VIF News Digest: International Developments (3-9 Sept 2018)

U.S, India sign military accord as Pompeo and Mattis hail strong partnership in New Delhi meeting, 6 Sept 2018

The United States and India signed a major military communications agreement Thursday during a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to New Delhi, highlighting the growing partnership between the two nations as they seek to manage a rising China.

The agreement, which had been under discussion for more than a decade, will allow India to receive military-grade communications equipment from the United States and permit the exchange of real-time encrypted information on platforms used by the Indian and US armed forces.

Pompeo and Mattis were in India for their first joint meeting with their Indian counterparts, a conclave aimed at showcasing areas of agreement between the world’s two largest democracies — while downplaying areas of tension. Click here to read....

Pichai for free flow of data, writes to Centre, 9 Sept 2018

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has written to Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad that free flow of data across borders will encourage start-ups to innovate. “Free flow of data across borders — with a focus on user privacy and security — will encourage start-ups to innovate and expand globally and encourage global companies to contribute to India’s digital economy,” Pichai said in a ‘thank you’ letter to the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, who had visited Google’s headquarters in California recently. Business Line has seen the letter. Pichai’s demand is not that of Google alone but of most tech companies worldwide, as restricting data within a country would mean lesser revenues.

The proposed Personal Data Protection Bill 2018, which talks about locating a server or a data centre in India, is being criticised by companies and industry bodies such as Nasscom and its Data Security Council, as also the Broadband India Forum. Companies such as Google will be affected as most of its revenues comes from advertisements globally. Click here to read....

2+2 talks set strategic direction for Indo-US ties, 9 Sept 2018

The '2+2' dialogue, held for the first time at the foreign and defence ministers' level, set India's strategic direction firmly with the US Held after two delays, sources in the Indian government indicated they had reasons to feel satisfied.

While signing the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) with the U.S, a landmark agreement that has huge implications for India-US defence and security relations, India persisted in its demand for a 'Make in India' component for defence trade with the US Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Swaraj made another pitch with the US for the defence relationship to be more than a ‘buyer-seller’ one. The US reluctantly agreed to put this in the joint statement, which said, the two countries "committed to explore other means to support further expansion in two-way trade in defence items and defence manufacturing supply chain linkages." Whether this becomes an ultimate reality or not will depend on how defence manufacturing takes off in India, and whether there is any traction in the US defence industry for components from India. Click here to read....

US unlikely to hike investment limit for EB-5 investors visa till December, 9 Sept 2018

The investment limit for EB-5 investor visa programme, which provides Green Cards to foreigners investing at least USD 500,000 in the US, is not expected to increase at least till December this year, according to US Congressman Aaron Schock.

The employment-based fifth preference category (EB-5) visa is meant for high net worth individuals (HNIs) to earn the Green Card which offers permanent residency in the US for themselves and their immediate family through a one-time minimum investment of USD 500,000 into a new business that creates 10 or more jobs for the Americans. “We don’t see an investment hike when the EB-5 programme gets an extension in September. That (investment limit) is expected to change only when the new session is in place,” Schock, a Republican and the Chief Sponsor of the EB-5 Reauthorisation Bill 2012 told PTI. Click here to read....

Mattis and Pompeo Seek India accord amid threat of sanctions, 3 Sept 2018

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Michael Pompeo traveled to New Delhi in an effort to seal a new defense cooperation agreement with their Indian counterparts despite tensions over threatened American sanctions.

Hanging over the meeting, held on Sep 6, was the prospect that the US would impose economic sanctions on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government unless it significantly reduces purchases of oil from Iran and cancels a planned $6 billion purchase of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles from Russia. Indian officials have said the Russian arms deal would go ahead as planned.

The first U.S-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue was about expanding a strategic partnership rather than closing individual arms deals, according to a Defense Department official. Transfers of advanced defense technology would be boosted if the two sides are able to complete work on a proposed Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement. Click here to read....

India US trade package: Trump administration insists on removal of price caps on stents, 3 Sept 2018

The US is learnt to have renewed its demand for the removal of price controls imposed by India on certain medical devices, as part of a broader trade package the two countries are currently negotiating, sources told FE.

Commerce secretary Anup Wadhawan held talks with American trade officials recently in the US on the trade package, as the deadline set by New Delhi to retaliate against the Trump administration’s extra tariff on Indian steel and aluminium approaches. It was the first such high-level meeting after India last month deferred its $235-million retaliation plan against 29 American goods by 45 days to September 18. The move was aimed at giving more time to Washington for a meaningful outcome to the ongoing bilateral trade negotiations. Click here to read....

