions and taking into account the aspirations of the Kashmiri people would create a conducive atmosphere for durable peace and stability in the South Asian region.


India, Canada agree to increase bilateral trade to $ 15 b annually

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma with the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Ottawa on September 24, 2010.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma with the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in Ottawa on September 24, 2010.

India and Canada have reiterated their Prime Ministers' commitment to increasing bilateral trade from the current level of $ 4.5 billion to $ 15 bilion annually in the next five years.

At the first annual India-Canada Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment in Ottawa on Friday, the two sides agreed that there was significant potential for sustained trade and investment flows between them.

The meeting was co-chaired by Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Canadian Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan.

The Indian delegation to the talks also included Commerce Secretary Rahul Khullar and other senior officials.

Reviewing bilateral trade and investment relations, the two Ministers encouraged the continued strengthening of economic ties between the two countries, an official press release said here today.

They released the Canada-India Joint Study Group Report that examined the feasibility of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA). They welcomed the group's recommendation that negotiations be initiated towards a substantive and ambitious CEPA to the mutual benefit of both countries.

According to the release, the Ministers looked forward to the early signing followed by ratification and implementation of the Social Security Agreement. They noted that the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement was under negotiation and looked forward to its early conclusion. These two agreements will make a significant contribution to the commercial and economic interaction between the two countries.

Under the umbrella of the Ministerial Dialogue, both sides agreed in principle to establish working groups on the public-private partnership (PPP) model, focusing on the infrastructure, energy, agro-processing, information and communication technology and education sectors.

Both the Ministers also looked forward to the signing of the memorandum of understanding on cooperation in road transportation later this year.

The Ministers also reviewed the current status of bilateral cooperation in critical sectors such as energy, environment, mining, information and communication technology, science and technology, education and training, tourism, financial and other services, agriculture, and infrastructure. They noted the opportunities for private sector to work together in these sectors in third markets.

The Ministers also underlined the importance of greater contact between Canadian and Indian businesses. In this regard, both sides agreed to expedite the establishment of a Canada-India CEO Forum, a high level representative body that would recommend policy initiatives and identify impediments to the enhancement of investment and trade between the two countries.

Mr Sharma also met Canadian Industry Minister Tony Clement. Both stressed the need to enhance investment and technological collaboration between businesses in the two countries.

He also addressed the India Canada CEO Roundtable meeting, jointly organised by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and the Confederation of Indian Industry. He also had an interactive session with the Canada-India Centre of Excellence at Carleton University, the release added.


India, Argentina sign civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement

India and Argentina today signed an agreement for "Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy".

Official sources said the agreement was signed in Vienna by Dr Srikumar Banerjee, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from the Indian side and Dr Norma Boero, President of the National Atomic Energy Commission of Argentina.


Banerjee says nuclear energy will help inclusive growth

Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee speaking at the 54th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on September 22, 2010
Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Srikumar Banerjee speaking at the 54th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on September 22, 2010

Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chairman Srikumar Banerjee today said nuclear power was important for a country like India where availability of electricity would act as an instrument of inclusive economic growth.

Speaking at the 54th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna today, Dr Banerjee said a recent study had estimated that nuclear power must contribute about half of the Indian electricity generation capacity so as to nearly eliminate the dependence of the country on import of energy resources while achieving a developed status.

"We remain committed to the 3-stage nuclear programme formulated under the visionary leadership of Dr. Homi Bhabha, founder of India’s nuclear programme. India attaches a high priority for adopting a closed fuel cycle and thorium utilization on account of relatively limited domestic uranium reserves while having large thorium deposits. Water cooled reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium based power generation remain the key elements of our sustainable nuclear programme," he said.

Dr Banerjee said the total installed nuclear power capacity in the country was now 4560 MWe, with 19 operating reactors.

He en masse replacement of coolant channels and feeders were completed in pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Kakrapar and Narora. Construction of the Kaiga-4 PHWR has been completed and the unit is ready for fuel loading. Three of the reactors have registered uninterrupted runs of more than 400 days, he said.

Dr Banerjee said construction of two 1,000 MWe light water reactors at Kudankulam in cooperation with Russia was nearing completion. Work on two indigenous 700 MWe units each at Rawatbhata, Rajasthan and Kakrapar, Gujarat has started and the first pour of concrete is planned later this year, he said.

