India: India seeks 10% advantage over China in tariff removal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

At RCEP meet, India seeks 10% advantage over China in tariff removal

This advantage for India will mean that its exporters can access 10% more Chinese product lines without facing tariff barriers.

INDIA Updated: Oct 19, 2019 03:10 IST

Rajeev Jayaswal
Rajeev Jayaswal

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Farmers during a protest against the plan to join the Regional Comprehensive Economics Partnership (RCEP).
Farmers during a protest against the plan to join the Regional Comprehensive Economics Partnership (RCEP).(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)

India has bargained a nearly 10% advantage over China in tariff elimination during the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) discussions in a move aimed to placate the domestic industry and pave the way for New Delhi to conclude negotiations ahead of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangkok next month, three people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

This advantage for India will mean that its exporters can access 10% more Chinese product lines without facing tariff barriers

Indian negotiators and experts are stationed in Bangkok to fine tune commercial and legal issues pertaining to the RCEP, said an official with direct knowledge of the matter. They are expected to iron out key issues before commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal arrives in Bangkok early next month ahead of Modi’s scheduled visit on November 4, the official said.

The Indian leadership is determined to protect the interests of the domestic industry, agriculture and farm sectors before concluding any FTA (free trade agreement), according to the people cited above.

“India will not repeat the mistakes of the past. The Asean FTA has been tilted in favor of countries like Vietnam and Thailand. India’s trade deficit with Asean has soared since the FTA has become operative in 2010,” one of the officials said.

According to official data, while India’s exports to ASEAN grew 9.56% to $37.47 billion in 2018-19, imports surged to $59.32 billion in the same period, a whopping 25.87% growth.

India is determined to bargain hard on the principle of equity, which was perceived to have been sacrificed while signing the Asean FTA, the official said.

“India’s concessions to countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are disproportionate under the Asean FTA, which is against the principle of equity. While India agreed to eliminate more than 74% of tariff lines, Indonesia agreed to about 50% and Vietnam 70%. Such tilts are the main cause of concern for the Indian industry,” the official added.

An agreement between India and China is the key for successfully concluding the RCEP because New Delhi already has FTAs with most of the other members.

The RCEP is a proposed FTA covering 16 countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and its six FTA partners — China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. India has FTAs with Asean, Japan and South Korea. FTAs are arrangements between two or more countries that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate tariff and non-tariff barriers on substantial trade between them.

The RCEP will not be fully successful without India’s participation, which is one of the main reasons why other members agreed to allow time for further negotiation even as the last ministerial (October 11-12) was expected to conclude the deal before the 3rd Leaders Summit scheduled on November 4 this year in Bangkok, an official said.

According to the domestic industry, the FTA with Asean did not bring the desired gains for the Indian industry in terms of enhanced exports.

“India’s trade deficit with Asean, which was approximately US$12 billion in 2010-11 jumped to over US$22 billion in 2018-19,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

A NITI Aayog report that reviewed various FTAs, including the one with Asean countries said India has been a net loser in almost all, except with Sri Lanka. The report, ‘A Note on Free Trade Agreements and Their Costs’, said the Asean FTA saw the greatest reduction in Indian import tariffs.

“FTA covers 75% of the two-way trade. India offered around 9,000 products for tariff elimination out of about 12,000 tariff lines, 1,800 lines in sensitive track and almost 1,300 lines in exclusion. Thus India kept around 10% of their tariff lines in exclusion, Thailand, Philippines, Myanmar, Brunei and Vietnam kept more number of tariff lines under exclusion compared to India,” it said.

India’s stand on “free” but “fair” trade has been reinforced recently at a high-level internal meeting on the RCEP in New Delhi. The meeting took place ahead of Goyal’s vist to Bangkok to attend the ministerial (October 10-12).

“The government is also conscious of the fact that the RCEP agreement would be fully operative some time around 2021-22 and its impact will be felt in 2023-24, which will be the time when the government would be seeking a fresh mandate. Hence, it cannot afford to sign a hasty deal as was done in the past,” the second of the people cited above said.

“The industry is opposing the RCEP because of historical blunders in FTA negotiations. For example, India gave more than proportional access to some of the member countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia,” said Ram Singh, professor, Delhi School of Economics. “Now India should negotiate trade deals in favour of its industry and extract more concessions from countries like China before signing the RCEP. This will win the confidence of Indian industry and improve balance of trade for the country.”

Sharad Kumar Saraf, president, Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO), said, “When you go to negotiate any FTA, there is always some give and take. Important is to strike a balance. A 10% edge is reasonable. It will help India’s exports.”

“Some local industry could feel the heat. But, the government can help them by providing assistance, such as duty-free imports of components that can make them competitive,” he said.

First Published: Oct 18, 2019 23:57 IST

Team Modi looks to foil Pakistan designs on Kashmir at UNHRC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Team Modi looks to foil Pakistan designs on Kashmir at UNHRC

The session lasts from September 9 to 27. If Pakistan wants to move a resolution, it needs to do so before September 19, which explains the intensity of its efforts as well as that of New Delhi’s preemptive measures.

INDIA Updated: Sep 08, 2019 09:03 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Singapore
The Indian counter at UNHRC, Geneva, will be led by secretary (east) Vijay Thakur Singh along with high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria apart from other officials.
The Indian counter at UNHRC, Geneva, will be led by secretary (east) Vijay Thakur Singh along with high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria apart from other officials. (Sonu Mehta/HT PHOTO)

With a crucial UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) session beginning on Monday, New Delhi’s aim is to ensure that Pakistan does not secure any outcome on Kashmir. Pakistani foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi personally leads the charge against India in Geneva from September 9 to 12.

