The Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently confirmed the nomination of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to be U.S. ambassador to India. However, the nomination needs to be confirmed by a majority of the U.S. Senate and the vote is yet to be scheduled. The hearing was chaired by Sen. Menendez of New Jersey, the committee is made up of 22 senators — an even split of Democrats and Republicans.
The mayor was nominated to be an ambassador by President Biden, who announced the nomination on July 9, 2021. During his appearance before the committee on December 14, Mayor Garcetti gave a statement followed by questions from lawmakers of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ”Few nations are more vital to the future of American security and prosperity than India.”
Earlier last month, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chaired by Sen. Menendez, D-N.J., along with only a handful of Democrats and two Republicans, stressed how Washington sees India as a key partner in its effort to push back against China’s expanding power and influence. ”If confirmed, I will endeavor to advance our ambitious bilateral partnership united by a free and open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, Garcetti had said in his remarks.
“If confirmed, I intend to double-down on our efforts to strengthen India’s capacity to secure its borders, defend its sovereignty, and deter aggression – through information sharing, counterterrorism coordination.”
Known to be President Bidens close aide, Garcetti is a political appointee who in the past has served as a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign. In announcing his nomination, the White House emphasized Garcetti’s role in co-founding the bipartisan “Climate Mayors” network and in leading more than 400 U.S. mayors to adopt the Paris Climate Agreement.
According to sources, the White House strongly considers Garcetti to have a steady hand to guide the India US relationship because Washington sees India as a key partner in its effort to push back against China’s expanding power and influence. A Biden loyalist, Garcetti has served as mayor of Los Angeles since 2013. He has a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University and he studied international relations as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University.
NRI community-based in the USA has welcomed the appointment of Eric Garcetti, with an optimistic hope from him to bring the bilateral relations between the two countries to new heights. Veteran guide of India US relationship KN Ranganathan predicts that Eric Garcetti will have historic tenure in India because he is a politician rather than a career diplomat hence he will integrate with Indian diversity easily.
India has said that countries need to be careful about providing excuses for terrorist acts since there cannot be any excuse for terrorism and must not divide themselves on combating one of the biggest challenges facing humanity.
India is currently the Chair of the UN Security Council Counter-terrorism Committee for the year 2022.
“India will chair the Counter-Terrorism Committee this year. It is significant since counter-terrorism is one of our key priorities in the Security Council and we will be chairing the Committee in the 75th year of our independence,” India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti told PTI on Monday.
India is currently a non-permanent member of the 15-nation Security Council and its two-year term will end December 31, 2022, the month India will also preside over the powerful UN body for the second time in its tenure.
India was Security Council President in August 2021. Tirumurti is the new Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee for this year.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee was established in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. UNSC Resolution 1373 (2001) had established the Counter-Terrorism Committee as a subsidiary body of the Council.
Tirumurti said the Security Council has recognised terrorism as one of the biggest challenges facing humanity.
“We have been consistently highlighting the importance of remaining united against terrorism in all its forms and manifestation, and have guarded against diluting our shared commitments,” he said adding that before the 9/11 terror attacks in the US and before the Counter-Terrorism Committee was set up, the world was divided into “my terrorist” and “your terrorist”.
“We should not go back to that era and divide ourselves on this critical issue. We also need to be careful about providing excuses for terrorist acts since there cannot be any excuse for terrorism,” he said.
Tirumurti noted that the UN Secretary General's reports have highlighted the rise of terrorist forces around the world, especially in Africa. Terrorist groups have grown in sophistication and learned to use innovative technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics, drones and launch terror attacks, including on neighbouring countries.
“Governments need to address resolutely the challenges posed by the misuse of emerging technologies for terrorism. Consequently, it is incumbent upon the Member States to strengthen the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which India had actively contributed to during the negotiations, and strengthen national security forces and structures to combat terror effectively,” he said.
“As Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, we will work with other members of the Committee to see how best to advance our common agenda on this important issue,” Tirumurti added.
