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[op-ed snap] Singapore to Rajasthan

  1. Theme: Singapore-Rajasthan collaboration in launch of the Centre for Excellence in Tourism Training (CETT) at Udaipur.
  2. Lessons from Singapore: Singapore’s holistic view of development, which recognises that we do not live in an economy but a society, is worth emulating.
  3. It has a similar history of colonial oppression as India, but has fast risen to have one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, has consistently ranked first in the World Bank ease of doing business and is considered the best investment destination in Asia.
  4. It has achieved great successes in tourism, education, ports, finance, urban productivity, house ownership, job creation and much else.
  5. At the same time, it has been Asia’s most successful nation at poverty reduction and has recognized the huge positive effects of tourism on gender issues, employment, wages, preservation of culture, urban development and much else.
  6. Singapore has demonstrated that you don’t have to be western to be modern and how a poor country can become a rich one in one generation.
  7. Opportunities in Rajasthan-Singapore collaboration: Tourism is an important engine for job creation in Rajasthan. Singapore’s success in the tourism sector can help Rajasthan achieve its full potential.
  8. Launch of CETT and a direct flight from Singapore to Jaipur will go a long way to achieve this objective.

[op-ed snap] India and Singapore – past and present initiatives

  1. Theme: India-Singapore diplomatic relations.
  2. Historical ties between India and Singapore: Indian trade relations with Singapore since the Chola period, have impacted the patterns of commerce, religious beliefs, cuisines, and languages in Singapore.
  3. Also, the name Singapore is derived from the Sanskrit word singapura, meaning “lion city”.
  4. Ongoing engagements between India and Singapore: The India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement signed in 2005 has contributed to a five-fold increase in bilateral investment and a tripling in trade.
  5. Singapore contributed 16 per cent of India’s FDI from 2000 to 2016.
  6. Singapore’s investment projects in India: A power plant in Andhra Pradesh, development of the fourth terminal at Jawaharlal Nehru Port in Mumbai and an IT Park in Haryana.
  7. Singapore’s contribution in India’s finance sector: Singapore’s DBS bank has applied to be a wholly-owned subsidiary in India. Singapore’s sovereign wealth funds have actively invested in India for over a decade.
  8. Collaboration in Indian “Smart Cities” drive: Companies from Singapore are bidding for involvement in Andhra Pradesh’s new capital city, Amaravati.
  9. Skills development: Singapore-Delhi collaboration to launch a Skills Centre in 2013. Similar skills centres are planned to come up in Udaipur (Rajasthan) and Assam (for the Northeast region).
  10. The way ahead: First,to further the objective of “Act East”, India must be well-connected by flights to the fast-growing economies of East Asia. The recently introduced flights between Singapore and Indian cities of Lucknow, Amritsar and Jaipur are a step in the right direction and should be jointly encouraged.
  11. Second, greater engagement between India and Asia, such as the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), would enhance regional prosperity and security.
  12. In light of Singapore’s position as a major financial hub, there is a strong case to be made for India and Singapore to deepen finance collaboration for India’s investment needs.

Hold inclusive dialogue, India tells Nepal

  1. India and Nepal held wide-ranging talks including Constitutional issues and sealed three significant deals during Mr. Prachanda’s September 15-18 visit to India
  2. Constitutional issues: India expressed that Nepal will successfully implement the Constitution through inclusive dialogue, accommodating the aspirations of all sections of their diverse society
  3. However, differences over the Constitution which led to domestic discord and disturbed ties with Delhi persisted
  4. Agreements: Upgrade of road network in Nepal and two line of credit agreements between Nepal and the Exim Bank
  5. A Line of Credit for 750 million USD which was something India had committed earlier and which would cover a lot of development projects in Nepal