The session lasts from September 9 to 27. If Pakistan wants to move a resolution, it needs to do so before September 19, which explains the intensity of its efforts as well as that of New Delhi’s preemptive measures.

According to diplomats and security officials based here, Geneva and New Delhi, while foreign minister S Jaishankar has personally contacted or visited each and every member of the 47-member UNHRC, national security adviser Ajit Doval has managed the internal situation in Kashmir. The government will stress the fact that not a single life has been lost in Jammu and Kashmir at the hands of Indian security forces. The vital political aspect of Kashmir is being handled by home minister Amit Shah.

The Indian counter at UNHRC, Geneva, will be led by secretary (east) Vijay Thakur Singh along with high commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria apart from other officials.

Also Watch | Article 370 revoked I Analysis I How Modi, Shah and Doval orchestrated move

 

Article 370 revoked I Analysis I How Modi, Shah and Doval orchestrated move
Hindustan Times’ executive editor Shishir Gupta explains how the trio of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Ajit Doval orchestrated the move to bring about this landmark decision on Kashmir of revoking the contentious Article 370.
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According to diplomats, Pakistan will first assess the situation before it either calls for an urgent debate or resolution at the UNHRC. If Pakistan moves for an urgent debate by writing a letter to the UNHRC president, then the matter will be put to a simple majority vote with absentees or abstentions not being counted. The other option for Pakistan is to move a resolution citing alleged human rights violations in Kashmir, but this will also be put to vote. However, the matter is tedious as China and the UK (in the first round) took Pakistan’s side on August 16 at the UNSC. The eventual result, though was a knockout totally in favour of India with the US, France and Russia against the outcome.

Since the August 5-6 resolutions and laws that scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, Jaishankar has been on the move, travelling to China, Indonesia, the Maldives, Belgium, Poland, Russia and Hungary explaining the Indian position on Jammu and Kashmir. He has engaged Indian Ocean rim countries and others including South Africa, Fiji, Australia and the Philippines over the phone to defeat Pakistani designs. He is currently in Singapore working away the phones as he has been tasked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convince UNHRC members that Kashmir is an internal matter of India.

On Friday, speaking at the HT-MintAsia summit in Singapore, Jaishankar said most countries accepted that the Indian move to nullify Article 370 was an internal issue. “They think it’s an Indian issue. They are aware, in part from the reactions, that Pakistan is saying some pretty strong things about it. The general sentiment is that if there are issues at all, India and Pakistan should sit down and sort it out,” the minister said.

Doval bears the onerous task of handling the internal security situation in Kashmir and ensure that innocents are not used as cannon fodder by Rawalpindi general headquarters (GHQ) to project alleged human rights violations in Kashmir. Interacting with reporters in Delhi, Doval made it clear that more than 230 jihadists were waiting across the Line of Control (LoC) to infiltrate India and spread mayhem in the Valley at the behest of their Pakistani handlers.

Reeling out the figures, Doval, who handled the J&K internal security on the ground till August 15, said that contrary to some reports, medical services in the region haven’t been hit: at least 400,000 people have been treated, 35,000 admitted and 11,000 operated upon for a variety of ailments since August 5, he explained. He said all landline connectivity has been restored in Jammu and Kashmir with some amount of mobile connectivity in Jammu, Ladakh and two districts ( Kupwara and Handwara) in Kashmir. Internet kiosks have been opened in all 10 districts of Kashmir with a minimum five terminals apart from 12 counters with internet access also available at the tourist reception centre in Srinagar. There are eight internet terminals working at the media centre in Srinagar.

According to the NSA, restrictions on movement have been lifted from 92% of the state and are in place now in only 11 out of 199 police station areas in the region. More than 1.67 metric tons of apples have been transported and ~98 crores disbursed through ATMs in the state to date, he added, listing two other issues that have been highlighted — the status of the apple trade and the availability of cash. Schools too are open, he told reporters.

However, Doval added that Indian agencies have intercepted messages that point to efforts to disrupt the movement of the trucks carrying apples. This is the peak apple season and the trade in Kashmir is worth around Rs 15,000 crore a year.

First Published: Sep 08, 2019 05:38 IST

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

India studying early Chinese proposals on boundary issue

National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

INDIA Updated: Aug 18, 2019 08:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, Beijing/ New Delhi
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way.
Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way. (HT File Photo )

The 22nd round of the India-China Special Representatives dialogue on the boundary issue will take place in New Delhi in mid-September. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is evaluating the “early harvest” proposals sent by Beijing to build trust between the two sides ahead of the meeting.

Dates for the meeting between Doval and Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi, the interlocutors, haven’t yet been finalized, Hindustan Times learns from Chinese and Indian diplomats.

The foreign ministers dialogue on August 11-13 in Beijing and the Special Representative talks are precursors to the October 11-12 informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in India for which Varanasi is being considered as the potential venue.

Senior Chinese diplomats said Beijing was very serious about getting the longstanding boundary issues with both India and Bhutan out of the way, and that Wang had sent “early harvest” proposals to India.

Neither side is willing to share the contents of the proposals. However, Beijing, as indicated by HT’s conversations with Chinese diplomats, is showing no signs of changing any positions with New Delhi, be it India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) or full political support to its “all weather ally” Pakistan.

