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French agency to help Team Indus on its lunar project

The national space agency of France will ink a pact with the Bengaluru-based Team Indus on Monday, to mount cameras on the rover that the aerospace start-up plans to send to the moon this December.
●    The Centre National d’études Spatiales (CNES) of France will ink a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Team Indus, which is the lone participant from India in the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. 
●    The MoU will be signed during the visit of French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault to Bengaluru.
●    The CNES will also strike a new partnership deal with the Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) for cooperation in satellite launch technology, during Ayrault’s visit to Bengaluru. 
●    ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar and CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall will sign the document. 
●    Ayrault, who also holds the portfolio for international development in the French government, will visit India from January 8 to 11. 


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India and Kazakhstan sign Protocol to amend the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC)

India and Kazakhstan signed here today  in the national capital a Protocol to amend the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) between the two countries  which was earlier signed on 9th December, 1996 for the avoidance of double taxation and for the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
Salient features of the Protocol are as under:
●    The Protocol provides internationally accepted standards for effective exchange of information on tax matters. Further, the information received from Kazakhstan for tax purposes can be shared with other law enforcement agencies with authorisation of the competent authority of Kazakhstan and vice versa.
●    The Protocol inserts a Limitation of Benefits Article, to provide a main purpose test to prevent misuse of the DTAC and to allow application of domestic law and measures against tax avoidance or evasion. 
●    The Protocol inserts specific provisions to facilitate relieving of economic double taxation in transfer pricing cases. This is a taxpayer friendly measure and is in line with India’s commitment under Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan to meet the minimum standard of providing Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) access in transfer pricing cases. 
●    The Protocol inserts service PE provisions with a threshold and also provides that the profits to be attributed to PE will be determined on the basis of apportionment of total profits of the enterprise. 
●    The Protocol replaces existing Article on Assistance in Collection of Taxes with a new Article to align it with international standards.


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World Bank envoy to meet India, Pakistan officials over Indus dispute

A senior World Bank official met a team of Indian officials to break a deadlock between India and Pakistan over two hydropower projects coming up in the border state of Jammu and Kashmir.
●    Ian H Solomon, senior adviser to the World Bank president, would meet officials of ministries of external affairs and water resources to hear the Indian side. 
●    India side will be led by Gopal Baglay, a joint secretary in MEA.
●    After Delhi, Solomon will head to Pakistan.
●    Pakistan has objected to the projects, saying they flout the Indus treaty under which waters of Indus, Beas, Ravi, Sutlej, Chenab and Jhelum rivers are to be shared between the two countries.
●    Waters of eastern rivers – Beas, Ravi and Sutlej—are allocated to India, bulk of the water from the three western rivers is for Pakistan.
●    The treaty, survived three wars and tense ties between the neighbours, came under strain after last year’s attack on an army camp in Kashmir’s Uri. 
●    Nineteen soldiers were killed in the audacious strike carried out by suspected Pakistani militants.

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High Level Meeting Between Indian Coast Guard and Sri Lanka Coast Guard 

A three member delegation led by Director General Sri Lanka Coast Guard (SLCG) Rear Admiral Samantha Wimalathunge, is on a three day visit to India from 03 January 2017 for a High Level Meeting, with the Indian Coast Guard (ICG). 
●    The Indian delegation was led by Director General, Indian Coast Guard Shri Rajendra Singh.  
●    The visit was in continuation of the various efforts by the governments of the two countries in furthering cooperation between the coast guards of two countries on maritime issues of mutual concerns to formulate a cooperative approach.
●    Of late the Sri Lankan Coast Guard has been proactive in meeting the challenges in the new global safety and security regime in this region. 
●    The recent visit is significant in providing continued impetus to the existing ties between the two organisations. The focus of the meeting was on further strengthening the operational level interaction for search and rescue, preservation & protection of marine environment, revalidating operational & communication procedures between the two coast guards.
●    During the visit, the Sri Lanka CG delegation also called on the Defence Secretary Shri G Mohan Kumar and deliberated on issues of common maritime interests.
●    During the High Level discussions, it was mutually agreed to strengthen the cooperation on evolving collaborative approach, in addressing a spectrum of maritime issues concerning safety and security and further streamlining the procedure for release/ repatriation of fishermen.

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Nepal rejects India’s 'Open Sky’ offer

Nepal rejected India’s ‘open sky’ proposal at a meeting held at New Delhi on 20 December 2016. The proposal was to allow unlimited flights between the two countries.
Nepal explained its decision by saying that it was not ready for the agreement and might consider it two years later. Currently, airlines of both the nations are allowed to operate only 30000 seats from each side.
●    The committee would convene in the first week of February 2017 to check the feasibility of the requested routes.
●    Nepal has been looking to ease congestion on its existing air routes since long to save time and cost for its passengers. 
●    To enable the same, the nation is building a major international airport at Bhairahawa in Lumbini, western Nepal. Another airport at Pokhara is also being developed to reach up to international standards. 
●    The topic of increased air routes and service was raised in the joint statement issued by India and Nepal during the visit of Nepal’s Prime Minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
●    According to the National Civil Aviation Policy, which was approved by the Union Cabinet earlier this year, India plans to initiate the ‘open sky’ agreement with all the SAARC countries and even those located beyond 5000 km radius from New Delhi.
●    Generally, countries sign air agreements to decide the number of flights that airlines can fly between them. 

