India should seize opportunity to become US business hub: Envoy

Feb 7, 2018 0

Kolkata– US Ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster on Wednesday said India should seize the strategic opportunity through trade and investment to become a major hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region.

Juster said the US seeks to assist India’s effort to build up “its indigenous defence capabilities as well as enhance the inter-operability of our two forces” as major defence partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

“India should now seize the strategic opportunity — through trade and investment — to become a major hub for US business in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said while addressing a session hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce (Eastern Region) and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce here.

According to him, India is in the midst of an economic surge, as it integrates more into the global economy, and the US trade and investment relationship with India continues to grow.

“Bilateral trade has gone from approximately $20 billion in 2001 to $115 billion in 2016. Of course, given the size of our respective markets, there is still plenty of room to expand these numbers,” he said.

Juster asserted there were many benefits in expanding the bilateral economic relationship and making India a regional hub for the US business.

“Increased openness to US goods and services and an expanded presence of US companies will also stimulate private sector investment in improved infrastructure and overall connectivity,” he said, adding the US companies had innovative technologies that could support India’s goal to create 100 smart cities.

“In a similar vein, we should enhance our efforts to promote connectivity within South Asia, which is one of the least economically integrated regions in the world,” he said.

Juster emphasised opening India’s market further to the US as trade and investment would spur collaboration on many emerging technologies that would “drive and protect our economies, including those related to advanced manufacturing and cyber security”.

He pointed out that the US’ environment technology could play a key role in helping India address air pollution, energy efficiency and other challenges.

The US technology could also help India address its food security and agricultural concerns, he said.

Juster said cooperation in defence and counter-terrorism had been a key pillar of the partnership between the two countries.

Elaborating further on defence cooperation, he said the US defence companies were already investing in India, producing components for complex defence systems.

“There is the defence sector, where we have gone from nearly zero sales to close to $15 billion in a decade – and this includes sale of some of America’s most advanced military equipment. We want to see this trend continue – because India’s defence needs are vast and because the United States, as a global leader in developing advanced military technology, is committed to enhancing India’s security,” he said.

According to him, India is projected to spend around $150 billion in this sector over the next 10-15 years, so the opportunity is enormous.

Juster said the US is uniquely positioned to offer India a comprehensive energy partnership in all forms of energy — coal, crude oil, natural gas and nuclear power as well as technologies related to clean fossil fuels, smart grids, energy storage and renewable resources.

“And travel, tourism and education all play critical roles in our trade relationship with India. Indeed, the U.S National Travel and Tourism Office reported almost 1.2 million Indian visitors to the United States in 2016, and this is expected to grow to 1.4 million by 2022,” he said.

“Moreover, the reported number of Indian students studying in the US in 2016 was 186,000, making India our second-largest source of international students,” he said.

Juster said the U.S Indo-Pacific strategy reflected the growing range of shared interests between the two countries and it was a natural complement to India’s “Act East” policy.

He also said that 200 American companies were operating in eastern India through direct investments.

“Last June, 10 delegates from east India were part of our India delegation to the USA Summit and we are hoping to double that number this year,” he added. (IANS)

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India, Vietnam sign I&B, space cooperation agreements

Jan 24, 2018 0

New Delhi– India and Vietnam on Wednesday signed agreements in the areas of information and broadcasting, and space cooperation following a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

According to External Affairs Minstry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, Modi and Phuc “discussed cooperation in trade and investment, defence, maritime and other areas”.

“Agreements were signed in areas of information and broadcasting and space cooperation,” Kumar tweeted.

During Modi’s visit to Vietnam in September 2016, the India-Vietnam relationship was upgraded to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which Hanoi only has with Moscow and Beijing.

During that visit, a new defence credit line of $500 million from India was also announced, a step which assumes significance given China’s aggressive behaviour in the South China region.

Vietnam is currently the country coordinator for India in Asean and will hand over the role to Thailand later this year.

Prior to his meeting with Phuc on Wednesday, Modi held a bilateral meeting with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.

Phuc was the first of the 10 southeast Asian leaders to arrive here on Wednesday morning to attend the Commemorative Summit to mark 25 years of the India-Asean Dialogue Partnership to be held on Thursday.

Heads of state and government of all 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional bloc will be attending the Summit.

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

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S. African Parliament welcomes move to freeze assets of Gupta family

Jan 16, 2018 0

Cape Town– South Africa’s Parliament on Tuesday hailed an ongoing process to serve a summon on the Indian Gupta family and freeze its assets to the tune of 1.6 billion rand ($130 million).

This came after the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) started the process to serve a summon on the Guptas and freeze its assets, Xinhua reported.

This process should continue “without fear or favour”, said Mathole Motshekga, Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services.

