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From setback in Kashmir to finalising Rafale deal: Mixed year for armed forces in 2016

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Signing of long-pending deals including one for Rafale fighters, a logistics agreement with the US, new blacklisting and defence procurement policies besides induction of indigenous nuclear submarine were some of the achievements of the defence ministry in 2016, which was a mixed year for the armed forces.The high point for the military was the daring surgical strike carried out by the special forces on terror launch pads across the LoC it lost a number of soldiers during the year. Jammu and Kashmir alone saw over 80 security personnel being killed while countering Pakistan’s proxy war. The army managed to eliminate about 160 militants in the state including the poster boy of militancy Burhan Wani.Many security personnel were also killed fighting armed insurgency. Deadly attacks on the Pathankot air base, and army camps in Uri and Nagrota were a setback that led to the loss of several lives.The armed forces also had a mixed year when it came to administration and compensation issues. While the government drastically increased the ex-gratia for the armed forces, the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and a controversial letter on parity with their civilian counterparts for administrative duties left a bad taste.The decision of the government to bypass the long-followed principle of seniority when it came to selecting an army also led to lot of heartburns in the military especially the Armoured Corps. But one thing that the armed forces seemed to be most happy with was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s push for modernisation. Even as the government brought in a new defence procurement policy emphasising on ‘Make in India’ and a blacklisting policy offering a mixture of heavy fines and graded punishment rather than blanket blacklisting, the Ministry moved fast on procurements.A lot many deals pending for years were cleared by the Defence Ministry besides giving nod to many other proposals. The biggest deal to be struck during 2016 was the one for 36 Rafale fighter jets for 7.8 billion Euros. The file for a medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) was first moved in 2000. The Narendra Modi-led government had in 2015 agreed to go in for 36 Rafales in a direct deal with France while terminating the original tender for 126 MMRCA. The aircraft, equipped with latest weapons including the 150 KM range beyond visual range missile ‘Meteor’, can even carry nuclear bombs, will add to the strategic assets of the country. Another big move was the induction of the indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant. The government has still not officially announced the induction.The understanding between India and Russia to lease a second nuclear submarine was another important strategic move. The terms and conditions are still being worked out. The Inter-Governmental Agreement on the purchase of S400 Triumf air defence system is also a big development even though the nitty gritty are yet to be worked out. The decision to finally induct the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas was also a big move. India and Russia restarted talks on the fifth generation fighter aircraft programme after a hiatus of about a year.The contract for the purchase of M777 light weight howitzers was also welcomed by the army which will deploy most of them along the borders with China. The M777 was the first artillery deal cleared by the Indian government since the Bofors scandal of late 1980s. To ensure better deployment of these guns, the ministry also struck a deal for 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters.Giving the IAF yet another fillip to its strength, 2016 saw signing of a deal with the US for 22 Apache attack helicopters. The signing of the much-debated logistics agreement with the US was also an important development. The UPA government had refused to sign it but Parrikar went along after the US rewrote the agreement as per India’s conditions. Even though the Defence Ministry was not directly involved, investigating agencies carried out raids against a number of defence middlemen while cases were registered against some staying abroad in connection with alleged corruption.Another big development that came towards the end of 2016 was the successful fourth test of the indigenously developed inter-continental nuclear capable missile Agni V that has a range to cover entire China. The missile is now ready for user trials and eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command.

Agni V test firing: India’s nuke capabilities not targeted against any nation, says MEA

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Maintaining that its strategic capabilities were not targeted against any particular country, India on Tuesday said it abides by all applicable international obligations and expects others do the same, while responding to Chinese reaction to its test-firing of Agni V missile.”India’s strategic capabilities are not targeted against any particular country. India abides by all the applicable international obligations and hopes that all other do the same. “India’s strategic autonomy and growing engagement contributes to strategic stability,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.The Spokesperson’s remarks came after Chinese Foreign Ministry hoped that India’s test-firing of the nuclear-capable Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile that could cover all of China complied with UN Security Council rules and safeguarded South Asia’s strategic balance. Even as Beijing maintained that the two nations are “not rivals for competition but partners for cooperation”, it took exception to media reports that the successful test of Agni-V was meant to target China.Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying in Beijing said,” We have noted reports on India’s test fire of Agni-5 ballistic missile. The UN Security Council has explicit regulations on whether India can develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons”. “China always maintains that preserving the strategic balance and stability in South Asia is conducive to peace and prosperity of regional countries and beyond.” India had yesterday successfully test-fired Agni-V, the country’s most lethal nuclear-capable inter-continental ballistic missile with a range of over 5,000 kms that covers entire China which may also pave the way for user trial of the weapons system and its eventual induction into the Strategic Forces Command (SFC).

DRDO smart anti-airfield weapon test successful

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Defence and Research Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully flight tested the Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) from a Jaguar fighter jet capable of hitting ground targets within a range of 100 km.This is the second time in the last seven months when such a test has been successful. The first test was done in May 2016 in Bengaluru; this one took place at Chandipur off the Odisha coast on Friday. SAAW is an indigenously designed and developed 120-kg smart weapon, developed by DRDO. It is considered a world class weapon system that can be launched from a Jaguar and a Sukhoi aircraft. It can be effectively used to target enemy bunkers and runways with precision hitting.DRDO said in a press release that the captive and release trials were tracked by Radar and Telemetry ground stations at the Integrated Test Range during the entire duration of the flight.The performance of all systems was satisfactory with all the mission objectives achieved.“Secretary, Department of Defence (R&D) and Chairman, DRDO, Dr S Christopher, congratulated DRDO and the IAF teams for the successful mission.Scientific Advisor to RM and DG (Missile and Strategic Systems), DRDO, Dr G Satheesh Reddy, lauded the scientific community of the DRDO for their efforts towards the design.