He said the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is at an advanced stage of construction. The spent mixed carbide fuel from the Fast Breeder Test Reactor (FBTR) with a burn-up of 155 GWd/t was reprocessed in the Compact Reprocessing facility for Advanced fuels in Lead cells (CORAL). Thereafter, the fissile material was re-fabricated as fuel and loaded back into the reactor, thus "closing" the fast reactor fuel cycle.

The AEC chief said that, based on the already established indigenous technology, India was expanding its uranium enrichment capacity which would meet a part of the requirements of light water reactors.

"Setting up adequate reprocessing capability has been an important element of our closed fuel cycle based programme. Recently, India has commenced engineering activities for setting up of an Integrated Nuclear Recycle Plant with facilities for both reprocessing of spent fuel and waste management," he said.

He said in-principle approval had been accorded for energy parks at five coastal sites. Each park will be populated with a number of water-cooled reactors to be constructed through international cooperation. Thus India is poised to expand its installed nuclear power capacity to about 60 GWe by 2032.

"International cooperation will not only provide an additionality to our own programme in meeting immediate requirements but also fill up the energy deficit in the coming decades through the operation of the closed fuel cycle," he said.

Dr Banerjee said India was self-sufficient with regard to heavy water, zirconium alloy components and other related materials and supplies for PHWRs. A new zirconium complex has been commissioned for production of reactor grade zirconium sponge.

He said the Nuclear Fuel Complex at Hyderabad manufactures fuel assemblies of different types of reactors, such as PHWRs, boiling water reactors and fast breeder reactor. India has wide-ranging capabilities in uranium mining and mineral processing facilities.

He said the Uranium deposit at Tumallapalle, where a new mine was recently opened, had a promise to yield about three times of what was originally estimated.

He told the conference that India was pursuing aggressively uranium prospecting using modern geo-physical techniques, some of which have been indigenously developed. India is also interested in joining with international partners in developing uranium mining opportunities abroad, he said.

According to him, Indian PHWRs offer a basket of options for countries that are looking for cost competitive and proven technologies in the small and medium size reactors.

"Therefore today Nuclear Power Corporation of India is ready to offer Indian PHWRs of 220 MWe or 540 MWe capacity for export. Indian industry is not only poised to play a bigger contribution to India’s own nuclear programme but also is on the way to becoming a competitive supplier in the global market with regard to special steels, large size forgings, control instruments, software, other nuclear components and services," he said.

He mentioned that India was in the process of setting up the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership which would provide a forum for joint work with its international partners in areas of topical interest.

Noting that the theme of the Scientific Forum of the conference was related to cancer and its mitigation, Dr Banerjee said the Tata Memorial Centre at Mumbai conducts several training programmes in collaboration with the IAEA - RCA for various countries in the Asia Pacific region. A national cancer grid is being set up by connecting several hospitals with the Tata Memorial Centre. In addition, about 30 webcasts on continuing medical education are relayed every year, he said.

He said the IAEA’s Programme on Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) enables the channeling of resources and expertise to the needy and developing countries. An indigenously developed BHABHATRON Teletherapy unit donated by India to Vietnam under PACT was inaugurated in April this year, he said, adding that India would donate two of these machines, including one to Sri Lanka, soon.

Dr Banerjee said India's hybrid Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Plant (NDDP) at Kalpakkam, based on multistage flash evaporation and reverse osmosis processes, producing 6.3 million litres per day and?is one of the largest such units in the world.

He said India continues to use nuclear science to achieve higher agricultural productivity. This year two new mutant lentil varieties ("Pairy mung" and "Trombay Jawahar Tur") were notified for commercial cultivation, taking the total number of mutant crop varieties developed by Bhabha Atomic Research (BARC), using nuclear techniques to 39.

He mentioned other achievements in research and development in this area, including:

· Installation of Indian Real Time Online Decision Support (IRODOS) system at Narora Atomic Power Station for providing guidance to the emergency managers for making quick decisions based on projected impact of accidental releases from the plant.

· The synchrotron radiation source at Indore is now fully functional and several beam-lines have been set up for experiments.

· India’s first industrial scale production facility for enriched boron based on exchange distillation has been commissioned at Talcher and a similar facility based on ion exchange chromatography is commissioned at Manuguru.

