Indian states-US investors dialogue can boost bilateral trade: Jaitley

Aug 29, 2016 0

New Delhi– Indian states are growing at around 10-11 per cent and a dialogue between them and American investors can help in boosting Indo-US bilateral trade, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday.

Jaitley said this at a meeting here with US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Director of the US National Economic Council Jeffrey Zients, ahead of the second India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue due to take place here on Tuesday, according to a Finance Ministry release here.

Pritzker said the trade dialogue by the Chief Ministers of Indian states with different US authorities can be given a structured shape in order to give impetus to the bilateral trade, the statement said.

She also welcomed the approval to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and hoped that this will boost the economic activities in the country at large, it added.

In what is likely to be the last major engagement between India and the outgoing administration of President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Pritzker will co-chair the second edition of the dialogue from the American side, while India will be represented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The last round of S&CD was held in Washington in September last year.

India-US bilateral trade has crossed the $100 billion level in 2015 — up from $37 billion in 2005.

US investment in India last year crossed $28 billion and Indian investment in the US reached more than $11 billion.

During her India visit, the US Commerce Secretary will meet Indian entrepreneurs and participate in an event celebrating US-India cooperation on travel and tourism. India and the US have decided to be Travel and Tourism Partner Countries in 2017.

“The engagement is likely to cover the discussion between Indian and US CEOs in the forenoon of 30th August,” a Commerce Ministry release here said.

“In line with the CEO Forum recommendations to boost the renewable energy sector, both sides are working on the US-India Energy Finance Initiatives, which is expected to mobilise upto $400 million by 2020,” it added.

At the CEOs Forum, both sides will review the progress made on deliberations such as boosting renewable energy and defence ties and smart city projects.

The two sides are also likely to discuss innovation and entrepreneurship and various other policies and measures to further trade ties between both the countries.

Chairman of Tata Group Cyrus Mistry will co-chair the meeting from the Indian side, and Dave Cote, Chairman of Honeywell International, from the US side.

“The discussions are expected to take place regarding smart city master planning activities for three cities — Ajmer, Allahabad and Vizag — for which an MoU has been signed between India and the US,” the Indian Commerce Ministry said.

At the strategic dialogue, India is also expected to lobby once again with the US to garner the support of all member countries for India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which will allow it to trade in nuclear material and technology. (IANS)

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Parrikar leaves for US, logistics deal on anvil

Aug 28, 2016 0

New Delhi– Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday left for a tour of the US, where he will be meeting Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Monday, officials said.

The two sides are expected to discuss the logistics sharing agreement during the visit, sources said, even as there was no official word on possibility of the deal being sealed.

This is Parrikar’s second visit to the US in eight months.

During Carter’s visit to India in April this year, India and the US had announced they will be signing a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement.

Parrikar will, during his tour, visit the 9/11 memorial at Pentagon, the US Cyber Command, Andrews Air Force Base, and Langley Air Force base and interact with US business industry associates during the first two days of his visit.

On Wednesday, he will be visiting the Boeing facility in Philadelphia, sources said. The minister will return for Delhi on Thursday.

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Weekly Outlook: Trading likely to remain choppy in Indian stock markets

Aug 28, 2016 0

Mumbai– Volatility in Indian stock markets is expected to continue during the sessions ahead, after two weeks of bearish trends, with some fresh directions also expected from the release of domestic macro data, notably the GDP numbers, analysts said.

During the past week, the sensitive index (Sensex) of the BSE shed 294.75 points or 1.05 per cent, at 27,782.25 points. This came over and above the drop of 75.40 points or 0.27 per cent during the week before at 28,077 points.

As regards the other key index, the 51-share Nifty of the National Stock Exchange (NSE), the fall was 94.35 points or 1.09 per cent at 8,572.55 points during the past week, and 5.25 points or 0.06 per cent at 8,666.90 points during the week before.

Figures from the National Securities Depository (NSDL) showed that foreign portfolio investors were net sellers of equities worth Rs 626.63 crore, or $92.89 million from August 22-26.

Trading during the past week also came after Urjt Patel was named as the next Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. This apart, investors were awaiting for the crucial signals from the speech of US Federal Reserve Chief Janet Yellen at an annuam meeting at Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Further, volatility was induced by the expiry of futures and options contracts.

