India reassures aid for Iraq rebuilding process

Feb 14, 2018 0

New Delhi– India on Wednesday assured its commitment to help war-torn Iraq in its rebuilding process while complimenting the nation for its victory over the Islamic State (IS) terror outfit.

“India responded to the need for humanitarian assistance even while the war was at its peak in Iraq: among other things, in August 2016, we proposed to reconstruct the hospital in Karbala,” Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar said while speaking at the International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq in Kuwait.

“India responded to the urgent needs of Iraq for relief and economic reconstruction both directly and as part of international efforts under UN auspices,” Akbar said, adding that on the UN Secretary General’s urgent appeal, India contributed $20 million for assistance to the Iraqi people.

He said that under this pledge, India provided milk food supplies through World Food Programme, and along with it, provided assistance to Iraqi school children and Iraqi refugees in Syria. It also trained Iraqi Foreign Service officers in diplomacy, and other Iraqi officials in information technology.

“In addition, India contributed $10 million towards the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq for investments, reconstruction and development in Iraq.”

Akbar said that the conference offered an opportunity for the world to congratulate the people and government of Iraq for their historic victory over a “vicious contemporary menace” of IS, and its allies, “who used a volatile fusion of false ideology and barbaric terrorism to become a regional epicentre of upheaval and violence against innocent civilians and legitimate government”.

“We must win both the battle and the argument,” he said, adding the answer to terrorism lies in security, prosperity and reaffirmation of sovereignty and “the three sustain each other; any indifference or complacency towards any side of this triangle will make the rehabilitation process infructuous”.

On behalf of India, Akbar also also complimented all those nations which, directly or indirectly, came together to defeat the regressive and extremist forces that spread their tentacles far beyond Iraq.

Terming terrorism, fundamentalism and extremism the scourge of the 21st century, he said: “We must be united in our defence of pluralism and civilisation without ifs and buts. There is no ‘good terrorism’ or ‘bad terrorism’: all terror is an unmitigated evil. India has always supported a free, democratic, pluralistic, federal and unified Iraq.”

Akbar also appealed to the international community for early adoption of the India-initiated Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN.

He said India continued to assist Iraq in capacity building through training of Iraqi officials under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme and to broadbase services, also established a Consulate General office in Erbil.

Welcoming Baghdad’s announcement that it was now open for investment, he said India would play its part with project-specific proposals.

“We support the important role assigned to private sector investors in rebuilding of the terrorist-affected areas in Iraq,” Akbar said, adding India was willing to play a substantive role in major projects in petrochemicals, health, education, infrastructure and other sectors. (IANS)

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IBM eyeing BFSI, telecom sector for growth in India

Feb 14, 2018 0

By Krishna SinhaChaudhury

Mumbai– When it comes to digital transformation, sectors like the Banking, Financial Services and Insurance (BFSI), and telecom, will become the growth engines for India and IBM is ready to meet the technology requirements, a top company executive has said.

“The biggest growth for us is going to come from the financial services. We are going to consolidate telco and look at new revenue streams because telco is an industry that is turning on its head. There’s going to be a lot of conversations around integrated telcos which is getting into network domains,” Lula Mohanty, Managing Partner, IBM Global Business Services, told IANS in an interview.

IBM organised a two-day “The THINK Forum” here on February 12-13 attended by senior IBM and key business leaders from across the country who discussed the future of business and technologies that will shape the economy and society.

“The third vertical which we are very interested in is what’s going on in the domain of the retail industry in terms of Internet of Things (IoT) platforms as a service on products,” she noted.

When it comes to skilling and preparing a workforce for New-Age technologies like Artificial Intellignece (AI), robotics, Big Data and IoT, IBM is working with some of the state governments via skill development centres.

“We are also in talks with NITI Aayog and other learning and development organisations to understand what is the platform that we can put in place to skill more people,” Mohanty told IANS.

IBM recently announced a collaboration with the Telecom Sector Skill Council (TSSC) to spur emerging technology skills in the domestic telecom industry.

IBM’s student developers’ programme (career education) that infuses software capabilities that are industry-specific and market-relevant has helped more than 24,000 students and faculty members develop industry-relevant software capabilities.

Present in India since 1951, IBM India has expanded its operations with regional headquarters in Bengaluru and offices across 20 cities.