The trust factor between the two sides has also taken a hit after China, joined by the United Kingdom, still living in its imperial past, supported Pakistan in the informal United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting on Monday against the Narendra Modi government’s decision to nullify Article 370 and Article 35 A of the Indian Constitution pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir.

The overall sense from the UNSC meeting was that both countries were hopelessly outnumbered and out maneuvered in their quest for a formal outcome by the remaining 13 members led by the US and France.

In his meeting this month in Beijing with State Councillor Wang, who is also foreign minister, external affairs minister S Jaishankar had made it very clear that both countries should be sensitive to each other’s core concerns. “If Beijing wants India to support One China that includes Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong, then it also must support One India,” said a top official.

Indian diplomats based in the US said the latest Chinese move in support of Pakistan on Kashmir will lead to a cooling of ties; Article 370 and Article 35 A have nothing to do with beaching either the UN Charter or the 1972 Simla Agreement between India and Pakistan, they say. Despite Chinese diplomats vehemently denying it, Beijing wants to play elder brother to South Asia as the dominant power in the region and will support Pakistan for its own economic and strategic interests.

In the circumstances, mutual trust between the two countries can only be built if President Xi, or Xi Dada (elder brother as he is called), can overrule the status quoits in Beijing and opt for a mutually beneficial and mutually acceptable solution to the long-pending dispute over the boundary.

First Published: Aug 18, 2019 07:07 IST

India: Sushma Swaraj, BJP stalwart dies at 67

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Sushma Swaraj, BJP stalwart and former external affairs minister, dies at 67

Sushma Swaraj died of cardiac arrest at the age of 67 in New Delhi.

INDIA Updated: Aug 07, 2019 08:42 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sushma Swaraj was external affairs minister in Narendra Modi’s first government
Sushma Swaraj was external affairs minister in Narendra Modi’s first government(Arvind Yadav (HT FILE Photo))

Former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who extended a helping hand to many Indians in distress abroad and acquired a reputation as one of the most accessible ministers in the first term of the Narendra Modi government, died suddenly on Tuesday night after a cardiac arrest. She was 67.

Swaraj, who was India’s first full-time woman foreign minister (Indira Gandhi held additional charge of the ministry when she was prime minister) suffered the cardiac arrest late in the evening and was immediately taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). She died after efforts to revive her failed.

“She was brought to the hospital after she had collapsed at home. She reached AIIMS emergency at about 09:35 pm,” said a hospital spokesperson.

WATCH | Remembering Sushma Swaraj: Fiery Opposition leader, transformative foreign minister

Remembering Sushma Swaraj: Fiery Opposition leader, transformative foreign minister
Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart and former Union Minister Sushma Swaraj breathed her last in Delhi on August 6, 2019.
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A team of doctors attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to revive her, but she couldn’t make it. “All resuscitative measures were taken but she could not be revived,” the spokesperson added.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan, who was at the hospital, confirmed her death.

In her last tweet, at 7:23 pm, Swaraj posted: “Thank you Prime Minister. Thank you very much. I was waiting to see this day in my lifetime.” It was a reference to the Lok Sabha effectively abrogating Article 370 of the Constitution that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and converting the state into two Union territories — J&K and Ladakh — realising what had always been a key objective of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its members.

Prime Minister Narenda Modi said Swaraj’s passing was a personal loss for him.

“She will be remembered fondly for everything that she’s done for India. My thoughts are with her family, supporters and admirers in this very unfortunate hour. Om Shanti,” he wrote on Twitter.

Swaraj is survived by her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, and their daughter Bansuri, who are both lawyers by training, like the minister too was.

Swaraj, a nine-time member of Parliament, opted out of contesting the April-May general elections, making the announcement as early as November last year. To be sure, that Swaraj may not fight a direct election after undergoing a kidney transplant in December 2016 and been suffering from diabetes had been an open secret within the BJP.

“It is the party which decides, but I have made up my mind not to contest the next [Lok Sabha] elections,” Swaraj said in Indore in the middle of the election campaign in Madhya Pradesh, adding that she had conveyed her decision to the party leadership because of health reasons. She did say that she wasn’t quitting politics, only not contesting the election.

“Madam [Sushma Swaraj] – Thank you very much for your decision not to contest any more elections. I remember there came a time when even Milkha Singh stopped running,” her husband Swaraj Kaushal, a former governor of Mizoram, said in a series of tweets after her announcement.

Also read: ‘Come tomorrow for Re 1 fee’: Swaraj told Harish Salve; died an hour later

Swaraj was replaced as external affairs minister in the second term of the Narendra Modi government by former diplomat S Jaishankar, who said after his appointment that he was proud to follow in the footsteps of Swaraj.

Modi praised her performance in the ministry. “I can’t forget the manner in which Sushma Ji worked tirelessly as EAM in the last 5 years. Even when her health was not good, she would do everything possible to do justice to her work and remain up to date with matters of her Ministry. The spirit and commitment was unparalleled,” he wrote on Twitter.

Swaraj entered the Haryana assembly in 1977, and became a minister in the state cabinet at the age of 25. She was a former chief minister of Delhi and has been part of every BJP government at the Centre except the current one. Her electoral challenge to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi from Bellary, Karnataka, in 1999 was one of the most discussed electoral battles of the 1990s. Gandhi won the election by 56,000 votes.

