IndUS Business Journal

India, Pakistan to resume dialogue, Modi to visit Islamabad

Dec 9, 2015 0

India and Pakistan on Wednesday agreed to start a comprehensive bilateral dialogue while Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Islamabad next year to attend the Saarc summit.

Susma Swaraj

Susma Swaraj

Both sides agreed to a comprehensive bilateral dialogue and directed the foreign secretaries to work out the modalities of the meetings, a joint statement issued after talks between Sushma Swaraj and the Pakistani prime minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz here said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Indian minister, who arrived here on Tuesday to attend the Heart of Asia Conference, told the media here that Modi would visit Pakistan next year to participate in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit. Under the rotational chairmanship policy of Saarc, Pakistan will chair the grouping next year.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit from India to Pakistan since Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited the South Asian neighbour in January 2004 to attend that year’s Saarc summit.

Sushma Swaraj said she would accompany Modi during his visit, Geo TV reported.

Wednesday’s joint statement said Sushma Swaraj and Aziz “condemned terrorism and resolved to cooperate to eliminate it”.

“They noted the successful talks on terrorism and security-related issues in Bangkok (on December 6) between the two NSAs (national security advisors) and decided that the NSAs will continue to address all issues connected to terrorism,” it stated.

According to the statement, Pakistan assured India that all steps are being taken to expedite the early conclusion of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks trial.

“Both sides, accordingly, agreed to a comprehensive bilateral dialogue and directed the the foreign secretaries to work out the modalities and schedule of the meetings under the dialogue, including peace and security, CBMs (confidence buildins measures), Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek, Wullar Barrage/Tulbul Navigation Project, economic and commercial cooperation, counter-terrorism, narcotics control, humanitarian issues, people-to-people exchanges and religious tourism,” the statement said.

Prior to her talks with Aziz, Sushma Swaraj also called on Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the multilateral conference.

According to external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup, during the meeting with Sharif, Sushma Swaraj conveyed “India’s commitment to good neighbourly relations”.

Ahead of the meeting with Sharif, Sushma Swaraj extended India’s hand of friendship to Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference.

“It is time that we display the maturity and self-confidence to do business with each other and strengthen regional trade and cooperation,” she said in her address at the conference.

“For its part, India is prepared to move our cooperation at a pace which Pakistan is comfortable with,” she added.

The Heart of Asia Conference engages “heart of Asia” countries in sincere and result-oriented cooperation for a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.

Sushma Swaraj said that the multilateral conference provided “an important platform for friends of Afghanistan from its immediate and extended neighbourhood to promote political consultations and regional cooperation for a united, democratic, independent, strong and prosperous Afghanistan”.

“My presence here underlines India’s strong commitment to that cause,” she stated.

She also called for full and direct overland access by Afghanistan to India’s markets to enable it to take advantage of the zero duty regime available to its exports to India.

On Wednesday, Sushma Swaraj held a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on the margins of the conference, during which the two leaders discussed the terror threat in Afghanistan.

She also held bilateral meetings with her Kygyzstani and Iranian counterparts Erlan Abdyldaev and Javad Zarif respectively too.

She also attended a lunch hosted by Sharif for the Heart of Asia Conference delegates.

Sushma Swaraj’s engagements with the Pakistani leadership came after a successful meeting between NSAs Ajit Doval of India and Naseer Khan Janjua of Pakistan in Bangkok on December 6 which was also attended by Foreign Secretaries S.Jaishanker and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

A joint statement issued after that meeting said that the discussions covered peace and security, terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and other issues including tranquility along the LoC (Line of Control).

“It was agreed to carry forward the constructive engagement,” said the December 6 statement.

The NSA-level meeting was held after Modi and Sharif had an impromptu meeting on the sidelines of the Conference of Parties (CoP) climate summit in Paris on November 30.

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Accord on bullet train expected during Japan PM’s visit to India

Dec 9, 2015 0

NEW DELHI–Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will arrive in Delhi on December 11 on a three-day official visit amid expectations that an agreement would be firmed up on India’s first bullet train to run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Abe will hold annual summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the December 11-13 visit. He is also likely to visit Varanasi which is Modi’s parliamentary constituency.

At the last summit meeting held in Tokyo in 2014, the two prime ministers agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to “special strategic and global partnership”.

Modi and Abe also met last month on the sidelines of the 13th ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-India Summit at Kuala Lumpur and again during the Paris climate change conference.

Abe, who met Modi over lunch at Kuala Lumpur, had said that India-Japan relationship has the greatest potential of any bilateral relationship in the world.