ISI’s new chief has an agenda: scuttle India-Afghanistan ties

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In a dramatic reshuffle, Pakistan has replaced the Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar with Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar.The implications of the new appointment remain to be seen, but one can get a glimpse of Mukhtar’s strategy and his views on the relationship between India and Afghanistan and the troubled neighbourhood, in general, from his thesis ‘Afghanistan — Alternative futures and their implications’, written at the US Army War College.In his thesis, he speaks of taking ‘aggressive measures’ to undermine India and prevent Afghanistan from becoming its proxy, and allowing the US to employ diplomatic measures between India and Pakistan to ease tensions, especially on Kashmir.Intelligence sources here say that his role in the ISI had been drafted as early as in September by the then army chief General Raheel Sharif for his expertise in counter-terrorism and also for the role he played in Karachi, where he succeeded in manoeuvring the Mohajer political outfit Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).A fierce critic of the Pakistan army so far, the MQM was controlled from London by its exiled leader Altaf Hussain. During his former stint at the ISI and as then head of the Karachi Corps, Lt Gen Mukhtar is believed to have led secret missions against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).In his thesis, he speaks of taking ‘aggressive measures’ to undermine India and prevent Afghanistan from becoming its proxy, and allowing the US to employ diplomatic measures between India and Pakistan to ease tensions, especially on Kashmir.In sync with the trajectory upheld by the Pakistan military on handling the conflict-ridden Afghanistan, Mukhtar, in the thesis for his Masters in Strategic Studies, envisages the accommodation of the ‘moderate Taliban’ in the governance of the country.Mukhtar, who was elevated from his position as a corps commander in Karachi, had earlier served as the DG of the ISI’s counter-terrorism wing. His strategic mindset vis-a-vis Pakistan’s foreign policy on Afghanistan is reflected in his analyses on the future of the neighbouring country.Analysing Afghanistan’s transition when the US started withdrawing coalition forces in 2011, Mukhtar said that Pakistan needed to prevent the opening of another hostile front, should Afghanistan emerge as a proxy for India, and, to this effect, it “will closely follow India’s efforts to influence Afghanistan and may take aggressive measures to undermine India’s efforts in this regard.”India has huge stakes in the development of Afghanistan and has made major strides in the reconstruction of public infrastructure in the war-ravaged country through visible symbols like the new parliament building, Salma friendship dam, Afghan National Agriculture Science & Technology University, Kandahar, and many other projects in the health, power and education sectors.Its close alliance with Afghanistan in the civil-military sphere has made India a target of Taliban. Pakistan, too, views India as working against its interest in Afghanistan. Mukhtar presents four plausible future scenarios for Afghanistan, all of which include a positive outcome: accommodation of moderate Taliban factions as part of the governance structure.”Although India’s uncompromising anti-Taliban position has recently softened, India could still move to be a major destabilising force if it perceives that a return of a radicalised Taliban government is likely,” he writes.While acknowledging the indisputable power and role of the US in bringing long-term stability in Afghanistan, along with regional stakeholders, Mukhtar emphasises: “The US must employ major diplomatic measures to ease regional tensions, especially between India and Pakistan, with a focus on Kashmir.”

Indo-US ties are too dynamic, pulling back not in interest of anyone: Biswal

Washington: Indo-US ties are so broad and dynamic that pulling back on any aspect will not be in the interest of anyone, a top American official has said while observing that the next administration may want to add their own new areas of focus in the bilateral relationship.

“India-US relations will have to move beyond government to government. India-US relations are global, but they should also be local,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Nisha Desai Biswal told a Washington audience.

Speaking on the occasion of launch of “US-India State and Urban Initiative” by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank, Biswal stressed on building state to state relationships.

“Every successive administration is going to add some new areas of cooperation. The US-India relations are so broad, so complex, and so dynamic that pulling back on any aspect will not be in the interest of anyone,” Biswal said.

“The next administration will understand that, and might want to build on, and might want to add their own new areas of focus. That doesn’t mean that they will move away from what has already been built,” Biswal said in response to a question.

“The demand in India for new technologies and capital is high, and the desire in many places in the US to seek new areas of partnership with India is also high,” she said pointing out that India-US economic ties are responding to demands that already exist.

Representational image. News 18Representational image. News 18

Representational image. News 18

Amos J Hochstein, Special Envoy in the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, said India and the US are working together on addressing regulatory issues.

“The issues are plenty. Steady goals are extremely important to set the direction of where the country is going. But beyond setting the goals, there have to be follow ups. You can’t simply say that I am going to create 175 GW of renewable energy if you cannot solve some of the fundamental problems that do not allow that to happen,” he said.

“India is the best place in the world to invest in renewable energy. But the regulatory environment and all the issues related to financing will have to be resolved for that to happen,” he asserted.

“Just like the US where the regulatory authority of the federal government is rather limited…the states in the US have all the power. They will decide the future of their own state. The same is true in India. In addition to what central government is doing, what is happening at the state and local levels are also very important,” Hochstein said.