Dr Banerjee said there was an urgent need to give a renewed thrust to take nuclear technology to greater heights for spreading its benefits to all of humanity.

"In order to satisfy the growing energy needs of the world while caring for the environment, the Agency will need to further enhance its efforts towards new innovations and appropriate technology solutions," he said.

He said global nuclear power generation was expected to reach about 500 GWe by 2030. For large scale deployment of nuclear power generation, it is essential to develop technological solutions as well as institutional approaches to address issues of economics, safety, environment, waste management, infrastructure, proliferation resistance and sustainability, he said.

He mentioned that Parliament had recently passed the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill,?2010 after extensive debate. "This legislation will go a long way in increasing public confidence and in creating a predictable environment in which leading vendors can participate in India’s nuclear programme," he added.


Indian Embassy in Bhutan opens Cultural Centre

ICCR President Karan Singh with Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk in Thimphu on September 21, 2010.
ICCR President Karan Singh with Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk in Thimphu on September 21, 2010.

The Embassy of India in Thimphu, Bhutan today opened its Cultural Wing, called the Nehru-Wangchuk Cultural Centre, which is being seen as another milestone in the exceptionally close cultural relations between the two countries.

The centre was jointly inaugurated by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh and Bhutanese Minister for Home and Cultural Affairs Lyonpo Minjur Dorji.

A press release from ICCR said the centre would help to further expand and add a new dimension to India-Bhutan relations.

It said the centre would carry out regular cultural programmes and provide a platform for both Bhutanese and Indian artistes to interact and showcase their talents. It will also hold regular yoga and music classes.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Karan Singh highlighted the close cultural, geographical, historical, political and economic ties between India and Bhutan.

ICCR President Karan Singh and Bhutanese Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji jointly inaugurating the Nehru-Wangchuk Cultural Centre at Thimphu on September 21, 2010.
ICCR President Karan Singh and Bhutanese Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Lyonpo Minjur Dorji jointly inaugurating the Nehru-Wangchuk Cultural Centre at Thimphu on September 21, 2010.

The inauguration was followed by a cultural programme at which Kathak dancer Sharmishtha Mukherjee gave a performance. Later, Dr Karan Singh and Lyonpo Minjur Dorji opened an exhibition of photographs titled "Buddhism in India" by photographer Sondeep Shankar.

Earlier in the day, Dr Karan Singh had an audience with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk. He is also slated to call on the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the father of the present King, who had spearheaded his country's march to democracy.

He is also due to deliver a lecture on "Interfaith Harmony" and have an interaction with intellectuals and members of think tanks in Bhutan.


IBSA Trust Fund receives MDG Award

The India, Brazil and South Africa Facility for Poverty and Hunger Alleviation (IBSA Fund) has received the 2010 MDG Award for South-South Cooperation.

The Award recognizes the work of the three countries in using innovative approaches to share, replicate and scale up successful development experiences for combating poverty and hunger in other parts of the world through the IBSA Trust Fund.

The annual MDG Awards support and raise awareness for the Millennium Development Goals.

The award for IBSA was received by high-level representatives of the three countries and the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at a prestigious gala at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on September 19, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs said.

The IBSA Trust Fund brings together the three emerging economies and vibrant democracies that span three different continents in the quest to combat poverty in other developing countries.

Each country contributes $ 1 million annually to this Fund which is managed by the UNDP Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.

Projects are executed by various UN agencies and partners on the ground across the globe with a strong emphasis on national ownership. IBSA projects focus on the sharing of best practices and proven experiences and include initiatives as diverse as improving agricultural techniques in remote villages, reducing urban violence in slums, on delivering safe drinking water.

Current IBSA initiatives include projects in Haiti, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Burundi, Palestine, Cambodia and Laos, the release added.


India, UAE to conclude agreement on security cooperation soon

India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have agreed to expedite the conclusion of their proposed agreements on security cooperation, transfer of sentenced persons and mutual assistance on customs matters.

This was decided at the India-UAE political consultations held on September 19 in Abu Dhabi, a press release from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said here today.