On the eve of assuming Chair of the CTC, India had voted last month in favour of a resolution to renew the mandate of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) until December 31, 2025.
“As the Chair of CTC for 2022, India will make determined efforts to further enhance the role of CTC in strengthening the multilateral response to counter-terrorism, and more importantly, ensuring that global response to the threat of terrorism remains unambiguous, undivided and effective,” India had said in its explanation of vote to renew the CTED mandate.
Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan will launch Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations during a visit to New Delhi starting on Wednesday, the UK government has said.
The schedule for the two-day visit to India will include bilateral talks between Trevelyan and Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday, the Department for International Trade (DIT) said on Sunday.
Trevelyan and Goyal are expected to discuss a range of issues, including green trade and the removal of market access barriers for both UK and Indian businesses, DIT said.
Both ministers are then expected to confirm the launch of official negotiations on a new UK-India FTA.
"The UK and India are already close friends and trading partners, and building on that strong relationship is a priority for 2022,” said Trevelyan.
"I will be using my visit to drive forward an ambitious trade agenda which represents the UK's Indo-Pacific tilt in action and shows how we are seizing global opportunities as an independent trading nation," she said.
"This is just the start of a five-star year of UK trade, forging closer economic partnerships around the globe and negotiating deals that work for businesses, families and consumers in every part of the UK,” she added.
On Thursday, the UK minister will join Goyal to co-host the 15th UK-India Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) to review how businesses in both countries are benefiting from existing market access commitments under the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership agreed last May by Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi.
The DIT said the UK Trade Secretary is expected to meet several Cabinet ministers to discuss closer bilateral cooperation, including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, and Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav.
"This highlights the ongoing wider strategic importance of the UK-India bilateral relationship which extends beyond trade,” the DIT said.
On Wednesday, Trevelyan will meet staff at the New Delhi site of British manufacturing firm JCB to talk about how manufacturing and engineering firms could hugely benefit from the UK-India trade deal. The company are dubbed a UK “export success story”, having been in India for over 40 years and employing over 5,000 people in country.
Later that day, the UK minister will also attend a Defence Industry roundtable hosted alongside Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar to promote future UK-India defence collaboration and strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
According to latest DIT figures, total trade in goods and services between the UK and India was GBP 23.3 billion in 2019, making India the UK's 15th largest trading partner. Indian investment in the UK supports 95,000 jobs across the country, with 15,000 new jobs created by Indian investment in the last three years.
A trade deal could help increase this further and will play a key role in our ambition to double trade with India by 2030, the UK government said.
It added: “India is one of the world's biggest and fastest growing economies and a bold new deal would put UK businesses at the front of the queue to export to India's growing middle class of a quarter of a billion consumers.
"India is set to become the world's third biggest economy by 2050, with a bigger population than the US and EU combined."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday greeted everyone, especially the Indian diaspora on Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas.
In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, "Greetings to everyone, especially the Indian diaspora on Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas. Our diaspora has distinguished itself all over the world and has excelled in different spheres. At the same time, they have remained connected to their roots. We are proud of their accomplishments."
On January 9, the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is observed to strengthen the engagement of the Indian community overseas with the India government and reconnect them with their roots. It is celebrated to mark the contribution of the Indians living abroad in the development of the land of their ancestors.
Union Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan will address a virtual youth Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas conference on 'the role of Indian diaspora' with regard to innovation and new technologies.
January 9 was chosen as the day to celebrate this occasion since, in 1915, Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest Pravasi, had returned to India from South Africa, on this day, and led the country's Freedom Struggle which changed the lives of Indians forever.
Started in 2003, these conventions provide a platform to the Indian community overseas to engage with the government and the people from the land of their ancestors, for mutually beneficial activities. These conventions are also very useful in networking among the overseas Indian community residing in various parts of the world and enable them to share their experiences in various fields.
India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, has met America's presidential advisor on science, Prof Eric Lander, and exchanged ideas on strengthening bilateral cooperation in science and technology, a key priority area for the leadership of the two countries.
