Tag Archives: NEW DELHI

Struggling to move forward

http://www.hindustantimes.com/editorial-views-on/Edits/Struggling-to-move-forward/Article1-1081625.aspx

Hindustan Times
New Delhi, June 24, 2013

It was telling that the storm over Washington’s attempts to hold open talks with the Taliban in Qatar all but drowned out the maiden Indo-US strategic dialogue of US secretary of state John Kerry. India and the US are now clearly moving apart on the issue of Afghanistan. The Barack Obama

administration is determined to have the US military withdraw from Afghanistan at all costs — including allowing Pakistan to broker a deal that would allow the Taliban to govern in Kabul.

India is strongly opposed to any talk of any future Afghan government that includes the Taliban seeing such a development as a major threat to its security and a fillip for the worst elements in Pakistan. The question is whether the nascent Indo-US strategic partnership can survive differences over Afghanistan — and thus Pakistan.

In a mature strategic relationship, it is not uncommon for partner nations to disagree fundamentally over specific issues while maintaining the larger relationship. France is a treaty ally of the US but has an unusually contentious relationship with the sole superpower.

One should expect India, whose relationship with the US is far more informal and recent, to have its fair share of differences with Washington. The Indo-US relationship is strengthening and deepening in a whole host of other areas.

At the strategic dialogue here, the two largest democracies see eye-to-eye on regions like East Asia and the Indian Ocean and in areas like energy and counterterrorism.

The two countries have dozens of dialogues on every conceivable topic — the kind of interaction that would have been inconceivable even a decade ago.

Yet it is clear that the initial expectations of the Indo-US relationship have not been fulfilled. It would be too much to expect something as large as the Indo-US civil nuclear deal to once again animate relations.

And much of the quiet in areas like defence is because of the bureaucratic hurdles both sides have thrown up against each other. Economic difficulties in both nations have taken the steam out of bilateral trade and investment, leaving only a residue of disputes and protectionist measures.

But what has muddied the waters the most has been the geopolitical uncertainty that has infected both countries. Obama initially flirted with China, went back and forth on Afghanistan, and now makes India wonder about where the US is going with the Persian Gulf.

New Delhi has since been reassured about the US commitment to the Asia-Pacific but believes its worst fears about Afghanistan may be coming true. Until these brushes on the larger canvas are made clearer to the satisfaction of both sides, the Indo-US relationship will struggle to move forwards in the smaller, tactical areas.

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Kerry, Khurshid lob visa issue into IT industry court

http://www.thehindu.com/business/Industry/kerry-khurshid-lob-visa-issue-into-it-industry-court/article4847123.ece?homepage=true

The strategic dialogue also provides a roadmap to resolving other economic issues

The Fourth India-US strategic dialogue, co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and U.S Secretary of State John Kerry, did not resolve any of the economic issues during their sitting here on Monday but did provide a road map to resolving some of them.

India’s pressing concerns about a new law that will impose high fees for visas for software professionals will now be largely quarterbacked by corporates.

Reluctant America

India had wanted the issue to be discussed at a meeting of the Trade Policy Forum because it feels the higher visa fees is more of a non-tariff barrier than an immigration issue but the U.S. was reluctant. Both sides felt the industry, which would bear the brunt of the fee hike, should take it up with American legislators framing a new immigration law.

July meeting

Accordingly, this will be discussed at a meeting of the Indo-U.S. CEOs Forum on July 12 in Washington. This forum will also further develop joint initiatives and will discuss ways to overcome business challenges.

During the dialogue, New Delhi pointed out that Indian software professionals working in the U.S. was the pillar of the new closeness between the two countries.

Curbs such as a high upfront visa fee were a trade issue as it affected the working of Indian software companies in the U.S.

The U.S., on the other hand, pressed for a bilateral investment protection agreement but Indian diplomats wanted Washington to be patient as the new template was still being worked out by the Finance Ministry.

The existing format has the provision of a sovereign guarantee for every investment decision.

The Finance Ministry is now working on a model that not only keeps sovereign guarantees out but prohibits aggrieved companies from going in for arbitration if they lose their case in civil courts.