First Published On : Nov 20, 2016 18:57 IST

Modi in Japan: Full text of the Prime Minister’s media statement

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday expressed gratitude to his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for the support extended for India’s membership bid to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).‘I wish to thank Prime Minister Abe for the support extended for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group,’ Vikas Swarup, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) quoted Prime Minister Modi as saying.India and Pakistan are the two non-NPT states aspiring for the membership of the 48-member international nuclear trade body.Many countries, including China, had opposed India’s bid to join the NSG at its last meeting in June citing that the latter has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is the basic criteria to enter the NSG.Full Statement by Prime Minister during his visit to JapanNovember 11, 2016Your Excellency, Prime Minister Abe,Friends,Mina-Sama, Komban Wa!A Zen Buddhist saying in Japanese says – “Ichigo Ichie” , which means that our every meeting is unique and we must treasure every moment.I have visited Japan many times, and this is my second visit as Prime Minister. And, every visit has been unique, special, educative and deeply rewarding.I have met Excellency Abe on many occasions in Japan, India and around the world. I have also had the privilege of receiving several high level Japanese political and business leaders in India in the last couple of years.The frequency of our interaction demonstrates the drive, dynamism and depth of our ties. It also reflects our continuing commitment to realize the full potential of our Special Strategic and Global Partnership.Friends, In our conversation today, Prime Minister Abe and I took stock of the progress in our ties since the last Summit. It is clear to both of us that our cooperation has progressed on multiple fronts.Deeper economic engagement, growth of trade, manufacturing and investment ties, focus on clean energy, partnership to secure our citizens, and cooperation on infrastructure and skill development are among our key priorities.Today’s signing of the Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy marks a historic step in our engagement to build a clean energy partnership.Our cooperation in this field will help us combat the challenge of Climate Change. I also acknowledge the special significance that such an agreement has for Japan.I thank Prime Minister Abe the Japanese government and the Parliament for their support to this agreement.Friends,India and its economy are pursuing many transformations. Our aim is to become a major centre for manufacturing, investments and for the twenty first century knowledge industries.And, in this journey, we see Japan as a natural partner. We believe there is vast scope to combine our relative advantages, whether of capital, technology or human resources, to work for mutual benefit.In terms of specific projects, we remain focused on making strong progress on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail project. Our engagement and agreement on cooperation in the financial sector will help us in accessing greater resources for infrastructure development.Our dialogue in regard to training and skills development has broken new ground, and is an important component of our economic partnership. We are also shaping new partnerships in areas such as space science, marine and earth since, textiles, sports, agriculture and postal banking.Friends,Our strategic partnership is not only for the good and security of our own societies. It also brings peace, stability and balance to the region. It is alive and responsive to emerging opportunities and challenges in Asia-Pacific.As countries with an inclusive outlook, we have agreed to cooperate closely to promote connectivity, infrastructure and capacity-building in the regions that occupy the inter-linked waters of the Indo-Pacific.The successful Malabar naval exercise has underscored the convergence in our strategic interests in the broad expanse of the waters of the Indo-Pacific.As democracies, we support openness, transparency and the rule of law. We are also united in our resolve to combat the menace of terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism.Friends,The relations between our two countries are blessed by deep cultural and people to people ties. During Prime Minister Abe’s visit to India in December last year, I had committed to take steps to create basis for their further expansion.And, as a result, since March 2016 we extended ‘Visa-On Arrival’ facility to all Japanese nationals. We have also gone a step further in extending a long-term 10-year visa facility to eligible Japanese business persons.Friends,India and Japan also consult and cooperate closely in regional and international fora. We will continue to work together for reforms of the United Nations and strive together for our rightful place in the UN Security Council.I wish to thank Prime Minister Abe for the support extended for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.Excellency Abe,We both recognize that the future of our partnership is rich and robust. There is no limit to the scope and scale of what we can do together, for ourselves and for the region.And, a key reason for this is your strong and dynamic leadership. It is indeed a privilege to be your partner and friend. I wish to thank you for the most valuable outcomes of this Summit, and for your generous welcome and hospitality.Anata No O Motenashi O Arigato Gozaimashita!(Thank you for your kind hospitality!)

PM’s Japan visit: Modi meets Emperor Akihito

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Japanese Emperor Akihito on Friday morning on the second day of his visit to the country. Later, he will also meet some opposition and other political leaders.India and Japan will ink about 12 pacts and possibly sign a crucial civil nuclear deal on Friday after wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Shinzo Abe aimed at giving a fillip to the bilateral strategic relations. At the annual Summit, the two leaders will also discuss ways to enhance ties in a broad range of areas, including security, trade and investment, skill development and infrastructure development.Modi will address Japanese business leaders during his two days of official programme on Friday and Saturday in Tokyo and in Kobe.Ahead of his visit, Modi said he looks forward to reviewing the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation when he meets Abe in Tokyo on November 11. “I will have detailed interaction with top business leaders from India and Japan, to look for ways to further strengthen our trade and investment ties,” he said.After the Summit talks, about 12 pacts will be signed by the two sides, sources said, adding these would cover areas like skill development, cultural exchanges and infrastructure. Amid high expectations about the civil nuclear deal being signed tomorrow, the two sides were in the process of concluding the negotiations, sources said on Thursday.The two countries had sealed a broad agreement during Abe’s visit to India last December but the final deal was yet to be signed as certain technical and legal issues were to be thrashed out. Both the countries have completed the internal procedures including legal and technical aspects of the text of the pact, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said last week. When specifically asked whether the pact will be signed during Modi’s visit, he only said, “I cannot pre-judge outcome of the talks.”Negotiations for the nuclear deal between the two sides have been going on for a number of years but the progress on these was halted because of political resistance in Japan after the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.From Tokyo, Modi, accompanied by Abe, will travel to Kobe by the famed Shinkansen bullet train, the technology that will be deployed for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway. He will visit the Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility in Kobe, where high speed trains are manufactured. “Our partnership with Japan is characterized as a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. India and Japan see each other through a prism of shared Buddhist heritage, democratic values, and commitment to an open, inclusive and rules-based global order,” Modi had said in his pre-departure statement.

VP Hamid Ansari inaugurates High Commission Chancery complex at Abuja

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Vice President Hamid Ansari has lauded the 35,000-strong Indian community in Nigeria for its commendable service to the country as he inaugurated the Indian High Commission’s Chancery complex in Abuja, capital city of Nigeria.Ansari, who arrived in Abuja last night on the first leg of his two-nation visit, interacted with the Indian community members and posed for photographs with them.The Vice President lauded the efforts in the 35,000- strong Indian community in Nigeria at a function on Monday night for their commendable service to the African country, be it in the field of teaching, IT or business.He also said this Nigerian capital is a true model of a Smart City, a concept which India is trying to develop.The foundation stone of the High Commission building, located at Cadastral Zone in the Federal Capital Territory, was laid by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his visit to Abuja in 2003.On the occasion, a photography exhibition titled “India-Nigeria Relations: Evolution to Strategic Partnership” was inaugurated and an e-book on bilateral ties launched.Ansari and his wife also planted a sapling in the premises of the high commission building.