During the meeting on Friday, the discussions focused on key sectors including healthcare, technology, space, earth and ocean science, energy, emerging technologies, and cooperation in Science & Technology education.
“We exchanged ideas on strengthening the India-United States coop in Science and Technology, a key priority for the leadership of India and the US,” Sandhu said in a tweet after the meeting with Lander.
A mathematician and geneticist, Lander is the 11th Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy and Science Advisor to the President, serving on the Cabinet in both capacities.
Before joining the Biden Administration, Lander was a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School.
The meeting assumes significance in the context of healthcare. Lander is a doyen in genomics and molecular biology besides mathematics. He has had a long association with scientific groups in India particularly in fostering the International Disease Alliance and the concept of Map to Mechanism to Medicine.
The meeting also comes on the heels of India-US collaboration delivering affordable solutions to Covid-19 vaccines and medicines. A memorandum of understanding between the two countries on health and medical sciences was signed in October 2021.
There has been ongoing intense cooperation in science and technology between the two countries.
The NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar satellite is expected to launch in 2023; there is expansion of the Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centers (JCERDCs); and India being a major partner in Fermilab, America's particle physics and accelerator laboratory. India's Department of Science and Technology and the US' National Science Foundation are also in close touch.
Sandhu has been meeting a number of senior administration officials to strengthen India-US relationship in the field of science and technology. In addition to his meeting with Prof Lander, Sandhu also spoke to Under Secretary of Energy for Science Geraldine Richmond. He reviewed the ongoing initiatives with the Secretary, Department of Science and Technology.
Science and technology education partnership has been another dimension of the outreach – to establish linkages between American and Indian institutions and students. Education Roundtable held last year with participation of a number of STEM-focused universities.
India on Friday reaffirmed commitment to its comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
There has been an upward trajectory in strategic ties between India and Vietnam in the backdrop of rising Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea region.
"On 50th Anniversary of our diplomatic relations, reaffirm our commitment to the India-Vietnam Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,"External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted.
"Will continue to work for the Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People laid down by our Prime Ministers," he said.
In December 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a virtual summit with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc during which both sides vowed to boost overall defence and security cooperation including in the maritime sphere.
Vietnam, an important country of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), has territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea region.
India has oil exploration projects in the Vietnamese waters in the South China Sea.
China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, a huge source of hydrocarbons. However, several ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, have counterclaims.
Relations between the two countries were elevated to the level of 'strategic partnership' during the visit of Vietnam's then Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to India in July 2007.
In 2016, during Prime Minister Modi's visit to Vietnam, bilateral relations were further elevated to a 'Comprehensive Strategic Partnership'.
The trade ties between the two sides are also on an upswing. India's investments in Vietnam are estimated at around USD 1.9 billion including investments routed through third countries.
According to Vietnam's Foreign Investment Agency, India has 299 valid projects with total invested capital of USD 909.5 million as of April 2021.
Till 2020, Vietnam had investments in six projects in India with total estimated capital of USD 28.55 million, primarily in the areas of pharmaceuticals, information technology and chemicals.
UK Ministers are keen to ease immigration restrictions in a bid to make it easier for thousands of Indian citizens to live and work in the country as part of the forthcoming trade talks, the Guardian reported.
The potential offer will be under discussion when International Trade Secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan travels to Delhi this month, reports the Times UK.
Relaxing immigration rules for Indian citizens is a key demand from Delhi.
Trevelyan is said to have the backing of the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, who is keen to curb China's growing influence in the region. However, they are likely to meet strong resistance from Some Secretary Priti Patel, who opposes the offer.
According to the Times UK, visa relaxation options under consideration include a scheme similar to one agreed with Australia which would allow young Indians the right to live and work in the UK for up to three years.
Another would be to cut visa fees for students and allow them to stay in Britain for a period of time after they graduate.
Visa fees for work and tourism, which can cost up to 1,400 pounds, could also be reduced as a sweetener.
UK Ministers believe a trade deal with Delhi would provide British businesses with a head start in what is predicted to be the world's third-largest economy by 2050.