“The appointment of Urjit Patel as the successor of Raghuram Rajan was in general perceived to be a good move by the government, but it also raised market concerns that the hawkish RBI stance on interest rates will continue,” said Pankaj Sharma, Head of Equities, Equirus Securities.

“The markets, along with the global counterparts, came off during the week as investors waited for the Yellen speech to sense whether and when US Fed will like to hike the interest rates,” added D.K. Aggarwal, Chairman and Managing Director, SMC Investments and Advisors.

But opinions were divided on the impact of Yellen’s speech — a positive one for the US — on Indian markets.

“In her speech, Yellen highlighted that the US economy is in a better shape, there is a good pick-up in demand and there is a good case for increasing the rates now,” said Sharma of Equirus Securities.

“Of course, there is no clarity on the exact timelines but it looks likely that unless the economic data deteriorates significantly in coming months, there is a good chance that we will see a rate hike by US Fed this year,” he said, adding that this will influence the markets.

Vijay Singhania, Founder-Director of Trade Smart Online, had a different take.

“Indian markets are expected to see a positive opening (On Monday) as the chances of a Fed Rate hike in September is off the table. Lack of surprises in Yellen’s remarks is completely in line with most expectations and the key takeaway that is ‘nothing’s changed’,” he said.

Dhruv Desai, Director and Chief Operating Officer of Tradebulls, said some other developments will also have an influence on Indian markets in the coming week.

“Investors will closely follow the important cues in the next week — and these will be inflow of funds from foreign institutional investors into Indian equity markets, the government’s fiscal deficit ituation and the release of quarterly GDP data.” (IANS)

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Tata Sons Only Indian Company to Make to the List of 100 Most Valuable Brands of the World; With Apple at the Top, US Accounts for Half of the Brands

Aug 27, 2016 0

BOSTON–Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata group of companies, is the only Indian company that made to the List of 100 Most Valuable Brands, according to Brand Finance, which complied the list. While Apple remained the brand #1, forty-four US companies accounted for nearly half of the brands.

Tata Sons ranked number 54 in the list, down from 46 in 2015. Tata Sons has 36 major brands attached to its name.

Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata

Every year, leading branded business valuation and strategy consultancy Brand Finance puts thousands of the world’s top brands to the test. They are evaluated to determine which are the most powerful and the most valuable by country, by industry and against all other brands worldwide. The companies with the highest total value of brands under management can be found in the Brand Finance Portfolio 100.

The total value of the table is US$3.2 trillion, half of which is from the 44 US companies which total US$1.68 trillion, according to brand finance.

14 Chinese companies feature in the table, rendering it the country with the second highest number of portfolios. They make up US$347 billion of the total sum. Nine European Union countries make the table and are home to 29 brands, nine of which are UK-based – more than any other European country.

The portfolio table lists the companies with the most brand value under their management. Some companies, like Apple, only include one highly valuable brand, while other companies, like Nestlé S.A., operate hundreds. Apple does operate more brands, however, due to their reporting, it is not possible to identify and value these sub-brands from their financial statements.

The fastest growing portfolio this year is Agricultural Bank of China, with a value of US$32.3 billion after enjoying 42% growth. China Construction Bank and ICBC make the top five, with values of US$35.4 billion and US$36.3 billion after rising 34% and 32%, respectively.

China Construction Bank is in fact the world’s most powerful banking brand. Chinese banks are performing well on brand equity measures such as familiarity, consideration, recommendation and preference as a result of investing in their brands. It must be noted that none of the Chinese portfolios in the table dropped in value.

Unilever’s impactful innovations have boosted its performance. The launch of the new Axe range and the ‘Find Your Magic’ brand campaign appealed to a wider audience as it encouraged men to break free from assumptions about how they should behave and express themselves. Unilever grew 18% to a value of US$42.7 billion this year.

Vodafone Group is the only other UK company to enjoy an increase in value this year, rising 2% to US$27.8 billion. It is no secret that smartphones are becoming increasingly prominent, and the growing proliferation of smartphones in both developed and emerging markets is the main driver behind a surge in data demand and revenue. Vodafone Group’s global presence positions it well to cater to the rising demand. Moreover, the oligopolistic nature of the industry coupled with Vodafone’s immense size gives the company a competitive edge amongst its peers.

