Polity & Governance
- ‘Not paying bribes in India is a competitive disadvantage’
- ‘Visa on arrival’ to attract Japan, Korea investors
- Marshall Islands to sue India, Pak. over nukes
- U.S. considers re-merger of India, Pakistan desks
- India, Afghanistan ink pact for visa-free travel by envoys
Art & Culture
- 30th Surajkund International Crafts Mela begins
Polity & Governance
‘Not paying bribes in India is a competitive disadvantage’
A survey of 141 Swedish companies based in India has revealed that India’s investment climate has worsened compared with last year and corruption is one of the main deterrents for doing business.
- A survey is the 8th annual Business Climate Survey conducted by the Swedish Chamber of Commerce.
- One out of three companies state that ‘not paying bribes’ is a competitive disadvantage in India.
- A slow roll out of reforms including the Goods and Services Tax, import restrictions, high customs duties and red-tape at the lower levels of bureaucracy and restrictive labour laws, were the other main hurdles.
- On the business outlook, 52 % of the companies consider the current business climate to be ‘very favourable’ (lower than the last year’s 60 %), while 76 %view it as ‘favourable’ (lower than 80 % last year).
- Eight out of 10 companies, the same as last year, are looking to increase their investments in the coming three years.
- High inflation, increased labour costs, delay in receiving payments, and long and complex sales processes are among the main factors impacting cost-advantage negatively.
- According to the survey, Swedish companies wanted an early conclusion of the India-European Union free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, saying the pact was crucial for boosting Swedish investments to India.
- A successful conclusion of the FTA was important to widen trade ties between Sweden and India.
- India, during the FTA negotiations, demanded greater market access to the services sector in the EU, including easier temporary movement of Indian skilled professionals to the EU.
Sweden has one of the most liberal policies on temporary movement of natural persons and on migration as it believes that such movement will result in a healthy exchange of knowledge.
‘Visa on arrival’ to attract Japan, Korea investors
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in December that all Japanese citizens would get “visas on arrival”, the government has decided to extend it only to the business community for now.
- Other categories like research and medical are not being included as of now.
- The Indian government is actively considering including South Korea in this category.
- Japan and South Korea are already on the list of 113 countries whose citizens can arrive in India through an electronic tourist visa on arrival (e-TV) platform.
Why only business community for now?
- This decision was being done keeping in mind the “Make in India” policy of the government and to make India an attractive destination for investors from the two countries.
- In December, during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to India, Mr. Modi announced a liberalised visa regime for all Japanese citizens.
Mr. Modi said that Japan had earmarked a $11-12-billion fund for “Make in India”. At least three Japanese firms were given the go-ahead in 2015 to set up shop in India.
What is a visa on arrival facility?
- A visa on arrival facility means that an applicant would not have to wait for days to travel to India.
- It will cut red tape and an applicant would be informed within three days through e-mail whether he or she can travel to a destination in India.
- The Indian Embassy has its own data and it will scan for suspicious travellers.
Marshall Islands to sue India, Pak. over nukes
The tiny Marshall Islands will, in March, seek to persuade the UN’s highest court- the International Court of Justice to take up a lawsuit against India, Pakistan and Britain which they accuse of failing to halt the nuclear arms race.
- In the cases brought against India and Pakistan, the court will examine whether the tribunal based in The Hague is competent to hear the lawsuits.
- The hearing involving Britain will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.
- In 2014, the Marshall Islands, a Pacific Ocean territory with 55,000 people, accused nine countries of “not fulfilling their obligations with respect to the cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”.
- They included China, Britain, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the U.S.
The government based in the Marshall Islands capital of Majuro said by not stopping the nuclear arms race, these countries continued to breach their obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) — even if the treaty has not been by signed by countries such as India and Pakistan.
U.S. nuclear tests & aftermath:
- Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. conducted repeated nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.
- In March 2014, the Marshall Islands marked 60 years since the devastating hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll that vapourised an island and exposed thousands in the surrounding area to radioactive fallout.
- The 15-megaton test on March 1, 1954, was part of the intense Cold War nuclear arms race and 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Bikini Islanders have lived in exile since they were moved for the first weapons tests in 1946.