The Indian delegation to the talks was led by Ms Vijayalatha Reddy, Secretary (East) in the MEA while the UAE side was led by Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

The release said the high-level consultations reviewed the current state of bilateral relations between the two countries. Both sides expressed satisfaction at the friendly relations based on historic links and agreed to intensify high-level bilateral exchanges to consolidate the ties.

In this context, the need for early convening of the Ministerial-level India-UAE Joint Commission meeting was underscored.

The two sides also expressed satisfaction at the growth of trade and economic links, particularly that they had become the largest trading partners for each other. The discussions focused on UAE investments in the aviation, ports, telecommunications and oil and gas sectors.

The Indian delegation proposed that the India-UAE Trade Policy Forum set up by the two countries to facilitate bilateral trade should be more active. It called for more investment from the UAE in India, especially in the infrastructure sector.

According to the release, the two sides also exchanged views on major regional and global issues, including the Middle East peace process, reform of the United Nations and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. They noted that they had similarlity of perceptions and agreed to have regular consultations.

The two sides acknowledged the positive role of the Indian community in the development of India-UAE relations. The Indian side thanked the UAE for looking after the welfare of the Indian community, the release added.


Heads of Agreements for GSPA for TAPI gas pipeline project signed

The four partner countries in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project today signed the Heads of Agreements for the proposed Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA).

The four countries also initialled the Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement (GPFA) after the Steering Committee Meeting (SCM) of the project held at Ashgabat in Turkmenistan today.

India was represented at the meeting by Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas Jitin Prasada.

Others present at the meeting were Mr. Baymyrat Hojamuhammedov, Deputy Prime Minister, Turkmenistan, Mr. B. Nedirov, Minister of Oil & Gas, Turkmenistan, Mr. Wahidullah Shahrani, Minister of Mining Industry, Afghanistan, Mr. Naveed Qamar, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Resources, Pakistan, and representatives of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the lead partner of the project.

An official press release said the SCM came afer two days of deliberations of the official-level Technical Working Group.

The project envisages to build a 1680 km pipeline with a total gas capacity of 90 million cubic metres per day (mmscmd). The length of pipeline in Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan upto the Indian border is 145 km, 735 km and 800 km, respectively. Once completed, India would get 38 mmscmd of gas, the release said.

The Union Cabinet has already given in-principle approval to the GPFA. However, the final signing would be done only after the Cabinet approves this document.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Prasada stressed that all stakeholders should recognise that the transit fee for the gas through various countries be kept at the minimum, the security issues be properly addressed and there should be complete clarity on the institutional mechanisms for this. He also said that the pricing and other GSPA issues be resolved to the full satisfaction of all partner countries.


India, China to work towards MoU on Road Transport, Highways

India and China have agreed to work towards signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in the areas of Road Transport and Highways.

Under the MoU, both sides will seek to enhance cooperation in highway construction, exchange of technology and investments in the sector.

This was agreed at a meeting between Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Kamal Nath and Chinese Transport Minister Li Shenglin in Beijing on Wednesday.

Mr Nath told the Chinese minister that India had embarked on a massive national nighway development programme under which it proposed to construct 7000 km of highways every year over the next few years.

He said this programme offered huge opportunities to Chinese construction companies and financial institutions to enhance their engagement with India. He also said that the preferred mode of highway development in India is public-private partnership.

Mr Nath said 60 per cent of the national highways would be developed under the BOT (toll) mode, while another 25 per cent would be taken up on BOT (annuity). Already several Chinese companies are participating in the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) of India, he said.

Mr Li said China had, over the past decade, made rapid progress in the infrastructure sector, particularly highway development. He said that, currently, around 35,000 km of highways were under construction in China, of which 10,000 km were likely to be completed this year.

Earlier in the day Mr Nath met Mr Lou Jiwei, Chairman, China Investment Corporation (CIC) and Mr Dai Xianglong, Chairman of National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and sensitised them to the opportunities for investment in the highways sector in India.

Mr Dai mooted the idea of the setting up an India-China Highways Investment Forum for investors, developers and construction companies which will provide a platform for the policy-makers, financial experts and business leaders to work closely towards enhancing project specific investment flows for mutual benefit. While CIC is a sovereign wealth fund that manages funds worth $ 200 billion, NSSF have a total asset base of RMB 776 billion.