Private Indian defence firms knock at PMO’s doors for getting more business

Top Indian defence companies have expressed serious concerns over the slow rate of defence acquisition, taking the issue to the doorsteps of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This, at a time when Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ and FDI relaxation up to 100 per cent are being seen as game-changers for manufacturing industry.According to sources, industry representatives, who recently met Principal Secretary to the PM Nripendra Misra and plan panel Niti Ayog’s CEO Amitabh Kant pointed that “long and inordinate delay in acquisition cycle is making them bleed financially”.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Industry’s apprehensions have come even as the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) – the apex decision making body of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) on new procurements — has accepted and cleared projects worth more than Rs 3 lakhs crores after the NDA government took over but, none of the projects have converted into contracts.The industry have asked for ‘milestone payments’, i.e, payments linked with stage-wise progress on projects as recommended by the former home secretary Dhirendra Singh-led expert committee on amendments in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP).The meeting at PMO comes close on the heels of the industry taking their concerns to defence minister Manohar Parrikar . The meeting with Parrikar mainly concerned finalizing the ‘Strategic Partnership Model’ (SPM). Once in place, the SPM will open gates for domestic firms to enter into few critical manufacturing like submarines and aircraft on the lines of the Defence Public sector Undertakings and Ordnance Factories.Among other things, the industry pressed for transparency and clarity on minimum bulk orders so that they could plan their investments in setting up the assembly lines.

Pakistan says it is only opposed to ‘exclusive membership’ of NSG for India

A day ahead of the crucial Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meet in Seoul over India and Pakistan’s membership in the elite group, Pakistan’s former permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva Zamir Akram said, that Islamabad was only opposed to the ‘exclusive membership’ of India.According to Dawn, Akram was speaking at a roundtable discussion organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), on the implications of the upcoming plenary session of the NSG on June 23-24 in Seoul, South Korea, where deliberations will be held on membership for non-NPT states, including Pakistan and India. “Pakistan supports the evolution of criteria that can be applied across the board,” Akram said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Speaking at the roundtable, Akram warned about the likely implications if India alone was admitted into the NSG, including dimming of future prospects for Pakistan’s entry into the club and likely growth in Indian nuclear arsenal. SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that India’s alone entry into the NSG would put back Pakistani efforts for developing its infrastructure and industry by decades.These comments follow the statement by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj that India does not object to any country, including Pakistan to join the NSG.China is the leading challenger to the West-supported bid to get India into the 48-member nuclear trade cartel. According to the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, “China maintains that the NSG fully discuss the accession of non-NPT countries and make decisions based on consultation in a way acceptable to all”.

Industry meets Parrikar over stuck-up provisions for private players to enter critical defence production

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar late on Saturday held a key meeting with Indian defence industry representatives to finalise the ‘Strategic Partnership Model’ (SPM). Once in place, the SPM will open gates for domestic firms to enter into few critical manufacturing like submarines and aircraft on the lines of the Defence Public sector Undertakings and Ordnance Factories.Sources said that Parrikar, confronted with industry apprehensions over delay in announcing the model and some of its recommended provisions assured the industry representatives of their view points being accommodated.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Among other things, the industry wants transparency and clarity on minimum bulk orders so that they could plan their investments in setting up the assembly lines even as a committee under VK Atre, former DRDO chief, had been appointed to suggest measures on implementing SPM.Based on feedback, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) recently made five sub-groups under industry representatives to make specific suggestions on SPM.A total of six segments have been identified by MoD for strategic partnership in which, instead of the earlier process of handing out the contract to the lowest bidder, private domestic industry will be allowed to participate. These are military aircraft, warships, submarines, armoured vehicles, complex weapons that rely on guidance system, Command and Control System and critical materials (special alloys and composites).A new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was released by the MoD earlier this year and it came into effect from April 1. While this will allow a bulk of business contracts stuck in the lack of clarity, to be handed to manufacturers, a key component of Make In India, that on Strategic Partnerships which seeks to allow private home-grown industry to be part of critical manufacturing in defence , haven’t been finalised yet.Quite a few Indian industry have shown keenness in Strategic partnership. Notably, of the five companies, were identified last year for country’s first ‘Make in India’ Submarine project, Anil Ambani owned RelianceInfrastructure and Larsen & Toubro were there two besides the state owned manufacturers Cochin Shipyard Limited, Mazagon Dock Limited and Hindustan Shipyard Limited. The Rs 64,000-crore project called P-75 I is for next generation submarines to be built by domestic firms in collaboration with a foreign firm of their choice. However, in the lack of SPM, the contract process for the project has not moved ahead. While six of the total seven chapters of the DPP are out, chapter 6 that dealt with Strategic partnership remains to be fine tuned and released. The MoD has now said SPM will be a different document all together, separate from DPP.

India’s admission into NSG may figure in China-US talks

Amid deepening divisions over the disputed South China Sea, China and US will hold their high level annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue during which a host of issues including differences over India’s entry into the NSG are expected to be discussed.Billed as the most comprehensive dialogue between the world’s two largest economies, it will be attended by top officials from both sides, including US Secretary of State John Kerry.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>While South China Sea (SCS) issue which has now become a major flash point between the two countries is expected to dominate the two-day talks, a host of other issues including Taiwan, Tibet and India’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are also expected to figure.While the US has expressed its firm backing to India’s inclusion into the 48-member nuclear club building on the India-US nuclear accord, China has been insisting that there should be consensus among the members about inclusion of countries who have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.India has not signed the NPT on the ground that it is discriminatory.Officials here are hopeful of a solution as China-US dialogue is taking place ahead of two of NSG’s key plenary meetings on June 9 in Vienna and June 24 in Seoul during which the issue is expected to come up.As India pressed its case, Pakistan too has applied amid reports that China is trying to push the case of its all-weather ally.India itself has taken up this issue with top Chinese leadership as part of high profile diplomacy, specially during last month’s President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit here.However, China last night said that differences still prevailed among the NSG members about non-NPT members.”Discussion within the NSG is still going on about the accession of non-NPT countries, and NSG members remain divided on this issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry told PTI.Still sticking to its stand that that new members should sign the NPT, the Ministry said “the NSG is part and parcel of the international non-proliferation regime”.About the Pakistan application which China is reportedly backing, the Ministry said “China has noted Pakistan’s official application for NSG membership. Pakistan is not a party state to the NPT.”Ahead of the US-China dialogue, Chinese officials said besides the SCS, China will bring up topics related to its major concerns, including the Taiwan question, Tibet and maritime security.The two countries have differing pursuits on major issues at the strategic level.However, the two still have many common interests, official media here quoted Chinese officials as saying.

