India Newsletter

13th Aug 2019

After Pakistan approached the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) over Indias reorganisation of state of Jammu & Kashmir, Poland which currently holds the UNSC presidency has made it clear that Delhi and Islamabad should find a solution bilaterally. This puts a lid on Pakistans attempts to raise the issue at the UNSC for the time being. Polands backing of a bilateral solution to the Kashmir dispute comes after Russia, a UNSC permanent member, underscoredSaturdaythat Indias move was carried out within the framework of the Constitution of the Republic of India. Poland holds the presidency of the UNSC for the month ofAugust. The presidency rotates monthly among the members of the Security Council. While Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale had briefed envoys in Delhi earlier, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had dialled Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz lastThursday. This is a shot in the arm for New Delhi since India has always maintained that the Kashmir issue should be resolved bilaterally between India and Pakistan, in accordance with the Simla Agreement in 1972 and the Lahore Declaration in 1999. According to the Polish Foreign Ministry statement, Jaishankar had explained that the amendment repealing Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is of strictly internal nature and aims at bringing security to the region that is particularly vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Jaishankar had emphasised that the recent amendment to the Constitution does not entail any international consequences and aims to end the temporary situation and to create better opportunities for the growth in the region, according to the statement. ANY BILATERAL DIFFERENCES SHOULD NOT BECOME DISPUTES: INDIA TO CHINA Making his first visit to China after taking over office, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held candid talks with top Chinese leaders. His three-day visit to China comes amid spiralling tensions between India and Pakistan over the revocation of special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Before he settled for a structured talk with his counterpart Wang Yi, Jaishankar met the tough-talking Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, a close confidant of President Xi Jinping. At the end of the talks, both Jaishankar and Wang made candid remarks at the 4th India-China media summit where they announced a host of initiatives to boost ties ahead of Xi's visit to India later this year. Jaishankar said "the future of the India-China relationship will obviously depend on mutual sensitivity to each other's core concerns". "It is natural, both as neighbours and large developing economies, that there would be issues in our ties. Properly managing differences is therefore vital. As our leaders agreed in Astana, differences should not become disputes. That is how India-China relations can remain a factor of stability in an uncertain world," he said. The positive direction of ties after the Wuhan Summit has opened up a world of new convergences, he said, referring to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi last year. In his remarks, Wang Yi said "we are of the view that guidance provided by our leaders (Xi and Modi) is the most important guarantee for the growth of China-India relations. "It is especially important to maintain high-level engagement, in particularly to make the preparations for the second informal summit, to ensure that China-India relations will continue to move forward along the right direction," he said. He also highlighted difference, especially over India-Pakistan tensions and border related issues. "Well there are some differences between our two countries. We don't shy away from these differences. We have exchanged views on these issues in a candid manner," Wang said. "Regarding recent tensions between India and Pakistan, we made clear China's concerns. On issues revolving on China's sovereignty and vital interests, we also stated China's principled position," he said. JIO FIBER ANNOUNCES BROADBAND REVOLUTION The much-awaited JioFiber home broadband services will roll out on September 5 with a starting price of Rs 700 a month. The fiber-to-home (FTH) offering comes with a lot of bundled services. Analysts feel this could lead to consolidation in the television distributor market, just as the telecom market was after the launch of Jio three years back. Voice calls from home to any Indian operatormobile or fixedwill be absolutely free forever. On fixed-line international voice calling, we are today ending the era of high international calling rates on landline by announcing the lowest fixed line rates for international