The proposed bullet train line between Mumbai and Ahmedabad would cost Rs.98,000 crore, according to a joint project feasibility study which was co-financed by the Indian Railways and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha said earlier this month that the Japanese government has given an assistance package proposal for Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed corridor involving technical, operation and maintenance (O&M), and financial assistance to the tune of 81 percent of the project cost being met through loan.

He said that no other country has offered such support for the project which involves 505-km long high-speed line.

The project is expected to cut down travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad from about seven hours to two hours.

The proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway had figured in Modi’s discussions with Abe during his visit to Japan last year.

Abe had expressed hope that India could introduce Japan’s Shinkansen system for the Ahmedabad-Mumbai route and had expressed his readiness to provide financial, technical and operational support for the system.

Modi and Abe share a warm personal equation. Modi is among 11 people Abe follows on twitter.

Modi’s visit to Japan also saw the signing of the document to promote partnership city arrangement between the ancient cities of Varanasi and Kyoto.

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Cabinet clears policy to boost shipbuilding in India

Dec 9, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– A Rs.4,000 crore ten-year policy aimed at boosting shipbuilding and ship repair industry in India under the ‘Make in India’ initiative was cleared on Wednesday by the Union Cabinet.

The policy includes grant of a ‘Right of First Refusal’ for Indian shipyards for government purchases; tax incentives and grant of infrastructure status for shipbuilding and ship repair industry.

Shipbuilding and ship repair industry in India is important because it has the same impact as infrastructure sector due to higher multiplier effect on investment and turnover, Shipping Ministry statement said.

“A policy for the grant of financial assistance to shipyards, after delivery of ship, to counter cost disadvantages at 20 percent of the contract price or the fair price, whichever is lower; such assistance is to be reduced at three percent every three years and will be given for all types of ships,” it added.

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India launches SETU to bolster startups

Dec 9, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– Union Minister for Skill Development Rajiv Pratap Rudy on Wednesday said that the government of India had launched Self-Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) programme aimed at comprehensive support for startups and self-employment.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy

Rajiv Pratap Rudy

Speaking during question hour in parliament, Rudy said SETU was established under NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog with special focus on technology-driven areas.

He said the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurs aimed to foster entrepreneurship and innovation at the grass-roots level by providing fiscal incentives, market linkages, legal support and creation of grass-roots technology innovation hubs.

In August, the government launched India Aspiration Fund (IAF) with a capital of Rs.2,000 crore under Small Industries Development Bank of India to bolster startup ecosystem in India.

IAF aims to mobilise tens of thousands of crores of equity investment into startups and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises for creating lakhs of jobs in the next four to five years, Rudy said.

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Nearly 70 percent of Indian farms are very small, census shows

Dec 9, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– As much as 67 percent of India’s farmland is held by the marginal farmers with holdings below one hectare, against less than 1 percent in large holdings of 10 hectares and above, the latest Agriculture Census shows.

“The average size of the holding has been estimated as 1.15 hectare. The average size of these holdings has shown a steady declining trend over various Agriculture Censuses since 1970-71,” an official statement said on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, the percentage of area that was actually operated under larger holdings was more than 10 times the actual land held at 10.59 percent, while for marginal farmers it was three times lower at 22.50 percent.

This clearly shows the stress that marginal farmers undergo in India.

Another cause for concern is that in 2010-11, the proportion of net irrigated area to net area sown was 45.70 percent, which shows that for half the country’s farmland irrigation is yet to reach farmers, who rely entirely on rains for their crops.

Among the sources of irrigation, tube-wells was main source followed by canals.

While the cropped area in India is estimated at 193.76 million hectares, nine states accounted for 78 percent of it — Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and West Bengal.

Out of the total 64.57 million hectare net irrigated area, 48.16 percent is accounted for by small and marginal holdings, 43.77 percent by semi-medium and Medium holdings and 8.07 percent by large holdings, the census shows.

Agriculture Census in India is conducted at five-yearly intervals for collection of information about structural aspects of farm holdings in the country. The basic unit for data is the area under operational holding.

The Agriculture Census data is collected in three phases – first on primary subjects like the numbers and area of operational holdings, followed by a detailed one based on samples from 20 percent of villages on tenancy, land use, irrigation and finally on pattern of input use.

The concept of agricultural operational holdings does not include those holdings which are not operating any agricultural land and are engaged exclusively in subjects such as livestock, poultry and fishing.

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Microsoft’s Think Next forum concludes, eight certified start-ups graduate

Dec 9, 2015 0

NEW DELHI– Think Next 2015 – a forum that brought thought leaders in technology driving transformation via innovation together under one roof – concluded here on Wednesday.

The forum not only saw the participation of more than 800 delegates from leading corporates, investors, thought leaders and delegates from Microsoft who partnered to push the collaborative innovation agenda for the ecosystem, but also witnessed the graduation of Microsoft Ventures’ winter batch 2015.