She served as minister for information and broadcasting as well as health minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government from 1998 to 2004. She won the 2009 election to the 15th Lok Sabha from the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency in Madhya Pradesh and became Leader of Opposition

“We are saddened to hear about the untimely demise of Smt Sushma Swaraj. Our condolences to her family and loved ones,” the principal opposition party, the Congress, which was among the first to express condolences over the death of Swaraj, wrote in a tweet.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said he was shocked, describing her as an “extraordinary political leader, a gifted orator & an exceptional Parliamentarian, with friendships across party lines.”

The fact that her popularity cut across political lines was clear from the reactions of Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor and P Chidambaram to her decision not to contest the elections.

“For all our political differences, I am sorry that Sushma Swaraj will leave Parliament,” Tharoor said.

“Braving illness, Smt Sushma Swaraj has served the country with great dignity. We wish Smt Sushma Swaraj good health and a long life,” Chidambaram tweeted at the time.

n her stint as external affairs minister, Swaraj was recognised as perhaps the minister most accessible to ordinary people, who actively sought her out for help when they found themselves in a crisis, whether it was someone who had lost a passport while abroad or offering a visa to someone who found the red tape involved in getting one too much to handle. She did so with gentle humour. One Twitter user, software engineer Samit Padhy wondered whether it was indeed Swaraj who was responding to the tweets or “some PR guy” “doing his/her duty for what they are being paid for.” Swaraj replied in March: “Rest assured – it’s me, not my ghost.”

First Published: Aug 06, 2019 23:27 IST

India Proves That Pakistan F-16 Was Shot Down: Pakistan Caught Lying Again!

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

IAF goes public with radar images to rebut Pakistan over F-16 shot down by India

The IAF said there was more credible evidence available to establish that Pakistan Air Force had lost one F-16 in the air action.

INDIA Updated: Apr 08, 2019 19:51 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pakistan air force,Pak air force,F-16
Air Vice Marshal Kapoor said the AWACS radar image of the engagement area west of the Line of Control opposite Jhangar clearly establishes that there were a bunch of F-16s opposite Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.(Vipin Kumar/HT Photo)

The Indian Air Force on Monday released radar images to rebut Pakistan’s claim that it hadn’t lost a US-manufactured F-16 fighter jet in the February 27 dogfight. The IAF said there was more credible evidence available to establish that Pakistan Air Force had lost one F-16 in the air action.

But the IAF is restricting the information being shared in public domain due to security and confidentiality concerns, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Operations) said.

Officials said the Air Force also had evidence in the form of radio-telephony intercepts of the Pakistan Air Force F-16 strike package and ground wireless intercepts but would not place this evidence in public domain due to security and confidentiality concerns.

‘Radar image proof that Abhinandan downed Pak F16’: IAF counters Pakistan
Days after Pakistan sought to assert that the Indian Air Force hadn’t shot down one of its F16 fighter aircraft, the IAF released radar images as proof to expose the neighbouring nation’s claims.
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The fact is that the IAF had achieved its objectives of successfully striking the Balakot camp and thwarting the retaliatory PAF attack against Indian military installations that followed on February 27, Air Vice Marshal Kapoor said.

The AWACS radar image of the engagement area west of the Line of Control opposite Jhangar clearly establishes that there were a bunch of F-16s opposite Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. In a second image taken 10 seconds later, one of the F-16s disappeared.

“That’s the F-16 the PAF lost,” the IAF officer said.

It is believed to have been the first ever kill of an F-16 by a MiG-21 Bison, fighter jets of two different generations.

Also Read | ‘Over in 90 seconds’: Officers detail India, Pakistan air duel along border

Pakistan had, however, insisted that the PAF did not lose any fighter jet in the engagement over the skies of Nowshera in Rajouri district of Jammu Province, the first aerial dogfight between the two air forces since the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War. Islamabad had also insisted that it did not use the US-made F-16 combat jets in the February 27 air action.

Last week, however, there was a shift in Islamabad’s stand when Pakistan military said it had the right to use any aircraft for its self-defence. Prior to this statement, Islamabad had claimed that it had only used JF-17 Thunder jets, developed jointly with China, in the February 27 engagement with India and that its aircraft had shot down two Indian Air Force jets. India contested both points, saying it lost only one MiG-21 and that an F-16 was shot down.

In the new statement, Pakistan military arm’s media wing said it was “immaterial” whether F-16s or JF-17s were used. It described the events of February 27 as “part of history now” and said no Pakistani F-16 “was hit by the Indian Air Force”.

A report in the Foreign Policy magazine, however, waded into the row last week when it claimed that US defence personnel had recently conducted a physical count of Pakistan’s F-16s and found none missing. The US defence ministry spokesperson, however, told Hindustan Times that the department wasn’t “aware of any investigation like that”.

First Published: Apr 08, 2019 18:03 IST

Few Overseas Have Faith in Trump’s Leadership, Survey Finds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

President Trump, left, gathered with other foreign leaders at the NATO summit meeting in Brussels in May. Mr. Trump will make his second overseas trip next week. CreditStephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Faith in American leadership has plunged in many nations around the world in the months since President Trump took office, according to a new survey, underscoring the challenges facing the new president as he prepares to make his second overseas trip next week.

Just 22 percent of those interviewed outside the United States expressed confidence in Mr. Trump to do the right thing, compared with 64 percent who had similar confidence in the late stages of President Barack Obama’s administration, according to the Pew Research Center. In only two of 37 countries in the survey did Mr. Trump fare better than Mr. Obama: Russia and Israel.

“Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined

steeply in many nations,” the center said in a report released on Monday. “The sharp decline in how much global publics trust the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada.”

The findings come despite concerted efforts by Mr. Trump to build relationships with world leaders. On Monday, he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India at the White House and he is scheduled to host President Moon Jae-in of South Korea for a two-day visit starting on Thursday. As president, he has brought the leaders of China and Japan to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida and telephoned other world leaders dozens of times.

Next week, Mr. Trump heads to Europe to visit Poland and attend a meeting of the Group of 20 world powers in Hamburg, Germany, where he may also sit down with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for the first time since taking office.

Mr. Trump’s first international trip, last month, won him praise from Arab and Israeli leaders in the Middle East but alienated America’s traditional allies in Europe over issues like trade, climate change and the role of NATO.

Shortly after returning to Washington, he drove a further wedge between himself and the international community when he announced that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord negotiated by Mr. Obama. Every other nation in the world belongs to the pact except Nicaragua, which argued that it did not go far enough, and Syria, which is consumed by civil war. And only after his return did Mr. Trump grudgingly affirm support for NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense provision, stating that an attack on one member was an attack on all.

It may come as little surprise that a president espousing an “America first” approach to the world would not be viewed favorably outside its borders, and many of Mr. Trump’s supporters are unlikely to be bothered by that — indeed, they may see it as proof that he is tending to their needs, not those of foreigners. One of Mr. Trump’s central themes both as a candidate and as president is that America has been treated unfairly by other countries, whether it be in economics, security arrangements or agreements like the Paris accord.

In that vein, he has been willing to advance policies that he argues reflect American interests even at the cost of complaints from abroad, including travel restrictions on selected predominantly Muslim countries that were partially restored by the Supreme Court on Monday, construction of a wall along the Mexican border, and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement with Asia.

“My job is not to represent the world,” Mr. Trump said in an address to a joint session of Congress in February. “My job is to represent the United States of America.”

 Some of those policies generate broad criticism overseas. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed by Pew disapproved of the travel restrictions and more than 70 percent opposed the United States’ withdrawing from major trade and climate change agreements. Ninety-four percent of those interviewed in Mexico opposed Mr. Trump’s proposal for a border wall.

But it is not just his specific policy agenda that creates antipathy in other countries. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed described Mr. Trump as arrogant, 65 percent called him intolerant and 62 percent said he was dangerous. Still, in a metric that may appeal to Mr. Trump, 55 percent characterized him as a strong leader.

Despite the eroding belief in its president, the United States itself and its people and culture still retained support around the world. Majorities expressed favorable views of Americans; their music, movies and television shows; and their traditions of personal freedom, although feelings were mixed about American ideas about democracy.

The collapse in confidence in the president echoed that of the last phase of President George W. Bush’s tenure, when the Iraq war and the global financial crisis had sapped international faith in American leadership.

The falling support was most pronounced among longtime American friends. While 93 percent in Sweden had faith in Mr. Obama to do the right thing, only 10 percent had such confidence in Mr. Trump, a drop of 83 percentage points. The drop was also large in Germany and the Netherlands (75 percentage points), South Korea (71 points), France (70 points), Spain (68 points) and Britain (57 points).

In Mexico, only 5 percent expressed positive feelings about Mr. Trump, the least in any of the 37 countries. In Canada, confidence in the president fell from 83 percent to 22 percent, the lowest it has been in the 15 years that the survey has been conducted. In addition to the border wall, Mr. Trump’s threat to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement unless it is renegotiated to his liking has soured America’s closest neighbors.

The only two places where Mr. Trump bested Mr. Obama were Israel, where 56 percent expressed faith in the current president, a seven-point rise, and Russia, where 53 percent gave Mr. Trump high marks, a 42-point rise.

The global attitudes survey, which has been conducted since 2002, surveyed 40,447 respondents from Feb. 16 to May 8.

Chinese Media Keeps Up It’s Angry Tirade Toward India Because Of Dalai Lama’s Visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF YAHOO NEWS AND IANS (INDO ASIAN NEWS SERVICE))

Chinese media keeps up angry tirade on Dalai Lama’s Arunachal visit

Indo Asian News Service

Beijing, April 6 (IANS) The Chinese media on Thursday kept up its tirade against India over the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, with an editorial in a state-run daily suggesting that if China, with its higher military capabilities and support among India’s neighbours, wants it can create trouble in Jammu and Kashmir.

In an editorial, titled ‘India’s use of Dalai Lama card tactless’, the Global Times says: “With a GDP several times higher than that of India, military capabilities that can reach the Indian Ocean and having good relations with India’s peripheral nations, coupled with the fact that India’s turbulent northern state borders China, if China engages in a geopolitical game with India, will Beijing lose to New Delhi?”

It said that China considers India as a friendly neighbour and partner and has “never provoked” bilateral disputes or made any “pressing demand” on India over the Dalai Lama. “New Delhi should respond to Beijing’s goodwill with goodwill.”

The editorial comes a day after Beijing summoned the Indian envoy Vijay Gokhale to protest the Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, large parts of which China considers disputed and part of south Tibet. India has maintained that Arunachal Pradesh is an inseparable part of its territory. The protests come as the Dalai Lama is in Arunachal Pradesh and is on way to Tawang for a major Buddhist event.