The AFU applied for three separate orders at the High Court in Pretoria as well as the High Court in Bloemfontein last month, and the ex-parte applications seeking orders to freeze the Guptas’ assets have been granted.

The applications were brought in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, which allows assets of defendants in criminal cases, or people who have yet to be criminally charged to be preserved pending the outcome of their prosecution. After they have been successfully prosecuted, the assets are then permanently forfeited to the state.

Investigators have assured that no stone will be left unturned to ensure that criminals are stopped in their tracks and that they do not benefit from the proceeds of such criminal activities, Motshekga said.

“Criminals must know that the law will deal with them in all respects in the harshest possible way. Nobody is above the law,” said Motshekga.

At least 14 people and two companies have been identified in the case involving the controversial Gupta family.

The Gupta-linked Trillian company and international consultancy giant McKinsey reportedly were sommoned on Tuesday by the AFU, which is under the National Prosecution Authority (NPA).

The Guptas are being investigated for its alleged collaboration with President Jacob Zuma and a number of senior government officials in looting the state coffers, through the awarding of lucrative contracts with state-owned enterprises to Gupta-linked families, known as state capture.

Both the Guptas and Zuma have denied the accusation. (IANS)

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Netanyahu’s India visit: Innovation to top agenda

Jan 12, 2018 0

New Delhi– Defence, agriculture and water management may be among the major sectors of cooperation between India and Israel, but during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India next week, innovation will top the agenda, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said on Friday.

Speaking at a media briefing here ahead of the prime ministerial visit, Carmon said cooperation in agriculture and water were the highlights of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July last year and the emphasis on this would continue.

“But I would say the most important element of what we want to put together on the joint table is innovation,” he said.

“Innovation that would, you know, touch any of the areas in which we cooperate. Innovation could be in the field of defence, innovation could be in the field of agriculture, innovation could be in the field of IT, of R&D.”

The Ambassador described innovation as a “cross-cutting issue” and said this would be reflected in the discussions between Prime Ministers Modi and Netanyahu.

Carmon referred to the two Prime Ministers’ scheduled visit to the iCreate Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and said that the centre “has a big clement of Israeli ecosystem in innovation”.

He said people from iCreate have been visiting Israel for training and attending seminars and “touched the Israeli way of looking at how to manage innovation”.

Ahead of the Prime Ministers’ visit, Carmon said there would be a meeting between the entrepreneurs from “start-up nation Israel” and people from the Start-up India initiative.

Regarding other aspects of Netanyahu’s six-day visit starting Sunday, Carmon said that apart from the summit level meeting on Jan 15, the second India-Israel CEOs Forum will be held as also a series of other meetings between both sides in New Delhi and Mumbai.

The visiting dignitary will be accompanied by a delegation of 130 Israeli business leaders.

Asked about the status of the India-Israel free trade agreement (FTA), Carmon said that the “FTA is definitely on our agenda”.

“Quite a few rounds of discussions on the FTA have been held,” he said. “I can tell you now that the next round of discussions will be held in February in Jerusalem.”

Netanyahu is also scheduled to visit a Centre of Excellence in Agriculture at Vardad, Gujarat, that has been set up with Israeli assistance.

Carmon said that by the end of this month “we will have 22 centres of excellence up and running across India”.

These centres of excellence set up with Israeli technology and knowhow cover areas like vegetables, citrus fruits, dates, mangoes, flowers, beekeeping, he said, adding that “we are now starting work on a dairy farm in Haryana”.

Netanyahu will also be accompanied by Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Moshe, who was only two years old then, will visit Chabad House, where his parents were killed.

Netanyahu’s is the first prime ministerial visit from Israel to India since the visit of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003.(IANS)

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Israel PM to arrive on six-day India trip

Jan 11, 2018 0

New Delhi/Gandhinagar– Israeli Prime Minister Prime Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive here on Sunday to give a fillip to 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries during a six-day trip that will also take him to Ahmedabad for a roadshow with “friend” Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Netanyahu is also likely to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra and will be in Mumbai for a business meet before he flies home next Friday.

The visit come months after Modi’s trip to Israel in July last year — a first by an Indian Prime Minister since the two countries established diplomatic ties only in 1992 even as India had recognized the Jewish state soon after it was founded.

During Modi’s trip, the two leaders were seen hugging each other and addressing each other repeatedly as “friend”.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani told reporters on Thursday that Modi and Netanyahu would first visit the Sabarmati Ashram — the abode of Mahatma Gandhi — after they arrive in Ahmedabad on January 17. “(They) will be accorded a grand welcome.”

After his arrival in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon, Netanyahu will hold meetings with President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, the Israeli Embassy said in a statement.