Eight certified graduating start-ups from the batch, namely, Canvasflip, Cloudcherry, Shotang, Flutura, KNOLSKAPE, Vymo, Vakilsearch and Vigyanlabs showcased their innovative solutions.

Meanwhile, two senior leaders – Steven Guggenheimer, corporate vice president and chief evangelist at Microsoft, and Scott Coleman, general manager, Microsoft Ventures shared lessons they learnt while working with entrepreneurs across the globe.

A round table focused on topics such as current valuation levels, potential Initial Public Offerings, Unicorns in the venture market and mergers.

Unicorn is a term in the investment industry, in particular venture capital industry, which denotes a start-up company whose valuation has exceeded $1billion.

A session ‘Fireside Chat with Author Devdutt Pattanaik’ discussed the lessons budding entrepreneurs could derive from mythology and stories passed down the generations.

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Proposed H-1B visa cut counterproductive to US: Nasscom

Dec 9, 2015 0

BENGALURU– National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) on Wednesday said the proposed 15,000 H-1B visa cut legislation introduced by two US senators will be counterproductive for the growth of the US technology industry.

“The recent legislation introduced to cut down the number of H-1B visas by 15,000 and proposing a priority parameter for highest wage earners will be counterproductive for the growth of the US technology industry,” a Nasscom statement said.

Democratic Party senator Bill Nelson

Democratic Party senator Bill Nelson

Earlier on Wednesday, Democratic Party senator Bill Nelson and Republican Party senator Jeff Sessions introduced the legislation in the Senate.

With the proposed bill, the senators aim to directly target outsourcing companies that rely on lower-wage foreign workers who replace equally qualified US professionals.

If the proposed bill is passed, among other restrictions, it would require American employers to first strive to hire a US citizen and proceed to hire a H-1B visa holder only if they can’t do so.

The premier industry body said the H-1B visa policy compensated the US for the shortage of skilled workers with a carefully calibrated approach that balances immigration with various measures to encourage Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) education and training for US citizens.

“The bill does nothing to address the root cause of the problem, STEM skills shortage in America, where H-1B and L-1 non-immigrants fill the skills gaps in the US economy and positively impact the ability of US-based companies to access global talent,” said the statement.

According to Nasscom, paucity of computer scientists, software developers and programmers in the US is getting compounded as their demand across all sectors in the US economy is only rising.

Nasscom highlighted several studies pointed to a four-fold vacancy rate rise in STEM jobs in the US compared to other sectors.

“India and US have built a strategic partnership across sectors and recognise that free movement of global talent is a critical success factor for this partnership. Discriminatory or protectionist measures would adversely impact the India-US trade,” the statement added.

The proposal will have repercussions on the Indian IT industry as H-1B visa is highly popular and well availed.

Currently, US issues a maximum of 85,000 H-1B visas annually.

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Wayfair Reports Record Sales for Peak Five-Day Holiday Shopping Weekend

Dec 3, 2015 0

BOSTON– Wayfair Inc., one of the largest online destinations for home furnishings and décor, reported a 109 percent increase in overall gross sales, defined as dollars of order intake, and a 130 percent increase in Direct Retail gross sales for the five-day peak shopping period of Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday was the biggest sales day of the period with peak order volume in the evening between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.

Niraj Shah

Niraj Shah

“The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is typically a busy, high volume period for Wayfair,” said Niraj Shah, CEO, co-founder and co-chairman of Wayfair. “We are continuing to see an industry-wide shift to ecommerce that is especially evident during the peak retail season. Wayfair is benefiting from that shift and from our ongoing success in building a trusted, online destination for everything home. We are excited to welcome new customers while also seeing strong purchasing from repeat customers. We believe our unparalleled selection, top notch service and compelling prices make Wayfair the ideal online destination for holiday and for purchases all year round.”

For the 2015 holiday season, Wayfair is offering exceptional deals on its selection of more than 7 million products for the home. Wayfair customers took advantage of discounts over the long holiday weekend to stock up on items for entertaining and hosting friends and family. Sofas and sectionals were big sellers throughout the five-day period and shoppers purchased Wayfair’s single most popular recliner once every 80 seconds on Black Friday. Top sellers for sprucing up the home included flannel sheets, down comforters, upholstered headboards, bar stools and area rugs.

Shoppers also snapped up seasonal décor, selecting from more than 28,000 distinct holiday items including wreaths, garlands, stockings, ornaments and artificial trees. For gifting items, best sellers included play kitchens for children and bean bag chairs and jewelry organizers for tweens and teens. New items on the top seller list for the 2015 holiday season included faux fur pillows and throws.

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