India offers to facilitate airlift of aviation turbine fuel to Nepal

Newsroom24x7 Desk

indo-nepalNew Delhi : Nepal and India are trying to bridge the gap and remove blockages of land routes caused between the two countries due to anti-constitution agitations from Nepalese side after their new constitution took shape. In a latest move, India has agreed to facilitate airlift of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) to Nepal and bring respite from the supply shortage.

China, on the other hand, has agreed and extended its facilities to supply oil to Nepal, a move taken before India, which itself has put India on a position of discomfort and raised concerns. In the wake of China agreeing to supply oil to Nepal, India on Friday offered to airlift Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) to the Himalayan country to beat the ongoing blockade on the border.

Reacting cautiously to the agreement between Nepal and China for oil supplies, India expressed its deep concerns and said its impact on the future of Indo-Nepal trade has to be taken into account, and hoped that Kathmandu would sincerely address the problems which have caused the current situation and that the bilateral relationship between India and Nepal would return to its original warmth and neighbor-comfort.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said India was ready to facilitate airlifting of the Aviation turbine fuel, as was done in past. He stated that India is also keen to enable re-routing of LPG supplies, via those crossings which were not affected by this blockage and disruptive elements from Nepal side. He said – We have seen reports that Nepal has signed a pact with China. Nepal’s maximum trade is through India. As far as petroleum products are concerned, 70 per cent of petrol is supplied through Raxaul-Birganj point (which is choked by the agitators). How is this (Nepal-China) pact going to help has to be seen.

When asked about Nepal signing an agreement with China for the supply of petroleum products following the shortages caused by the blockade of land routes from India due to unrest over the new Constitution, Swarup added – We will certainly be concerned over growth of any anti-India sentiment in Nepal and we hope that the situation which has been caused entirely by problems on the Nepalese side will be resolved at the earliest and our relationship would once again return to its original status. Asserting that India had not imposed any blockade from this side of the land, the spokesperson from External Affairs ministry clarified that the supply was stopped because Nepal’s one section of the society was not in agreement on provisions of the Constitution and disrupted supplies from Indian side. In his words – We have facilitated airlift of aviation turbine fuel earlier and we are ready to facilitate future similar operations and requests. We are also facilitating re-routing of LPG supplies from those crossings which are not affected. We hope that such a political resolution of issues facing Nepal would be institutionalized in a manner that would ensure broad-based ownership and acceptance of the Constitution by all section of the society including those disaffected agitating forces.

Swarup added that Indo-Nepal economic relations have been seen as diverse, multifaceted and deep rooted. He added the bilateral relationships between India and Nepal stand on their own merit and have natural logic, and almost two-thirds of Nepal trade depends on mutual business partnership is with India, wherein bulk of the third country trade passes through India. Nearly half of the foreign investments in Nepal is from India and India-Nepal corridor thus plays a vital role between trade transactions of the two countries,

Russia prepares to lend another nuclear submarine to India

Newsroom24x7 Desk

submarineNew Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to visit Moscow at the end of this calendar year, might return with another nuclear submarine, signed off on lease from Russia, to the Indian waters. Russia is all set to lease another submarine to India, a deal which would be sealed during PM Modi’s visit , as indicated by Defence Ministry, ahead of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s tour to Russia. PM Modi is scheduled to visit Moscow in coming December for his annual summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin during which these agreements are likely to be inked.

Parrikar described Russia as India’s ‘all weather friend’ – a diplomatic term used by China for its friendship with Pakistan. An agreement for joint production of Kamov Ka-226 helicopters and a contract for the purchase of S-400 missile systems would be most likely finalized during the visit, as indicated by DefMin Parrikar, while speaking to media in an interview to the Russian news agency Itar Tass. In his words – I have always seen Russia as an all-weather friend for India the two countries have always had a great relationship. I believe that this relationship should be enhanced. My visit to Moscow will be an attempt to help the relationship blossom further.

A proposal to purchase 48 Mi-17 V5 helicopters for at the cost USD 1.1 billion dollars will also be finalised, said the Defence Minister. The news agency also confirmed that Russia was going to lease the second nuclear submarine to India and the proposal was to get a go ahead during PM’s Moscow tour. Parrikar indicated that he would be flagging the issue of serviceability during the IRIGC meeting. He said, ‘We have almost 220 of them (Su-30) now and ultimately the number will reach 270, which represents about 40% of Indian Air Force. When you have 40% of air force strength from a particular maker, you are obviously interested in ensuring that they are serviced properly. Those aspects will be discussed and we are coming to conclusions, to solutions to the problem. I hope that these problems will be resolved very soon so service operation is substantially enhanced. Then there are Mi-17V-5 helicopters, which we also intend to negotiate and finalize procurement for 48 more. With that, we will have some 280 Mi-17 helicopters.’