With the aim to help Indian enterprises deliver next-generation consumer experiences, global consulting agency Bluewolf, an IBM company, also announced a new practice in the country with “Salesforce”, a global leader in the customer relationship management (CRM) solutions.

The dedicated practice will leverage Bluewolf’s expertise and delivery capabilities in Augmented Reality (AR) and innovation strategy — combined with IBM’s leadership in cognitive and design-thinking with “Watson” — to help clients connect customer experience to value.

IBM currently manages 100-200 customers for the Salesforce practice in the country and expects the number to grow significantly in the coming years as enterprises and government agencies begin riding on digital transformation initiatives.

“India is one of the highest-growth markets for Salesforce,” said Sunil Jose, Senior Vice President and Country Leader, Salesforce India.

“We will continue to double our investments in the country. We welcomed our 1,000th employee in India in November last year. We will hire 1,000 more employees in Hyderabad alone by 2020,” Jose told IANS.

“We already have a strong base in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi. India is the market that is continuously growing for us,” Jose added.

Highlighting the strategy for the country, he said: “To drive business value, success and growth for its customers, Salesforce will focus on customer-centric digital transformation.”

The customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider also has a “Centre of Excellence” in Hyderabad, which is its first major centre in India. (IANS)

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China introduces changes in restrictions on overseas investment

Feb 12, 2018 0

Beijing– China has restricted the investments its companies can make overseas in several sectors including property, hotels and equity investment funds while easing curbs in sectors like electricity and telecoms, it was reported on Monday.

The National Development and Reform Commission has updated its list of “sensitive sectors” in which investment in other countries will be restricted. The new list will be effective from March 1, the People’s Daily reported.

Under the new regulation, Chinese companies wanting to invest overseas in projects concerning telecom, large-scale land development, electric mains and power grids will only need to complete record filings with the authorities like other common sectors without the need for special official approval.

These sectors have been removed from the “sensitive sectors” list for the first time since 2014.

Among the sectors added to the list by the Commission were the arms industry, investment in property, hotels, cinemas, entertainment, sports clubs and equity investment funds, Efe news cited the daily as saying.

Cross-border water resource development and news media were retained on the list. The decision was part of the government’s desire to reduce “irrational investment” overseas.

China’s non-financial outbound direct investment in 2017 fell 29.4 per cent year-on-year to $120.08 billion. (IANS)

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India, Guyana sign three agreements

Jan 30, 2018 0

New Delhi– In a bid to enhance New Delhi’s ties with the Caribbean region, India and Guyana on Tuesday signed three agreements, including on renewable energy and cultural exchange, following bilateral talks between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Second Vice President and Foreign Minister of Guyana Carl B. Greenidge here.

“Three memorandums of understanding (MoUs), namely, renewable energy, cultural exchange programme and framework agreement on International Solar Alliance (ISA) were signed,” the External Affairs Ministry said in a statement following the meeting.

“Guyanese delegation also presented the Instrument of Ratification of the International Solar Alliance,” it stated.

The India-initiated ISA, launched at the UN Conference of Parties (CoP) climate summit in Paris on November 30, 2015, by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President Francois Hollande, is conceived as a coalition of solar resource-rich countries to address their special energy needs and provide a platform to collaborate on dealing with the identified gaps through a common, agreed approach.

It is open to all 121 prospective member countries falling between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.

According to the External Affairs Ministry statement, Sushma Swaraj, during the meeting, referred to the historical and multifaceted ties between the two sides.

“The subsequent discussions focused on further strengthening India-Guyana bilateral relations, through cooperation in capacity building, promotion of business and trade, enhancement of people to people contact, cooperation on pharmaceuticals, sharing India’s experience in information technology by setting up IT centres of excellence in Georgetown,” the statement said.

Views were also exchanged on regional and multilateral issues such as climate change, solar alliance and UN Security Council reforms.

Bilateral trade between India and Guyana stood at $34.58 million in 2016-17.

India has done some high-visibility projects under line of credit (LoC) in Guyana, including a cricket stadium, traffic lights in capital Georgetown and supply of 14 irrigation drainage pumps.

An LoC of $17.50 million for modernisation of three primary health centres has been approved by the Indian government.

Guyana is also home to a large number of people of Indian origin, comprising nearly 40 per cent of the country’s total population of around 738,000.