The editorial says that while the Dalai Lama has been to Arunachal Pradesh before, what makes this trip different is that he is “received by and accompanied by India’s Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju. When China raised the concern over the visit, Rijiju commented that China shouldn’t intervene in their “internal affairs.”

The editorial is mistaken on this point, as Rijiju, who belongs to Arunachal Pradesh, was not in Arunachal Pradesh on Wednesday and did not receive the Dalai Lama or accompany him. Rijiju is set to accompany the Tibetan leader during his visit to Tawang. The Dalai Lama was received by Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu on Tuesday, who is accompanying him on his road journey.

The daily says, in faulty English, that on the one hand New Delhi takes a stance that it opposes the Dalai Lama engaging in anti-China activities on the soil of India, but “it has long attempted to use the Dalai Lama as a card”.

“When India emphasizes the relationship with China, it would place a tight control on the Dalai. When it has a grudge against China, it may prompt the Dalai to play certain tricks as a signal sent to China,” it goes on to say.

It suggested that India is using the Dalai Lama as a “diplomatic tool” to put pressure on Beijing on the NSG and Masood Azhar issues, but it termed it “a clumsy and rude move”.

The editorial said that since the Tibetan leader is a highly politicised symbol in China’s diplomacy, a country’s attitude toward him almost affects the entire relationship with Beijing.

“The West has fully recognised the nature of the Dalai Lama as a diplomatic card and is extremely prudent in using it.

It said that earlier the Dalai Lama was received by Indian President Pranab Mukherjee in December. “At a time when the Dalai Lama has been given a cold shoulder in many places of the world, New Delhi is bucking the trend and treating him as a favourite.”

The editorial warned that “New Delhi probably overestimates its leverage in the bilateral ties with China”.

“The two countries in recent years have continuously strived to improve their relationship and the peace on the border area has been maintained. India has benefited from the good momentum of bilateral relationship as much as China. If New Delhi ruins the Sino-India ties and the two countries turn into open rivals, can India afford the consequence?”

On Wednesday too, the Global Times in a belligerent editorial had said that New Delhi’s inviting the Tibetan spiritual leader to the “sensitive region” would “gravely damage” India-China relations.

It said that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “unlike his predecessors” was taking a different stance on the Dalai Lama issue by “raising public engagements with the monk and challenging Beijing’s bottom line” on Arunachal Pradesh.

–IANS

ksk/rn/vm

President Trump Call India’s Prime Minister Modi “A True Friend And Partner”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Trump tells Modi India ‘a true friend and partner’, invites PM to US ‘later this year’

WORLD Updated: Jan 25, 2017 07:26 IST

Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington

Highlight Story

US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a scheduled telephonic conversation at 11:30pm IST on Tuesday.(Agencies File)

In a phone call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the US considers India a “true friend and partner in addressing challenges around the world”, according to a White House statement.The two leaders also discussed opportunities to “strengthen the partnership between the United States and India in broad areas such as the economy and defense”, the statement said without citing specific areas, sectors or goals.

Modi and Trump, who were speaking for the first time after the new US president took charge last Friday, also discussed “security in the region of South and Central Asia” and, once again the statement left out details.

South and Central Asia cover many areas of mutual interest to both India and the United States including Pakistan and Afghanistan and it could not be immediately confirmed if they discussed the drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan.

Read more

But the two leaders resolved, according to the White House statement, “that the United States and India stand shoulder to shoulder in the global fight against terrorism”, which has been a priority for both of them and both countries.

Trump is hosting Modi later in the year, but it was, once again, not immediately clear if that will be in September-October when the Indian prime minister comes to the US for the UN general assembly meeting, or some other time.

But the two, who first spoke in November when Modi was among the first foreign leaders to call Trump on his election, are likely to meet during the next meeting of the G-20, which is scheduled to take place in Hamburg, Germany in July.

Since that first call, India engaged with Trump on two separate occasions: The first was a meeting between Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar and then Vice-President-elect Mike Pence, and the second on December 19 when Ajit Doval, national security adviser to PM Modi, met Trump’s NSA Michael Flynn.

Read more

And now the call. The US statement contained no details and it was not known if trade in services, read H-1B, came up during their phone call, as many had expected, since it being the one issue that had agitated New Delhi the most about Trump.

The fate of the temporary US visa programme for high-skilled foreign workers, which is at the heart to India’s burgeoning IT exports to the US, seemed uncertain, given the president’s own reservations about it, and those of leading members of his team.

They believe the H-1B programme is being abused by the US companies to outsource American jobs to temporary foreign workers, a large number of them from India, and they have been considering ways to make it harder for that to happen.

“There is no other area of potential dispute or differences with the United States under President Trump,” said an Indian official, who spoke strictly on background. He added, “H-1B is the only problem for us as of now.”

In response to a question about India-US relations, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had said Monday that as with other countries, the Trump administration is focussed on access to markets in manufacturing and services.

Since being sworn-in last Friday, the new president has begun engaging with world leaders and has spoken to prime minister and president of neighboring Canada and Mexico first — with whom he plans to renegotiate the NAFTA trade deal.

He has also talked since with Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who he has invited to to a meeting in early February. And he meets Teresa May, prime minister of America’s closest ally the United Kingdom, on Friday.

The Tuesday call with Modi, on the second day of Trump’s first week in office, is being taken as sign of the priority he is attaching to the relationship, after an unprecedented outreach to the Indian American community during election.