With over 500 brands in its portfolio, Nestlé S.A. owns the largest number of brands in the table. It climbs up the ranks to seventh place after 14% growth to a value of US$66.6 billion. Accelerated growth in North America was largely due to the turnaround in frozen meals, whilst in Latin America, Nestlé cited instant coffee as the core reason for growth. Nestlé’s category dynamics and innovation, which can be seen in its range of bottled water, are also factors that contributed to its strong growth.

Furthermore, an increase in health awareness in relation to carbonated drinks gave Nestlé the opportunity to promote its bottled water segment which other companies may have failed to embrace. Nestlé’s success is largely due to the range of product segments it provides, allowing it to more effectively overcome challenging global trends than its competitors.

Volkswagen Ag was the biggest faller in the table this year. Its portfolio value dropped 36% to US$42.2 billion. The latest emissions scandal negatively impacted Volkswagen. However, on a broader spectrum, the light vehicle industry – albeit growing at its slowest rate in the last decade, is forecasted to grow nonetheless. This is somewhat due to the upward surges in China, India and across continental Western Europe which compensate for reductions in Brazil, the US and the UK. Toyota Motor Corp, ranked 10th this year, conforms to the forecasted industry trend, enjoying a 30% increase in portfolio value to US$55.3 billion this year.

100 Most Valuable Brand Portfolios (USDm)

Rank 2016 Rank 2015 Number of Brands* Parent Company Domicile Portfolio Value 2016 (USDm) Portfolio rating 2016 Portfolio Value change (%) Portfolio Value 2015 (USDm)
1 1 1 Apple Inc United States 145,918 AAA 14% 128,303
2 3 17 Alphabet Inc United States 99,046 AAA 25% 79,430
3 2 1 Samsung Group South Korea 83,185 AAA 2% 81,716
4 5 13 Wal-Mart Stores Inc United States 77,523 AA 7% 72,599
5 4 7 Microsoft Corp United States 74,121 AAA -1% 74,912
6 11 6 Amazon.Com Inc United States 69,642 AA+ 24% 56,142
7 9 539 Nestlé S.A. Switzerland 66,604 AA+ 14% 58,300
8 7 1 Verizon Communications Inc United States 63,116 AAA- 5% 59,843
9 8 1 At&T Inc United States 59,904 AA+ 2% 58,819
10 16 4 Toyota Motor Corp Japan 55,285 AAA- 30% 42,546
11 10 43 Procter & Gamble Co/The United States 54,668 AAA- -5% 57,468
12 12 182 Pepsico Inc United States 53,169 AAA- -4% 55,209
13 N/A 82 Philip Morris International United States 52,734 AA+ N/A N/A
14 17 27 Johnson & Johnson United States 50,651 AAA 24% 40,734
15 15 2 China Mobile Ltd China 49,864 AAA- 4% 47,964
16 13 72 Coca-Cola Co/The United States 48,301 AA+ -8% 52,339
17 25 1 Wells Fargo & Co United States 44,170 AAA- 26% 34,925
18 21 3 J.P. Morgan Chase & Co United States 43,549 AA 18% 36,777
19 18 3 Walt Disney Co/The United States 43,458 AAA 10% 39,609
20 N/A 1 Mcdonald’s Corp United States 42,937 AAA N/A N/A
21 N/A 4 Daimler Ag Germany 42,863 AAA- N/A N/A
22 22 103 Unilever Plc United Kingdom 42,666 AA+ 18% 36,179
23 6 8 Volkswagen Ag Germany 42,239 AAA+ -36% 65,540
24 19 3 Bayerische Motoren Werke Ag Germany 41,532 AAA 8% 38,527
25 14 1 General Electric Co United States 37,216 AA+ -22% 48,019
26 23 114 Anheuser-Busch Inbev Nv Belgium 37,073 AA+ 3% 36,016
27 34 1 Ind & Comm Bk Of China China 36,334 AA+ 32% 27,459
28 38 1 China Construction Bank China 35,394 AAA 34% 26,417
29 30 3 Comcast Corp United States 34,431 AAA+ 14% 30,193
30 45 1 Facebook Inc United States 34,002 AAA- 41% 24,180
31 28 3 Deutsche Telekom Ag-Reg Germany 33,194 AA+ 7% 31,108
32 27 4 Exxon Mobil Corp United States 33,040 AA 5% 31,404
33 49 1 Agricultural Bank Of China China 32,264 AAA 42% 22,714
34 24 1 Intl Business Machines Corp United States 31,786 AA -10% 35,428
35 N/A 1 Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Japan 31,678 AA N/A N/A
