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November 2017 - Bilateral

  • Swiss parliamentary panel approves automatic information exchange pact with India
    A key parliamentary panel in Switzerland has approved a pact for automatic exchange of information with India on financial accounts. The pact will help provide a continuous access to details about alleged black money hoarders in once-all-secret Swiss banks. 

    The Commission for Economic Affairs and Taxes of the Council of States -- a key panel of the Swiss Parliament's Upper House -- approved the proposed pact with India as also with 40 other countries. The proposal will now be submitted for approval from the upper chamber of Swiss Parliament. 

    A report says the exchange of information under this framework will work like this -- If an Indian has a bank account in Switzerland, the bank concerned will disclose the financial account data to authorities there; the Swiss authority will automatically forward the information to its peer in India who can then examine the person's details. 

    The pact proposes automatic information exchange with effect from next year and first exchange of information in 2019. It was approved by the Lower House of Swiss Parliament in September. The issue of black money has been a matter of big debate in India, and Switzerland has been long perceived as one of the safest havens for the illicit wealth allegedly stashed abroad by Indians. 

  • India-Myanmar joint Army exercise begins in Meghalaya
    The week-long Army warfare exercise by India and Myanmar, began on 20st November at the Joint Warfare Centre at Umroi near Shillong in Meghalaya. 

    An officials statement said the exercise code-named India-Myanmar Bilateral Army Exercise (IMBAX) is aimed at building and promoting closer relations with armies of the neighbouring countries. The six-day training exercise also aims to train the officers of Myanmar Army in various United Nations Peacekeeping roles and tasks, the statement said. 

  • India-Russia sign pact for visa free entry of flight crew
    India and Russia have agreed to implement the general declaration for visa free entry of the crew of chartered and scheduled flights between the two countries. A pact on the issue was signed here recently by officials of the two countries. 

    The agreement will facilitate visa-free entry, stay and exit of crew of aircraft of the designated airlines as well as other aircraft companies operating chartered and special flights in the respective territories on reciprocal basis. 

    According to official estimates, around 1,200 scheduled flights ply between India and Russia every year. Moreover, about 1,100 Russian chartered flights arrive in India every year. A majority of them land in Goa with Russian tourists. 

  • PM Modi, US President Trump hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of ASEAN summit
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump on 13th November held bilateral talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit at Manila in Philippines. 

    During the meeting, the two leaders discussed a range of key issues including defence and security In the meeting, Mr Modi told President Trump that India and US can rise beyond bilateral ties and work jointly for the future of Asia, reflecting their growing convergence on strategic issues in the Indo-Pacific region. 

    The meeting came a day after officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held their talks to give shape to the much talked about quadrilateral alliance to keep the strategically important Indo-Pacific region free, open and inclusive. 

  • India, Canada express strong commitment to take forward negotiations for early conclusion of CEPA
    India and Canada have expressed their strong commitment to take forward negotiations for early conclusion of Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, CEPA. India also highlighted the importance of services component under the agreement at the 4th India-Canada Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment which was held in New Delhi on 13th November. 

    The Indian Delegation was led by Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu while the Canadian side was headed by the Minister for International Trade, Fran├žois-Philippe Champagne. 

    Both sides also noted the exchange of wish lists on the services front and the Indian side reiterated that the architecture for Services under CEPA is a vital focus area and response from Canada on positive elements has to be mutually beneficial. 

    The Canadian side assured that they would look into the issues concerned, including movement of natural persons and what kind of provisions could be built into the CEPA. The Ministers directed the Chief Negotiators to discuss and explore ways for early conclusion of the agreement. 

    Both sides also took note of the progress made under the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and expressed their hope for an early conclusion. 

    The two sides recognized that the current bilateral trade is much below the potential between the two robust economies. 

  • Japan to relax visa regime for Indians from January 1, 2018
    Japan will simplify its visa rules from January 1 next year for Indians and issue multiple-entry-visa for short-term stay. The Japanese Embassy said in New Delhi on 14th November that the move is expected to benefit tourists and business persons as well as repeat visitors. 

    The relaxed visa regime will not only have simplification of visa application documents but also expansion of scope of eligible applicants. 

    Under the simplification of visa application documents, the applicant's employment certificate and explanation letter stating the reason will be exempted in cases of applying for multiple-entry-visa. 