Power Minister Piyush Goyal to visit Singapore and push for energy cooperation

Piyush Goyal Image Courtesy: PIB

Piyush Goyal Image Courtesy: PIB

New Delhi : Power Minister Piyush Goyal will lead a high-powered delegation to Singapore from Monday, eyeing deeper engagement in the energy sector with the city-state which is an important source of FDI in India.

“The visit would primarily focus upon engaging with the leading energy and technology companies and also strengthening connection with Singapore’s strong investor community,” FICCI  said in a statement.

“It aims to further strengthen relations, which have been elevated to the level of ‘Strategic Partnership’ between the two nations having received a boost under the present Government,” it added.

Singapore is a global financial hub for clean technology funds, asset management companies and private equity funds. It is home to commodity traders especially those dealing withproducts like coal and natural gas.

US keen to forge ‘closer and stronger’ military relationship with India: Defence Secretary Ashton Carter

The US is keen to forge a “closer and stronger” military relationship with India, Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has said ahead of his visit to India during which “a whole bunch of things” will be announced to boost Indo-US strategic ties.”What we are looking for is a closer relationship and a stronger relationship as we can, because it is geo-politically grounded,” Carter said yesterday indicating that he will soon be heading towards India.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The specific things we are doing with them is two-fold.One, is we have the rebalance so to speak, westward from the United States. They have Act East, which is their strategic approach eastward,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank.These are like two hands grasping one another and that’s a good thing, he added.”Second, our defence technology and trade initiative, which is an effort to work with India and to do something they want to do….They (Indians) want to improve their technical capabilities of their own defence industry and their own defence capabilities. But they don’t just want to be a buyer.They want to be a co-developer and co-producers. So, they want that kind of relationship,” Carter said.”That’s what we are working with them on. And that matches very much up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India Initiative. And so, we are very much aligned in terms of what the government there is try to do strategically and economically and what we want to do with them defence wise,” he said.”When I go over there, we got a whole bunch of things that we will be announcing at that time. And I want to announce beforehand, but better, new milestones in this relationship,” Carter said without indicating when will the visit take place.In response to a question, Carter acknowledged that he does spend “a lot of time” on Indo-US defence ties.”We also have a lot of common interests geo-politically and geo-strategically. One of them is to keep a good thing going, in the whole Asia-Pacific, or Indo-Asia Pacific region,” he said, adding that the US is looking to do more with India.

Not involved in ‘nuclear’ race with India: Pakistan ambassador

Rejecting the perception that Islamabad is engaged in a nuclear race with New Delhi, Pakistan’s envoy in Washington Jalil Abbas Jilani said that the nation did not have a reckless nuclear strategy.”It is disingenuous to create a perception that Pakistan has some grand strategy to recklessly build a nuclear arsenal to its own and the region’s peril,” the Dawn quoted Jilani as saying.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The upcoming Nuclear Summit in Washington, which is the fourth and final of President Barack Obama’s administration has brought focus on Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons because of its agenda.This led to a series of stories in the US media, claiming that terrorists could only access nuclear weapons in Pakistan because it is making small-sized (tactical) weapons and also because terrorists are actively fighting government forces in that country.However, Ambassador Jilani speaking to Dawn, rejected the claim that Pakistan had the fastest growing nuclear arsenal as a “misplaced opinion based on theoretical assumptions”. “The oft-paddled opinions on so-called tactical nuclear weapons are off the mark. Pakistan’s short-range missile is not a unique weapon system in South Asia. India also has such missiles for tactical use in the battlefield,” he said.Pointing out that last week India tested a long range submarine launched missile, Jilani said that it demonstrated the India has operationalised a nuclear triad. “India arms imports, according to a Stockholm think-tank, increased by 90% over the past five years as compared to previous five years. India tops this unprecedented level of armament with war fighting doctrines such as cold start to win a war below nuclear threshold.” He added.Jilan asserted that concerns about a nuclear race in South Asia could be resolved if India agreed to start a dialogue with Pakistan on a Strategic Restraint Regime.”India has refused to consider this long-standing proposal by Pakistan. The ball is now in India’s court. Our troubled history with India, potential of outstanding conflicts to create tensions, deep-seated mistrust and India?s continued accumulation of conventional and nuclear capabilities leave Pakistan with no option but to invest in its own nuclear capability for defence,” he added.The ambassador pointed out that India separated weapon-grade plutonium in 1964, 22 years before Pakistan could even enrich uranium. If the assumptions applied to Pakistan were also applied to India, it would show that New Delhi has “a much larger nuclear arsenal” and is “moving towards MIRVs (a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle), which is ostensibly a destabilising move,” Jilani said.”The country having the largest nuclear programme outside Non-Proliferation Treaty Regime is India and it continues to follow a maximalist approach in expanding its nuclear arsenal,” he added. Jilani also urged the international community to note that a significant portion of India’s nuclear programme was outside any safeguards.Quoting from a recent report by the Institute of Science and International Studies, Washington, he claimed that India had 32 tons of plutonium in spent fuel along with reprocessing plants without safeguards. “Availability of significant amounts of unsafeguarded nuclear materials and unsafeguarded reprocessing plants requires no further imagination to understand its likely military use,” Ambassador Jilani said.

