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BRICS nations to share tax information automatically to eliminate tax evasion

A Joint Communique was issued at the conclusion of the two-day BRICS meeting of Revenue heads and Tax experts at Mumbai, India.
●    The meeting was held from 5-6 December 2016 with the primary objective of discussing potential areas of cooperation in tax matters and to initiate an exchange of ideas, opinions, relevant knowledge and experience regarding the same.
●    It was attended by the Revenue heads of all BRICS countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
●    All heads vowed to continue their support to all actions and international initiatives taken towards achieving a universally transparent tax system.
●    They also reasserted their commitment towards actions taken to ensure fairness of the same system, especially in the case of prevention of base erosion, shifting of profits, and exchange of tax information and capacity building of the developing countries.

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India and Israel to step-up Science and Technology Cooperation 

A high level Israeli delegation led by Minister for Science, Technology and Space Mr.Ofir Akunis, including three members of Israeli parliament met Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science, Technology and Earth Sciences. 
●    The visit of the Israeli S&T and Space Minister to India follows the visit of the President of Israel to India last month. 
●    In the meeting between the two Minister’s both sides agreed to give boost to the bilateral cooperation in science and technology under the aegis of the S&T Agreement concluded between India and Israel in 1993. 
●    Next year will mark 25 years of diplomatic relationship between the two countries.
●    Welcoming the delegation, Dr. Harsh Vardhan remarked that India values its science and technology cooperation with Israel which is a leading innovative nation of the world. 
●    He further added that we would like to identify new opportunities and mechanisms to expand and upscale our cooperation agenda by creating a value based relationship which can contribute to the 21st century knowledge economy.

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Two-day 18th Home Secretary Level Talks between India and Bangladesh starts today 

Two-day 18th Home Secretary Level talks between India and Bangladesh started here today. 
●    The Indian delegation is led by Home Secretary Shri Rajiv Mehrishi and Bangladesh delegation is led by Senior Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Bangladesh, Dr. Md. Mozammel Haque Khan. 
●    The last such meeting was held in November, 2015 at Dhaka in Bangladesh.
●    During the meeting, two sides discussed working of institutional arrangements, security related issues, cooperation in prevention of illegal activities along the borders, border management issues. 
●    The talks were held in cordial atmosphere and conducive to greater cooperation between the two countries.
●    Bangladesh and India are South Asian neighbors. Generally relations have been friendly, although sometimes there are border disputes. 
●    The historic land boundary agreement was signed on 6 June 2015 which opened a new era in the relations and further stopped all irritants in ties.

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India's trade deficit with China rises to $ 53 billion in FY16

India’s trade deficit with China increased to $52.69 billion in 2015-16 from $48.48 billion in the previous financial year, Parliament was informed on Monday.
●    During the April-September period of 2016-17, the deficit is at $25.22 billion, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
●    She added that efforts are being made to increase overall exports by diversifying the trade basket with emphasis on manufactured goods, services, resolution of market access issues and other non-tariff barriers.
●    India and China are WTO members, any restrictions imposed on trade needs to be WTO compliant.
●    No blanket ban can be imposed on China or any other member country under the WTO framework, she added.
●    India’s import of bulk drugs from China stood at $1.63 billion in 2015-16, which constitutes 64 per cent of India’s total bulk drug imports. 
●    Overall, India had imported such drugs worth $2.5 billion last fiscal.

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India, EU medicine dispute issue settled

In a significant victory for the global access to medicines campaign, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has dropped the term ‘counterfeit’ and retained ‘falsified’ to describe medicines of inferior quality.
●    The terms were being used interchangeably to confiscated Indian made generic drugs exported to other countries by showing that they were in violation of intellectual property.
●    The European Union Free Trade Agreement (EU FTA) had reached a deadlock after affordable, safe-to-use generic drugs made in India were confiscated as ‘illegal’ and ‘counterfeit.’ 
●    Nearly 20 shipments of generic drugs, including basic antibiotics and antiretrovirals, were detained while in transit from India to several developing countries via Europe between 2008 and 2009, derailing the free trade agreement negotiations.
●    Big pharmaceutical companies were using the term ‘counterfeit’ to describe generic medicines and disrupting trade of generic medicines.


