India, Moldova review bilateral ties

Aug 14, 2018 0

New Delhi– With the East European nation of Moldova deciding to open an embassy in India next year, the two countries reviewed bilateral cooperation across various sectors during a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Tudor Ullanovschi here on Tuesday.

In a tweet following the meeting, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the two sides “reviewed the present state of our bilateral cooperation, particularly in the areas of trade and investment, infrastructure, health and pharma, IT, agriculture and food processing, education, culture, films and tourism”.

Ullanovschi is the first Moldovan Foreign Minister to visit India after his country gained independence in 1991, in the wake of the dissolution of the USSR.

India established diplomatic ties with Moldova in 1992. As of now, the Indian Embassy in Romania has concurrent responsibility for Moldova.

In an interview with IANS ahead of his meeting with Sushma Swaraj, Ullanovschi said that his country wants to invite Indian investors in sectors like textiles, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and information technology.

India-Moldova bilateral trade stands at around 30 million euros (approximately $34 million) as of now.

He also said that India and Moldova support each other in various international fora.

According to Ullanovschi, Moldova supports India’s bid for permanent membership a reformed UN Security Council (UNSC) as the world organisation needed change from the time it was formed in the 20th century.

India is a part of the Group of Four, that also includes Japan, Germany and Brazil, seeking permanent membership in the UNSC. (IANS)

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Wales ‘standing still’ in attracting foreign tourists

Aug 6, 2018 0

Cardiff– Despite a multi-million pound campaign to boost tourism, Wales is “standing still” in attracting foreign tourists, an expert has said.

Renowned travel writer Simon Calder said that it was really concerning that visitor spending dropped by 17 per cent at a time when the pound was weak, the BBC reported.

A record 39.2 million visitors came to the UK in 2017 but headed mainly to London and Scotland, new figures show.

The numbers of foreign tourists rose by 0.5 per cent but their spendings dropped by 17 per cent in the 12 months. Five million pounds was spent on the “Year of Legends” campaign, which aimed to give visitors legendary experiences.

“These figures are really concerning for the Wales tourism industry. Scotland in particular has done very well while Wales is effectively standing still,” Calder said.

The tourism analysis published by the Welsh Government describes UK-wide increases being driven by visitors from north America and non-European countries.

Overall, 20 million headed for London (up 4 per cent from 2016) and 3.2 million for Scotland (up 17 per cent). In comparison, there were only 1.1 million visitors to Wales (up 0.5 per cent).

The lack of flights from major countries meant Wales was regarded as “an add on” to a trip to England rather than a destination in its own right, Calder added.

The Wales Tourism Alliance described the figures as “disappointing”. (IANS)

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Sri Lanka’s Hambantota to become Indian Ocean’s leading port

Aug 6, 2018 0

Colombo– Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port is gearing up to become a leading port in the Indian Ocean region, an official said on Monday.

“The location of the port had always been extremely advantageous as it was located just a little less than half a nautical mile from the sea lanes.

“But what was necessary to push this into the limelight, was the right partnerships and this is what China Merchants Port Holdings brought to the table”, CEO of the Hambantota International Port Services (HIPS) Ravindra Jayawickreme said, Xinhua news agency reported.

China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port) entered into partnership with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority in July last year to develop and manage the port.

Jayawickreme added that the Hambantota port was being developed into a multipurpose port, which will provide a variety of services such as handling containers, break bulk, roll-on/roll-off, passenger, oil, bulk terminal, gas and project cargo.

The port is slated to become one of a kind, as it will be the only port in the country designed to handle the full gamut of services in the maritime and logistics area, he explained. (IANS)

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ADB provides $500m for Bangladesh power plant

Aug 2, 2018 0

Dhaka– The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Bangladesh on Thursday signed agreements for $500 million in loans to develop a state-of-the-art 800-megawatt (MW) power plant in the country’s Khulna region, along with associated connections to natural gas and power transmission facilities.

Additional secretary (ADB Wing) Muhammad Alkama Siddiqui, Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Division and ADB Country Director for Bangladesh Manmohan Parkash signed the loan agreements at a ceremony in Dhaka.

