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Obama formally invites Modi, wants ‘defining partnership’

NEW DELHI: Extending a formal invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a visit to the US, President Barack Obama has expressed keenness to work closely with him to make the bilateral relations a “defining partnership” in the 21st century.

Thanking Obama for the invitation, Modi said he looks forward to a "result-oriented visit" in September with “concrete outcomes that impart new momentum and energy” to the strategic partnership.

Obama’s letter of invitation was handed over to Modi by Deputy Secretary of State William Burns when he called on him in New Delhi. 

In his letter, Obama reiterated his invitation to Modi to visit Washington in September and to work closely with him to make India-US relations a “defining partnership” for the 21st century, a PMO statement said on Friday.

While receiving the letter, Modi said he looked forward to a “result-oriented visit with concrete outcomes that impart new momentum and energy to India-US strategic partnership”, the statement said.

The Prime Minister was of the view that re-energising the partnership between India and the US would send an important message to the region and beyond.

Articulating his vision for India-US relations, Modi said the relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracies should not only be for the benefit of the two countries, but “should emerge as a powerful force of good for peace, stability and prosperity in the world”.

Burns conveyed Obama’s desire to strengthen economic relations, including in next-generation technologies and manufacturing sector; cooperate in enhancing energy security; deepen security cooperation, including in maritime security, counter-terrorism and intelligence exchange; expand consultation and coordination on Afghanistan; and, work more broadly for security and prosperity in Asia. 

Modi saw immense opportunities for deepening cooperation across the full spectrum of the relationship and laid special emphasis on involving youth in creating new avenues of promoting cooperation between the two countries.

The Prime Minister reiterated his desire to strengthen relations with all neighbours, the statement said.

Modi recalled Obama’s telephone call soon after he became the Prime Minister in May and expressed his appreciation for the President’s detailed and thoughtful letter.

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, US Charge d’Affaires Kathleen Stephens and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Nisha Biswal were also present in the meeting. — PTIBack





















Row over appointment of PM's Principal Secretary
Bill to amend TRAI Act introduced in Lok Sabha

NEW DELHI: The BJP has issued a whip to its members in the Lok Sabha to support a Bill to amend TRAI Act which seeks to remove a legal hurdle in the appointment of former TRAI Chairman Nripendra Misra as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) (Amendment) Bill, 2014, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday amid uproar by Opposition MPs.

The party has issued a whip to the members to support the Bill, said a BJP Lok Sabha member.

Before the ordinance was promulgated, the TRAI Act prohibited its Chairman and members from taking up any other job in the Central or state governments after demitting office.

"The chairperson or any other member ceasing to hold office as such, shall? (a) be ineligible for further employment under the central government or any state government or (b) not accept any commercial employment, for a period of two years from the date he ceases to hold such office," said the TRAI Act of 1997 available on the Law Ministry's website.

To circumvent this section, which would have barred 69-year-old Misra from taking up the post of the Principal Secretary to the PM, the Modi government promulgated an ordinance which amended it. — PTIBack
















MHA nod to FDI proposals within 3 months: Centre

NEW DELHI: To expedite the overall approval process, the Home Ministry has agreed to provide security clearance within three months as far as possible for foreign direct investment proposals, the government said on Friday.

Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman acknowledged that concerns have been expressed by sectoral ministries/departments relating to delay in security vetting of FDI proposals, including those in strategic sectors like aviation and telecom.

She informed the Lok Sabha that as decision on issues relating to national security are taken with due care, the delay if any are part of the process of due diligence.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs has recently agreed to provide security clearance within twelve weeks, as far as possible, to expedite the process,” Sitharaman said.

She noted that while the Home Ministry sends FDI proposals immediately to Central agencies, obtaining comments/inputs from them is a time consuming process as it entails collection of information from field formations.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs earnestly evaluates the reports in a time-bound manner without causing any delay. In some cases, further details are sought from nodal ministries and also clarification from Central agencies relating to the inputs received,” Sitharaman said.

Meanwhile, the Minister said fluctuations in FDI in the last three years have been due to macro-economic constraints rather than inter-departmental issues.

In the last three years there have been fluctuations in FDI inflows, that touched $36.39 billion in 2013-14 period.

Sitharaman said there have been “a great lot of fluctuations” in inflows in the last three years.

There have been fluctuations (in FDI inflows) due to macro economic constraints rather than inter-departmental issues, she noted.

She was responding to a query on whether FDI inflows were impacted due to inter-departmental issues in recent times.

“Under the liberalised economic environment, investment decisions of investors are based on the macro-economic policy framework, investment climate in the host country, investment policies of the trans-national corporations and other commercial considerations,” Sitharaman said.

According to the minister, FDI inflow decreased by 26.35 per cent during the financial year 2012-13 in comparison to fiscal 2011-12 and increased by 6.12 per cent in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13.