He will have a bilateral meeting with Modi and also attend the annual “Raisina Dialogue”, a geo-political conference, and address an India-Israeli CEO forum in the capital, said Joint Secretary in External Affairs Ministry B. Bala Bhaskar.

Bhaskar said the ties between the two countries have been expanding in the areas of agriculture, water, innovation, entrepreneurship development, space, education, culture, homeland security and defence.

“We have uprgaded our relationship to strategic level with special focus on agriculture and water,” he said.

He said the bilateral commerce between the two countries stood at $5 billion in 2016-17 which did not include defence trade.

He refused to give defence trade figures saying “they are not exactly measured like that and as such (there are) no exact figures”.

Bhaskar parried a directly reply when asked about the reported revival of talks on India’s purchase of 8,000 Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel that was cancelled last week.

“These issues have set mechanism. India has a long and wide ranging defence cooperation with Israel. This covers defence equipment as well as defence industry and technology cooperation which are developing very well.

“New areas of cooperation are actively being explored. I am sure you will be updated on that.”

Asked to specify business or defence deals the two countries were likely to sign during Netanyahu’s visit, Bhaskar said: “This is a very very special relationship and the visit is to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic ties. It was decided that both Prime Ministers should exchange visits. This visit is actually visit accomplishment of 25 years of ties.”

He said Modi and Netanyahu would hold talks on a wide range of matters and “I am sure (the Palestine issue) is also going to come up”.

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon called Netanyagu’s visit to India as the “grand finale to the celebrations of 25 years of growing partnership”.

“The visit will focus on the progress made between India and Israel since Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel last summer, and on shaping the next 25 years of relations between our countries and our peoples,” Carmon said in a statement.

In Gujarat, Modi and Netanyahu will also visit the Centre of Excellence in Vadrad and inaugurate a Centre of Excellence for date palms in Bhuj via video conference. They will also visit the iCreate innovation campus and centre.

In Mumbai, Netanyahu will meet Jewish community leaders and select members of the Indian business community. He will reach out to Bollywood in an exclusive “Shalom Bollywood” event. (IANS)

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Italy, Iran sign 5bn euro investment deal

Jan 11, 2018 0

Rome– Italy and Iran on Thursday signed a credit agreement worth five billion euros to help Italian companies invest in Iran, the Italian Economy Ministry said.

The framework accord was signed between Italian state-owned holding Invitalia and two Iranian banks, Bank of Industry and Mine, and Middle East Bank, in the presence of Italy’s Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan and Iran’s Vice Minister for economic affairs, Mohammad Khazaee.

The funds will be used for joint projects between Italian and Iranian companies in sectors including infrastructure, construction, oil and gas, electrical energy, and the chemical, petrochemical, and metallurgical industries.

Iran’s government will provide a sovereign guarantee, the Italian Economy Ministry statement added.

Italian companies have over the past two years signed 27 billion euros of business deals in the infrastructure, building, oil and gas, electrical energy, metallurgy, chemical and petrochemical sectors, projects that will be supported by the Italian government, Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Wednesday.

Iran ended its trading isolation after a landmark July 2015 deal with six world powers to halt crippling international sanctions in exchange for curbing its nuclear activities.

Since the 2015 nuclear accord, Iran has signed framework credit agreements worth a total $19.8 billion with Chinese, South Korean, Austrian and Danish banks. (IANS / AKI)

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Hackers targeting Winter Olympics in South Korea: McAfee

Jan 8, 2018 0

Seoul– Hackers are targeting the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea with a phishing and malware campaign, cyber security firm McAfee researchers have found.

In a blog post, McAfee Advanced Threat Research analysts Ryan Sherstobitoff and Jessica Saavedra-Morales discovered a campaign targeting organisations involved with the Pyeongchang Olympics scheduled from February 9-25.

“Attached in an email was a malicious Microsoft Word document with the original file name ‘Organised by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Pyeongchang Winter Olympics’,” the duo said late on Sunday.

Email addresses associated with ice hockey at the Winter Olympics were among those targeted by attackers.

“The primary target of the email was icehockey@pyeongchang2018.com, with several organisations in South Korea on the BCC line. The majority of these organisations had some association with the Olympics, either in providing infrastructure or in a supporting role. The attackers appear to be casting a wide net with this campaign,” they added.

The campaign to target Pyeongchang Olympics began December 22 last year.

The attackers originally embedded an implant into the malicious document as a hypertext application (HTA) file, and then quickly moved to hide it in an image on a remote server and used obfuscated Visual Basic macros to launch the decoder script.

“They also wrote custom PowerShell code to decode the hidden image and reveal the implant,” the researchers added.

If opened, the document tells the user they must click to enable content.

Based on their analysis, the team said this implant establishes an encrypted channel to the attacker’s server, likely giving the attacker the ability to execute commands on the victim’s machine and to install additional malware.