New Defence Procurement Procedure finalised; to allow fast track acquisition during peacetime too

The new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) was given a final approval on Monday by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Announcing this, Defence minister Manohar Parrikar told reporters here that the new draft will be available online on March 28. The decision was taken during a Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) — the highest decision making body on new procurement at MoD — meeting chaired by Parrikar.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”While six of the total seven chapters have been finalised, chapter 6 that deals with Strategic partnership remains to be fine tuned and will take another one to two months,” Parrikar said. The new DPP will be tilted in favour of two categories of procurement – the Indigenously Designed and Development Manufacturing (IDDM) and Buy and Make in India, he said.The new DPP will also have provision for allowing the DAC to fast track the procedure by bypassing the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) process, in urgent cases like requirements if the Special Forces.A policy on blacklisting, however, has not been finalised yet and will be a separate document, Parrikar said. Acquisitions worth close to Rs 3.12 lakh crore has been approved by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) — the highest decision making body over the subject — since the Modi government took over in May, 2014. However, the acquisitions have not fructified – none of the projects have till date converted into contracts- due to a lack of clarity on various procurement issues.”We aim to create a good playing ground for indigenous manufacturing,” Parrikar said.

Modi government’s has a mixed record, experts tell US lawmakers

Washington:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s government record after completion of over two years in power has been “mixed” as despite doing its best to roll out a red carpet for investors, it preferred caution over boldness, an American expert on India has told lawmakers.

“So far, the Modi government’s record has been mixed. It has done its best to roll out a red carpet for investors, with the prime minister himself acting as India’s chief pitchman,” Sadanand Dhume, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing.

“However, in terms of deep structural reform, the government has either been stymied by the opposition or has
itself preferred caution to boldness,” Dhume said.

A file photo of Narendra Modi. AFPA file photo of Narendra Modi. AFP

A file photo of Narendra Modi. AFP

Despite a comfortable majority in the Lower House of Parliament, the Modi government has done nothing to reverse the previous government’s laws like an unpopular retroactive tax, said Dhume, also a Wall Street Journal columnist.

Dhume said, “instead of winding up the previous government’s flagship make-work programme, a notoriously leaky rural job guarantee that wasted billions of dollars, the Modi government has increased its funding to a record level.”

At the same time, he said a lot has been achieved under the Modi-led government.

“Foreign investment norms have been eased in, among other areas, defence, insurance and food processing. Between May 2014 and December 2015, foreign direct investment in India rose 33 per cent to USD 64 billion compared to USD 48 billion in the 20 months before Modi’s election,” Dhume said.

“Several high profile firms, including Taiwan’s Foxconn and South Korea’s Posco have pledged billions of dollars of
fresh investment in India. Large US investors include General Electric, General Motors, Uber and Oracle,” he told lawmakers.

Dhume told lawmakers that Washington should continue to encourage the emergence of India as a prosperous and strong democracy that acts as a stabilising force in the region and beyond.

“At the same time, the US needs to deepen trade ties with India with the strategic goal of remaining India’s largest single trading partner taking into account both goods and services,” he said.

Meanwhile, Richard M Rossow, senior fellow, Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies Center for Strategic and
International Studies and other commentators regularly lament that they expected more, deeper reforms by this point.

“But the Modi government’s track record is solid, if unspectacular,” Rossow said.

Rossow also said that Modi has surprised the American security community with his forward leaning views on Asian
security which matches that of the US.

“We have also made progress on our long-stalled ‘Defense Technology and Trade Initiative’ programs for co-development and co-production of defence material, as well as renewing our defense framework agreement for another ten years,” he said.

“India has become one of the largest markets for US defence exports, and a major partner for joint exercises,” he
said.

PTI

Pakistan to resume foreign secretary-level talks with India after Pathankot probe team’s visit

Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that talks with India are likely to resume after a team visits Pathankot in the upcoming days, to investigate into the deadly attack on the Indian Air Force Base.According to the Dawn, an official transcript released on Tuesday quoted Aziz as saying that the foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries could be rescheduled soon after the visit. <!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>After a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, Aziz said expressed his disappointment over the current state between the two hostile neighbours, saying that it was unfortunate that the Pathankot attack disrupted the resumption of secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan.He pointed out that since the attack, Pakistan had taken a number of ‘important steps’ for resumption of these talks.”Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) immediately after the attack and assured him of Pakistan’s support in the investigation. National security advisers are maintaining frequent contacts,” he said during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue he co-chaired with Secretary Kerry.”A case has been registered and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is likely to visit India in the next few days. We, therefore, hope that the foreign secretary-level talks will be scheduled very soon,” he added.Aziz also asserted that Pakistan decision to ‘reach out’ to India after the Pathankot attack was an important part of Islamabad’s strategy to improve ties with all neighbouring states. “We believe that the resolution of all outstanding issues ” including the Kashmir dispute is possible through resumption of full-scale and uninterrupted dialogue with India,” he said.Soon after the Pathankot attack, Pakistan set up a six-member Special Investigation Team to follow up on the leads India had provided.

US, Pakistan call for resolving Kashmir issue through dialogue in joint statement

Washington: The US and Pakistan have emphasised on the need for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue and called on “all parties” in the region to act with “maximum restraint” for reducing tensions.

“The US and Pakistan emphasised the importance of meaningful dialogue in support of peaceful resolution of outstanding issues, including Kashmir,” said a US-Pakistan joint statement, issued a day after the two countries concluded their sixth Strategic Dialogue.

The dialogue was co-chaired by US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Pakistani counterpart Sartaj Aziz.

Sartaj Aziz. AFPSartaj Aziz. AFP

Sartaj Aziz. AFP

“The delegations underscored that all parties in the region should continuously act with maximum restraint and work collaboratively toward reducing tensions,” the joint statement said.

“Noting the steps taken by Pakistan to date, including the detention of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) leader Maulana Masood Azhar, the US appreciated PM Sharif’s stated commitment to take prompt and decisive action on this investigation and to bring the perpetrators of the January 2, 2016 attack on the Pathankot air base to justice,” it said.

However, there was no mention of India in the entire joint statement, in which the US acknowledged Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to harmonise its strategic trade controls with those of the multilateral export control regimes.

The US also lauded Pakistan’s “proactive engagement” with the international community, including through its hosting of IAEA training activities at its Nuclear Security Centre of Excellence and its active participation in the Nuclear Security Summits, it said.

The US looked forward to Sharif’s participation in the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit and appreciated Pakistan’s commitment, in principle, to ratify the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

According to the joint statement, Pakistan affirmed that it remains committed to pursuing measures aimed at building confidence and lessening the risk of armed conflict.