With regard to allowing FDI in various sectors, she said, “Consultation process for allowing/enhancing FDI in sectors such as Railways and Defence has been initiated.”

She also asserted it is the government’s decision to allow 49 per cent FDI in the defence sector.

In his Budget speech yesterday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the composite cap of FDI is being raised to 49 per cent in defence sector with full Indian management and control through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) route. — PTIBack



















FDI in insurance: Jaitley hopeful of BJP support

NEW DELHI: Defending his decision to raise foreign investment cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has expressed confidence that the proposal would get the support of his party, the BJP.

“What I have, reflects the policy of the government and a party would support the government. This issue has to go to Parliament. I have said that we prefer 49 per cent cap,” he said in an interview to PTI.

Currently foreign direct investment (FDI) is allowed up to 26 per cent in the private insurance companies.

On when the proposal, which has been pending since 2008 in the Rajya Sabha, would be taken up by Parliament, Jaitley remained non-committal but said it would be taken up soon.

In his Budget speech, Jaitley had said that the insurance sector is investment starved and there is a need to increase the composite cap in the sector to 49 per cent, with full Indian management and control, through the FIPB route.

The BJP has been opposing the increase in the foreign investment cap in the insurance sector.

Welcoming Jaitley’s decision on insurance sector Congress party has indicated that it will support the bill.

“We, unlike NDA, do not change stance when we are in government and (when we are in opposition). We will stand by (it) ... provided every clause in it (Bill) is for the benefit of the common man,” party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had said when asked whether the Congress will support the Bill in Parliament.

The proposal to raise FDI cap has been pending since 2008 when the previous UPA government came up with Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill to hike foreign holding in insurance joint ventures.

However, the Bill could not be taken up in the Rajya Sabha because of opposition from several political parties, including the BJP. — PTIBack













US investors welcome Modi govt’s maiden Budget

Washington: The maiden Budget of the Narendra Modi Government has been hailed by American experts and corporate sector here as a step in the right direction to generate employment and foster growth.

They said Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has opened the door to a much wider level of US involvement in India’s development plans in the coming years.

Balanced, measured, and thoughtful: a terrific first budget for the Modi government.

“American investors are now revitalised by the positive changes taking shape in India,” said long-time India watcher Ron Somers of the recently formed India First Group.

Hailing the decision to increase the FDI caps in both insurance and defence sectors from 26 percent to 49 percent, Somers said though the opening of the latter will eventually be needed to truly facilitate greater transfer of technology – but this sends a very positive signal, especially combined with India’s announcement to increase Defence spending.

“Now, if only we can genuinely deepen Indo-US collaboration in the Defence Sector, with India looking to the United States for new artillery and helicopters, transport aircraft, guided missile technology, and speciality radar to beef-up India’s homeland security capability – from companies like BAE Systems, Boeing, UTC, Raytheon, and Lockheed, all working closely to establish domestic manufacturing capacity with India’s vital private sector and capable DPSUs,” Somers said.

Rick Rossow from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) wished the government had seized the moment to take more robust steps by allowing greater than 49 percent FDI in defence manufacturing, and by repealing the retrospective applicability of the 2012 amendments to the Income Tax Act.

“But there were a few very nice surprises. Most notably, the relaxation of conditions necessary for foreign investment in construction.”

“To me, this may open the door to a much wider level of American involvement in India’s development plans in the coming years,” Rossow said.

“In studying the details of the various proposed changes in the Budget, a strong narrative emerges- a long pattern of range of changes that should play a small part in helping to stimulate manufacturing, such as cutting the costs for some types of capital equipment and intermediate goods,” he said.

“This budget is a step in the right direction to generate employment and foster growth,” said Karun Rishi, president of the US-India Chamber of Commerce.

“Our expectation of growth oriented budget with fiscally prudent policies to curtail deficit and inflation have been met. It was a fine balancing act,” he said.

Key initiatives announced in the budget need to be executed in a time bound manner along with pro-growth and fiscally prudent monetary policy, he said.

Rishi said “Health for All” is a noble goal but has to be matched with higher budgetary allocation.

“Focus on capacity building and infrastructure development in terms of new AIIMS and increasing FDI in insurance will have a long term positive impact on the healthcare sector.

“The Finance Minister must increase outlay on health in the future budgets and treat it as a priority sector,” Rishi added. — PTIBack

















Purushothaman unhappy with transfer; resigns
from Governor’s post

Thiruvananthapuram: Resenting his transfer from Mizoram “without consulting him”, Nagaland Governor Vakkom B Purushothaman on Friday resigned from the post.

The 86-year-old Congress veteran said that he sent his resignation to President Pranab Mukherjee this morning.

Though he did not raise any political or procedural issue in his resignation letter, Purushothaman told reporters that Governors had been treated in a manner which was “not fair” after the NDA Government assumed power.