“This mega project builds on ADB’s strong and sustained presence in the power sector of Bangladesh and it will use the latest proven combined cycle technology, which offers the highest efficiency to convert gas to electricity,” Parkash was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

“ADB places higher importance on introducing new and high-impact technologies to benefit member countries. This will be a state-of-the-art power plant using the latest zero-liquid discharge technology, making it the first of its kind in Bangladesh.”

Highlighting benefits of the project, Parkash said it will provide additional electricity supply to about 300,000 consumers, create new jobs and stimulate business expansion. This environment friendly project will significantly improve energy security and enhance availability of efficient and cleaner energy.

To supply gas to the Rupsha power plant, the project will construct 12 km of gas distribution pipelines and finance construction of a 230-kilovolt switchyard and 29 km of high capacity transmission lines to transfer generated electricity to the national grid.

According to an ADB statement, the project will also help in institutional strengthening of the executing agency, the North-West Power Generation Company Limited, by implementing a modern enterprise resource planning system and providing training for implementation and operation of the system. (IANS)

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Sri Lanka bets on Indian visitors to boost tourism

Jul 31, 2018 0

Kolkata– Sri Lanka is betting big on Indian visitors as the island nation is expecting a 20 per cent growth in arrival of travellers to 2.4 million in the current year, an official said on Tuesday.

“Last year, about two million international visitors travelled to Sri Lanka and we expect it to reach 2.4 million this year. Of two million visitors, there were over three lakh Indians,” Sri Lanka Convention Bureau’s Chairman Kumar De Silva said on the sidelines of an interactive session organised by MCCI.

According to him, India is the largest source market for tourists for Sri Lanka.

Of the total visitors, about 90 per cent were tourists and the rest was for other purposes including business engagements, he said, adding that the country was also focusing at travellers for business meetings.

There is growing cooperation between two neighbouring countries and the target markets for Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Exhibition (MICE) are cities close to Sri Lanka, said De Silva.

Sri Lankan Airlines’ Country Manager Lalit Peiris said the carrier operates 122 direct flights per week from 14 Indian cities to Colombo though the airline has no plan, at present, to expand it in India.

However, from Kolkata, during the festive season of Durga Puja, the carrier proposes to increase to four flights per week against three flights a week during the rest of the year.

De Silva said tourism has been one of the top foreign exchange earners for the country and it could become the largest in years to come. (IANS)

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Australian Trade Minister seeks deeper economic ties with India

Jul 31, 2018 0

Canberra– Australia is striving to improve its “underdone” two-way trade relationship with India, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said on Tuesday.

In a keynote address on the future of trade opportunities, Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Ciobo said there were huge opportunities to develop a relationship with India and establish deep economic ties, SBS News reported.

“Our economic relationship with India is underdone. It is very much in our interests to fix this,” he told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event on Tuesday.

Ciobo identified Maharashtra as a particularly promising region for investment. “Maharashtra offers diverse opportunities for Australian firms in education and training, urban infrastructure, financial services, agribusiness and energy sectors,” he said.

Australia recently released a report on how trade links with India could be better used, and Ciobo said India was planning a similar document. “We have a huge asset for our relations with India in our Indian diaspora — our fastest growing large diaspora.”

“Victoria is home to the largest Indian community of any Australian state.

“Here’s one good measure of the Indian diaspora’s business success: They are Australia’s second highest tax-paying diaspora.”

Ciobo said Australia will try to take advantage of India’s push to get more university qualifications, as well as opportunities in agriculture and technology.

He added that Australia expects to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership by the end of the year, aiming for it to be in force in the first half of 2019. (IANS)

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Dubai aims for 20mn tourists by 2020, India among top targets

Jul 30, 2018 0

Kolkata– Dubai is aiming for 20 million visitors from around the globe by 2020 and is heavily banking on tourists from India, which is currently the country’s number one source market with 13 per cent of its total tourist share, a Dubai Tourism official said here on Monday.

“Our vision for year 2020 is to achieve 20 million visitors from all over the world. In terms of total tourist inflow in Dubai, we have reached the 16 million-mark in 2017. The Dubai Tourism is taking up multipronged strategies to grow that number,” Khalid Al Awar, the manager of India and Pakistan International Operations for Dubai Tourism, said on the sidelines of a city roadshow event here.

