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China, Norway agree to normalise bilateral ties

China and Norway have reached a consensus on normalisation of ties that deteriorated since the Oslo-based Nobel Committee conferred the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, who was convicted of engaging in activities designed to overthrow the Chinese government.
●    After a meeting between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende in Beijing on Monday, Li said the two countries' foreign ministers had candid and in-depth talks, and reached an agreement on the normalisation of bilateral ties, reports Xinhua.
●    He said that China hopes to work together with Norway to open a new chapter in bilateral ties, and push forward a sustained, healthy and stable relationship.
●    Li said China appreciates the new Norwegian government's adherence to the one-China policy and its wish to improve and develop ties with China.
●    The two economies are highly compatible, Li said, adding China is ready to negotiate with Norway on an FTA, to send out a clear signal of trade and investment liberalisation.

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India, Russia bilateral naval exercise Indra Navy 2016 begins  

The ninth edition of exercise INDRA NAVY, an annual bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Russian Navy began in the Bay of Bengal. 
●    The primary aim of exercise INDRA NAVY-16 is to increase inter-operability amongst the two navies and develop common understanding and procedures for maritime security operations. 
●    The scope of the exercise includes wide-ranging professional interactions in harbor phase and a diverse canvas of operational activities across a spectrum of maritime operations at sea. 
●    The exercise will be held in two phases viz. Harbour Phase (14 to 18 December 2016) at Visakhapatnam and tSea Phase (19 to 21 December 2016) off Visakhapatnam. 
●    The Harbour Phase will encompass table-top exercises, planning conferences, and professional interactions prior progressing to sea. 
●    Indian Navy will be represented by INS Ranvir a guided missile destroyer, INS Satpura an indigenous frigate and INS Kamorta an indigenous Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) corvette.

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Tajikistan, India step up security ties

Tajikistan and India signed an agreement on Saturday against terror financing and money laundering.
●    At the end of the bilateral talks held in Hyderabad House, the Financial Intelligence Unit of India and the Central Asian country signed an agreement to prevent financing of terrorism and money laundering. 
●    Both sides also signed agreements on bilateral investment and avoidance of double taxation.
●    Tajikistan invited India to invest in four free economic zones that have come up in the country and thanked it for the modernisation of the Varzob-1 Hydropower Station.
●    Mr. Rahmon, who also sought investment in the upcoming small and medium hydroelectricity projects, appreciated the signing of the trilateral Chahbahar port agreement between India, Iran and Afghanistan as the project will provide connectivity to Tajikistan.
●    The two sides indicated that relationship was expected to deepen in 2017, which would mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

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India signals peace on Indus Water issue

Signalling a step back from tensions in the past month over the Indus Water Treaty with Pakistan, India said there was “no reason” the two countries could not sort out their differences as they have in the past.
●    India had objected to the World Bank’s earlier decision as it said the acceptance of Pakistan’s appeal for an arbitration process under article IX was “illegal”, accusing the World Bank of “favouring Pakistan”. 
●    The strong language of the statement appeared to have weighed with the World Bank, and on December 12, the day its President Jim Yong Kim was due to announce the names chosen for the arbitration panel and as mediator.
●    The World Bank plans to send an expert, Ian Solomon to New Delhi and Islamabad in the next few weeks to discuss the issues for both governments and help restart talks between them.
●    Pakistan did not comment on the World Bank decision against its proposal to bypass the bilateral process.

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Ministers and senior officials of 68 countries from Asia Pacific Region to discuss housing and urban development challenges 

In the context of growing urbanization in different forms, Ministers and senior officials of 68 countries from the Asia Pacific Region will deliberate on challenges of urban planning and management in New Delhi for three days from tomorrow i.e December 14, 2016. The regional interactions under the aegis of ‘Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing & Urban Development’ (APMCHUD) will be inaugurated by the Minister of Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation Shri M.Venkaiah Naidu.
●    With the Asia Pacific Region accounting for 60% of the world population and 55% of global urban population, the ‘Delhi Declaration’ to be adopted at the end of the three day meet on the theme of ‘Emerging Urban Forms – Policy Responses and Government Structures in the Context of the New Urban Agenda’ assumes importance in furthering the new urban agenda adopted at the recent conference of UN Habitat-III.
●    Delhi Conference seeks to address issues related to urbanization in the region in the form of new urban forms ranging from crowded city centres to peripheral expansion, metropolitan based urban population growth, megacities, mega urban regions with multiple cities of different sizes, urban corridors etc., impacting growth and urbanization.
●    Five Working Groups will deliberate on different Sub-Themes viz., Integrated Planning, Management and Governance Structures (led by India), Ensuring Access to Housing and Housing Finance in the Urban – Rural Continuum (led by South Korea), Unorganised Growth in Peripheral Areas and Slum Upgradation Aspects (led by Iran), Ensuring Sustainable and Natural Disaster Resilient Urban Development including Climate Change (led by Indonesia) and Ensuring Basic Services including Mobility for Integrated Development (led by Sri Lanka and Maldives).
●    Delhi is hosting the APMCHUD after 10 years having hosted the first APMCHUD in 2006 and takes over leadership of this important regional group for the next two years.