It could also see Britain jump ahead as India does not have bilateral trade deals with either the US or the European Union.
Ministers are said to be in agreement that a "generous" offer on visas could be the price for such a deal.
One government figure told the Times: "The tech and digital space in India is still hugely protectionist and if we could open up even a slither of access it would put us ahead of the game."
Exactly six months before his term expires, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has added final touches to the modernization of the country's armed forces with acquisition of missile corvettes, Black Hawk combat helicopters, Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) and India's BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.
Philippine government's Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on December 27 released two Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) to cover the initial funding requirements of the 'Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System Acquisition Project' of the Philippine Navy under the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Programme.
While the first SARO is worth PHP1.3 billion (over $27 million), the second amounts to PHP1.535 billion.
"The medium-range ramjet supersonic BrahMos cruise missile system is being eyed for this project," reported Philippine News Agency, the newswire service of the Philippine government.
Manila's military material procurement plans, which had gone haywire after the Covid-19 outbreak, have witnessed quite a surge recently considering the escalating regional tensions, especially China's strategic expansion into the South China Sea.
On Tuesday, the Department of National Defence (DND) of the Philippines had signed a PHP 28-billion contract with South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) for the acquisition of two brand-new corvettes for the country's Navy.
"Those (Black Hawks from Poland and OPVs from Australia) could be the last two contracts to be signed next month," said country's Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, two days ago.
Lorenzana had visited India in March 2018, along with a six-man delegation including his Under Secretary for Finance and Materiel Raymundo DV Elefante, and held meetings with then Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the South Block.
The Secretary had also visited the Indian Western Naval Command in Mumbai and companies which manufacture defence-related supplies and equipment, paving way for further bilateral defence cooperation.
Manila's long wait to get BrahMos
Philippines has shown interest in acquiring BrahMos - the potent offensive missile weapon system developed through the joint venture between India (DRDO) and Russia (NPOM) - ever since the indigenously built stealth warship INS Sahyadri docked at Manila South Harbour in October 2019 along with an anti-submarine corvette, INS Kiltan.
Senior ranking Philippine Army (PA) officials visited the guided missile stealth frigate and learnt more about its missile capabilities which included the BrahMos.
"The Philippine Army is interested in acquiring this type of missile as it will strengthen our coastal defence operations," PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, had said in a statement then.
A month later, Lorenzana confirmed that the country is eyeing acquisition of the supersonic missile which has established itself as a major force multiplier in modern-day complex battlefields with its impeccable anti-ship and land-attack capabilities.
"The Army is looking at it... There is money for it as per our modernization programme," the defence chief was quoted as saying by the PNA, saying that the Philippines is keen on buying "two batteries" of BrahMos.
However, the acquisition hit the Covid roadblock in 2020 as Manila said that getting enough funds to acquire the missiles from India remains a challenge.
"The Brahmos (programme) is moving forward but the challenge now is (the) funding," Lorenzana said in November 2020.
It was on March 2 this year that the two countries finally signed an agreement for the supply of BrahMos with Philippine Defence Undersecretary Raymund Elefante and India's Ambassador to Manila Shambu Kumaran completing the formalities at Camp Aguinaldo, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
"As of now, it is a go. The implementing agreement recently signed will facilitate the G2G (government-to-government) mode of procurement," Lorenzana said.
At least 20 foreign passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru, sources said on Wednesday.
Of the 20 infected, seven came from Paris; five each from London and Frankfurt; and one each from the UAE and Kuwait. The nationality of the last person was yet to be ascertained
Airport authorities are on high alert as most of the infected passengers, who are currently in isolation, came from high-risk countries.
Their samples have been sent for genome sequencing.
Meanwhile, the health department has started mock drills at oxygen plants installed in hospitals across Karnataka.
Of the 226 oxygen units in the state, 192 oxygen plants are functioning and have 199 metric tonne oxygen production capacity.