Mr Nath also addressed a large gathering of investors and construction companies in Tianjin today at the "India Industry & Infrastructure Summit". He is leading a high level business delegation of Indian companies to China.


India, Brazil, S.Africa in nautical exercises off Durban in Indian Ocean

As many as 11 ships are participating in the 15-day India-Brazil-South Africa Maritime (IBSAMAR) nautical exercises that began in the Indian Ocean off Durban in South Africa yesterday.

This is the second edition of IBSAMAR and it is meant to be a multi-dimensional exercise in which various naval scenarios are being exercised.

An official press release here said the exercises were structured with the aim of sharing best practices in various facets of naval operations.

The ships participating are Mysore, Tabar, Ganga and Aditya of the Indian Navy; Amatola, Spioenkop, Drakensburg, Charlotte Maxeke, Queen Modjadji-I and Galeshewe of the South African Navy and the Brazillian Naval Ship Niteroi. Associated integral helicopters including Lynx & Seakings are also participating.

The inagural India-Brazil-South Africa trilateral exercise was held in South Africa in May 2008. IBSA is a unique forum which brings together the three large democracies from the three different continents, all facing common challenges. IBSAMAR is steered by the Joint Work Group for Defence, which is one of 16 Joint Working Groups of the three nations looking into various cooperation initiatives, the release added.


India, Norway sign MoU on cooperation in local governance

India and Norway signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the area of local governance in Oslo today.

The MoU was signed by Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Minister C P Joshi, who is currently on a visit to Norway, and Ms Liv Signe Navarsete, the Norwegian Minister of Local Government and Regional Government

An official press release here said the MoU would transference of competence between India and Norway for strengthening local self-governance, including capacity building of institutions, focusing on areas relating to achievement of Millenium Development Goals, e-governance, solution sharing and mobilisation of resources.

It said the MoU provides for setting up an Indo-Norway Joint Forum at the ministerial level and a Joint Working Group (JWG) at the official level.

It is expected that the MoU will strengthen cooperation between the two countries in the area of local governance and on the role of women in politics, the release added.


President says India will cooperate with Cambodia in infrastructural projects

President Pratibha Patil speaking at a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador in Cambodia, Rajesh K. Sachdeva, at Phnom Phen, Cambodia on September 13, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil speaking at a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador in Cambodia, Rajesh K. Sachdeva, at Phnom Phen, Cambodia on September 13, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil has said that India was happy to cooperate with Cambodia in infrastructural projects as well as in projects related to conservation and preservation of historical monuments.

Speaking at a reception last night for the Indian community in Phnom Penh at the start of a State Visit to the country, Ms Patil noted that human resource development and capacity building had been the primary focus of bilateral relations between the two countries.

The President reached Phnom Penh yesterday after a four-day visit to Laos and is due to return home on September 18.

She said most of the historical and cultural monuments spread all over Cambodia spoke of the close Indian association made possible as a result of continuous interaction between navigators, merchants and intellectuals of the two countries over a period of two thousand years.

"One has heard so much about the grandeur of the world famous Angkor Wat and many astonishing architectural marvels such as Ta Prohm, Bayon and Banteay Srey. I and my delegation would be visiting Siem Reap where all these magnificent cultural monuments, which are glorious testimony to our common cultural heritage, are located," she said.

Ms Patil said she was informed that there were many commonalities in the day-to-day life of the people of Cambodia with Indians, such as language, customs and rituals. "This must be a product of our ancestors' willingness to learn from each other and is an indication of the everlasting bonds of friendship," she said.

She expressed happiness that the Governments of the two countries had strived to regain old historical bonds.

"In the 1950s, India was associated with the International Control Commission on Indo-China and our role as Co-Chairman was well appreciated. There were numerous high level exchanges between our two countries," she said.

She also spoke of the close friendly ties that existed between Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and King Norodom Sihanouk, which paved the way for not only excellent bilateral ties, but also offered opportunities to the two leaders to exchange views on the role of newly liberated countries in the development of a peaceful world.

Ms Patil said everyone was aware of India's unwavering support to Cambodia not only in good times but also during the difficult period of its history.

"After the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, India was among the first countries to recognize President Heng Samrin's government and re-open its diplomatic mission in 1981. Since then, the Governments of India and Cambodia have worked together to expand and deepen our bilateral ties, through high level bilateral exchanges, as well as through interactions at regional and international fora," she noted.