Both sides recognised the shared interest in strategic stability in South Asia and in pursuing increased transparency. The two sides look forward to the upcoming Security, Strategic Stability, and Nonproliferation (SSS&NP) working group meeting in May 2016, it said.

During the strategic dialogue, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to countering terrorism including by targeting all terrorists without discrimination.

Aziz affirmed Pakistan’s resolve to take effective action against UN-designated terrorist individuals and entities, including al-Qaida, the Haqqani Network, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and its affiliates, as per its international commitments and obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force.

The two countries committed to continue promoting peace, stability, and transparency in the region and to eliminate the threats posed by violent extremism and terrorism.

PTI

Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif may meet in Washington this month: Sartaj Aziz

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Washington later this month on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit, a top aide to Pakistan Premier said today.”There are chances of meeting between the two (prime ministers),” Sartaj Aziz, the Foreign Affairs Advisor to Sharif, told PTI.”There are possibilities, when they are here (in Washington DC). They would interact with each other. Whether there would be a structured meeting I do not know. Depends on…Chances are there (for a meeting),” Aziz said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The top Pakistani diplomat is in Washington to attend the sixth US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue which he co-chaired with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday. Aziz said Sharif would be travelling to Washington to attend the Nuclear Security Summit at the invitation of US President Barack Obama.Modi too has been invited to the Summit on March 31 and April 1. No official announcement has been made yet.Responding to a question on the status of India-Pak relationship after Modi came to power in May 2014, Aziz said in the first year the situation was “not good”.”But the last two months are better,” Aziz said.Ahead of the Modi-Sharif meeting, Aziz said there is likelihood of a meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. The timing of which has not been decided yet, he noted.”We do not know (when foreign secretaries would meet). He (Indian Foreign Secretary) has to come to Islamabad first. We are hoping that now,” Aziz said after the breakfast meeting with Defence Writers Group.

Pak SIT on Pathankot attack likely to visit India soon: Sartaj Aziz

A Pakistani team probing the Pathankot terror attack may visit India in the next few days, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz said on Monday and expressed hope that the Foreign Secretary-level talks will be scheduled very soon after that.”It is unfortunate that the agreement on resuming the dialogue process was disrupted by the attack on Pathankot Airbase on January 2. Pakistan has taken some important steps in the aftermath of the Pathankot incident,” Aziz said in his opening remarks to the US-Pak Strategic Dialogue. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) immediately after the attack and assured of Pakistan’s support in the investigation. National Security Advisers are maintaining frequent contacts,” he said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”Case has been registered and the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is likely to visit India in the next few days. We therefore hope that the Foreign Secretary level-talks will be scheduled very soon,” Aziz said during the US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue which he co-chaired with US Secretary of State John Kerry. As an important part of Sharif Government’s policy of peaceful neighbourhood, Islamabad has reached out to India, he noted.”We believe that the resolution of all outstanding issues – including the Kashmir dispute – is possible through resumption of full-scale and uninterrupted dialogue with India. We had also proposed a mechanism to address our respective concerns on terrorism,” Aziz said.A six-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) was set up by Pakistan government for the initial probe into the January 2 attack based on the leads given by India. Three men arrested for their alleged role in the attack were sent to a six-day police remand by an anti-terrorism court in Gujranwala city of Punjab on Saturday.The FIR by the Counter-Terrorism Department of Punjab police has been lodged on the basis of information provided by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval that four attackers crossed from Pakistan into India and attacked the airbase. The attack led to the postponement of a scheduled meeting between Foreign Secretaries of Pakistan and India in January in Islamabad. Since then, no date has been fixed for the talks.

India rules out troop withdrawal from Siachen, says Pakistan cannot be trusted

New Delhi: Notwithstanding the loss of 10 soldiers in avalanche in Siachen recently, India on Friday ruled out withdrawal of army from the icy heights in Jammu and Kashmir, saying Pakistan cannot be trusted and it may occupy the strategic area if India vacates.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said in Lok Sabha that vacating Siachen could lead to bigger loss of lives and reminded about the “experience” of 1984 when India evicted Pakistan from the strategically critical heights after a bloody fight.

“I know we have to pay the price and I salute our armed forces personnel. But we have to maintain this position. We have to man the strategic position. The position is very important from the strategic point,” Parrikar said while replying to questions against the backdrop of the recent loss of 10 soldiers in an avalanche.

“I don’t think anyone in this House can take Pakistan’s words for granted…If we vacate the position, the enemy can occupy the position and they would have the strategic advantage. Then we would have to lose many more lives. We know the experience of 1984 (Siachen conflict),” he said.

India occupies the highest point in Siachen glaciers, the Saltoro Ridge which is located at 23,000 feet, he said.

On 3 February, an avalanche hit an army post in a forward location in Siachen glacier, burying 10 soldiers, including a JCO. One of them was found alive under a huge mass of ice after six days but he died a few days later.

The Defence Minister said so far 915 people have lost their lives in the last 32 years in Siachen, which comes to 28 lives every year. This has now been reduced to 10 lives every year.

Parrikar said constant medical support is given to those serving in the Siachen glaciers which is six times more than the normal medical care. A total of 19 categories of clothing are provided to the soldiers in addition to various other assistance like snow scooters.

“There is no supply shortage. … We can’t totally conquer nature,” he said.

In Rajya Sabha, JD(U) member KC Tyagi voiced concern over the death of soldiers in Siachen recently and said India and Pakistan should work towards withdrawal of troops from such tough areas to save the lives from both sides.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Tyagi referred to the avalanche mishap and said many Indian and Pakistani soldiers die due to difficult working conditions in Siachen.

He recalled that during the Prime Ministership of Rajiv Gandhi, an attempt was made to withdraw forces from both sides from such difficult terrain.

This issue should figure in talks between India and Pakistan whenever it happens next time so that untimely deaths of soldiers can be prevented, Tyagi said.