At an election rally in New Jersey, Trump had said on his watch as president that India and the US will be “best friends” and, added in a typically Trumpian hyperbole that “there will be no relationship more important to me”.

At the suggestion of the Republican Hindu Coalition founder Shalli Kumar, who had organised the rally, Trump recorded a campaign call modeled on Modi’s election slogan “Abki baar Modi sarkar”, replacing Modi with Trump.

Also, Prime Minister Modi appears to have an admirer in Steve Bannon, chief strategist and senior counseller to the president, who had in 2014 called Modi’s election a “great victory … very much based on … Reaganesque principles”.

Bannon was then chief executive officer of Breitbart News, a stridently conservative news publication, and would become in 2016 a leading and early supporter of Trump, and later went on to head his campaign in August.

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

PM Modi rings in new year with mini-budget of sops, focuses on poor

INDIA Updated: Dec 31, 2016 23:57 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Highlight Story

People watching live telecast of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at an electronic shop in Patna on Saturday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a slew of schemes on Saturday evening to herald a prosperous 2017 for the urban and rural poor, farmers, small businessmen, senior citizens and pregnant women.Modi started on a sombre note. For the first 23 minutes, he mainly thanked his countrymen for braving the cash crunch, iterated why demonetisation was a necessary weapon in his fight against black money and corruption and warned of more action against the dishonest.

“The law will take its course with full force. The government will help the honest, protect them, and see that their difficulties are eased,” he said.

Read: Full transcript of PM Narendra Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

In his address made to the nation on the very day the demonetisation exercise ended, the Prime Minister did not say much about curbs on withdrawals. He only said everyone in the government has been told that banking operations must return to normal as soon as possible.

Then he switched to announcement mode, rattling out enough measures to make his speech sound like a mini-budget.

The first in his list for 2017 were two housing schemes under the Prime Minister Awas Yojana (PMAY). For the urban poor, home loans up to Rs 9 lakh will get 4% interest exemption, and loans up to Rs 12 lakh will get 3%. In villages, home loans up to Rs 2 lakh will get 3% interest exemption. This would apply not only to loans for building new houses but also those taken for renovating or expanding an existing one.

In all, Modi said 33% more homes will be built in rural areas under the PMAY.

There was more for the rural poor, who got the lion’s share of the announcements. The govt will pay interest for 60 days on loans taken by farmers for Rabi farming from district cooperative banks and societies. It will give the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (Nabard) Rs 20,000 crore, which the bank will use for giving loans to cooperatives at low interest rates. Some 30 million kisan credit cards will be converted to RuPay cards, so their holders can make non-cash transactions at a large number of places.

Read: Focus on poor, small businesses: 5 highlights from PM Modi’s New Year’s eve speech

There was also a fair bit for small businessmen, generally referred to as MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises). In a scheme under which the government guarantees loans raised by them, the limit has been doubled to Rs 2 crore. This will also cover loans from NBFCs. Banks have been told to raise the cash credit limit to small businesses from 20% to 25%.

Banks, the Prime Minister noted, tend to decrease interest payable on deposits when they are flush with funds – as they are now. The government will not allow them to pay senior citizens anything less than 8% on deposits up to Rs 7.5 lakh made for 10 years.

To reduce deaths during child birth, the government will deposit Rs 6,000 into the accounts of pregnant women. It can be used for registration and vaccination, among other things.

Modi also packed a punch for his political rivals. “The time has come for all political parties and leaders to respect the feelings of honest citizens and understand their anger. I urge them to move away from their holier-than-thou approach, and take actual steps towards reforming the system and getting rid of black money and corruption,” he said.

Read: BJP compliments, rivals criticise PM Modi’s New Year’s eve address

Benefits of Indian cash overhaul elusive as deadline passes

 

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FOX NEWS)

THE AMERICAS

Benefits of Indian cash overhaul elusive as deadline passes

  • In this Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 photo, an Indian woman, who had come to deposit money, argues with a bank officer in New Delhi, India. On Nov. 8, India yanked most of its currency bills from circulation without warning, delivering a jolt to the country’s high-performing economy and leaving countless citizens scrambling for cash. Still, as Friday’s deadline for depositing old 500- and 1,000-rupee notes draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has called the demonetization drive a great success in drawing out tax dodgers and eliminating graft. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

    In this Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 photo, an Indian woman, who had come to deposit money, argues with a bank officer in New Delhi, India. On Nov. 8, India yanked most of its currency bills from circulation without warning, delivering a jolt to the country’s high-performing economy and leaving countless citizens scrambling for cash. Still, as Friday’s deadline for depositing old 500- and 1,000-rupee notes draws to a close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has called the demonetization drive a great success in drawing out tax dodgers and eliminating graft. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)  (The Associated Press)

Fifty days ago, India yanked most of its currency from circulation without warning, jolting the economy and leaving most citizens scrambling for cash. As the deadline for exchanging the devalued 500- and 1,000-rupee notes for new ones hits Friday, many Indians are still stuck waiting in long bank lines.

Empty ATMs and ever-changing rules are preventing people from withdrawing money, and many small, cash-reliant businesses from cinemas to neighborhood grocery stores are suffering huge losses or going under.

Despite those problems, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his Nov. 8 demonetization decree has succeeded in uncovering tax evasion and cracking down on graft. The Indian government is urging patience, insisting it’s playing a long game that will eventually modernize Indian society and benefit the poor.