US duty hikes begin to hurt as steel exports plunge 42 percent, 4 Sept 2018

India’s exports of steel items to the US affected by sanctions slapped by the Donald Trump administration plunged 42% in the June quarter, after duty hikes imposed on the grounds of national security took effect in March, even as exports of aluminium items to the US, facing similar sanctions, jumped 59%.

An official of India’s commerce ministry, which is pressing the US to exempt India from the duty hikes, observed that aluminium exports may be gaining due to a comparative advantage as exports from Canada, Mexico and China may have become more expensive to the US. “It’s too early to draw any conclusion on the basis of one-quarter data,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

While exports of 68 steel items, facing 25% duty hike from the US, stood at $115 million in the June quarter, exports of seven aluminium items, facing 10% tariff hike, jumped to $164 million during the same period, India’s commerce ministry data showed. Overall steel exports to the US fell 5.7% to $468 million during the June quarter, while aluminium exports rose 54% to $181 million during the same period. Click here to read....

What Russia's Vostok-18 Exercise with China means, 6 Sept 2018

The West got a fresh jolt from Moscow last week. That’s when Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced that Russian armed forces would hold a military exercise in September, called “Vostok-18” [East-18], on a scale not seen since the early 1980s. If there was any doubt that Russia sees itself in a ‘New Cold War’, Shoygu’s direct reference to the massive ‘Zapad’ [West] Exercise from 1981 seems to confirm that is the prevailing mentality in the Kremlin. In fact, Shoygu claimed, “They (the exercises ‘Vostok-2018’) will in some ways recall ‘Zapad-81,’ but in other ways, actually, will be even larger in scale [Они (учения ‘Восток-2018’) в чём-то повторяют ‘Запад-81’, но в чем-то, пожалуй, ещё масштабнее].”

In the same statement, Shoygu declared that the exercise would involve more than one thousand aircraft, almost three thousand soldiers, and nearly all Russian military installations in the Central and Eastern military regions, including also the Northern and Pacific fleets. In the article cited above, moreover, the Russian Defense Minister is said to have asked gathered journalists to imagine “when 36,000 pieces of equipment including tanks, armored personnel carriers, etc. are simultaneously on the march [когда одновременно на марше находятся примерно 36 тыс. единиц техники, включая танки, БТР, БМП].” Click here to read....

EU security requires cooperation with Moscow, says French lawmaker, 6 Sept 2018M

The European Union should get back to the issue of removing sanctions slapped on Russian lawmakers to ensure their freedom of movement, French Senator, Vice Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces Committee Robert del Picchia told Izvestia.

"In St. Petersburg, we took part in the Inter-Parliamentary Union conference. Russia granted visas to all members of the delegations in spite of the restrictions. I believe the European Union could remove some sanctions in order to ensure the free movement of parliamentarians. The issue was discussed [in the Council of Europe], but that has not been done. Nevertheless, another similar proposal could be put forward at the pan-European level, which will produce real results," the senator noted. Click here to read....

Putin to visit Vostok-2018 military drills, 6 Sept 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit the Vostok-2018 (East 2018) strategic drills after the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok, the Izvestia daily writes on Thursday, citing Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

The Vostok-2018 military exercises, which have earned an international status, will be held in Russia on September 11 through September 15. The drills will involve troops from Russia’s Eastern and Central military districts, the Northern Fleet, airborne landing troops, long-haul and military transport aviation. Servicemen from China and Mongolia will join at one of the stages. Click here to read....

Russian military conducts more than 50 battle exercises during Mediterranean drills, 6 Sept 2018

During the large-scale drills of the Russian Navy and the Aerospace Forces in the Mediterranean Sea the Russian military conducted more than 50 battle exercises and the aviation performed 15 in-flight refuelling missions during 50 sorties, Navy Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Korolev said. "By now the personnel of the Russian Navy and the Aerospace Forces have successfully fulfilled more than 50 battle exercises and carried out over 50 sorties of the Navy’s marine aviation, conducting 15 in-flight refuelling missions," said Korolev, who inspected the exercises in Syria.

The military also carried out 150 exercises of the marine combat crews. "I want to stress that such maneuvers are conducted for the first time in modern Russia’s history and involve modern warships, support vessels and marine aviation," the admiral said. Click here to read....