“India is Dubai’s number one source market in terms of visitors for the last two years. In 2017, we received 2.07 million visitors which is 13 per cent of the total international tourists in Dubai that year,” he said.

The official said India is also at the top in terms of growth in the number of tourists on a yearly basis with an increase of 15 per cent in 2017.

“The growth that we see from India is massive. India has become a hotbed for other destinations as well, but Dubai has a very special relationship with India. The tourist inflow from 2016 to 2017 from India to Dubai increased by 15 per cent while the overall growth was 6-7 per cent,” he said.

Pointing out that Dubai aims to become the biggest family tourism destination in the world, the official said the Tourism Department is taking certain initiatives like providing visa on arrival for the stopover visitors and waiving off visa charges for the minors.

“We are in the process to provide visa on arrival for those who stopover in Dubai for 48 hours. This will be implemented by the next couple of months. Our government is also planning to waive off visa fees for children below 18 years, who would come to Dubai between the months of July and September,” he said.

Talking about the favoured tourist destinations in Dubai, the official said the visitors are going for the new and diverse attractions in the country, along with the iconic destinations like the desert, Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah.

“The newly launched theme parks in Dubai are gaining popularity. The ‘Six Flags’ which is a very famous adult targeted theme park with really exciting rides, is coming to Dubai. Also, there is the newly built ‘Dubai Frame’ that provides a bird’s eye view of the old Dubai at one side and the new skyline of Dubai on the other,” he said.

He also pointed out that Dubai is expecting big turnout from India during the Asia Cup cicket tournament in September this year that has the potential of having three India-Pakistan games and during the AFC Asian Cup football tournament where India will be participating.

The four city roadshows in India, having one of the biggest delegations from Dubai with 22 co-participants including airlines and hotel chains, kickstarted from Kolkata on Monday. The roadshows will also be held in Pune, Ahmadabad and Mumbai. (IANS)

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India reiterates its priority for Africa, global South

Jul 27, 2018 0

Johannesburg– Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday reiterated the top priority India accords to African countries and the global South while stressing on the importance of sharing development experiences.

“My government has given top priority to expand our historical efforts for independence, development and peace in Africa,” Modi said while addressing the BRICS-Africa and BRICS Plus Outreach Dialogue following the 10th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit here.

“In the last four years, we have had more than 100 visits and meetings at the levels of heads of state and various government levels and these have taken our economic relations and development cooperation to a new high,” he said.

“Today, India has offered 180 lines of credit worth $11 billion in more than 40 countries in Africa.”

Stating that every year 8,000 African students get scholarships to study in India, Modi said that his country now has an e-network in 48 African countries for telemedicine.

He also referred to the investment of $54 billion by the private sector through which “we are carrying out capacity building in Africa based on Africa’s needs”.

He recalled his address to the Ugandan Parliament on July 25, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister, in which he outlined 10 principles for India-Africa engagement.

“These 10 principles are the guidelines for collaboration, for development as per the needs of Africa, for cooperation in security and for strengthening hundreds of years of relations between our people,” the Prime Minister said.

He also congratulated all African nations for the important initiative of forming the African Continental Free Trade Area and welcomed the various efforts for regional economic integration in Africa.

Rwanda hosted the Assembly of the African Union in March this year where the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA) establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area was signed. Forty four members of the African Union signed the Agreement.

When ratified, the Agreement would be the largest free trade area in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organisation.

Stating that free trade and commerce has in the last three decades helped hundreds of millions of people to escape from poverty, Modi said: “Taking the benefits of globalisation and development to the people is the most important part of this process and the global South was an equal partner in this effort.”

At the same time, he said that after the financial crisis of 2008, the dark clouds of protectionism are hovering over this fundamental aspect of globalisation.

“The most profound effect of this tendency and decrease in growth rate has been felt by countries such as ours who could not benefit from the industrial progress made during the colonial times,” he said.

Stating that the world today is again at a historic turning point due to the digital revolution, the Prime Minister said: “New opportunities are emerging for us. And that is the reason why it is necessary that we be completely ready for the changes that will come about due to automation, artificial intelligence and big data analytics.”

Following up on his address at the BRICS plenary session on Thursday in which he said that India will work with the economic bloc’s member states for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Modi said that this will require investment in digital infrastructure and skilled workforce.