    Multiple entry visas with a validity of 5 years maximum and stay of 90 days maximum will be issued to applicants who have travel records to Japan twice or more in the last one year. 

  • India, Philippines ink four agreements in various fields, including defence co-operation and agriculture
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi held bilateral meetings with the US President Donald Trump and the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on 13th November. The meetings took place on the sidelines of the ASEAN and related summits that are underway in the Philippines capital. 

    Prime Minister Modi and President Trump shared their views on matters of bilateral, regional and global issues for over 45 minutes and emphasized on taking forward the two-way trade and investment relations even further. 

    The two leaders had detailed interactions with the latest developments in the Korean Peninsula, the Gulf, the Middle East and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. 

    The issues of proliferation linkages and terrorism also came up for detailed interaction between the two leaders. They discussed at length about the current situation in Afghanistan. 

    Four agreements were signed by both the countries in areas including Defence Cooperation and Logistics, agriculture, Micro, Medium and Small Enterprises-MSME and forging closer relations between the Indian Council of World Affairs and the Philippines Foreign Service Institute. 

    As both the countries are victims of terrorism, it was decided by both the leaders to enhance cooperation in checking the scourge of terror. It was decided to establish a chair of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in the Philippines University, as told by Ms Preeti Saran, Secretary - East in the Ministry of External Affairs. 

  • India, China hold border consultation mechanism meeting
    India and China on 17th November held their first meeting on the border consultation and coordination mechanism after the Doklam standoff and reviewed the situation in all the sectors of their border and exchanged views on enhancing CBMs and military contacts. 

    The 10th round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India–China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held in Beijing, a press release from the Indian Embassy said. 

    The WMCC was established in 2012 as an institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas. 

    It was established to deal with the tensions over recurring border incursions as well as to exchange views on strengthening communication and cooperation, including between the border security personnel. 

    The India–China border dispute covers the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC). While China claims Arunachal Pradesh as Southern Tibet, India asserts that the dispute covered Aksai Chin area which was occupied by China during the 1962 war. The two sides also exchanged views on further confidence building measures (CBMs) and strengthening of military-to-military contacts, it said. 

    The talks between the delegations headed by Pranay Verma, Joint Secretary (East Asia), Ministry of External Affairs and Xiao Qian, Director General, Department of Asian Affairs, were the first such dialogue between the two countries after the 72 day-long stand-off at Doklam in the Sikkim section. 

    The stand-off which began in mid-June ended on August 28 after Chinese troops stopped building a key road close to India’s Chicken Neck corridor. India objected to the construction highlighting its security concerns. The road was being built by the Chinese troops in the area also claimed by Bhutan. 

    This is the first round of talks between the two countries after Chinese President Xi Jinping began his second five-year term as the chief of the ruling Communist Party of China last month. 

  • India, South Africa to expand their foot-print in realm of stars
    India and South Africa have decided to expand their foot-print in the realm of stars underpinned by strong historical ties dating back to over 100 years. Bolstering 20 years of strategic partnership between both sides, India is participating in the multi-nation Square Kilometre Array (SKA) - set to become the world's most powerful radio telescope. SKA will be the premier radio astronomy facility once it's built, with stations located in Africa and Australia. 

    Unlike optical telescopes, which can be hampered by cloud or poor weather conditions on Earth, radio telescopes, working with signals at a longer wavelength, can be used even in cloudy skies. Steven M. Crawford, SALT Science Data Manager of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), told a news agency in Kolkata that the research areas which India and South Africa have been collaborating also include the study of transient events, developing new technology for optical and radio telescopes, and future research with the SKA. 

    The Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest optical telescope in Southern Hemisphere and SAAO operates it on behalf of the SALT foundation, which includes South Africa, Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, India, and other international partners. 

    Crawford said it is a very exciting time for South Africa-India collaboration especially with how quickly both the communities are growing. 

  • India sends 1st shipment of wheat to Afghanistan through Chabahar Port in Iran
    External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani, through a joint video conference, on 29th October flagged off the first shipment of wheat from India to Afghanistan. 

    It would be transhipped through the Chabahar port in Iran. The shipment is part of India's commitment to supply 1.1 million tonnes of wheat for the people of Afghanistan on grant basis. 