President Xi to attend Eastern Economic Forum in Russia, 9 Sept 2018

Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the fourth Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) from September 11 to 12 in Vladivostok, Russia at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press briefing in Beijing Friday. Xi will attend bilateral and multilateral events at the forum, with the most important one being his meeting with Putin, the third meeting between the two leaders this year, Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Hanhui said.

This is the first time for a Chinese head of state to attend the annual economic forum in Russia, and although the visit is not a state visit, it remains significant, Zhang said. "The upcoming meeting will guide the development of China-Russia relations in the next stage, and the two leaders will discuss major global issues to improve the strategic coordination in the international arena." The two leaders will witness the signing of documents on China-Russia cooperation, attend a press conference, and a series of activities featuring cultural exchanges, trade and regional cooperation, Zhang told reporters. "President Xi will also attend a banquet hosted by the Russian president." Click here to read....

Why China and Africa are destined for a shared future: Xinhua, 4 September, 2018

Leaders of China and Africa have gathered here once again to explore new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation and reinvigorate plans to build an even brighter future together. Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined a blueprint on Monday at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), marking a new starting point for friendly engagement between the largest developing country and the promising continent.

African leaders said they will align their countries' development strategies with the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative in order to boost development synergy, promote win-win cooperation and build a closer partnership with China on the basis of equality and mutual respect. Click here to read....

China to help Africa attain food security by 2030- Xi: Africa news, 4 September, 2018

China says it will support Africa to achieve food security by 2030. Chinese President Xi Jinping who said this at the Forum on China-Africa cooperation on Monday, also announced plans to enhance cooperation with Africa. “We will support Africa in achieving food security in general by 2030, work with Africa to formulate and implement a program and action to promote China-Africa cooperation on agricultural modernisation. We will implement 50 agricultural assistance programs, provide one billion RMB of emergency humanitarian food assistance to African countries affected by natural disasters, send 500 senior agriculture experts to Africa, and train young researchers in agro-science and entrepreneurs in agri-businesses”, Xi said. Click here to read....

Djibouti, Eritrea agree to normalise ties strained since 2007: Africa news, 6 September, 2018

Eritrea and Djibouti have agreed to normalise ties following a regional meeting, ministers said on Thursday, a decade after a border spat led to brief military clashes. “After a long period of separation, Eritrea and Djibouti have agreed to restore ties,” Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu said on his Facebook page.

The leaders of Ethiopia and Somalia, who met Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki in Asmara on Wednesday, had agreed to initiate dialogue to resolve the long standing border dispute. Click here to read....

A recap of Mali's 2018 Presidential Polls: africanews, 7 September, 2018

Malians went to the polls on July 29 to vote for president from a pool of 24 candidates, with the leading contenders as the opposition leader Soumaila Cisse and incumbent president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was seeking a second and final term.

The build-up to the elections had been marred by increasing incidents of insecurity in the Northern and Central parts of the country, as the government struggled to contain a resurgent terror threat and violent inter-ethnic conflicts. The country has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over the north in 2012. French forces intervened the following year but the groups have regrouped, launching attacks across West Africa and inciting tensions between different ethnicities. Click here to read....

Eritrea–Djibouti relations: UN hails successful regional diplomacy: Africa News, 9 September, 2018

The United Nations secretary-general has expressed the body’s readiness to help consolidate recent peace and diplomatic gains in the Horn of Africa region.

Antonio Guterres through his spokesperson whilest commenting on the normalisation of ties between Eritrea and Djibouti said in a statement: “The Secretary-General reiterates the readiness of the United Nations to support countries in the Horn of Africa region in consolidating the recent remarkable gains.”

The resolution of the decade-old border spat was thanks to the efforts of Ethiopia and Somalia. Foreign Affairs ministers of the two countries met for the first time last Thursday in Djibouti along with their Ethiopian and Somali counterparts. Click here to read....

FOCAC set to boost China-Africa cooperation: Xinhua, 9 September, 2018

The 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) offers significant potentials for a development paradigm for China-Africa cooperation, South African experts said. Speaking from the perspectives of both business and academic research, the analysts interviewed by Xinhua noted that the FOCAC Summit presented the "the possibility, if consciously involving the masses of Africans, of most far-reaching opportunity to break with past practice." Professor Jay Williams from the University of the Western Cape School of Government said what Africa needs is real development that "directly and sustainably impacts the lives of the people on the ground", just as indicated by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his key-note speech at the forum held on Sept. 3-4. Click here to read....

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