Background to Nepal rail project

  1. The current Nepal PM, Pusp Kumar Dahal (Prachanda), a former Maoist rebel commander, has chosen New Delhi as his first foreign stop
  2. This might be a step to rebalance ties that chilled under his pro-China predecessor K.P. Oli
  3. Oli had sealed trade deals with China that sought to reduce landlocked Nepal’s economic dependence on India
  4. Oli Govt had also said that the fuel and trade embargo (border blockade) had the tacit backing of India
  5. Struggle for Constitution: It is yet to complete a political transition after a decade-long insurgency and weeks of deadly street protests that brought down the monarchy nearly a decade ago
  6. A new republican constitution is still a source of rancour for southern plains people who mounted a five-month border blockade that ended earlier this year
  7. Discuss: What are the sticking points in India-Nepal relations, in terms of Constitution making in Nepal and other issues? What should be India’s approach towards solving these issues keeping in mind the other Asian interests in the region?

India, Vietnam sign 12 agreements

  1. Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc for one-to-one talks ahead of delegation-level talks
  2. Agreements: Cooperation in- defence and IT, to boost bilateral ties
  3. India will provide $500 million credit line for Vietnam for defence cooperation
  4. Also offered a grant of $5 million to set up a software park in Vietnam
  5. History: This is the first bilateral prime ministerial visit from India to Vietnam in 15 years since the visit of then premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001

Project Development Fund approved by Cabinet

  1. Corpus: Rs.500 Crore
  2. Aim: Catalysing Indian economic presence in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam
  3. To be housed in the Department of Commerce and operated through the EXIM Bank
  4. Governed by: An inter-ministerial committee under the chairpersonship of the Commerce Secretary

India, Myanmar to build bridges, sign pact for 69

  1. Context: Myanmarese President U. Htin Kyaw’s India visit, who chose India as the first foreign destination after coming to power in March
  2. India: Would stand with Myanmar at every step & support all its endeavours
  3. MOUs: Agreement on construction of 69 bridges & also approach roads in the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section of the Trilateral Highway
  4. Connectivity: These which will establish better connectivity between India and Southeast Asia

ETCA may be a reality: Y.K. Sinha

  1. News: ETCA would be an improvement over the existing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) & may soon be a reality- Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka
  2. Certain sections of Sri Lanka continue to view skeptically the proposed ETCA with India
  3. ETCA: Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement
  4. Bilateral trade: $4.6 billion in 2015-16, of which Indian exports were valued at about $4 billion and Sri Lankan exports — $645 million
  5. Nearly 60% of Sri Lankan exports were making use of the FTA whereas 90% Indian exports did not use the channel & it is obvious who has benefitted more from the FTA

Vizag Port declared as second gateway port for Nepal

  1. Visakhapatnam Port has been declared as the second gateway port for Nepal after Kolkata-Haldia
  2. The movement of traffic-in-transit between Port of Visakhapatnam and Nepal will be in sealed containers and in full rake only & the cost of transhipment will be borne by the consignor/ consignee
  3. The agreement provides for transport of the cargo through the rail route connecting Visakhapatnam-Jogbani or/ and Visakhapatnam-Birgunj
  4. In addition to the rail route, four road routes have been identified
  5. Most of the transit cargo of Nepal will be from China
  6. Visakhapatnam Port has the deepest container terminal among major ports with permissible draft of 15 metres and LOA up to 320 metres
  7. The terminal can act as an ideal gateway for east-bound cargo & handling of cargo will be advantageous in terms of ocean freight and liner detention

Indian defence capabilities & Act East Policy

  1. Act East: India has been actively beefing up relations in the region as part of its ‘Act East’ policy
  2. Under this, maritime security and defence cooperation are assuming a central role
  3. Also, India has been attempting to build a domestic defence manufacturing base and increase its defence exports
  4. India exported its first warship to Mauritius in December 2014
  5. Since then GRSE has been aggressively scouting for opportunities in the neighbourhood
  6. It is also set to supply four patrol vessels to Vietnam under the $100 million line of credit extended by India in 2014

South China Sea & Philippines

  1. China angle: Philippines has territorial disputes with China over the South China Sea
  2. This led Philippines to announce plans to beef up its Navy in the region
  3. For this, it issued a tender in December 2013 for two frigates