So far, despite the widespread inconvenience and costs, most of the country’s 1.25 billion citizens appear to be taking Modi’s word for it.

Here are a few things to know about India’s massive cash overhaul:

___

HARDSHIP FOR THE POOR

Modi’s announcement that 500 and 1,000 rupee bills — making up 86 percent of India’s currency — were no longer legal tender has posed an enormous hardship for millions of people who use cash for everything from salaries to cellphone charges.

Almost immediately, serpentine lines appeared at banks and ATMs as people waited hours to deposit or exchange old currency notes for new bills. Since authorities only began printing the new bills after the policy was announced, demand vastly exceeds supply and cash machines often run dry. Daily commerce in essentials including food, medicine and transportation screeched almost to a halt.

Worst affected were the country’s hundreds of millions of farmers, produce vendors, small shop owners and daily-wage laborers who usually are paid in cash at the end of a day’s work. Many lost their jobs as small businesses shut down, compounding their poverty.

Pankaj Aggarwal, owner of a clothing shop in the Old Delhi neighborhood of Chandni Chowk says his sales crashed by 70 percent.

“You can imagine what our business is like now. It will be some time before our sales normalize,” he said.

Modi appears to have succeeded in promoting the cash overhaul as a “pro-poor” policy, tapping into deep anger among the have-nots toward wealthy elites.

“The first two months have been so bad for us, we don’t even have enough money to buy food,” said daily wage laborer Neeraj Mishra, 35. “Overall, I think Modi has done some good. People with a lot of money are the ones who have been troubled. I don’t have enough cash for it to bother me much.”

Political scientist Sreeram Chaulia, dean of the Jindal School of International Affairs in New Delhi, describes the strategy as “classic populism.”

“Some people are outraged, but are hesitant to come out and say it because they don’t want to be branded as anti-national or self-centered,” he said.

___

A BRUISED ECONOMY

The wide impact of the demonetization won’t be known until the government issues its next quarterly GDP figures in February, but the Reserve Bank of India already has shaved half a percent from this year’s GDP growth forecast, to 7.1 percent.

Since domestic commerce drives most economic activity, analysts have expressed alarm over the scale of economic and social disruption and are warning a contraction is likely in coming quarters.

“The countless unpredictable consequences that will continue to show in the coming weeks and months mean that it is, in effect, a huge gamble,” said Jan Zalewski, an Asia expert with the Britain-based risk assessment firm Verisk Maplecroft. “Inflicting such huge costs for what is an uncertain outcome is problematic.”

Real estate, tourism, transportation and gold and gems have been hit the hardest, along with informal sectors that rely mostly on cash.

Prices are forecast to rise since the cash crunch is pinching supplies of all sorts of goods.

The country’s banks, however, are seeing banner business. The central bank said old notes worth 13 trillion rupees ($191 billion) had been deposited as of Dec. 10, with many more expected by Friday’s deadline.

That should improve bank liquidity and in turn encourage more lending to boost economic growth.

___

MIXED MESSAGES, CHAOTIC RULES

The Finance Ministry and central bank have issued at least 60 different directives, some of them contradictory, about such issues as how much money can be withdrawn from bank accounts and which documents are needed for depositing old cash. The mixed messages have compounded the overall chaos and shaken investors’ confidence.

“There appears to be less trust in many institutions, including the Reserve Bank and other banks. That is one important behavioral change that has been ushered in,” said Mihir Sharma, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi based think tank.

Financial experts are baffled about how to evaluate the move.

“One of the major problems with the demonetization move is that success is so difficult to measure,” Zalewski said. “In and of itself, it can’t end black money, stop terrorism funding and the counterfeiting of notes.”

___

NEW BILLS, OLD HABITS

The idea that swapping old currency notes for new ones would wipe out tax evasion has already been proven naive. Over the last seven weeks, Indian income tax authorities uncovered more than 32 billion rupees ($477 million) in undeclared wealth held in new notes, foreign currency, gold and other commodities.

The Finance Ministry found enormous stashes of new currency bills secreted away by corrupt bank managers. Axis Bank’s CEO Shikha Sharma said she was “embarrassed and upset” after it was found managers at the bank had used the stolen funds to fake accounts and launder customers’ untaxed savings for a premium.

___

A GLOBAL TREND?

A month after Modi scrapped the high-denomination notes, Venezuela’s president announced that the 100-bolivar notes that account for more than three-quarters of the country’s cash would be taken out of circulation.

Skyrocketing inflation had taken the value of the Venezuelan notes to 2 U.S. cents from 10 cents in the past year.

But while India’s cash overhaul has been relatively peaceful, Venezuela’s was not.

When no new bolivar notes appeared to replace the old ones, riots and looting erupted in towns across Venezuela, whose economy was already in shambles. Hundreds of grocery stores were damaged or destroyed. Ultimately, the government extended use of the old 100-bolivar notes until Jan. 2.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro declared the abrupt cash overhaul an economic triumph, claiming people were racing to deposit the old notes into banks. He did not say how much was deposited.

In Pakistan, opposition lawmakers passed a resolution last week calling for the withdrawal of the country’s highest-denomination note from circulation. The government rejected that move, saying there was no need to discontinue the country’s 5,000-rupee note, worth about $48.

“The very notion of cancellation of such convenience in transactions is preposterous and unequivocally denied,” the Finance Ministry said in a statement.

___

Associated Press writers Fabiola Sanchez in Caracas and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

___

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