Pragati : PM Modi’s monthly review of stalled projects

Newsroom24x7 Desk

pragatiNew Delhi : Ease of doing business, red tape-ism and project completion – these are some of the matters in which the current Prime Minister has been taking personal initiative on a monthly basis, and obtaining regular feedback from the work-in-progress schedules. PM Narendra Modi has been scheduling a once-a-month round-up and has personally intervened in reviving stalled projects, and taking on India’s infamous red tape-ism to clear tens of billions of dollars worth of stalled public projects, with a hope that his hands-on intervention would bend a vast, dysfunctional bureaucracy. After taking over as PM last year, Modi vowed to work upon India’s notoriously slow bureaucracy. He had set an ambitious goal of making India one of 50 most business-friendly destinations in the world by 2017.

To bring results in this direction, once a month, Modi holds a meeting with top state and federal bureaucrats to check why projects have not got off the ground. Since March this year, his intervention has helped revive nearly $60 billion in federal and state projects, according to government data through September done by agencies of relevance. Steps have been in the path of initiatives which had chipped away at a $150 billion backlog of planned roads, ports, railways, power stations and other projects. Although, some initiatives are yet lacking in providing governmental inertia and speeding up paper trails and fast clearance of governmental papers.

The monthly-feedback initiative, launched by Modi in March and publicized on his personal website and Twitter feeds, is referred as ‘Pro-active governance and timely implementation’, or Pragati (Progress). Federal and state bureaucrats are linked by video to Modi’s office for the meeting, usually held on the fourth Wednesday of each month. They represent wings such as finance, law, land, environment, transport and energy ministries whose clearances are vital for many projects. The agenda for the review gets set on the third week, and usually has about a dozen stalled projects, public grievances and other governance issues, which get covered into the feedback radar.

This Pragati initiative has been found to have two positive effects – one, many files automatically get cleared with an aim to avoid the explanation during discussion, thus ensuring speed to work-in-progress. Secondly, those which do come up in discussion, get scanned under PM Modi’s scrutiny, and get accelerated in work progress thereafter.

States like Uttar Pradesh, which are not BJP-led state government, have also participated in this ‘Pragati’ initiative and turned Modi-led central government’s feedback system to their own state-advantage. Case in point – Chief Minister (Uttar Pradesh), Akhilesh Yadav wrote to PMO (Prime Minister’s Office), requesting the inclusion of a $1 billion metro rail project in the state capital at one Pragati meeting. Result – It got the clearances, including a pledge of federal funding, at the September meeting, thereby enabling the progress of project without major delays.

Success of this Pragati initiative can be measured by the stock of stalled projects in the country, which have certainly has come down. However, backlogs are huge and pending list remains high. In the July-September quarter, projects worth 7.6 percent of India’s GDP, or $152 billion, were stalled, down from a peak of 8.5 percent in the January-March 2014 quarter, according to CMIE, a think-tank. The data includes private investment plans also.

PM Modi calls for UNSC reforms

Newsroom24x7 Desk

PM ModiNew Delhi : Prime Minister expressed his strong opinion on reforms and cautioned the UNSC of becoming irrelevant unless it becomes adaptable. Strongly pitching for UN Security Council reforms, PM Modi said, UNSC ran the risk of becoming irrelevant unless it adjusted to the changing world, and added there should be concerted efforts initiated to deal with growing challenge of terrorism.

PM Modi was speaking at the inaugural session of the Third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS). He said the world was undergoing political, economic, technological and security transition on a magnanimous scale, and at a fast track speed rarely seen in recent history, and yet the global institutions reflected the circumstances of the century that ‘we left behind’. He said – These institutions have served us well, but unless they adjust to the changing world, they risk becoming irrelevant. We cannot say what will replace them in an uncertain future. But, we might have a more fragmented world that is less capable of dealing with the challenges of our era. That is why India advocates reforms in global institutions.

The summit is being attended by representatives of over 50 countries including 41 Heads of State and Government of African countries. Calling India and Africa two bright spots of hope and opportunities in the global economy, Modi said both sides must work together to defeat terrorism. He said – This is a world of free nations and awakened aspirations. Our institutions cannot be representative of our world, if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of UN members, or the world s largest democracy with one-sixth of humanity. That is why India and Africa must speak in one voice for reforms of the United Nations, including its Security Council. Today, in many parts of the world, the light of a bright future flickers in the storm of violence and instability. When terror snuffs out life on the streets and beaches, and in malls and schools of Africa, we feel your pain as our own. And, we see the links that unite us against this threat.

Equating India on the planes of security level and highlighting on the threats that nations like Africa and India both face, PM Modi said – We also see that when our oceans are no longer safe for trade, we all suffer together. And, when nations are caught in conflict within, no one around remains untouched. And, we know that our cyber networks bring opportunities, but also carry huge risks. So, when it comes to security, distance no longer insulates us from each other.

Modi anticipated that both sides could deepen cooperation in maritime security and hydrography as well as countering terrorism and extremism. He stressed on the need to have a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism to deal with the menace. ‘We will also provide support for African Union s peacekeeping efforts. And, we will train African peacekeepers here and in Africa. We must also have a stronger voice in decisions on UN Peacekeeping Missions,” he said and noted that Africa has its concerns about security and stability, especially from terrorism and extremism and hoped its leadership will rise to the challenges, ‘ said PM Modi.