She said that, over the years, the two countries had signed numerous agreements to enhance bilateral cooperation, and had also established mechanisms to exchange views and to review the status of ongoing projects.

The President appreciated the role played by the Government of Cambodia in India's engagement with the South-East Asian region. She recalled that India attained Summit level partnership with ASEAN under Cambodia's Chairmanship of the ASEAN in 2002, and a forthcoming Commemorative Summit in India to mark India's 20-year association with ASEAN too will be organized, during Cambodia's Chairmanship in 2012.

"India is satisfied with its friendly and cooperative ties with Cambodia and would continue to work for strengthening of these ties," she said.

Ms Patil had a special word of praise for people of Indian origin and non-resident Indians, saying they were amongst the best educated and most successful communities in the world.

She said India had the second largest diaspora, estimated at over 25 million, present in every major region of the world.

"We are proud of you, and aware of the important role the diaspora plays as a 'bridge' to access knowledge, expertise, resources and markets for the development of the country of their origin," she added.



India, Argentina sign MoU on cooperation in Agriculture

Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar and the Argentine Agriculture Minister, Mr. Julian Andres Dominguez exchanging the signed documents of an MoU on Agricultural Cooperation, at Buenos Aires on September 11, 2010.
Union Minister for Agriculture Sharad Pawar and the Argentine Agriculture Minister, Mr. Julian Andres Dominguez exchanging the signed documents of an MoU on Agricultural Cooperation, at Buenos Aires on September 11, 2010.

India and Argentina have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Cooperation in Agriculture and Allied Sectors.

The MoU was signed by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and his Argentine counterpart Julian Andres Dominguez in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

An official press release said the MOU provided a framework for exchange of information on best practices and technologies, cooperation in research and development and promotion of trade, investment and joint ventures.

Mr Pawar visited Argentina last week, in response to the invitation extended by Mr Domingues, who was in India last month.

Argentina is the largest source of import of soya oil by India. In the first seven months of this year, India has imported soya oil worth $1.4 billion. India is also importing from Argentina sunflower oil and other agro-products. Argentina is the largest exporter of soya and sunflower oils in the world.

During the meetings with Pawar, some Argentine companies expressed interest in growing pulses for exports to India in the future.

There are 14 Indian companies which have invested about $ 1 billion in the IT, agro-chemicals, steel, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics sectors in Argentina. United Phosphorus and Punjab Chemicals & Crop Protection Ltd have invested $ 100 million in Argentina in the production and export of agro-chemicals and seeds.

According to the release, agricultural machinery is emerging as a new area of trade and collaboration. Mahindra, TAFE and Sonalika from India have started exporting their tractors to Argentina. Sonalika plans to assemble their tractors in Argentina. The Argentine company Vassali is in contact with Sonalika to assemble harvesters in India.

IFFCO is exploring the possibility of setting up a fertilizer plant in Argentina using natural gas as the raw material.

A number of Indian companies have shown interest in investment and joint ventures in agri-business in Argentina, which has one of the most advanced and competitive agriculture sectors in the world.


India tells Laos willing to be its developmental partner

President Pratibha Patil and the President of Lao PDR Choummaly Sayasone, at the delegation level talks, at Vientiane on September 10, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil and the President of Lao PDR Choummaly Sayasone, at the delegation level talks, at Vientiane on September 10, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil has told Laos that India was willing to be its developmental partner and reiterated the country's continued interest and commitment to supporting its development objectives through capacity-building and human resource development.

"We admire your dynamic leadership in shaping the growth of your country, and in pursuing a Socio-Economic Development Strategy that seeks to move Laos out of the LDC status by 2020," Ms Patil told Mr Choummaly Sayasone, the President of Laos, at a banquet hosted by him for her at Vientiane last night.

The President, who reached Vientiane on Thursday at the start of a 10-day visit that will also take her to Cambodia, noted that India was already engaged in a number of projects in Laos in the areas of hydropower, IT, human resource development, agriculture and mining.

One of the projects, the Paksong - Jiangxay Bangyo transmission line project, was commissioned jointly by the two Presidents yesterday. Ms Patil announced a Line of Credit of $ 72.55 million for power projects to Laos.