“Governors are constitutional authorities. It is grossly improper to transfer them just like any other government official. That is not fair,” he said.

Purushothaman, who held key portfolios in UDF ministries in Kerala and a two-time Congress MP, said, “I feel that the Governor’s position has been insulted.”

“The transfer was made without consulting me,” he said

He, however, said no one had asked him to resign but he took serious exception to the way some other UPA-era Governors were sounded out to step down reportedly by the Home Secretary.

“It was a grave mistake. How can a Secretary call the Governor and ask him to resign?,” he said.

Purushothaman said he would return to politics as a Congress worker but would not be seeking any electoral positions.

In a reshuffle of Governors on July 6, Gujarat Governor Kamala Beniwal was transferred to Mizoram, while Purushothaman was transferred and appointed as Governor of Nagaland. He was also given additional charge of the office of Governor of Tripura.

Those who resigned after the NDA government reportedly asked them to put in their papers are B L Joshi (Uttar Pradesh), M K Narayanan (West Bengal), Shekhar Dutt (Chhattisgarh), Ashwani Kumar (Nagaland) and B V Wanchoo (Goa). — PTIBack











Iraq issue: Opposition seeks detailed response from govt

NEW DELHI: Opposition on Friday demanded a detailed response from the government in the Rajya Sabha on Iraq issue, ruing that there is no data on how many Indians were still stuck up there and said the Centre should show urgency in the matter as was shown during the Gulf war.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour, K.N. Balagopal (CPI(M) said the government should hold a discussion on the Iraq issue, saying only a few of the large number of persons working there having been evacuated so far.

He said that besides nurses from Kerala and some other parts of the country, there were a number of Indian labourers working there who had gone to Iraq via different countries.

Balagopal said the government does not have any data regarding how many Indians are working there and demanded that the kind of urgency shown during the Kuwait war by sending ships and aircraft to bring Indians from that country need to be shown this time as well.

Members from a number of parties associated themselves with Balagopal on this issue.

P. Rajeeve (CPI(M) said Indians wanting to return are not being given back their passports and they are not being allowed to come back.

“It’s a very serious situation,” he said. Prabhakar Kore (BJP) also expressed agreement with Rajeeve, raising passport-related problems of Indians in Iraq, but said the Punjab government has taken a number of support measures for those coming back.

As Opposition members pressed for government’s response, Minister Thawarchand Gehlot, who was present in the House, said he will apprise the Minister for External Affairs of the sentiments of the members.

Viplove Thakur (Cong) said the government should “move very fast” in this matter as “thousands of workers are still remaining” there. Rapolu Ananda Bhaskar (Cong) said the return of Indians from Iraq should be facilitated through e-visa.

M.P. Achuthan (CPI) rued that while many countries like Germany were able to evacuate their citizens from Iraq in time, there is no data of ten thousand Indians working there.

He said the government must come forward and rehabilitate people coming back from Iraq.

JD(U) president Sharad Yadav said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj should speak on the issue.

“The government should come out with a detailed response,” he said demanding a discussion on the issue from Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien.

Kurien said it is not that the government has not done anything, but more work may be required to be done. .

“The government has done a lot of work,” he said.

In another Zero Hour mention, K.C. Tyagi (JD-U) targetted the NDA government over the Israel-Palestinian crisis and expressed serious concern over the killing of four Palestinians, including a four-year-old girl.

“I regret that even the External Affairs Minister did not express concern over it. Why the Government of India did not react to it,” he asked. — PTIBack


















Delhi becomes world’s second most populous city after Tokyo

United Nations: Delhi has become the world’s second most populous city in 2014 after Tokyo, more than doubling its population since 1990 to 25 million, according to a UN report.

The 2014 revision of the World Urbanisation Prospects launched on Thursday said that India is projected to add the highest number of people to its urban population by 2050, ahead of China.

The Indian Capital is expected to retain the spot of the world’s second most populous city through at least 2030, when its population is expected to rise swiftly to 36 million.

Tokyo topped UN’s ranking of the most populous cities in 2014 with 38 million inhabitants and while its population is projected to decline, it will remain the world’s largest city in 2030 with 37 million people.

Mumbai, which ranks sixth on the list of the world’s most populous cities in 2014, is projected to become the fourth largest city in 2030 when its population would grow to 28 million from the current 21 million.

Tokyo and New Delhi were followed by Shanghai with 23 million, and Mexico City, Mumbai and Sao Paulo, each with around 21 million inhabitants in 2014.

The report said that the largest urban growth will take place in India, China and Nigeria between 2014 and 2050, with the three countries accounting for 37 per cent of the projected growth of the world’s urban population.

By 2050, India is projected to add 404 million urban dwellers, way more than China’s projection of 292 million.

Nigeria will add 212 million to its urban population.