But the court only admitted three cases brought against Britain, India and Pakistan because they already recognised the ICJ’s authority.
About International Court of Justice:
- The International Court of Justice, founded in 1945 is the primary judicial branch of the United Nations (UN).
- Seated in the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, the court settles legal disputes submitted to it by states and to provide advisory opinions on legal questions submitted to it by duly authorized international branches, agencies, and the UN General Assembly.
[Ref: Hindu, Wiki]
India, Afghanistan ink pact for visa-free travel by envoys
India and Afghanistan has inked a pact for visa-free travel by their diplomats following Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Presently, India as part of its goodwill diplomacy is helping Afghanistan in various spheres including defence and for meeting its developmental needs.
- As many as 92 small developmental projects in Afghanistan that are nearing completion are aided by India.
- Earlier in December 2015, India had given three multi-role Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan for combating terrorism in the war-torn country.
The Afghan leader’s visit comes nearly a month after Modi’s trip to Kabul during which he inaugurated the new Afghan Parliament building, constructed with India’s aid.
Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan:
- The Chief Executive Officerof Afghanistan is an extra-constitutional post within the Government of Afghanistan.
- The post was created in 2014 following the disputes that arose after the 2014 Afghan presidential election when both Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory in that election.
- As part of a national unity agreement, it was agreed that Ashraf Ghani would assume the presidency and a new post of Chief Executive Officer would be created for Abdullah Abdullah.
[Ref: ToI, Wiki]
U.S. considers re-merger of India, Pakistan desks
Seven years after the State Department was restructured to ‘de-hyphenate’ U.S. relations with India and with Pakistan, it is considering a reversal of the move.
- The re-merger proposal is ostensibly timed with the international troops’ pullout from Afghanistan.
What is ‘De-hyphenate’?
- De-hyphenating refers to a policy started by the U.S. government under President Bush, but sealed by the Obama administration, of dealing with India and Pakistan in different silos, without referring to their bilateral relations.
- The de-hyphenation policy of the U.S. was crystallised when the SRAP was set up in 2009 soon after President Barack Obama had taken over, with the appointment of Richard Holbrooke.
- It enabled the U.S. to build closer military and strategic ties with India without factoring in the reaction from Pakistan, and to continue its own strategy in Afghanistan with the help of the Pakistan military without referring back to India.
Why in News?
A proposal to re-merge the office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) back with the Bureau of South and Central Asia (SCA) that handles India, the rest of the subcontinent and Central Asian republics is under “active” consideration.
- Inclusion of India in SRAP would make the US third party in India-Pak disputes.
- It would also make India indirectly support US policy on Afghanistan.
It should however be noted here that this move is an internal matter of the U.S. government and India has no say in this.
What experts say?
- Some experts argue that such merger would bring the US on board as the third party in India-Pakistan talks, which would undermine the authority of India.
- However, few people argue that such merger would be good for both the countries as it would introduce a balance between the two.
Art & Culture
30th Surajkund International Crafts Mela begins
The 30th edition of the annual Surajkund international crafts fair has begun at Faridabad, Haryana.
- The 15-day festival is jointly hosted by the Surajkund Mela Authority and Haryana Tourism in collaboration with the Union Ministries of Tourism, Textiles, Culture, External Affairs and the Haryana government.
- The newly-carved State of Telangana is theme State of this year’s fair, which showcases its unique culture and heritage.
- This year 23 countries participate in the Mela, including two focus countries — China and Japan.
- There will also be performances by international folk artistes from Japan, Congo, Egypt, Thailand, Maldives, Russia, Vietnam, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.
- The Haryana government took up with the Archaeological Survey of India the issue of keeping open the Sunpool, an ancient monument from which Surajkund derives its name, open to the Mela visitors.
- Besides attracting over a million visitors each year, the Mela has also helped revive the heritage crafts of the country.
Mela has attained the status of an international calendar event and complimented Haryana’s efforts to boost its tourism.
About Surajkund international crafts fair:
- Every year from February 1–15, a colourful traditional craft festival of India is held in the precincts of Surajkund. This fair was first started in 1987.
- This fair is showcasing the richness and diversity of handicrafts, handlooms and cultural heritage of the country.