India may supply two warships to Philippines

  1. Context: Supply of warships to Philippines
  2. Garden Reach Ship Builders (GRSE) has emerged as the lowest bidder to supply two warships to the Philippines Navy
  3. GRSE is a Kolkata-based public sector yard
  4. A boost to India’s defence exports in a region of strategic importance

Modi, Sirisena discuss fishermen issue

  1. Context: Frequent arrests of Indian fishermen by Sri Lanka
  2. The issue was discussed between Indian PM and Sri Lankan President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena
  3. Sri Lanka: Reiterated the need to build a dedicated mechanism
  4. Sri Lanka has arrested 34 Indian fishermen and 96 Indian fishing boats while India has 13 Sri Lankan boats in custody
  5. Free Trade Agreement: No progress
  6. Mr. Sirisena is in India to attend the Vaicharik Mahakumbh in Ujjain under an inter-faith event
  7. Aim: to deepen the relations of two countries due to concern of growing Chinese effect on Colombo

India’s help sought to tackle drugs problem in Jaffna

  1. Kerala Ganja:: In recent meeting with former Indian diplomat, leaders from Jaffna raised issues of drug trafficking of ‘Kerala Ganja’
  2. Concerns: Due to easy availability of drugs, crimes are growing, youth get attached to it and become easy victims
  3. Also, ganja is sold in micro retail shops & minor children are engaged in selling it
  4. Reasons: Youth get money easily, many of them dependent on inward remittances,
  5. Demand: Restrict the smuggling of entire quantity of banned substances comes from India including Kerala Ganja

Cabinet nod to Indo-Mauritius pact on cooperatives

  1. Cabinet has approved an inter-governmental agreement between India and Mauritius on cooperation in cooperatives and related fields
  2. Aim: Promoting cooperation through short- and medium-term programmes within the framework of the joint activities
  3. Agreement will be valid for five years after which it will be automatically extended for another five years
  4. Background: Mauritius had shown keen interest in developing an institutional mechanism between the Cooperative Development Fund (CDF) set up by it and the National Cooperative Union of India (NCUI)
  5. Why? To benefit from NCUI’s experience in co-operative development

Indian aid for Ramayana trail may be finalised soon

  1. Context: India’s assistance for the Ramayana circuit in Sri Lanka
  2. The issue may be finalised in a high level meeting between the two governments next month
  3. India’s help has been sought for development of infrastructure or amenities in the sites that form part of the Ramayana circuit
  4. About a dozen places have been identified as part of the circuit and Sita Eliya in Nuwera Eliya of the Central Province is one of them
  5. Legend: It is in this place that Sita was held captive by Ravana

Japan announces $7 billion plan to develop Mekong region

  1. Context: Japan has decided to take initiative in development of Mekong region
  2. It includes the regions of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand through which the river flow
  3. South east Asia is important to Japan for economy purpose

Soon, direct flights from India to NZ

  1. Context: Visit to New Zealand by President Pranab Mukherjee
  2. India and New Zealand signed an air services agreement
  3. It will pave the way for carriers to run direct flights between the two countries
  4. This is an enabling agreement to encourage carriers to have code sharing agreements or direct flights
  5. It will help tourists, students and businessmen

Farm sector hitch in FTA talks with New Zealand: Pranab

  1. Context: President Pranab Mukherjee on long pending India-New Zealand FTA talks
  2. India: Govt is not maintaining silence on the issue, but is carefully considering the issues involved
  3. Ten rounds of discussions have taken place since 2010 on the FTA
  4. Differences: Mainly in regard to agricultural products
  5. Potential: In agriculture & cold chain management, India can learn much and greatly benefit from their experience and expertise

India, Thailand in talks for exchange of prisoners

  1. India and Thailand have started talks on exchanging prisoners that are of mutual interest
  2. Reason – Both countries are worried over the possible proxy use of narcotics and human trafficking networks by terror operators
  3. Legal Basis – The bilateral extradition treaty, 2013, and the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, 2004, provide the legal basis for negotiation to both sides
  4. Impact -A humane step and it will also help in returning several Thai victims of human trafficking who are in various prisons of India