The dialogue also saw India expressing willingness on increasing the foreign direct investment limit in sectors such as defence and insurance although the Government’s ability to deliver on any likely commitment remains doubtful.

 

India assures U.S. a share of nuclear pie

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-assures-us-a-share-of-nuclear-pie/article4846708.ece?homepage=true

Sandeep Dikshit

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
The Hindu U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during a press conference in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy

India and the U.S. on Monday agreed to set a timeline for operationalising the civil nuclear agreement. The Fourth Strategic Dialogue co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid here reviewed several issues ranging from the status of civil nuclear ties between the two countries through defence trade to education and cultural exchanges — through some 30 bilateral panels.

The two ministers felt further high-level meetings should be held to achieve convergence and progress, especially in strategic issues. An example of such meetings will be the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden scheduled for mid-July.

The new U.S. Af Pak envoy James Dobbin, fresh from a visit to Qatar where the Taliban has opened an office, will arrive this Wednesday to ensure India’s concerns are taken on board as the West prepares to politically integrate the insurgent group, Mr. Kerry said at a joint press conference with Mr. Khurshid.

At the press conference, Mr. Kerry almost let slip America’s chagrin at not having tasted the fruits of the India-U.S. civil nuclear agreement by drawing attention to the enormous domestic political capital invested by Democrats and Republicans to ensure New Delhi was given a special exemption by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The Kerry-Khurshid meeting set September as a possible timeline for resolving two issues that have thwarted Westinghouse from setting up six reactors in Gujarat. Another company GE will set up an equal number in Andhra Pradesh but its reactor design has not yet been cleared by the U.S. nuclear regulator. India had promised these multi-billion bonanzas in exchange for supporting its case at the NSG and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

While Washington was able to make India agree on a deadline for clearing Westinghouse’s mega civil energy project, India was handed an assurance for importing shale gas from the U.S., which is likely to accrue by 2016-17. The shipments are likely to originate at the proposed LNG export terminal at Cove Point, Maryland.

The U.S. also continued to press India on adopting clean energy technologies. Of the large number of joint fact sheets released on every conceivable subject discussed by the two sides, the one on this was the most comprehensive. On Sunday, Mr. Kerry spent nearly half of his 45-minute lecture in convincing India to adopt clean technologies.

Apart from Afghanistan, another sore issue was cyber-snooping by American intelligence agencies. Officials had earlier expressed concern over double standards followed by Internet companies — denying India access to emails while happily opening their vaults to U.S. intelligence agencies.

But Mr. Khurshid sought to play down the controversy, even telling a correspondent that concern was not the right word to use. Mr. Kerry told newspersons that notwithstanding vigorous American efforts to arrest the whistleblower, access by its intelligence agencies to emails and other electronic messaging was meant to track patterns and not to read the content.

Differing viewpoints on Iran cropped up during the press meet. Mr. Kerry was strident on Iran’s refusal to fall in line with the West’s intentions and lauded India for being “very cooperative in holding them [Iran] accountable for proliferation.”

He hoped New Delhi would step in to convince the new leadership in Tehran to fall in line with the West. Mr. Khurshid, recently back from Tehran, maintained that India greatly valued its relationship with Iran and would prefer to judge and test the intentions of the new leadership before considering such a plunge.

Unhappy with compensation

India did not raise the killing of one fisherman and the injuries caused to two others by a U.S. warship off the coast of Abu Dhabi in July last year. In the past, India had expressed dissatisfaction with the paltry compensation given to the injured as well as with a heavily crossed out U.S. Navy probe report which put the blame on the three Tamil fishermen.

Sahara freeze order gets Sebi Rs 52 crore in cash, investments: report

http://profit.ndtv.com/news/corporates/article-sahara-freeze-order-gets-sebi-rs-52-crore-in-cash-investments-report-323634?pfrom=home-otherstories

New Delhi: Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has been able to get hold of cash and investments totalling about Rs. 52 crore and details of more than 450 acres of land so far through its attachment orders against Sahara group entities.

In the high-profile case involving refund of over Rs. 24,000 crore to the bondholders of two Sahara companies, Sebi had passed orders for attachment of various properties and freezing of accounts in February after the entities failed to deposit the entire money.