“With the upcoming Olympics, we expect to see an increase in cyberattacks using Olympics-related themes. In similar past cases, the victims were targeted for their passwords and financial information,” McAfee noted.

The Advanced Threat Research team has discovered an increase in the use of “weaponised Word documents against South Korean targets in place of the traditional use of weaponised documents exploiting vulnerabilities in the ‘Hangul’ word processor software”, the company added. (IANS)

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Asean centrality essential for Indo-Pacific peace, prosperity: India

Jan 7, 2018 0

Singapore–India on Sunday reiterated that the leadership and centrality of the southeast Asian region is essential for the peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.

“Asean has reached the golden milestone of 50 years,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said during her opening address at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, a gathering of the Indian diaspora of this region, here.

Stating that India is 70 years old and the 10-nation Asean 50, Sushma Swaraj said that that the regional bloc was formed when “southeast Asia was a global faultline, a theatre of a brutal war, and a region of uncertain nations” but has now “unified 10 countries to become an economic hub and it has become an anchor of broader regional integration and cooperation”.

“For India, Asean leadership and centrality is essential for peace and prosperity for the rapidly changing Indo-Pacific region.”

Her remarks come amid China’s belligerence in the South China Sea and growing influence in the Indian Ocean region.

Sushma Swaraj also referred to the fact that the Asean-India Dialogue Partnership that was established in 1992 was elevated to that of a strategic partnership on its 20th anniversary in 2012.

Stating that the Asean, which comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, is at the heart of New Delhi’s Act East policy, Sushma Swaraj said that with each member, India has growing economic, political and cultural relations while “growing connectivity has reinforced proximity”.

“Today, 16 Indian cities are connected to Singapore,” she said. “A trilateral highway project from India to Thailand is making progress. We plan to expand this further to connect India to other Asean countries.”

She also highlighted the role of northeast India in India-southeast Asia ties in this regard.

Referring to the presence of Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal at the event, she said: “It is a symbol of resurgence of India’s Northeast as mentioned. Our Northeast region will prosper when it is better connected to southeast Asia and the Northeast becomes our bridge to southeast Asia.”

Sushma Swaraj said that India’s trade agreements with Asean region “are among the most ambitious with any region”.

“Our partnership in regional institutions, including the East Asia Summit, has advanced peace and stability in the region.”

Stating that the strength of India’s engagement with the Asean region lies in the clarity of the vision both sides share, she said: “We believe that when all nations adhere to international rules and norms, when we conduct relations on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect, our nations feel secure and our economies prosper.”

India and Asean have a future full of possibilities and also of enormous responsibilities “as much as this creates synergies for us, from democracy to the dynamism of our economies, from proximity to the talent of our people”, she said, adding while pointing out that Asean is India’s fourth largest trading partner.

She also praised the Indian diaspora of the region for their role in maintaining ties between India and southeast Asia while lauding their contributions for the development of their respective nations.

“We all know your connections with India, the land of your heritage,” she said. “We deeply value your role in nurturing the ties between India and southeast Asia.”

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Trade between India and Canada up by 30 percent: Canadian envoy

Jan 6, 2018 0

Kolkata–Highlighting on bilateral co-operation to promote and foster trade and multilateral relations between Canada and India, its envoy to India said trade between the two countries was up by 30 per cent.

High Commissioner Nadir Patel was speaking at an event where an MoU was signed between the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Indo Canadian Business Chamber (ICBC) in order to further enhance bilateral co-operation to promote and foster trade and multilateral relations.

Patel said that bilateral relation is booming with two-way trade up by 30 per cent.

Canadian investment in India has also exceeded by $15 billion. While there are about 400 active Canadian companies in India, many more have serious plans of investing in India, he said.

While three non-stop flights are already plying between India and Canada, there has been a major boost to tourism and educational ties between the two countries, he said.

Patel also indicated that West Bengal has enormous potential for Canadian companies who are already operating in India and also for such companies who would like to set up base in India.

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Second Russia-China oil pipeline becomes operational

Jan 3, 2018 0

Beijing– The second oil pipeline between Russia and China began operations this week, which would double China’s annual import of Russian crude oil, the state-owned China Daily newspaper reported on Wednesday.

The line became operational on Monday and has an annual capacity of 15 million tonnes. It would increase China’s annual imports of Russian crude oil to 30 million tonnes.

The 941.8-kilometre-long line will boost China’s energy security as the production of crude oil in the northeast of the country has started to decline, Efe news reported.

Russia is also a key supplier of natural gas for China under Beijing’s strategy to cut down on coal consumption and reduce the high levels of pollution in large stretches of the country.

The gas pipeline between the two countries is due to transport 38 billion cubic metres of gas annually to China from this year onwards. (IANS)

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