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India approves $ 1 billion connectivity project across nations

India has approved an ambitious $1.04-billion project for constructing and upgrading 558 km of roads to link it with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal and ease the movement of passengers and cargo, as part of the larger effort to increase inter-regional trade by 60 per cent. 
•    The new project has been given an official nod by India's Department of Economic Affairs with 50 per cent funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), officials told IANS, adding that the road project will cover West Bengal and Manipur on the Indian side, as of now. 
•    The project as per a list accessed by IANS includes, among others, an upgrade of the 122km Siliguri-Mirik-Darjeeling ($15 million) and the widening of the 60-km National Highway-35 (Kolkata-Bangaon) on the border with Bangladesh ($130 million). 
•    It also includes a new 123-km road to connect with Diamond harbour, on the outskirts of Kolkata, at a cost of $250 million. 

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India extends additional line of credit to Nepal

India on Friday extended a fresh $750-million credit line to Nepal for post-earthquake reconstruction. 
•    This was among three agreements signed following delegation-level talks chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Nepalese counterpart, Puhspa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" here. 
•    The $750-million credit line is over and above the $1 billion aid that India announced following the devastating earthquake in the Himalayan nation last April that claimed over 8,000 lives. 
•    The two sides also signed a memorandum of agreement (MoU) for project management consultancy services for upgrading and improving the road infrastructure in Nepal's Terai area. 
•    Another agreement was signed on the first amendatory dollar credit line for post-earthquake reconstruction projects in Nepal. 

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NAM Summit : Hamid Ansari hold talks Nicolas Maduro

Vice President Hamid Ansari today held talks with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on a host of issues of mutual interest after arriving here to attend the 17th NAM Summit.
•    Ansari called on Maduro in his first official engagement in Venezuela after arriving here as the leader of the Indian delegation at the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
•    In his call on with Maduro, Ansari was accompanied by Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar and Secretary West Sujata Mehta.
•    The meeting between Ansari and Maduro came less than a month after Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez visited India to personally hand over an invitation for India’s participation in the 17th NAM Summit.
•    The two countries had also agreed to finalise a number of key pacts including double tax avoidance agreement.
•    The two sides had agreed to move ahead for an early finalization of a number of agreements in different areas, including Extradition Treaty, Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on Criminal Matters and Air Services Agreement.


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US to Lift Myanmar Sanctions

President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that the US is lifting economic sanctions and restoring trade benefits to former pariah state Myanmar as he met with Aung San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner who is now the nation's de facto leader.
•    The US has eased broad economic sanctions since political reforms began five years ago but has retained more targeted restrictions on military-owned companies and dozens of officials and associates of the former ruling junta. 
•    US companies and banks have remained leery of involvement in one of Asia's last untapped markets.
•    Suu Kyi concurred it was time to remove all the sanctions that she said had hurt the country economically as it was now in a position to open up to investment. 
•    She said she wants Americans to come to the country and "to make profits."
•    The change in policy will not remove all economic sanctions. 
•    Penalties intended to block the drug trade and to bar military trade with North Korea would still apply, as would a visa ban barring some former and current members of the military from traveling to the US.

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AIR to launch website, Mobile App for Balochi audience

Public Sector Broadcaster All India Radio (AIR) is planning to launch a website and mobile app for its Baluchi service to reach people who speak this language across the globe.
•    The Baluchi website and mobile app is likely to be launched later this week, sources told PTI.
•    The All India Radio has been airing hour-long Baluchi programme everyday, which also includes news as well. 
•    This service was started in 1974 and reaches those who speak the language in Pakistan as well.
•    However it is felt that with a website and mobile app, these programmes will gain a global audience especially among Baluchi speaking diaspora,” a source said.
•    It was for the first time the disturbed areas in the control of Pakistan were mentioned by any Prime Minister during his Independence speech.
•    Earlier, DD News had also sent a team to Geneva to interview Brahumdagh Bugti, leader of Baloch Republican Party.
•    The External Services Division (ESD) of All India Radio, presently broadcasts daily in 57 radio transmissions covering over 108 countries in 27 languages.
•    Out of these, 15 are foreign including Baluchi language.