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Cabinet Approves Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion Convention between India and New Zealand

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the ratification and entry into force of the third Protocol to the Convention between India and New Zealand for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income (Convention). 
●    The Protocol was signed on 26th October, 2016.
●    The Protocol will stimulate the flow of exchange of information between India and New Zealand for tax purposes which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance. 
●    It will also enable assistance in collection of tax revenue claims between both countries.
●    Article 26 on 'Exchange of Information' of the existing Convention has been replaced with a new Article in the Protocol which is in line with the international standard for exchange of information.
●    A new Article on ‘Assistance on Collection of Taxes' has been added in the Protocol.
●    The Protocol shall enter into force on the date of notification of completion of the procedures required by the respective laws of the two countries for entry into force of the Protocol.

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India builds up rebuilding activities at Afghanistan

India has stepped up rebuilding activity in Afghanistan in line with its commitment to propel the wartorn nation back on the development track. 
●    The move comes just days ahead of a mega multilateral meet that the Narendra Modi government is hosting in Amritsar to contribute to Afghan stability. 
●    Ahead of the December 4 Heart of Asia Conference on Afghanistan, India has come forward to restart a factory in Mazar-e-Sharif, build a runway at Balkh airport and assist the Afghan government in harnessing the economic potential of Salma Dam, which was built with India’s assistance. 
●    A tiles factory in Afghanistan’s northern Mazar-e-Sharif city will resume production soon with India’s support, said people familiar with the development. 
●    India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra recently met Balkh province governor Atta Mohammad Noor to finalise the project. 
●    Noor, who had helped thwart a terror attack on the Indian consulate in Mazar earlier this year, is a strong proponent of Afghanistan-India ties. 

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Switzerland to share information on Indians holding Swiss Bank Accounts from '18

India and Switzerland signed a Joint Declaration for implementation of Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) between the two countries. 
●    The declaration was signed in respect to accounts of Indians held abroad and vice versa. The deal was inked on 22 November 2016 in New Delhi.
●    With this, India had joined a list of select countries with which Switzerland will exchange all financial information automatically. It will be done on a reciprocal basis for tax purposes.
●    The Joint Declaration was inked by Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes Sushil Chandra and Deputy Chief of Mission of Swiss Embassy in India, Gilles Roduit.
●    It will make possible for India to receive the financial information of accounts held by Indian residents in Switzerland for 2018 and subsequent years, on an automatic basis.
●    The exchange will begin from September 2019.
●    The data will be shared annually.
●    As per the declaration, details about accounts held before 2018 will not be shared.

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Dec 4 - 'Heart of Asia' meeting - might thaw Indo-Pak tension

India's mega exercise to contribute to the political and financial stability in Afghanistan — Heart of Asia Conference — will begin in Amritsar on December 4. 
●    Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani, foreign ministers and senior officials of key global and regional powers, including Russia, China and Iran, are expected to attend the global meet. 
●    The Modi government is hoping that the event will strengthen India's antiterror narrative in the region.
●    This edition of the 'Heart of Asia' meet, organised for the first time in India, will deal with the challenges of terrorism, rise of Islamic State, cultural and civilisation similarities and cooperation in the educational sector, indicated persons familiar with the matter. 
●    Highlight of the exercise could be the presence of Pak Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz. Hinting at Aziz's participation, senior Pakistani officials hoped that it would help defuse tensions with India. 
●    External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had attended the previous edition of the 'Heart of Asia' meet, held in Pakistan in December. 


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India-China begins joint military exercise Hand-in-Hand 2016

'Hand in Hand 2016', a joint military exercise between India and China will be held in Pune from November 15-27.
●    This will be the sixth such joint training exercise between the Indian Army and the People's Liberation Army of China.
●    It is held annually, alternately, in India and China.
●    The first exercise was held in China at Kunming, Yunnan province in the year 2007.
●    The aim of the joint training is to share expertise in drills and practices while tackling insurgency and terrorism.
●    It helps in promoting healthy military relations between the two armies.
●    The exercise is planned in three phases at the company level with the respective battalion headquarters controlling the training. 
●    The exercise will be supervised by a joint directing panel comprising senior officials of both the nations.
●    The exercise will be attended by the senior military observers of both the countries.

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