The dry run has been conducted to ensure the preparedness in case of third wave and identify any technical or other snags in the oxygen plants.
The state government has also initiated a door-to-door campaign to identify people with symptoms of breathlessness and high fever and get them tested for Covid-19. The drive will be conducted till January 15.
The health department officials would identify persons with severe acute respiratory infections and influenza-like illness symptoms.
The American Telugu Association (ATA) has facilitated a $20 million investment in Indian startups by organising business seminars since 2014.
According to the association, which is working to promote Telugu community in the US, they have been conducting business seminars in Hyderabad once every two years.
These business seminars encouraged multiple companies to move into second-tier cities; and start T-Hub in Khammam town, which was a big accomplishment made possible by Lax Chepuri, ATA co-chair for business.
The business seminar held in Hyderabad on Thursday focused on encouraging Telugu entrepreneurs with mentorship and funding. The meet was aimed at promoting the business environment in tier-II cities of Telangana.
This is an initiative to encourage business ideas, mentor young entrepreneurs, provide a platform for venture capitalists, and startup companies. Nearly 100 mentors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and technology experts based in the US and in India attended the seminar.
"This business seminar agenda was multifold, to increase networking and interaction between the US-based Telugu entrepreneurs and business owners based in Telangana; mentor and invest in start-up companies in India, especially those based in Telangana; and attract more companies into second-tier cities like Khammam, Warangal, Nalgonda, Karimnagar, and Nizamabad," said Kashi Kotha, the Business Committee Chair for ATA Vedukalu.
"Telugu entrepreneurs are gaining prominence across the US and around the world. This ATA business seminar is an effort to promote US-India partnerships and encourage entrepreneurs to invest in various districts across Telangana," said Jayanth Challa, Conference Advisory Committee Chair, ATA.
In addition to mentoring and potential investment discussions between investors, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, the seminar is also the launch pad for a continuous dialogue between various enterprises planning to move to second-tier cities and officials representing the Telangana government.
Senior executives of the state government took part in the seminar, including Jayesh Ranjan, IT Secretary; Puvvada Ajay Kumar, Transport Minister; Vijay Rangineni, CEO IT Investments Telangana government, and Srikanth Sinha, CEO Telangana Academy of Skill and Knowledge.
ATA President Bhuvanesh Boojala, ATA President Elect Madhu Bommineni, Conference Coordinator Kiran Pasham and others addressed the seminar.
The ATA is a premier national organisation established in 1990 in the USA representing over 500,000 people across the US, majority of whom are first generation Indians coming from the Telugu states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
It is involved in promoting community services, business, cultural and social activities, student assistance, and preservation and promotion of Telugu language and heritage in the US, and across the globe.
The situation at the China-India border is "generally stable" and both sides are maintaining dialogue and communication through diplomatic and military channels to ease the border situation following the standoff at eastern Ladakh, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the remarks while responding to a question on how China view the current situation at the India-China border and progress in the dialogue between the two countries following Foreign Minister Wang Yi's remarks on Monday that China has "effectively managed and controlled" frictions in certain border areas.
"I can tell you (that) currently the border situation between China and India is generally stable,” Zhao told a media briefing here.
"The two sides are maintaining dialogue and communication through diplomatic and military channels to work for easing the border situation,” he said, without directly referring to the prolonged military standoff at eastern Ladakh.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Wang said that China and India have “maintained dialogue through diplomatic and military channels, and effectively managed and controlled frictions in certain border areas, under a shared commitment to improving and developing the bilateral relations.”
Wang's remark comes in the midst of the lingering border row between the two countries in eastern Ladakh.
The military standoff at Eastern Ladakh has brought the relations between the two countries to a standstill.
The border standoff between the armies of India and China erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the Gogra area in August and in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February.
The two sides held the 12th round of talks on July 31. Days later, the two armies completed the disengagement process in Gogra, which was seen as a significant forward movement towards the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the region.
Both sides have remained engaged at the level of foreign ministers and between the top military commanders besides through the WMCC (Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination) to keep the tensions under control.