Most of them are descendants of indentured labour taken from India in the 19th century and early 20th century to work in sugarcane plantations. (IANS)

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Sri Lanka receives highest ever FDI in 2017

Jan 29, 2018 0

Colombo– Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Sri Lanka reached an all-time high of $1.63 billion in 2017, doubling from the $802 million received during the previous year, Sri Lanka’s Board of Investment (BOI) said in a statement on Monday.

The highest FDI came from China, followed by India and Singapore.

BOI, the agency tasked with promoting and facilitating FDIs, reported that the number achieved in 2017 was the highest ever, surpassing the $1.61 billion mark in 2014, with solid growth across key sectors.

“The strong growth is a direct consequence of the government’s reorientation of economic policy towards investment and export-driven growth, rather than debt-funded public infrastructure spending,” the BOI statement said, reports Xinhua.

Among the highest growth sectors were export-oriented manufacturing and services, which includes tourism, IT and infrastructure.

Minister of Development Strategies and International Trade Malik Samarawickrama said that while Sri Lanka had achieved strong FDI results in 2017, the country had only scratched the surface of its full potential.

“This is not a time for complacency but renewed focus to use the momentum to strengthen reforms to improve our Ease of Doing Business ranking, and efforts to attract high-quality investors from countries we have renewed bilateral relationships with,” the minister said.

He added that the country’s target was to achieve $5 billion in FDI per year by 2020 and it was confident of achieving $2.5 billion of FDI in 2018. (IANS)

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31% growth in Indian tourists visiting Israel

Jan 29, 2018 0

New Delhi– Israel has registered a record 31 per cent growth in tourist arrivals from India, with about 60,000 Indian tourists arriving in the country in 2017, according to data released by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.

“Israel, for the second consecutive year, has broken its tourism record of Indian arrivals, reaching an all-time high of 31 per cent growth from January to December 2017 with around 60,000 Indian tourists visiting the country. This marks a whopping growth of 48 per cent in the last two years,” an official release said.

Hassan Madah, Director, Israel Ministry of Tourism India and Philippines, said India has been an important market and Israel has witnessed constant growth in arrivals over the last four years.

“The past year has been outstanding, and by far the best year for Israel tourism in India and worldwide. With over 20 million outbound tourists a year, India has been an important market for us,” he said.

He hoped that Indian tourist arrivals will go up to one lakh in 2018 with initiatives such as ease in the process of visa issuance and better connectivity.

The release said there has been a renewed interest in all travel segments among Indians to visit the Israel following the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to India and the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel last year.

It added that there is also growing interest among Bollywood producers to shoot in Israel. (IANS)

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India-Cambodia summit meeting on Saturday

Jan 26, 2018 0

New Delhi– Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a bilateral summit meeting with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen here on Saturday, the External Affairs Ministry said on Friday.

“Tomorrow, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is here with a large delegation, will be on a State visit,” Preeti Saran, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said at a media briefing here.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will call on Hun Sen on Saturday morning following which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold delegation-level talks with the Cambodian leader.

Hun Sen will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Saturday.

Hun Sen arrived here on Wednesday to attend the Commemorative Summit hosted by India on Thursday to mark 25 years of the India-Asean Dialogue Partnership.

The Cambodian leader was among the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Heads of State or government who attended Friday’s Republic Day celebrations here as guests of honour, a first in the history of independent India.

The Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

India is a major developmental aid partner for Cambodia and has so far extended lines of credit totalling $65.20 million to the Southeast Asian nation for water development and transmission line projects.

India-Cambodia trade basket is small and stood at a little over $153 million in 2016, according to figures provided by the External Affairs Ministry.

Hun Sen last visited India in 2012 to participate in the Commemorative Summit to mark the 20th anniversary of the India-Asean Dialogue Partnership, during the course of which he held a bilateral summit with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. (IANS)

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India, Laos discuss development aid, trade

Jan 26, 2018 0

New Delhi– Cooperation in development aid and trade were among the issues discussed during a bilateral meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi held with his Laos counterpart Thongloun Sisoulith here on Friday.

“Long-standing, friendly and mutually supportive relations,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

Kumar said Modi and Thongloun discussed development cooperation and partnership in trade and human resource development.

India-Laos trade stood at a little over $233 million in 2016-17.