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Seventh Indo- Maldives joint military exercise to commence from 15 dec 

Seventh edition of Exercise EKUVERIN will be held from 15 to 28 Dec 2016 at Kadhdhoo, Laamu Atoll, Maldives. 
●    The Exercise is a 14 day platoon level joint military exercise between the Indian Army & the Maldives National Defence Force conducted on a yearly basis.
●    The aim of the exercise is to conduct military training with emphasis on amphibious & counter insurgency/ counter terrorism operations with a view to enhance interoperability between the two armies.
●    The contingents comprises of platoon strength from BIHAR Regiment and a similar strength of the Maldivian National Defence Force.
●    The previous edition of the exercise was held in India at Trivandrum, Kerala.
●    The Maldives is a tropical nation in the Indian Ocean composed of 26 ring-shaped atolls. 
●    It’s known for its beaches, blue lagoons and extensive reefs. 
●    The capital, Malé, has a busy fish market, restaurants and shops on the main road, Majeedhee Magu, and 17th-century Hukuru Miskiy made of carved white coral.


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INS Sumitra visits Australia to strengthen bilateral ties

The Indian Navy’s offshore patrol vessel Sumitra on 6 December 2016 reached Darwin, Australia. The vessel is on a three day visit to the country and will return to India after participating in the Royal New Zealand Navy International Naval Review 2016.
●    The ship’s visit to Australia is aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and enhancing maritime security cooperation between the two nations.
●    Calls on senior Government and military authorities, sporting and cultural interactions and sharing of best practices would also be undertaken.
●    On departure, the ship would also undertake a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with RAN ships.
●    INS Sumitra is the fourth of the Saryu class ships.
●    It is based on an indigenous design and constructed by M/s Goa Shipyard Ltd, India.
●    It was commissioned in 2014. Since then, the ship has been deployed for multiple operational tasks, the most notable being ‘Operation Rahat.’
●    The ship has a range of 6500 nautical miles and is competent in embarking one Dhruv/ Chetak helicopter.
●    The ship is commanded by Cdr. KP Shreeshan.

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US designates India as Major Defence Partner

India on 8 December 2016 was formally designated as a ‘Major Defence Partner’ of the United States. It was announced in the India-US joint statement on US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter’s visit to New Delhi.
●    Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had invited US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to India. It marked the seventh interaction between the two leaders.
●    The designation is a status unique to India and institutionalizes the progress made to facilitate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level at par with that of the United States’ closest allies and partners.
●    The designation also ensures enduring cooperation in future.
●    However, the two sides, in the joint statement, did not specify details of the benefits that will accrue to India under the designation.
●    India’s Major Defense Partner status has been made a part of the India Amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act, 2017 (NDAA), approved by the US Congress to allocate funds annually to the US military. 
●    This Bill is expected to be passed shortly, which will put a official stamp on India’s status.

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MoU between India and Vietnam on IT Cooperation approved by Cabinet

India on 5 December 2016 inked an agreement with Hanoi to train the pilots of Vietnam's fleet of Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30MK2 'Flanker F' multirole combat aircraft.
●    The agreement was signed in New Delhi by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his Vietnamese counterpart, General Ngo Xuan Lich.
●    As per the deal, the training of the fighter pilots from the Vietnam People's Army Air Force (VPAAF) by Indian Air Force (IAF) instructors will commence in early 2017.
●    The two air forces are expected to imminently work out the details on the number of pilots to be trained, the scope of their instruction and the overall cost.
●    The overall cost will not be paid through the USD 500 million Line of Credit (LoC) extended by Delhi to Hanoi for defence procurements.
●    Both India and Vietnam operate Russian Su-30 jets. However, the two countries’ models differ slightly in their configuration. 
●    India operates over 200 Su-30MKI fighters and nine Kilo-class diesel electric submarines.


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IIIDEM conducts Training for SAARC nations on Election Management

With the aim of conducting free, fair, peaceful and inclusive elections in the country, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has brought together delegates from Election Management Bodies (EMBs) of SAARC Countries. 
●    The officials are here for training at the India International Institute of Democracy and Election Management (IIIDEM). 
●    The course is being sponsored by the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India.
●    The course commenced on December 5th, 2016 at the Election Commission of India’s training wing and will continue until December 15th, 2016. 
●    The 11 day course encapsulates several sessions on principles and practices for election management.
●    During the program, the 28 participants from SAARC countries will share their experiences on election situation in their respective countries. 
●    The participants have unanimously agreed on the continuous need for exchange of experiences and expertise between the SAARC Electoral Bodies for improved election management. 

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