36 29 1 Royal Dutch Shell Plc Netherlands 31,665 AA+ 3% 30,716
37 32 20 L’Oreal France 31,620 AAA 10% 28,866
38 31 2 Bank Of America Corp United States 30,940 AA 6% 29,319
39 26 38 Lvmh Moet Hennessy Louis Vui France 30,759 AA -10% 34,195
40 39 5 Nike Inc United States 29,151 AAA 16% 25,103
41 41 1 Home Depot Inc United States 28,798 AAA- 18% 24,471
42 N/A 10 General Motors Co United States 28,011 AAA+ N/A N/A
43 36 2 Vodafone Group Plc United Kingdom 27,821 AA+ 2% 27,287
44 N/A 76 Japan Tobacco Inc Japan 27,797 AA N/A N/A
45 N/A 1 Bank Of China Ltd China 27,735 AAA N/A N/A
46 35 2 Citigroup Inc United States 27,713 AA+ 1% 27,372
47 N/A 3 Softbank Corp Japan 27,676 AA N/A N/A
48 N/A 103 British American Tobacco Plc United Kingdom 27,070 AA N/A N/A
49 50 1 Mitsubishi Corp Japan 24,461 AA 8% 22,679
50 N/A 3 Cvs Caremark Corp United States 24,176 AA+ N/A N/A
51 37 2 Hsbc Holdings Plc United Kingdom 24,174 AAA- -11% 27,280
52 N/A 4 Barclays Plc United Kingdom 23,751 AAA+ N/A N/A
53 N/A 1 Hyundai South Korea 23,691 AA+ N/A N/A
54 46 36 Tata Sons India 23,498 AA -1% 23,768
55 N/A 2 Starbucks Corp United States 23,455 AAA- N/A N/A
56 N/A 5 Telefonica Sa Spain 23,243 AA+ N/A N/A
57 40 1 Intel Corp United States 22,845 AA+ -9% 25,011
58 48 1 Oracle Corp United States 22,136 AA -3% 22,888
59 43 2 Honda Motor Co Ltd Japan 21,576 AAA- -11% 24,347
60 N/A 2 Ford Motor Co United States 21,506 AAA- N/A N/A
61 N/A 2 Twenty-First Century United States 21,165 AA+ N/A N/A
62 N/A 2 Petrochina Co Ltd China 20,986 AA N/A N/A
63 47 12 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Nv Italy 20,405 AA -11% 22,977
64 N/A 1 Allianz Se Germany 20,264 AA N/A N/A
65 N/A 1 China State Construction China 20,214 AA- N/A N/A
66 N/A 1 China Petroleum & Chemical China 20,144 AA N/A N/A
67 N/A 1 Huawei China 19,743 AA N/A N/A
68 N/A 1 United Parcel Service United States 19,565 AA+ N/A N/A
69 N/A 2 Siemens Ag Germany 19,415 AA+ N/A N/A
70 N/A 2 Nissan Motor Co Ltd Japan 19,312 AA+ N/A N/A
71 N/A 4 United Health Group Inc United States 19,173 AA N/A N/A
72 44 1 Cisco Systems Inc United States 19,162 AAA- -21% 24,324
73 N/A 1 Orange France 19,096 AA+ N/A N/A
74 N/A 196 Danone France 19,026 AA+ N/A N/A
75 N/A 1 PwC United States 18,569 AAA+ N/A N/A
76 N/A 1 American Express Co United States 18,483 AA+ N/A N/A
77 N/A 1 Bt Group Plc United Kingdom 18,442 AAA- N/A N/A
78 N/A 181 Heineken Nv Netherlands 18,376 AA- N/A N/A
79 N/A 62 Diageo Plc United Kingdom 18,303 AA+ N/A N/A
80 N/A 2 Axa Sa France 18,280 AA N/A N/A
81 N/A 37 Kraft Foods Group Inc United States 18,175 AA N/A N/A
82 N/A 1 Alibaba Group Holding China 17,968 AA+ N/A N/A
83 N/A 1 China Life Insurance Co China 17,870 AAA N/A N/A
84 N/A 3 Chevron Corp United States 17,822 AA+ N/A N/A
85 N/A 4 Lloyds Banking Group Plc United Kingdom 17,522 AAA+ N/A N/A
86 N/A 4 Bnp Paribas France 17,362 AA N/A N/A
87 N/A 1 Bp Plc United Kingdom 16,962 AA N/A N/A
88 N/A 3 Kddi Corp Japan 16,917 AA N/A N/A
89 N/A 7 Walgreens Boots Alliance United States 16,645 AA- N/A N/A
90 N/A 2 Sony Corp Japan 16,557 AA+ N/A N/A
91 N/A 5 Tencent Holdings Ltd China 16,448 AA+ N/A N/A
92 N/A 1 Baidu Inc China 16,418 AAA- N/A N/A
93 33 9 Time Warner Inc United States 16,210 AAA+ -33% 24,091
94 N/A 1 Mitsui & Co Ltd Japan 16,183 AAA+ N/A N/A
95 N/A 1 Deloitte United States 16,160 AAA N/A N/A
96 N/A 1 Banco Santander Sa Spain 15,689 AA+ N/A N/A
97 N/A 1 Ping An Insurance Group Co China 15,569 AAA+ N/A N/A
98 N/A 1 Hennes & Mauritz Ab Sweden 15,510 AA+ N/A N/A
99 N/A 1 Target Corp United States 15,331 AA N/A N/A
100 N/A 5 Yum! Brands Inc United States 15,252 AA+ N/A N/A
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US-based emotional wellness startup wayForward and Fortis launch mobile platform to combat stress