calling, said Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani. Ambani said the average fixed-line download speed in the US, which is the most developed economy, was around 90 Mbps whereas in India, even the most basic Jio Fiber plan starts with 100 Mbps speed. We have plans all the way up to 1 Gbps or 1,000 Mbps. This will improve the quality of fixed-line data in India, he said. Declaring that the plans would come at less than one-tenth of global rates, Ambani said Jio Fiber plans would be priced from Rs 700 to Rs 10,000 a month to suit every budget. The experience of Jio Fiber and Jio set-top box really comes to life when combined with an LED TV. So, Jio Fiber customers who opt for our annual plans, which we call Jio Forever plans, will get an HD or 4K LED TV and a 4K set-top box absolutely free, he said. Ambani said RIL would be roping in local cable operators so that they would be able to offer their television channels via a slot on the set-top box being provided by Jio. Ambani said the investment cycle for Jio is now complete. Unlike other industry players, your company had the foresight to pre-invest in the network assets, he said. He added that because of early adoption of the ongoing enhancements to LTE technology, its wireless network was already 4G plus and it could be upgraded to 5G at minimum incremental cost. Jios high speed broadband offering (starting speed of 100 Mbps which can go up to 1 Gbps) can have a positive impact on broadband penetration, analysts feel. Jios mobile offering had led to internet penetration in India breaching 90 per cent in line with global averages, said Karan Taurani, vice-president, research, Elara Capital. The broadband penetration until now in India has been 10 per cent. Launch of Jio FTH will lead to surge in the number of users which will enable this penetration to multiply over the medium term in line with emerging nations (Chinas FTH penetration is almost 70 per cent), he added. Perhaps the most eyeball grabbing offering announced onMondaywas Jio First-Day-First-Show JioFiber customers will be able to watch movies the same day as their theatrical release. This feature, however, will be on offer for its premium customers from the middle of 2020. INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS ====================== FEARS OF A TIANANMEN SQUARE REPEAT SURFACE IN HONG KONG Hong Kong's Airport Authority cancelled all flights after Monday afternoon, as anti-government protesters peacefully demonstrated at the airport for a fourth day. Traffic on roads to the airport was very congested and car park spaces were full, the authority said. Operations however resumed at Hong Kong airport this morning (Tuesday), authorities said. As the clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and police in the former British colony have grown increasingly violent, Beijing's condemnation has become more ominous, with warnings that those who play with fire will "perish by it". At the same time, the military garrison maintained by People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong released a video showing an anti-riot drill in which soldiers with assault rifles, armoured personnel carriers and water cannons disperse a crowd of protesters. The images and stepped-up rhetoric have fuelled concerns that Beijing could forcefully step in -- fears that some analysts suggest China is actively playing on. China's brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square resulted in two years of economic near-stagnation as the country became an international pariah. Analysts warn that the fallout from any similar intervention in Hong Kong would be far more severe. TRUMP TARGETS LEGAL MIGRANTS WHO GET FOOD AID US President Donald Trump's administration is to make it more difficult for poorer legal migrants to extend their visas or gain permanent resident status (a green card). The rule targets migrants who rely on public benefits, such as food aid or public housing, for more than a year. Their applications will be rejected if the government decides they are likely to rely on public assistance in future. The rule change would reinforce "ideals of self-sufficiency," officials said. The new regulation, known as a "public charge rule", was published in the Federal Register on Monday and will take effect on 15 October. Immigrants who are already permanent residents in the US are unlikely to be affected by the rule change. It also does not apply to refugees and asylum applicants. But applicants for visa extensions, green cards or US citizenship will be subject to the change. THE REST ======== RESTRICTIONS ON LARGE GATHERINGS, KASHMIR OFFERS EID PRAYERS IN SMALLER MOSQUES Amid sporadic incidents of stone pelting and street protests, muted Eid