India is a major development aid partner of Laos and Laos supports New Delhi in major international issues, including its claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Earlier, Thongloun was among the 10 Heads of State or government of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) members who attended this year’s Republic Day celebrations here as guests of honour, a first in independent India’s history.

The Laos leader, who arrived here on Wednesday, participated in the Commemorative Summit hosted by New Delhi on Thursday to mark the 25 years of the India-Asean Dialogue Partnership. (IANS)

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Ghana-India trade crosses $1.7 bn

Jan 26, 2018 0

By Francis Kokutse

Accra– Ghanas trade with India continues to surge and reached $1.7 billion in the first six months of the 2017-18 fiscal, maintaining the rising streak that began in 2011 when the $1 billion mark was first crossed, Indian High Commissioner Birender Singh Yadav has said.

“We have attached so much importance on trade with Ghana and it is for this reason that bilateral trade has become a partnership that has become strong and progressive” Yadav said while addressing the media on Saturday on the eve of India’s 69th Republic Day,

Yadav said the latest report by the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) listed India in the third place with 13 projects after China and the UK.

China registered 25 projects last year and the UK followed with 19.

However, in terms of FDI, India ranks second with investments of $411.75 million behind the Netherlands at $2.44 billion.

Yadav said India has always treated its relationship with other countries on an equal basis. “We have never believed in political influences,” he added.

This, however, comes at a time when there is growing resentment against the sudden rise of Indian soap operas on Ghanaian television channels. “Kumkum Bhagya” is one of such TV serial that had become popular here.

Yadav disagreed that the Indian TV shows were an attempt by India to “colonise Ghana culturally”.

“It is baseless to think India has undertaken to do such a thing. We believe in peaceful co-existence and believe in an open society,” Yadav added.

Director of Creative Arts at the Ghana National Commission on Arts and Culture, Socrates Safo told IANS: “It cannot be true that there is any cultural colonisation because we have an open policy when it comes to receiving other cultural groups in the country.”

“We also perform in other countries. So there should not be any fear with our interaction with the cultures of other countries,” he added.

As part of the celebrations, the High Commission brought in a Kathak classical dance group from north India for a two-day performance.

Yadav said the reason for getting cultural troupes to perform in Ghana was out of the desire to promote the cultures of both countries as Ghanaian troupes also had the opportunity to perform before audiences in India. (IANS)

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PM to open ‘Global Investors’ Summit’ in Assam on February 3

Jan 25, 2018 0

Guwahati– Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Global Investors’ Summit at Guwahati on February 3 in the presence of top Indian Industry leaders like Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Dilip Shanghvi and many others, a minister said on Thursday.

Assam Industry Minister Chandra Mohan Patowary said that besides Anand Burman (Dabur), Dr. Subhash Chandra (Essel Group and ZEE), Amar Abrol (Air Asia India), Rashesh Shah (Edelweiss), Sushil Goenka (Emami Group), Sanjiv Puri (ITC Limited), Harshavardhan Neotia (Ambuja Neotia Cements), Dr. Naresh Trehan (Medanta-The Medicity), filmmaker Subhash Ghai and Balakrishan Goenka (Welspun Group) have also confirmed to be part of the Summit deliberations.

Patowary on Thursday chaired a review meeting of the Business Sessions to be held during the Global Investors’ Summit and took stock of the preparedness.

The business seminars on 12 focus sectors will be held on both days including Agriculture and Food Processing, Organic Cultivation and Bamboo, Handloom, Textile and Handicrafts, Logistics, River Transport and Port Township, IT and ITeS, Pharmaceutical and Medical Equipment, Plastics and Petrochemicals, Power, Tourism, Hospitality and Wellness, Civil Aviation, Petroleum and Natural Gas and Startups Innovation.

“Investments in our promising sectors are key to the economic growth of the state. The objective is also to position Assam as India’s Expressway to ASEAN. The Summit is based on the core principles of the Act East Policy,” Patowary said.

He said that the government of Assam was fully geared up for its maiden Global Investors’ Summit. The mega event which will be held on February 3-4, 2018 at Sarusajai Stadium in Guwahati, is likely to see close to 2,500 delegates from across the world.

Apart from the Prime Minister, several union ministers including Nitin Gadkari, Suresh Prabhu, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Zubin Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan, Jitendra Singh and Kiren Rijiju are also expected to take part in the proceedings. (IANS)

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