“At the same time, inclusive global value chain, workers mobility, portable social security frameworks and efficient remittance corridors are also our priority,” he said.

The Prime Minister also said that sharing development experiences in the South-South cooperation and extending all possible support, whether it be technical support, training or capacity building in the developing countries has been an important part of New Delhi’s foreign policy.

“At the same time, as per the requirement and priorities of our partner countries, India has been extending financial assistance to the extent possible in the areas such as infrastructure, power, agriculture, education, health, IT etc. despite being a developing country itself,” he said.

“India’s own development journey, South-South Cooperation has been an essential basis. Sharing our development experiences with other developing countries has always been a priority for India and will continue to remain so.”

The BRICS-Africa and the BRICS Plus Outreach Dialogue was held at the initiative of the host of the 10th BRICS Summit, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The theme of this year’s Summit is “”BRICS in Africa: Collaboration for Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution”.

While leaders of various African countries were invited for the BRICS-Africa Outreach, chairs of multilateral groupings such as Argentina (G20 Chair & MERCOSUR member), Indonesia (Co-Chair, New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership and Asean member), Egypt (G77 Chair), and Jamaica (Caricom Chair), Turkey (OIC Chair) were invited for the BRICS Plus Outreach to interact with the BRICS countries. (IANS)

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India gives Nepal 2.1-billion Nepalese rupees aid

Jul 27, 2018 0

Kathmandu– India on Friday extended 2.1-billion Nepalese Rupee (NR) aid to Nepal as reimbursement of the first tranche of housing support to 42,086 government of India-supported beneficiaries in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts.

As part of India’s commitment towards Nepal’s post-earthquake reconstruction, the two countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for $100-million grant to support reconstruction of 50,000 private houses in the Himalayan nation’s Nuwakot and Gorkha districts.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Manjeev Singh Puri handed over the amount to Nepal’s Finance Secretary Rajan Khanal.

In September 2016, both countries had agreed to utilize an additional amount of $50 million from the $750 Line of Credit towards payment of third tranche of housing grant to 50,000 hosing beneficiaries supported by the government of India.

As per those previous commitments, India on Friday provided the first tranche to the Nepal government.

India, during the international conference on Nepal’s reconstruction had pledged US $1 billion aid and soft loan. India announced the largest amount in aid — NRs 100 billion (US $1 billion) — for Nepal’s post-earthquake reconstruction. One fourth of the amount has been extended as grant assistance.

The money that ambassador Puri handed over on Friday is part of the Indian aid pledged during the conference. The money will be reimbursed directly to the house owners.

The government of Nepal has expressed its appreciation to the government of India for providing generous humanitarian support for the post-earthquake reconstruction programme and recalled the prompt support from the southern neighbour in the rescue and search operations immediately after the earthquake, a statement issued by the Finance Ministry said. (IANS)

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Mastercard’s investment in India during 2014-19 to stand at $1 billion

Jul 26, 2018 0

New Delhi–  Global payments major Mastercard on Thursday said its cumulative investment in India for the period of 2014-19 would stand at Rs 6,500 crore or around $1 billion to promote digital transactions in the country.

Started in 2014, the local investment includes acquisition of new offices in Bengaluru and Gurugram and a Mastercard Innovation Lab and operations hub in Pune, said a Mastercard statement.

“Committed to a model based on local investment, Mastercard will have invested approximately Rs 6,500 crore ($1 billion) between 2014 and 2019 to promote digital transactions in India,” it said.

As per the statement, Mastercard has grown its India workforce from 29 in 2013 to around 2,000 currently, which is 14 percent of the global Mastercard workforce, and the largest outside the United States.

Out of total Rs 6,500 crore, around 75 per cent has been invested so far.

Porush Singh, country corporate officer, India and Division President, South Asia, Mastercard, said: “We strongly support the government’s push towards establishing India as a less-cash society and have continuously invested in this vision.”

Porush added: “80-85 per cent of the fees in debit card transactions go to financial institutions and other processors located in India for their services and will stay entirely within the Indian economy. Only 15-20 per cent will come to Mastercard as compensation for our network services. It is just between 12 and 15 paise in an INR 100 transaction. We stand absolutely committed to India’s future. We firmly believe that the success of the Indian economy is the success of Mastercard.” (IANS)

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