"As both our countries have large rural populations and there are many experiences that we can share, possibilities of agricultural co-operation should be further explored," she said.

She said the economic growth of Laos and its investor-friendly policies offered many viable prospects for business.

Ms Patil pointed out that India is the fourth largest economy in terms of purchasing power parity and one of the fastest growing economies of the world.

She said Indian businesses were eager to expand and expressed happiness that some of them had invested in Laos.

She said they needed to be encouraged further to avail of the mutually beneficial economic opportunities that exist in trade and investment.

On trade, she hoped that Laos would issue the necessary notification at an early date to bring the India-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement into force. She also hoped that Laos would participate in the India-ASEAN Trade Fair due to be held in March 2011 in New Delhi. She said the participation would create awareness about complementarities that exist between the two economies.

The President said Laos and India had worked together constructively in regional and international organisations, sharing common perceptions on many global challenges.

She said Laos had extended valuable support to India in various multilateral bodies, including to India's aspirations to be a permanent member in an expanded UN Security Council.

"We remember with gratitude the very positive role played by Laos in facilitating India to join the East Asia Summit. India attaches a very high priority to its relationship with the ASEAN, and within our Look East policy, we consider Laos a crucial partner. We have also collaborated meaningfully under the Mekong-Ganga Cooperation framework," she said.

Ms Patil referred to the great amount of goodwill in India for Laos and said this was but natural, given their historical links dating back more than two millennia.

"The exchanges between our peoples have resulted in many commonalities in our cultures, and some similarity of words in our languages. That Luang, sanctuary for one of the most precious relics of Lord Buddha, and the Hindu temple of Wat Phou, a UNESCO world heritage site, stand testimony to our encounters through centuries. We are proud and privileged to be your partners in the restoration of this historic temple," she said.

The President said her visit to the "jewel of the Mekong" was to reaffirm the historically close bonds of friendship between the two countries and to continue the high level bilateral dialogue.


India, Laos to take bilateral relations to greater heights: Patil

President Pratibha Patil addressing the Indian community in Vientiane, Laos on September 9, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil addressing the Indian community in Vientiane, Laos on September 9, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil today said that there was a consensus at the leadership level between India and Laos that there was immense potential to develop bilateral relations in many fields and take them to greater heights.

"Bilateral relations between India and Laos are civilizational, yet also modern and contemporary, covering areas like investment, trade, financial services, among others," she said at a reception for the Indian community hosted by the Indian Embassy in Vientiane last night

Ms Patil had reached Vientiane yesterday at the start of a ten-day visit that will also take her to Cambodia.

She expressed happiness that several corporate groups from India had participated in the development of important hydro-electric, irrigation, agarwood and mining projects in Laos.

"Your contribution to this country in meeting its developmental goals, is well recognized by both our Governments," she said.

The President said the Indian economy had weathered the impact of the global financial crises with resilience and was now growing at rates close to those it had achieved prior to the downturn.

"In the last quarter, the economy has posted a remarkable growth, not only in terms of overall growth figures, but more importantly, in terms of certain fundamentals, which justify optimism and confidence in the Indian economy. We believe that this growth will not only qualitatively transform our economy, but will give a boost to economic relations with friendly countries, also offering them many opportunities for trade and investment," she said.

Ms Patil said her visit was aimed at renewing India's historic contacts with Laos and building new bridges. She said India attached a very high priority to relations to ASEAN countries within the context of its Look East Policy.

"Laos is a good friend, as also an important partner in the ASEAN. Tomorrow, when I meet the leadership of Laos we will review together the entire gamut of our relations, and seek ways to further develop our partnership. You play a big role in this partnership that we are jointly resolved to build," he said.

Ms Patil also praised the Indian community for their many accomplishments. "Every overseas Indian is a representative of India. I know that, as peaceful and law abiding citizens, you act as ambassadors of India, winning goodwill and respect. As an overseas community you have made a distinctive contribution by virtue of your dedication, hard work and success. It is also a matter of equal gratification to see amongst all of you, the cultural and scholarly effervescence which is characteristic of the Indian community," she added.