Cash totalling over Rs. 23 crore, received from various banks pursuant to these orders, has been invested in a term deposit for now, while investments worth about Rs. 28 crore in mutual funds and demat accounts have also been frozen, sources said.

After passing its attachment orders, Sebi informed all the banks, depositories, mutual funds and NBFCs, among others, about the matter and also requested RBI to direct the chiefs of the banks to transfer the money of Sahara firms to a designated Sebi account.

Sebi had also approached the Collectors of as many as 600 districts to request them not to permit the concerned Sahara entities and persons from any sale or transfer of properties attached by the regulator.

As a result, the District Collectors and Revenue Officers from various parts of the country have provided Sebi details of more than 450 acres of land belonging to Saharas, sources added.

The regulator has already asked the Supreme Court to allow it to appoint an Officer of Special Duty and other officers to deal with the objections and claims relating to the property to be sold and for conducting the sale of the property to garner funds for refunding the investors’ money.

Saharas have so far deposited Rs. 5,120 crore with Sebi towards the refund and claims that this amount is more than sufficient to meet the outstanding liabilities towards its bondholders as the group has already paid close to Rs. 20,000 crore directly to the investors.

The money was raised by Sahara Housing Investment Corporation Ltd and Sahara India Real Estate Corp Ltd from about 3 crore investors through issuance of certain bonds.

However, these claims have been disputed by Sebi before the Supreme Court, which is expected to resume hearing the case next month. In the meantime, Sebi has begun the process for refund of the money to the genuine investors after verifying their credentials.

A pilot study conducted by Sebi for ascertaining the genuineness of investor documents submitted by Sahara, however, found that close to 99 per cent of the bondholders were untraceable, said the sources.

Under this programme, Sebi sent out redemption notices inviting claims to more than 21,000 bondholders but it received less than 300 claims, which are currently under examination.

While more than 7000 notices returned undelivered, there was no response in respect of over 13,000 notices. Sebi will refer these case to Sahara for further verification, the sources said.

Last month, Sebi began inviting claims from Sahara bondholders in a prescribed format and has said it would directly transfer the refund money to the bank accounts of the genuine investors and they can not get the money without having a bank account.

The Supreme Court last month told Sebi to begin refunding the money to genuine investors from Rs. 5,120 crore deposited with it so far, while the matter would be heard further by the apex court on July 17.

As per the court orders, Saharas would also have to bear the costs incurred by Sebi in the entire refund process. Sebi is already believed to have incurred huge costs, including initial expenses of about Rs. 56 crore for putting in place storage, scanning and repayment systems, for the humongous task of facilitating these refunds and Saharas have to clear these bills.

The regulator had contracted Stock Holding Corporation of India (SHCIL) for work relating to storage, digitisation and scanning of investor documents and for creation of a database. This contract alone was worth Rs. 25.97 crore.

Besides, another contract of Rs. 29.88 crore was given to UTI Infrastructure Technology and Services for the work relating to redemption related activities in this case.

The Supreme Court has also appointed a retired judge to oversee the matter at a monthly remuneration of Rs. 5 lakh in addition to travelling, accommodation and other expenses, all of which are borne by Sebi and recoverable from Sahara.

After Sahara firms were told by the Supreme Court to hand over the investor documents to Sebi, the group sent 127 trucks with more than 31,000 cartons of papers to the regulator’s headquarters in Mumbai.

However, these contained only 75 per cent of the entire documents required to be submitted. Finding it impossible to store them at any of its offices, Sebi decided to keep them at a warehouse of SHCIL Projects  Ltd, a subsidiary of SHCIL.

Won’t overlook India’s concern over talks with Taliban: US

http://www.rediff.com/news/report/wont-overlook-indias-concern-over-talks-with-taliban-us/20130624.htm

The United States on Monday assured India that its concerns over Taliban insurgents gaining legitimacy without severing their terror links will neither be “overlooked or undermined” during the talks with the Islamic fundamentalist group.

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This emerged after the 4th round of Indo-US strategic dialogue in New Delhi that was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his American counterpart John Kerry and covered key strategic issues of security, defence, nuclear cooperation and trade ties.