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India to supply additional 80 MW to Nepal from 1st Jan 2017

From the first day of the new year, 1st January, 2017, additional power transfer of 80MW to Nepal is expected to commence. With this, the total supply of electricity to Nepal from India will be about 400 MW.
●    Shri Janardan Sharma, Minister of Energy, Government of Nepal, in a recent visit to India, held discussions with Shri Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines, Government of India. Besides reviewing cooperation and expanding ties between the two countries in the power/energy sector, Minister of Energy of Nepal requested for an additional supply of 80 MW from India to alleviate power shortage in Nepal due to seasonal reduction in supply from domestic hydro projects in winter months. 
●    In a swift response to this request, within a period of 20 days, the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) installed an additional 220/132kV, 100MVA transformer at Muzaffarpur substation in India. This transformer will facilitate additional power supply up to 80MW to Nepal through the Muzaffarpur (India) - Dhalkebar (Nepal) transmission line. With this augmentation, a total of 160 MW can now be supplied to Nepal through this transmission line.
●    The electrical grids of India and Nepal are connected through various radial lines at 132kV, 33kV and 11kV voltage levels. Prior to February 2016, as per the request received from Nepal from time to time, various short-term augmentation schemes were carried out which resulted in enhancement of power flow to Nepal from 50MW to about 240MW.
●    In February 2016, Prime Ministers of India and Nepal inaugurated the first high capacity 400kV cross-border line, initially being operated at 132kV, from Muzaffarpur in India to Dhalkebar in Nepal. This had resulted in additional flow of 80 MW, enhancing the total power supply to Nepal to about 320MW.

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Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe seeks reconciliation with US at Pearl Harbour

In a landmark moment, the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and President of the United States Barack Obama visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to offer condolences to the victims of the surprise Japanese bombing on US naval base 75 years ago.
●    The meeting of the two leaders at the memorial site was another move towards reconciliation.
●    Both the leaders used the ceremony to encourage their citizens to reconcile and move forward.  
●    Though Abe did not apologise for the attack, he did offer his most sincere and everlasting condolences to the victims and stated that Japan had taken a solemn vow to never wage a war ever again. 
●    Abe also visited the USS Arizona Memorial, which was built in 1962 in the memory of the American sailors and Marines who lay buried in the wreckage of the battleship, sunk by the Japanese during the attack. 
●    Both Abe and Obama sought to guide their citizens to embrace reconciliation and remembrance.
●    Though Abe is not the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the historic site, he is the first to do so with a US President and the first one to visit Arizona Memorial.


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CPWD to help Bhutan in green and sustainable construction 

Central Public Works Department (CPWD), the construction major under the Ministry of Urban Development will assist Bhutan in green and sustainable construction of infrastructure. 
●    A Memorandum of Understanding in this regard was signed between CPWD and Department of Engineering Services,  Ministry of Works and Human Settlements, Royal Government of Bhutan in Thimpu.
●    Shri Abhay Sinha, Director General of CPWD signed the Memorandum of Understanding.
●    Under the MoU for bilateral technical cooperation in infrastructure engineering, CPWD will assist in promoting sustainability in the built environment, capacity building through training of Bhutanese manpower, benchmarking in building and road sectors besides deputing engineering experts to Bhutan.
●    The signing of MoU took place in the presence of Ms.ZhabtogLyonpoDorjiChoden, Minister of Works and Human Settlements of Bhutan.

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Hong Kong withdraws visa-free facility for Indians

Hong Kong, the special administrative region of China has withdrawn its previous visa-free facility for Indians. The announcement was made by the Hong Kong Immigration Department on its official website.
●    According to the Immigration department’s statement, all Indian tourists will have to complete a pre-arrival registration in order to gain permission to enter the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).
●    The pre- arrival registration for Indian Nationals will be implemented from 23 January 2017. Its online service has already been opened. 
●    Hong Kong will be affected by about 5 million Indians who come to the island on business and leisure.
●    Hong Kong for the first time has strictly enforced rules.
●    In this city of more than 10 thousand refugees are pending. Over 80 percent of these people are Indians .


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India, Kyrgyzstan signed 6 agreements to boost bilateral cooperation

India and Kyrgyzstan on 20 December 2016 signed 6 agreements/Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) to boost bilateral cooperation.
●    The agreements were signed in New Delhi during the State visit of Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambaye.
●    MoU on cooperation in the field of Tourism: It was signed between the Ministry of Tourism of India and the Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism of the Government of Kyrgyz Republic. Its objective is to mutually develop tourism as a major engine for economic growth and employment.
●    Agreement on cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Food Industry: Its objective is to facilitate cooperation in this field. The agreement also boosts trade opportunities for India in agriculture commodities.
●    MoU on cooperation in the field of Youth development: The agreement was signed between the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and the state agency of Youth Affairs, Physical Education and Sports of Kyrgyzstan.
●    The MoU facilitates deepening of mutual understanding between the representatives of the younger generation of both countries and developing programmes for young entrepreneurs.
●    MoU on cooperation between Foreign Service Institute, MEA, New Delhi and Diplomatic Academy of MOFA of Kyrgyzstan: The agreement will promote contacts and exchange of students, faculty members and experts in the field of diplomacy.
●    MoU in the field of cooperation in youth exchange between NCC of India and Military Lyceum of Kyrgyzstan: It seeks to have a country to a country exchange of cadets/youths to participate in youth activities.


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