President reaches Vientiane at start of visit to Laos, Cambodia

Vice President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeing off President Pratibha Patil on her visit to Laos and Cambodia, in New Delhi on September 9, 2010.
Vice President M Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeing off President Pratibha Patil on her visit to Laos and Cambodia, in New Delhi on September 9, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil reached Vientiane today at the start of a ten-day state visit to Laos and Cambodia as part of India's pursuit of a closer and enduring partnership with the countries of the ASEAN region in keeping with its Look East policy.

Ms Patil was received on arrival at the Wattay International Airport at Vientiane by Ms Khempheng Pholsena, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Laos.

In a statement on board her special flight to Vientiane, the President said India's relationship with Laos and Cambodia were of strategic importance.

She said she looked forward to an exchange of views with the leadership of both countries on how they could promote greater stability and security in the region.

"I believe India, Laos and Cambodia have much to gain by cooperating with each other in combating extremism and terrorism. I would like to add that both Laos and Cambodia have given us unconditional support for our candidature for permanent membership of UN Security Council," she said.

Ms Patil noted that, as Country Coordinator for India from 2003-06 in ASEAN, Laos had played a pro-active and supportive role for enhancing India's profile in the region. Currently, Cambodia is the coordinator on the ASEAN side on India-ASEAN relations. She recalled that it was under Cambodia's chairmanship of ASEAN that India attained summit-level partnership.

"I expect to discuss our growing engagement with ASEAN countries as we move towards the next Indian-ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Vietnam in October," she said.

The President will also meet members of the Indian community in the two countries during her visit.

She is making the trip to Laos at the invitation of President Choummaly Sayasone and to Cambodia at the invitation of King Norodom Sihamoni.

She noted that these are countries with whom India has deep historical and cultural relations dating back to the period of Emperor Ashoka.

President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by Ms Khempheng Pholsena, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Laos, on her arrival, at Wattay International Airport, Vientiane on September 9, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by Ms Khempheng Pholsena, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister of Laos, on her arrival, at Wattay International Airport, Vientiane on September 9, 2010.

She said What Phu in Laos and Ankor Wat in Cambodia, both World Heritage Sites, stood as grand symbols of the ancient civilizational linkages of India with these countries.

President Sayasone of Laos visited India in 2008 and Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia in 2007.

"My visit will be an opportunity to continue discussions with the leaderships of these countries and to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen and consolidate our relations as well as enhance our economic engagement with these countries," the President said.

According to her, there was tremendous goodwill and affection for India in both these countries.

"This environment of trust and confidence we enjoy with these countries and the shared political commitment to take forward the relationship provides a good basis to reinvigorate ties. Laos and Cambodia are growing economies, seeking socio-economic development. I will assure them that they can count on India as a willing development partner," she said.

Ms Patil said India's efforts in this direction had been towards undertaking infrastructure projects and capacity building programmes in these countries.

"Our trade and investment linkages have grown over the years although they remain much below potential. An Indian business delegation will be in Vientaine and in Phnom Penh, where I will interact with them as well as business representatives of both countries. I will urge them to avail of the many mutually advantageous opportunities that exist," she said.

Referring to the strong cultural and historical basis of India's ties with the two countries, she said that at Luang Prabang in Laos and Siem Reap in Cambodia she would visit monuments reflective of the common heritage to highlight the cultural bonds which have created a special empathy between the two peoples.

India is involved in the conservation and preservation of ancient monuments in both these countries.

"I hope my visit to these sites will encourage people-to-people contacts as well as tourism, thus strengthening our traditional linkages. The deep understanding that developed through history lasts to this day. It must be carried forward into the future and this can be possible through contacts between our students and the youth," she said.

The existing Cultural Exchange Programme between India and Laos will be renewed for a further period of three years during the visit.

This is Ms Patil's first visit to Laos and only the second by an Indian President since the two countries established diplomatic relations.

President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by members of the Indian community on her arrival at Wattay International Airport, Vientiane, Laos on September 9, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by members of the Indian community on her arrival at Wattay International Airport, Vientiane, Laos on September 9, 2010.

In Vientiane, apart from official talks between the two sides, the President will also have discussions with Mr Sayasone and Prime Minister of Laos, Mr Bouasone Bouphavanh.

After Laos, Ms Patil will be in Cambodia from September 13-18.

Earlier in the day, Ms Patil was seen off at Rashtrapati Bhavan by Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shine and others.


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