    The two Foreign Ministers welcomed the fact that this is the first shipment that would be going to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port after Trilateral Agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor. The agreement was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Iran in May 2016. 

    Six more wheat shipments will be sent to Afghanistan over the next few months. The two Ministers also reaffirmed their commitment to continue their cooperation for the benefit and prosperity of the people of Afghanistan and the region. 

    Shipment of wheat is a landmark moment and will pave the way for operationalisation of the Chabahar port as an alternate, reliable and robust connectivity for Afghanistan. It will open up new opportunities for trade and transit from and to Afghanistan and enhance trade and commerce between the three countries and the wider region. 

    The External Affairs Minister reiterated India’s continued commitment to support reconstruction, capacity building and socio-economic development of Afghanistan, including under the framework of the New Development Partnership that she had jointly announced with Foreign Minister Rabbani last month during the meeting of India-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Council. 

  • India, Italy ink six pacts to bolster bilateral cooperation
    India and Italy signed six agreements on 30th October in various fields including trade and investment, railways and energy. The agreements were exchanged in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Italy Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni in New Delhi. 

    Both leaders held delegation level talks and reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral strategic partnership. 

    In his joint statement after exchange of MoUs, Mr Modi said, several aspects of cooperation between India and Italy were discussed in the meeting. Prime Minister Modi said, regional and world affairs were discussed and India and Italy are on the same page in the fight against terrorism. 

    He said, both countries are committed to fight unitedly against terror. The Prime Minister also said that India and Italy are committed to enhance tourism and people-to-people ties and there is enough space to expand bilateral relations in many areas. 

  • India, Pakistan hold DGMO-level talks
    India and Pakistan held Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) level talks on 30th October. The request for the unscheduled Hot Line interaction between the DGMOs of the two armies came from the Pakistani side. 

    Indian DGMO Lieutenant General A K Bhatt conveyed to his Pakistani counterpart that the support to terrorism by Pak Army is unacceptable. 

    He said Indian Army will continue to take all retaliatory measures as well as retain the right to punitively respond to such provocation acts of aggression from Pak side in future too. Lt. General A K Bhatt impressed upon the Pak DGMO that Indian Army will continue efforts to ensure peace and tranquility on the borders. He said, however, support to terrorists by Pak Army is the prime reason for any collateral damage. 

    Over the allegation of Pak DGMO that Indian security forces had resorted to unprovoked firing along the LoC, Lt. General Bhatt emphatically stated that retaliatory firing by Indian troops has been only in response to unabated support by Pak Army to terrorists. 

    He also clarified that Indian Army does not target civilians. He said, on the contrary Pak Army has employed civilians at the forward posts and accorded permission for permanent locations of civilians in the vicinity of Pak Army posts. 

    He said these civilians have repeatedly been used for gaining information of locations of Indian army and providing guides to the terrorists while crossing the LoC. 

  • India-UAE Partnership summit begins in Dubai to accelerate bilateral trade and investment
    The two-day India-UAE Partnership Summit began in Dubai 30th October to further accelerate bilateral trade and investment between the two countries. 

    The Summit, with a theme of Investment Implementation, is to deliberate at how key projects in India can be executed with the support of the UAE based businesses and investors. Healthcare, tourism, infrastructure and education are some of the areas of focus during the Summit. 

    The private sector of India and the UAE, especially the NRI business community has come forward to support the strategic government-to-government partnership, first by creating a new pan-UAE business entity, the Business Leaders Forum (BLF) in March 2017. 

    BLF, set up under the direct guidance of the UAE Ministry of Economy, Embassy of India and Consulate General of India, is the new umbrella organisation of business leaders in the UAE. 

  • India, Tunisia agreed to jointly combat terrorism
    India and Tunisia have agreed to jointly combat terrorism while ramping up co-operation in the field of security. A review of bilateral ties was undertaken as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj co-chaired the 12th India-Tunisia Joint Commission Meeting with her Tunisian counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui in New Delhi on 31st October. 

    The External Affairs Ministry said in a statement that during the meeting, the two sides also discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest. 

    Six agreements in the fields of judicial co-operation, co-operation in youth issues, information and communications technology, trade and business, were also signed. 

    A roadmap for India-Tunisia partnership was also initiated by Mrs Swaraj and Mr Jhinaoui to give a new impetus to bilateral relations.
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