Aug 27, 2016 0

New Delhi–Fortis Healthcare and US-based emotional wellness startup wayForward have for the first time in India launched an app-based wellness programme to manage stress and related ailments, at an event here on Saturday.

The health app, which shares its name with the company has a unique proprietary algorithm that overcomes the barrier of limited access to experts.

Navya Singh

Navya Singh

The ‘wayForward health app’ uses techniques of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and mindfulness to help solve problems caused by stress, anxiety and other emotional or mental health issues in the comfort of their own homes without the fear of stigma.

“Our research with users of the wayForward app in the US has shown that more than 80 per cent cases showed improvement in just three weeks,” said Navya Singh, Founder of wayForward, in a statement.

Many a times individuals find themselves unable to manage daily stress in their professional lives. They also find it hard to consult a mental health specialist as they feel embarrassed about it.

wayForward“Despite advancements on many fronts in India, there is a low level of awareness regarding stress and mental health. This digital health programme is a very innovative and much-needed solution for our increasingly stressed society,” said Bhavdeep Singh, CEO at Fortis Healthcare.

India’s rapid economic expansion has boosted corporate profits and employee incomes, but has also sparked a surge in workplace stress and lifestyle diseases that few Indian companies have addressed, revealed a recent study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

“Mental and emotional health issues are more common than we imagine and impact almost every family, placing a significant burden on individuals and society,” said Samir Parikh, Director (Mental Health and Behavioural Science) at Fortis Healthcare.

Through its unique “coach in your pocket” concept, the app ensures that everyone has access to mental and emotional health support at all times.

Available across India on both Android and iOS platforms, the app provides high-quality wellness support in a group and allows experts to help many more people than is possible with one-on-one support.(IANS)

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Effect of Modi government reforms beginning to be felt now

Aug 27, 2016 0

New Delhi– The impact of the Narendra Modi government’s reforms is beginning to be felt now, taking India closer to eight per cent growth this fiscal, a top finance ministry official said here on Saturday.

“A number of structural reforms have been undertaken by the government over the last two years. The impact of all this is beginning to be felt now. We are hoping to better our growth from last year and get closer to eight per cent,” Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das told reporters.

Shaktikanta Das

Shaktikanta Das

He was speaking on the sidelines of a conference held here on International Arbitration in BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Adding to the reforms, this year’s Union Budget has also been very well received by all sectors, Das said.

“Also, this year monsoon has been good. Agriculture production is expected to be better than previous two years which will contribute significantly to GDP (gross domestic product),” he said.

Last year India achieved 7.6 per cent growth despite two failed monsoons.

Das, who represented India at a Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) meeting in Pakistan on August 25-26, said the focus between countries in the region was on economic issues.

There was a special focus with regard to the Saarc Development Fund in which India has been a major contributor, he said.

Apart from regular contribution, India has given an additional $100 million for the fund, which will focus on financing infrastructure and economic projects, he said.

So far the emphasis has been on social sector projects of which about 11 are under implementation.