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India complains US Renewable Subsidies to WTO

India has moved the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the subsidy given by eight US states in renewable energy under American domestic content requirements, the Commerce Ministry said on Tuesday.
•    The eight US states are - Washington, California, Montana, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware and Minnesota.
•    India's complaint is on the grounds that subsidies are inconsistent with world trade norms because they provide less favourable treatment to imported products.
•    According to WTO rules, if consultations fail to resolve the dispute within 60 days, the complainant may request adjudication by a panel.
•    The US had, in 2013, brought a complaint against India before the WTO on similar grounds, alleging violation of global trading rules.
•    A WTO panel ruled earlier this year that India's domestic content requirement under its national solar programme is inconsistent with its treaty obligations.

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India Raises Baloch Violation of Human Rights by Pakistan at UNHRC

India on Wednesday launched a scathing counterattack against Pakistan by raising human rights violations it perpetrates in Balochistan at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). 
•    India also took aim at human rights violations by Pakistan's politico-military establishment across the country, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). 
•    Pakistan's response however steered clear of even mentioning either Balochistan or PoK, reported news agency ANI.
•    It may be seen as a counter offensive for the repeated comments and interference by Islamabad in the Kashmir unrest.
•    Not just Balochistan, India also roundly attacked Pakistan, saying it should set its own house in order first.
•    The statement gains significance in light of the persistent protests in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir against allegedly rigged elections that gave victory to the country's ruling parties.

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Modi-Ghani Meet : Indo-Afghan ties Deepens

India and Afghanistan on 14 September 2016 signed an Extradition Treaty to facilitate exchange of wanted terrorists and criminals.
•    The two nations also inked agreements on peaceful uses of outer space and on cooperation on civil and commercial matters.
•    The treaties were signed during Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s visit to India. He was on a visit to India from 14-15 September 2016.
•    In addition, during the meeting the two leaders President Ghani and Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought faster implementation of the trilateral agreement among Afghanistan, Iran and India. 
•    This agreement was reached in May 2016 with an aim of creating a network of regional connectivity around Iran’s Chahbahar port.
•    Besides, India also extended a one-billion dollar to Afghanistan for capacity and capacity building in areas like empowerment of women, education, skill development, health, energy and others. 
•    Prime Minister Modi also proposed to supply world class and easily affordable medicines from India and cooperation in solar energy through mutually agreed instruments.


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Bilateral Technical Agreement between India and Switzerland Approved

The Union Cabinet under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of the Technical Arrangement between India and Switzerland on the identification and return of Swiss and Indian Nationals and its implementation. 
•    Conclusion of the Bilateral Technical Arrangement (BTA) has been linked to the Visa Free Agreement for holders of Diplomatic passports as a package deal. 
•    It is noteworthy that the estimated number of irregular migrants in Switzerland who are thought to be from India is less than 100. 
•    If the BTA with Switzerland is approved as proposed, it would offer an opportunity to use the same as a model template for negotiations on the subject with other EU countries, which have been raising the issue regularly with us. 
•    It would also help to leverage the Readmission Agreement to liberalise visa and work permit regimes for legitimate Indian travellers. 
•    This has been envisaged as a key goal in the recently concluded India-EU Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility (CAMM)

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War Games now after LEMOA

As Indian and U.S. troops began to assemble for counter-terrorism exercises in the hills of Uttarakhand from September 14 to 27, senior officials said they would soon discuss ways to enhance the scope and scale of exercises in tune with the deepening military cooperation.
•    This means that accounting and book-keeping for the exercise will be done under the arrangement which does away with the need for settling bills and payments every time.
•    They will be recorded and cleared every three months.
•    The bilateral exercise comes against the backdrop of Pakistani media reports that Pakistan and Russia will hold their first joint military exercise later this year. 
•    Possible sale of Russian military hardware to Islamabad is on the cards.
•    Separately, China and Russia began naval war games on Monday in the contested waters of the South China Sea, where India had joined the chorus for enforcing “freedom of navigation” and “open sea lanes of communication”.
•    The 12th edition of the annual bilateral exercise, Yudh Abhyas, one of the longest running joint military training exercises, will take place at Chaubattia in Uttarakhand, close to the China border.
•    Both countries host the exercise alternately.
•    Officials said that currently the exercise is at the company level, comprising 225 soldiers from each side, with Brigade headquarter elements incorporated. 
•    Plans are on to enhance the scope and scale to the brigade level with division-level elements added on.

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