PTI

Stop double standards on dealing with terror, India and UAE tell the world

New Delhi: India and the UAE have strongly condemned state sponsors of terrorism and use of terrorism as a state policy, according to a joint issued on Friday, the concluding day of the three-day visit to India of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the USE Armed Force Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndiaMohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Image courtesy: Twitter/@MEAIndia

The statement said that both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sheikh Mohamed “strongly condemned extremism and terrorism in all of their forms and manifestations, irrespective of who the perpetrators are and of their motivations”.

“They reiterated that any justification for terrorism and any link between extremism or terrorism and religion should be strongly rejected by the international community,” it stated.

“They reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy.”

The statement also deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called “non-state actors”, and to cut all support to terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states.

“The two sides deplored the use of double standards in addressing the menace of international terrorism and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system,” it stated.

“In the context of the growing phenomenon of religious intolerance and radicalisation being witnessed worldwide, the two leaders commended each other on their efforts to build pluralistic societies based on universal values of humanity and peaceful co-existence among different faiths and communities.”

On the business and economic front, the Gulf nation expressed its interest in investing in infrastructure development in India, especially in priority areas such as railways, roads, ports, and shipping.

During the visit of Modi to the UAE in August last year, the first by an Indian prime minister in 34 years, the Gulf nation committed $75 billion in investments in India’s infrastructure sector.

In Friday’s statement, the two leaders welcomed the signing of a framework memorandum of understanding (MoU) between which would serve to facilitate and expand the participation of UAE investors in infrastructure projects in India.

“The two sides described these developments as important steps towards reaching the USD 75 billion target for UAE investments in India’s infrastructure development plans,” it said.

India also thanked the UAE for showing interest in the proposal for establishing a semiconductor fabrication facility in India.

“The two sides agreed to further business-to-business cooperation in information technology (IT), information technology-enabled services (ITeS), and electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM),” the statement said.

Both countries also agreed to enhance cooperation in space science and space technology and to explore a long-term plan to identify cooperation projects in areas of mutual interest.

With energy being the central pillar of the economic relationship between the two countries, the Modi and Sheikh Mohamed expressed satisfaction at their growing bilateral trade in the energy sector.

“They welcomed the intention of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) and the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd. (ISPRL) to sign a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a strategic petroleum eeserve in India, and agreed to conclude negotiations in the near future,” the statement said.

“The two sides looked forward to increased cooperation in the crude oil sector, including through training, and human resources development. The Indian side conveyed the keen interest of Indian oil companies in forming joint ventures with and offering equity participation to UAE companies, as well as in seeking participation in prospective exploration rounds in the UAE and in opportunities for joint exploration in third countries.”

On climate change, the two leaders noted that the development of sustainable sources of energy was a shared strategic priority.

In the area of defence cooperation, the two sides renewed their commitment to strengthening the existing cooperation in training, and joint exercises as well as identifying opportunities to cooperate on the production of defence equipment in India.

“The two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean region, which is vital for the security and prosperity of both countries,” the statement said.

The Abu Dhabi also appreciated the role and contribution that the Indian community has made to the UAE’s development, noting that Indian citizens in the UAE were highly respected for their peaceful and hard-working ethics.

There are around 2.6 million expatriate Indians in the UAE, around 60 percent of whom are blue collar workers.

IANS

India, UAE ask countries to cut ‘support’ to militant groups

Deciding to expand cooperation in combating terrorism, India and the UAE on Friday came out strongly against use of terror as an “instrument of state policy” and asked countries to cut “all support” to militant groups operating from their soil.Without naming any country, both sides, in a joint statement, also condemned use of religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism while expressing concern over radicalisation and religious intolerance. They said nations must control activities of ‘non-state actors’.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On trade, a major aspect of bilateral ties, the statement, issued a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held extensive talks, said UAE will ramp up investment in diverse sectors in India including railways, petroleum, roads, ports and shipping.It said both leaders looked forward to the early signing of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement to further expand ties and resolved to build on the momentum by pursuing collaboration in trade and investment, security and defence, energy and climate change among others.The talks produced “far-reaching cooperation”, Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said. The two sides also agreed to bolster strategic ties by continuing to work closely on a range of security issues, particularly on counter-terrorism, maritime security, and cyber-security, the statement said.The two countries have signed nine pacts covering a range of key areas. UAE Ambassador Ahmed Al Banna, earlier this week, had said 16 MoUs, including one on cooperation in civil nuclear energy may be signed. No nuclear pact was signed and there was no indication why the figure for MoUs given by the envoy did not materialise. When asked, sources only referred to the inter-agency processes without elaborating.On dealing with terrorism, the statement said they deplored the “use of double standards” in addressing the challenge and agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system.”They reiterated their condemnation for efforts, including by states, to use religion to justify, support and sponsor terrorism against other countries, or to use terrorism as instrument of state policy. “They further deplored efforts by countries to give religious and sectarian colour to political issues and pointed out the responsibility of all states to control the activities of the so-called ‘non-state actors’, and to cut all support to terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states,” the statement said.

Government to announce list of first 20 Smart Cities today

The first 20 cities to be developed as Smart Cities will be announced on Thursday, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said yesterday.There are 97 cities in the Smart City Challenge, and the names of the first 20 winners of the competition will be announced tomorrow, Naidu said. These cities will be developed to have basic infrastructure through assured water and power supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Naidu was addressing about 100 senior officers of Army, Navy, Air Force and civil service, including 25 foreign officials, participating in a course on ‘National Security and Strategic Studies’ at the National Defence College here.In the subsequent years, the government will announce 40 cities each to be developed as Smart Cities as per Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to develop 100 Smart Cities in the country.Speaking on challenges and the way ahead for urban development, Naidu said perpetuation of inequities in urban areas has serious implications for national security and hence, the government is committed to ensuring inclusive development under new initiatives like Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Smart City Mission, Swachh Bharat and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). Naidu stressed on the need for inclusive urban development, noting that “it was the need of the hour with ‘Young India’ becoming more and more aspirational”.He expressed concern regarding the exploitation of urban spaces by the well-to-do sections of the society at the cost of the poor and the marginalised and stressed on inclusivity while taking decisions related to urban governance.

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