India’s current urban population is 410 million people and this will grow to 814 million by 2050.

China currently has the largest urban population of 758 million.

India and China account for 30 per cent of the world’s urban population.

The two Asian giants along with the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Japan and Russia currently account for more than half of the world’s urban population.

About 54 per cent of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas and this proportion is expected to increase to 66 per cent by 2050, with the maximum increase taking place in the urban areas of Africa and Asia.

The world’s urban population is now close to 3.9 billion and is expected to reach 6.3 billion in 2050, according to the UN report.

The rural population of the world has grown slowly since 1950 and is expected to reach its peak in a few years.

Approximately 3.4 billion people currently live in rural areas around the world.

However, sometime after 2020, the world’s rural population will start to decline and is expected to reach 3.2 billion in 2050.

India currently has the largest rural population at 857 million, followed by China (635 million). Together, these two countries account for 45 per cent of the world’s rural population.

Between 2014 and 2050, the number of rural residents in India is expected to decline by 52 million.

Four of India’s cities Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad, with 5 to 10 million inhabitants presently, are projected to become megacities in the coming years for a total of seven megacities projected in the country by 2030.

India’s major cities Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, Pune and Surat will add a total of 27 million people to its population in 2030.

Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad will be among the world’s top 30 cities by 2030.

Much of the expected urban growth in the world will take place in countries of the developing regions, particularly Africa.

As a result, these countries will face numerous challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations, including for housing, infrastructure, transportation, energy and employment, as well as for basic services such as education and health care.

“Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda,” Director of the Population Division in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs John Wilmoth said.

The report notes that in 1990, there were ten “mega-cities” with 10 million inhabitants or more, which were home to 153 million people.

In 2014, there are 28 mega-cities worldwide, home to 453 million people or about 12 per cent of the world’s urban dwellers. By 2030, the world is projected to have 41 mega-cities.

The report notes that a successful urban planning agenda would require that attention be given to urban settlements of all sizes.

Well managed cities offer important opportunities for economic development and for expanding access to basic services, including health care and education for large numbers of people.

Providing public transportation, as well as housing, electricity, water and sanitation for a densely settled urban population is typically cheaper and less environmentally damaging than providing a similar level of services to a dispersed rural population, the report said. — PTIBack






















FIFA World Cup
Neymar wants Messi to beat Germans in World Cup final

TERESoPOLIS (Brazil): Brazilian superstar Neymar said on Thursday he wants teammate Lionel Messi to lead Argentina to victory in the World Cup final against Germany.

At an emotional press conference, Neymar broke down in tears as he relived the challenge which broke a vertebrae in his back and left him fearing he would be paralysed.

With Brazil's dream of winning a sixth World Cup decimated by their 7-1 hammering by Germany, Neymar said he wants Barcelona teammate Messi to claim the trophy on Sunday against the Germans.

"Messi's history in the sport is so important, he has won a lot of trophies and I will be cheering for him," Neymar told a press conference.

"He is a friend; he is my teammate and I wish him luck." Neymar was ruled out of the World Cup in a rugged challenge by Colombia defender Juan Camilo Zuniga in Brazil's 2-1 quarter-final win.

The 22-year-old wiped away tears as he described his fears immediately after the knee in the back that he would be paralysed.

"I was blessed in that situation because it wasn't more serious. Two more centimetres up and, well, I could be in a wheelchair. So it is really difficult.

"It happened at such an important point in my career," he said. "It was something I cannot accept. That challenge and what happened was unacceptable," he added.

"I would not say there was malice because I can't speak for him, but everyone who understands football knows that challenge was not normal.

"When someone comes from behind I can't do anything about it. I did not have any control and I ended up being hurt."

The FIFA decided not to take action against Zuniga for the challenge that will keep Neymar out of action for up to six weeks.

Neymar, though, insisted he held no bad feelings towards Zuniga after the Napoli defender called to apologise to him.

"Of course I would forgive him. I do not feel any anger; he even called me the next day to apologise. He said he didn't mean to hurt me and apologise."

Neymar returned to Brazil's training camp in Teresopolis for the first time since the incident on Thursday in a bid to lift his teammates' spirits after their humiliation at the hands of Germany.

"It is not a pleasant situation, but it is good just to be back here so I can see my friends and I told them we stared together so we should finish this together regardless of the result."

And, despite not being able to take part himself, he urged the rest of the Brazil squad to at least salvage some pride against the Netherlands in their third-place playoff on Saturday.

"What matters is that we are united and we are going to finish this with honour on Saturday," he said.

"We had the chance to be champion in our country and we failed. We didn't get it right, we fell short. We know we had a good campaign, but we did not play our best.

"We did not show how good Brazilian football is, its superiority and charm, but we have to look at this last match as if it were the final.

"Victory won't assimilate all the pain we feel today, but it is important." — AFP




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