India, Thailand firm up maritime cooperation

  1. India-Thailand collaboration is necessary to ensure freedom of navigation and connectivity in the Southeast Asian region
  2. As maritime neighbours, India and Thailand have a shared interest in the security of international sea lanes
  3. Mr. Ansari has expressed Indian concerns about freedom of navigation in the region due to growing maritime disputes between China and other regional countries
  4. The two sides agreed to fast track the ongoing trilateral land corridor project connecting Thailand-Myanmar and India

India likely to sign defence pact with Brunei

  1. Vice-President Hamid Ansari is expected to reach a landmark defence agreement with Brunei.
  2. The agreement will be aimed at starting a new generation of Indian defence cooperation with Brunei.
  3. To train its defence forces and help the Southeast Asian nation in capacity-building.
  4. Brunei also disputes Chinese claims on the South China Sea.
  5. The agreement is being interpreted as a major diplomatic breakthrough since both sides established relations in 1984.
  6. Brunei’s current defence responsibilities are handled by the U.K. which supplies soldiers to serve its defence needs.

Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC)

The Ministry of External Affairs has, through the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, granted 6 scholarships to students from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to pursue a Master’s degree at Nalanda.

  1. The MGC established in the year 2000, focuses on expanding cooperation between India and countries of Mekong region, viz. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.
  2. The key areas of cooperation under MGC are tourism, culture, education, and transport & communications.
  3. Aims to strengthen the ties between the peoples of the 2 regions.
  4. Collaboration between MGC countries in SMEs, conservation of rice germplasm, health and pandemic management, establishment of a Common Archival Resource Centre at Nalanda University.
PIB

‘Neighbourhood first’ on track: Sushma

  1. MEA said that India’s Neighbourhood first policy is on track citing the recent NSA-level talks and the announcement of the Comprehensive Dialogue Process with Pakistan.
  2. It has created new opportunities for solving old issues in the region.
  3. Analysts cited the handling of the Nepal crisis by India sent a very negative message to the entire South Asian region.
  4. They stressed that India’s focus should primarily be in the South Asian region due to its importance to domestic affairs.

India, Singapore enter into strategic tie-up

  1. India and Singapore signed a joint declaration envisaging a Strategic Partnership, broadening engagement in existing areas of cooperation.
  2. It aims to catalyse areas ranging from political, defence and security cooperation to economic, cultural and people-to-people contacts.
  3. The two countries signed 10 bilateral agreements, to contribute to greater regional stability and growth.
  4. MoUs were signed for curtailing drug trafficking and improving cyber security, and collaboration on technology and research.

India, Malaysia vow to strengthen defence ties

  1. India and Malaysia have agreed to strengthen their defence cooperation, including improved maritime security and disaster response in the region.
  2. The two countries have upgraded our joint exercises and set up the SU-30 Forum.
  3. Mr. Modi reiterated that the trade and investment relations between the two countries could be scaled up significantly.
  4. The MoUs pertain to cybersecurity, cooperation in management, delivery and monitoring of govt. programmes and cultural exchanges.

Boost trade ties with Indonesia, says Ansari

  1. In 2014-15, India’s total imports from Indonesia totalled $15 billion while the exports came to just $4 billion.
  2. Mr. Ansari said the complementarities between the two nations must be harnessed in attracting investments.
  3. India is the largest buyer of crude palm oil from Indonesia, and it also imports coal, minerals, rubber, pulp and hydrocarbons.
  4. India’s major exports to Indonesia are refined petroleum products, maize, telecommunication equipment, commercial vehicles and oil seeds.

India inks energy pact with Indonesia

  1. Agreed on two agreements, cooperation in new and renewable energy, and renewal of the cultural exchange programme 2015-18.
  2. Energy pact serve commitments India and Indonesia made to reduce carbon emissions by 35 and 29 per cent respectively by 2030.
  3. Vice-President thanked Indonesia for its support in organising Sahabat India: The Festival of India in Indonesia’.


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