The Saarc meet also discussed fostering customs union, promoting DTAA (double taxation avoidance agreements), improving connectivity, increasing the volume of trade and developing supply chain linkages among the member countries, Das said. (IANS)

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RBI wants to liberalise while strengthening bond markets: Rajan

Aug 26, 2016 0

New Delhi–Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday said that the central bank aims to go for liberalisation while strengthening the bond market.

“Our aim is to liberalise steadily, but in a thoughtful way, continuously asking how further liberalisation will strengthen our domestic markets,” he said while delivering the Annual Day lecture at the Foreign Exchange Dealer’s Association of India (FEDAI).

Raghuram Ranjan

Raghuram Ranjan

Explaining the rationale behind the measures announced by RBI on Thursday for fixed income and currency markets, Rajan said the aim is at allowing greater participation to add liquidity while balancing it with caution in opening up.

“Greater access was allowed to retail investors, including to FPIs (foreign portfolio investors), to institution-dominated screen-based NDS-OM (Negotiated Dealing System-Order Matching System) market so that they could trade in G-Secs using their demat accounts,” he said.

However, the central bank would continue to be careful about broadening retail access in markets that require sophisticated understanding, such as complex derivatives, he added.

The permission given for a moderate open position to all market participants, he said, would ensure that “we do not get excessive speculation or attempts at manipulation by single traders”.

He added that it could also rectify market imbalances, improve exchange market liquidity and depth, without imposing large demands on banks or on the RBI.

Dwelling on the role of the regulator, Rajan said that financial innovation was sometimes seen in a bleak light as a way to evade or avoid taxes and regulations, but properly done, it could, however, slice and dice risks so that they were placed on the right shoulders.

“The key to the success of this market has been to allow the design of the relevant instrument to be governed by market participants, while ensuring regulatory concerns are satisfied,” he pointed out.

Rajan said that all innovative instruments were not successful and suggested that “going forward, a level playing field on taxes is warranted for all instruments, so that instruments do not gain favor simply because they get better tax treatment”.

He also said that an important function for the regulator in encouraging financial innovation was also to create the necessary infrastructure.

Noting that as a current account deficit country, India needed financing from abroad, ideally risk capital, which was in short supply in this country, he said encouraging Foreign Direct Investment, as well as equity investment was necessary for this.

As corporations moved to money and bond markets, the RBI would also nudge them further by imposing higher provisioning and capital requirements for banks on corporate lending when exposures become large, he said.

Further, the RBI has allowed banks to offer credit enhancement to bonds issued by infrastructure projects that need substantial amounts of financing but may not start out highly rated.

In this context, the Governor also clarified that in order for state government obligations to have zero risk weight, and have the highest rating, it was important that there be no explicit or implicit default or restructuring of such obligations.

Pointing out that the regulator has to be careful not to relax prudential regulations simply because an entity or activity was deemed of national importance, Rajan stated that it was far better for the government to directly subsidise activities that were of national importance like infrastructure if it deemed them important than for the RBI to sacrifice systemic stability. (IANS)

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India-US Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in Delhi on Aug 30

Aug 26, 2016 0
Washington–India and US will hold their second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue (S&CD) in Delhi on August 30 and review implementation of various decisions taken during the previous summit as well as identify future areas of cooperation.
US Secretary of State John Kerry and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker are coming to India next week for the second Strategic and Commercial Dialogue in what is likely to be the last major engagement between India and the outgoing administration of President Barack Obam
John Kerry

John Kerry

External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will co-chair the dialogue on the Indian side along with Kerry and Pritzker.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi that co-chairs will be accompanied by a high-level inter-agency delegation on both sides.

He said that S&CD is the most comprehensive mechanism to discuss and deliberate the entire gamut of cooperation between the two countries.

The decision to elevate the India-US Strategic Dialogue into a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue was taken during the visit of President Obama to India in January 2015. The inaugural S&CD was held on September 22, 2015 in Washington.

“The forthcoming S&CD will also review the progress made in the implementation of the various decisions taken in the recent summit held in June 2016 in Washington D.C. and identify possible areas for future cooperation,” said Swarup.

Earlier at a media briefing in Washington on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that strong economic relations between the US and India can create employment opportunities in both the countries and strengthen their economies.

“The President believes that more effective cooperation between the two countries can improve the economy in both of our countries, create jobs and promote economic growth. And I know that Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi shares those goals,” he said, adding Obama has found Modi to be an effective interlocutor and partner in pursuing those goals.

