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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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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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