celebrations were observed in Kashmir Valley on Monday, the first after revocation of the special status. With restrictions on large gatherings, special prayers were held in smaller mosques around the Valley. An official release stated that in view of the possibility of 'terrorists, militants and mischievous elements trying to disturb public order and peace', reasonable restrictions were imposed on large gatherings in sensitive areas. The release stated that people gathered in large numbers at local mosques to offer prayers. Downplaying the incidents of protests, the government spokesman claimed that `some minor localised protests of a routine nature took place at a few places which is not unknown in Jammu and Kashmir in the past. The release further claimed that only a few protestors were injured in police action without specifying the nature of police action. Restrictions were completely lifted in 5 districts of Jammu and are limited to the night in other five districts. Similar local relaxation was done in the 9 other districts of Kashmir based on local assessment of the situation. But the restrictions on connectivity continue as a result of security requirements, a government release said, adding that people were being facilitated to contact their relatives and children outside the state through widespread deployment of help lines at convenient locations such as the District Commissioner's office, Police stations and Police posts. Earlier, the state administration held a meeting with local clerics to oversee prayer arrangements and ensure peaceful celebrations. WATER RECEDES IN KOLHAPUR; MUMBAI-BENGALURU HIGHWAY OPENS TO TRAFFIC The flood situation in western Maharashtra has improved with the water levels of two crucial rivers in the worst-hit Sangli and Kolhapur districts receding on Monday and relief and rescue operations going on in full swing. Meanwhile, in a relief to truckers and motorists, the Mumbai-Bengaluru National Highway (NH-4), which was closed since the last six days due to flooding, was partially opened for traffic in Kolhapur district after the water receded. The efforts of the administration to bring back the situation to normal in the flood-hit areas received boost with the water levels of the Krishna and Panchganga rivers in Sangli and Kolhapur, respectively, coming down further, and rains taking a break. However, the rivers are still flowing above the danger mark. In Kerala, as flood-hit people in Kerala began to return to their homes following a respite in the rainfall, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on Monday predicted another bout of active showers in Kerala over the next two days. According to the Met Department, five districts, including the worst-affected Malappuram and Wayanad, are likely to get very heavy showers on Wednesday. On Monday, officials put the death toll in the ongoing flood at 85, as more bodies were recovered from the landslide zones of Malappuram and Wayanad. Official data put the the number of people missing across the state at 53. GOA READIES LAW TO STOP OUTSIDERS FROM CHANGING NAMES FOR BENEFITS Facing rising concern among Goan communities that migrants are adopting local names to benefit from social schemes, the state government is probing all those in the state who have moved to change their names in the last 15 days as a first step. We are aware that this is a social issue. But before we frame any new rules, the government is looking to probe the manner in which these name changes are taking place. Our initial enquiry is about who these people are, their reasons, and the offices they have approached for getting this done, said Law Minister Nilesh Cabral. We have called for all advertisements seen in newspapers for name changes in the last 15 days. Some are so tiny that you cannot even make out what is being changed. My office has now started indexing the names, and their details as they appeared in English, Konkani and Marathi papers. We will send the file to the police and seek their help to probe the reasons why these men and women changed their names, he said. On Friday, the state Assembly passed the Goa Change of Name and Surname (Amendment) Bill, 2019, making such changes a criminal offence. The Bill is yet to get the Governors consent, and the rules have not been framed and notified. Alex Reginald, a Congress MLA who claims he has been following the issue for a year, said there have been complaints of people misusing the law and also changing their names to avail Portuguese passport and also to benefit in land deals in Goa. Our aim is to ensure that migrants do not change their names in our state. We respect the Constitution and place India first. But this is now becoming a social issue, and we are demanding that stringent