“The President is pleased about the progress that we’ve made over the first seven and a half years of his presidency, and we’re going to spend the remaining five months or so here trying to do all we can to advance it even further,” Earnest added.

The White House press secretary also said President Obama has devoted considerable time in strengthening the relationship between the US and India.

“The President has visited India on two occasions, I believe, and each of those trips has been dedicated to strengthening the political relationship between the world’s two largest democracies but also trying to strengthen further the economic ties between our two countries,” he said.

With the US presidential elections coming up in November, there are indications that continuity will prevail in American policy towards India, with latest US opinion polls showing Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton ahead in the race against the Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.

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Pravasi Bharatiya Divas to be held in Bengaluru from January 7

Aug 26, 2016 0

New Delhi– The 14th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) will be held in Bengaluru January 7 to 9, 2017, and around 3,000 people are likely to participate in the event, it was announced on Friday.

Launching a new logo and a portal for the three-day event here, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told a press conference that format of the annual function has been changed and the event will now be “result-oriented” instead of a cultural function.

“The format has been changed. The event will now be result-oriented,” she said.

Sushma Swaraj (File photo: PTI)

Sushma Swaraj (File photo: PTI)

The participants can register themselves through the portal that also gives all the information and details about the event. The registration fee has been reduced this time and fixed as $100 for the January 9 event, she said.

The main function of the event will be on January 9 that would see a participative session with the diaspora.

There would also be a Youth PBD on January 7.

Sushma Swaraj said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fervent engagement with the Indian diaspora has had an impact and the number of participants in this year’s event has gone up.

“Till a few years ago, the number of participants was in hundreds. Last year it was around 2,500 and this year we are expecting around 3,000 people and the actual number may go up,” she said.

The participants can withdraw with full refunds by December 7 this year, the Minister said.

Karanataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said his state was keen to host the event and was preparing to make it “a huge success”.

Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated in India each year to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community to the development of India.

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India got 72 percent H1B visas this year, says US official

Aug 26, 2016 0

Hyderabad– The US issued more than a million visas this year in India which also accounts for 72 percent of all H1B visas issued worldwide, said a top US official on Friday.

While vast majority of travelers to the US are traveling on tourist and short term business visas, India is also the largest beneficiary of H1B visas.

“Beyond tourism and short term business travelers, the US welcome travel by skilled Indian workers. India is the largest beneficiary by far of H1B visas vis-A-vis skilled workers visas.

“So far just in this year, Indian workers received 72 percent of all the H1B visas the US issued worldwide. Similarly Indian workers received 30 percent of all L visas also long term business travel visas that we have issued worldwide,” said Michele Bond, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.

Michele Bond

Michele Bond

She said while there is no limit for issuing tourist visas, it was for the US Congress to take a decision on increasing HIB and L1 visas for India.

“I can’t predict whether that is likely to happen. It’s pretty obvious that there is more demand for those visas. We will see what decision is taken about whether and when that cap might be increased,” she told reporters here.

The US issues 138,000 H1B visas per year worldwide and on an average Indians get 70 percent of these visas. This year Indians have already received about 72 percent.

The highest ranking US official on consular issues said they understand Indian companies’ concern about higher fee for H1B and L1 visas. She, however, clarified that the fee hike is not targeted at India.

“That hike was result of legislation that was passed. The level of interest in visas has not changed because of this. We hope to continue to see very strong interest in applying for business visas and working in US,” she added.

Stating that the commercial, economic and social ties between the two countries had strengthened, Bond pointed out that the number of business and tourist visas issues in India had gone up by 81 percent in five years.

Last year, the US mission in India issued 60,000 student visas. The US consulate general in Hyderabad issued the largest number of student visas in India, more than any of the consulates and the embassy.

“This consulate general in Hyderabad issues fifth largest number of student visas in the world. It is at fifth position among more than 200 embassies and consulates around the world. We are really proud of our team in Hyderabad and the role they are playing in strengthening the bonds between two countries,” she said.

Bond noted that the number of Indian students in the US increased to more than 132,000 last year. Indian students comprise second largest international student population in the US.

She said the work on the new consulate building in Hyderabad will begin next year and it is scheduled to be completed in 2020. The new facility will have 52 interview windows against 16 at its existing location.

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