Khurshid, at a joint presser with Kerry, said, “This (proposed talks with Taliban) is an experiment that is being done in order to find an alternative for sustainable peace in Afghanistan. One cannot disagree with the issues or dimensions or aspects, which are of concern to us. I must say with gratitude that the secretary of state himself earmarked that and said that as they proceed, they will ensure that none of the concerns of India are overlooked or undermined.

“That is a good way of working closely together. It is very clear what the objective is and how far that objective is possible, only time will tell. But with caution and care being approached as an objective, I think it is something that nobody will have a problem with.”

Khurshid was asked if he raised India’s concerns over the proposed talks with the Taliban in view of the impending withdrawal of US troops from war-torn Afghanistan.

On his part, Kerry made it very clear that the talks with the Taliban will only be negotiated under “certain conditions. “Thus far, those conditions have not yet been met. So, there are no negotiations at this point. If the conditions are met, then there will be negotiations that will take place. Not with the US but with the high peace council of Afghanistan.”

He also said the requirements included that the constitution of Afghanistan must be respected, that they (Taliban) do not affiliate or associate themselves, in fact disassociate themselves, from the Al Qaeda, violence and that the rights of women, minorities will be respected.

“Now, that is not going to change. If it is required to be changed, obviously there will be no agreement. But it is there to explore the possibilities of having a peaceful resolution and conclusion of a political process if it is possible. Ultimately, that will be decided by the Afghan people….”, Kerry added.

Kerry also said the US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins will be in New Delhi on Wednesday to brief the officials directly on the proposed talks.

“We will continue under any circumstances, the US will continue as President Obama has made it clear to support the Afghan parliament, to support Afghan military, to continue to equip and train well beyond the 2014 and to continue to have a level of force on the ground that will continue to conduct anti-terrorism or counter-terrorism activities,” he said.

“The hope is this could provide an avenue for reduction in violence but there is certainly a course that we are committed to…” he added. He also hailed India as the country equipped to take on some of the biggest challenges of “our time”.

Apart from crucial regional issues, the two sides covered key strategic pillars of Indo-US relationship, namely — security, economics and technology; regional strategic and political issues and global issues.

Kerry, who had five years ago while in the senate led a successful floor debate on the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, also said the two sides hoped that the commercial agreement between the US energy major Westinghouse Electric company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited will be signed in September.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has been invited by Obama, is expected to travel to the US and hold bilateral talks with him in September.

The two sides also talked about Iran with Kerry terming India’s reductions in imports of oil from Iran as an “important step” in bringing pressure on Tehran over its contentious nuclear programme. “We are appreciative that India has worked hard to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil and that has been an important step,” Kerry said and also asked New Delhi to urge the Iranians “not to miscalculate about American and international commitment” to stopping Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran has been maintaining that its nuclear programme was for peaceful purposes. Washington renewed six-month waivers on its Iran sanctions for India, China and seven other economies earlier this month in exchange for their agreeing to reduce purchases of oil from Tehran.

Kerry and Khurshid also reaffirmed their countries’ strong commitment to work collaboratively to help ensure energy security, combat global climate change and support the development of low-carbon economies that will create opportunities and fuel job growth in both countries.

Image: US Secretary of State John Kerry, on his first visit to India as secretary, gestures to the media at the end of a photo opportunity with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid at Hyderabad House in New Delhi’Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/Reuters

U.S. sees cuts in India’s Iran oil imports as ‘important step’ – Kerry

http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/06/24/us-india-iran-idINDEE95N09G20130624

http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/06/24/us-india-iran-idINDEE95N09G20130624

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R), on his first visit to India as secretary, gestures to the media at the end of a photo opportunity with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

NEW DELHI | Mon Jun 24, 2013 4:27pm IST

(Reuters) – The United States sees India’s reductions in imports of oil from Iran as an “important step” in bringing pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme, Secretary of State John Kerry said.

“We are appreciative that India has worked hard to reduce its dependency on Iranian oil and that has been an important step,” Kerry said at a press conference with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in New Delhi.

He said he hoped New Delhi would urge the Iranians “not to miscalculate about American and international commitment” to stopping Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. Tehran maintains its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes.