measures be put in place to protect the interests, future and stability of the Goan way of life, he said. AMBANI TO SELL STAKE TO MAKE RELIANCE DEBT-FREE BY MARCH 2021 On a mission to cut debt in Reliance Industries, billionaire Mukesh Ambani on Monday announced plans to sell stakes in the firm's oil and chemicals business to Saudi oil giant Aramco and in fuel retail network to BP plc for Rs 1.15 lakh crore. Saudi Aramco will buy a 20 per cent stake in the oil and chemicals business of Reliance, including the 1.36 million barrels a day Jamnagar refining complex in Gujarat, for an enterprise value of $75 billion. BP will buy 49 per cent stake in the firm's 1,400 petrol pumps and aviation fuel selling facilities at 31 airports for another Rs 7,000 crore. The twin deals along with deleveraging of telecom arm Jio's infrastructure assets will help Reliance become "a zero-net debt company within the next 18 monthsthat is by March 31, 2021, Ambani said at the company's annual general meeting (AGM) here. Reliance as a whole has an enterprise value of about $134 billion, including telecom and retail businesses. The company, which had a net debt of Rs 1,54,478 crore as on March 31, 2019, also intends to list its retail and telecommunication units within five years, he said. A zero-net debt company would mean that borrowings fall below cash reserves with the firm, a level Reliance hasn't seen since 2013. It had an outstanding debt of Rs 2, 88,243 crore as on June 30, 2019, and a cash balance of Rs 1,31,710 crore as on June 30. Reliance has invested Rs 5.4 lakh crore, mostly in debt, in the last five years in the expansion of its oil to chemicals business, creating 4G wireless telecom network that offers high-speed internet and in setting up India's largest retail chain. AIR INDIA FLIGHT FROM DELHI TO SAN FRANCISCO TO FLY OVER NORTH POLE National carrier Air India is set to operate its AI 173 New Delhi-San Francisco route over the North Pole to reduce flight times and fuel costs. The flight is set to use the polar route from August 15 onwards. AI 173s current flight path after taking off from the capital is over Bangladesh, Myanmar, China and Japan, before crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach the United States. The new route will fly north, arching upwards over Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, the Arctic Ocean and Canada before entering the US. The revised route measures 8,000 km as compared to the previous route of 12,000 km. Fuel savings are expected to be in the region of 2,000-7,000 kg range on these routes with the resultant decrease in carbon emissions of 6,000 -21,000 kg, per flight. The route will be operated by a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft that will have 4 pilots and 12 cabin crew members on board who underwent special training for emergency situations. Many aircraft on polar routes fly on lower altitudes than usual to prevent fuel from reaching freezing point (-45°C). A statement from the airline said, The route brings up challenges such as area of Magnetic Unreliability, limited choice for diversion to alternate airports, solar radiation, passenger and aircraft retrieval and require active mitigation to ensure equivalent levels of safety. INDICATORS (Indian Markets were closed yesterday on account of Eid-ul-Azha) Nasdaq 7,863 (-96) Dow 25,898 (-390), S&P 2,883 (-36) US$-Rs. 71.11 GBP-Rs. 85.79, Euro-Rs. 79.67, UAE Dhm-Rs.19.35, Can$-Rs. 53.73, Aus$- Rs. 48.09 GBP 0.82 /US$, Euro 0.89 /US$, Jap.Yen 105.32 /US$, Aus$ 1.47 /US$, Sing 1.38 /US$, Bang Taka 82.83 /US$, Can$ 1.32 /US$, Mal Ring 4.19 /US$, Pak Re 158.99 /US$, Phil Peso 52.08 /US$, Russian Rouble 65.41 /US$, NZ$ 1.54 /US$, Thai Baht 30.77 /US$, Ukraine Hryvnia 24.93 /US$, Norway NOK 8.90 /US$ Bitcoin - USD 11,397 Dollar Index 97.39 Brent Crude 58.40 BDI 1748 Gold world Spot Price USD/aoz 1,516 India (Rs. per gm 24k/22k) 3760 / 3582, Silver (Rs. Per KG) 47,300 THOUGHT FOR THE DAY Wail not for precious chances passed away, Weep not for golden ages on the wane! Each night I burn the records of the day, At sunrise every soul is born again! - Walter Malone OFF TRACK An old farmer decided to visit a pond in the back of his property that he had not visited in a long time. As he neared the pond, he heard voices shouting and laughing. As he came closer, he discovered a bunch of young women were skinny dipping in his pond. He politely made the women aware of his presence, and soon they all moved to the deep end of the pond. One of the women shouted to him, "We're not coming out until you leave!" The farmer replied, "Oh, don't worry about me. I didn't come down here to see you skinny dipping. I'm just here to feed the alligator."

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