Washington renewed six-month waivers on its Iran sanctions for India, China and seven other economies earlier this month in exchange for their agreeing to reduce purchases of oil from Tehran.

Indian refiners had cut dependency on Iranian crude to about 5.5 percent of total imports in January to May from over 10 percent in the same period a year ago.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Manoj Kumar; Writing by Jo Winterbottom, editing by Ross Colvin)

Poorest of poor survive on Rs 17 a day in villages: NSSO

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/indicators/poorest-of-poor-survive-on-rs-17-a-day-in-villages-nsso/articleshow/20682903.cms

By PTI | 20 Jun, 2013, 05.27PM IST
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On the other end of the spectrum, top five per cent of the population had an MPCE of Rs 4,481 in rural areas and Rs 10,282 in urban areas.
On the other end of the spectrum, top five per cent of the population had an MPCE of Rs 4,481 in rural areas and Rs 10,282 in urban areas.

NEW DELHI: Poorest of poor in the country survive on barely Rs 17 per day in villages and Rs 23 a day in cities, as per the latest data released by the National Sample Survey Office today.

According to the data, which relates to 2011-12 (July-June), five per cent population on the bottom rung had an average monthly per capita expenditure (MCPE) of Rs 521.44 in rural areas and Rs 700.50 in urban areas.

On the other end of the spectrum, top five per cent of the population had an MPCE of Rs 4,481 in rural areas and Rs 10,282 in urban areas.

The National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) 68th round of survey is based on samples consisting of 7,496 villages in rural India and 5,263 urban blocks except some remote areas, during July 2011-June 2012, the release said.

On an average on the all-India basis, MPCE was around Rs 1,430 for rural India and about Rs 2,630 for urban India.

“Thus average urban MPCE was about 84 per cent higher than average rural MPCE for the country as a whole, though there were wide variations in this differential across states,” it said.

For the average rural Indian, food accounted for 52.9 per cent of the value of consumption during 2011-12. This included 10.8 per cent for cereals and cereal substitutes, 8 per cent for milk and milk products, 7.9 per cent on beverages, refreshments and processed food, and 6.6 per cent on vegetables, the release said.

Among non-food item categories, fuel and light for household purposes (excluding transportation) accounted for 8 per cent, clothing and footwear 7 per cent, medical expenses 6.7 per cent, education 3.5 per cent, conveyance 4.2 per cent, other consumer services (excluding conveyance) 4 per cent, and consumer durables 4.5 per cent.

For the average urban Indian, 42.6 per cent of the value of household consumption was accounted for food, including 9 per cent by beverages, refreshments and processed food, 7 per cent by milk and milk products, and 6.7 per cent by cereals and cereal substitutes.

Education accounted for 6.9 per cent, fuel and light 6.7 per cent, conveyance 6.5 per cent, and clothing and footwear 6.4 per cent.

The data is amongst the most important measures of the level of living and are crucial inputs for estimation of prevalence of poverty by the Planning Commission.

These indicators by the NSSO are amongst the most important measures of the level of living of the people and are crucial inputs for estimation of prevalence of poverty by the Planning Commission.
Meanwhile, the all-India estimate of average Monthly Per Capita Expenditure (MPCE) was around Rs 1,430 for rural India and about Rs 2,630 for urban India, National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) said.

The average urban MPCE was about 84 per cent higher than average rural MPCE for the country as a whole, though there were wide variations in this differential across states, it said.

The NSS consumer expenditure survey aims at generating estimates of household and its distribution, separately for states and other socio-economic groups.

The survey said only about 10 per cent of the rural population reported household MPCE above Rs 2,296 and merely 5 per cent above Rs 2,886. It also said only about 10 per cent of the urban population reported household MPCE above Rs 4,610 and merely 5 per cent reported MPCE above Rs 6,383.

At the all-India level, average wages received by regular wage and salaried employees was Rs 396 per day which was Rs 299 in rural areas and Rs 450 in urban areas, it said.

In rural areas, wages received per day by a regular wage salaried employee was Rs 322 for males and Rs 202 for females, indicating female-male wage ratio as 0.63, it said.

In urban areas, it was Rs 470 for males and Rs 366 for females, indicating the female-male wage ratio as 0.78, the survey said.