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JULY 26, 2017


Diversity is key to India’s success: Kovind

  • Making a special mention of Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the new President said freedom for these leaders was not simply political freedom but economic and social freedom for millions of Indians.
  • President Kovind, the first member of the BJP to have reached that position since Independence, made special mention of one of Jan Sangh’s founders Deendayal Updhyaya in his speech.
  • Each citizen of India was a “nation builder”, he said, making special mention of women and the many roles they undertake.
  • According to him, “India of the 21st century will be one that is in conformity with our ancient values as well as compliant with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There is no dichotomy there, no question of choice. We must combine tradition and technology, the wisdom of an age-old Bharat and the science of a contemporary India.”

Iran’s tech sector blooms under shield of sanctions

  • The names may be unfamiliar but the services are immediately recognisable: Snapp is Iran’s answer to Uber, Digikala is its Amazon, and Pintapin its
  • S. sanctions have protected the Islamic republic’s tech sector, barring Silicon Valley from profiting from one of the world’s most promising emerging markets, and giving a free run to domestic start-ups to recreate their services.

Shopping and delivery

  • It is growing rapidly: its start-up section had 80 hopefuls three years ago, now there are more than 400 — the usual mix of delivery apps, online shopping and games. But global brands are almost entirely absent, the result of severe U.S. sanctions that remain in place despite other countries lifting restrictions under a 2015 nuclear deal.

Modi asks party MPs to hold ‘sankalp yatra’

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked party MPs to take up three causes relating to welfare of the poor, social harmony and good governance as part of a “sankalp yatra” or pledge march between August 15-30 with the deadline for completion of these tasks by 2022, in time for the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence.
  • The phases of India’s Independence struggle were explained by Prime Minister Modi as following two tranches, between 1857 (the first war of Independence) and 1942 (when Quit India was launched) and from 1942-1947 (from Quit India to Independence).

For China’s global ambitions, ‘Iran is at the centre of everything’

  • When Zuao Ru Lin, a Beijing entrepreneur, first heard about business opportunities in eastern Iran, he was sceptical. But then he bought a map and began to envision the region without any borders, as one enormous market.
  • For millennia, Iran has prospered as a trading hub linking East and West. Now, that role is set to expand in coming years as China unspools its ‘One Belt, One Road’ project, which promises more than $1 trillion in infrastructure investment — bridges, rails, ports and energy — in over 60 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa.
  • Like pieces of a sprawling geopolitical puzzle, components of China’s infrastructure network are being put in place. In eastern Iran, Chinese workers are busily modernising one of the country’s major rail routes, standardising gauge sizes, improving the track bed and rebuilding bridges, with the ultimate goal of connecting Tehran to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.
  • Much the same is happening in western Iran, where railroad crews are working to link the capital to Turkey and, eventually, to Europe. Other rail projects will connect Tehran and Mashhad with deepwater ports in the country’s south.

Biggest trading partner

  • Others worry that with the large-scale Chinese investment and China’s growing presence in the Iranian economy, Tehran will become more dependent than ever on China, already its biggest trading partner.
  • China is also an important market for Iranian oil, and because of remaining unilateral U.S. sanctions that intimidate global banks, it is the only source of the large amounts of capital Iran needs to finance critical infrastructure projects. But that, apparently, is a risk the leadership is prepared to take.
  • When finished, the proposed rail link will stretch nearly 2,000 miles, from Urumqi, the capital of China’s western region of Xinjiang, to Tehran. If all goes according to plan, it will connect Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, China’s state-owned paper, China Daily, wrote. Track sizes need to be adjusted and new connections made, as well as upgrades to the newest trains.
  • In a 2016 test, China and Iran drove a train from the port of Shanghai in eastern China to Tehran in just 12 days, a journey that takes 30 days by sea. In Iran, they used the existing track between Tehran and Mashhad, powered by a slower diesel-powered train. When the new line is opened in 2021, it is expected to accommodate electric trains at speeds up to 125 mph.

Sri Lanka clears revised deal for Hambantota port

  • Sri Lanka’s Cabinet on Tuesday cleared a revised deal for the Chinese-built port in Hambantota, the government said. The modified agreement, the government added, was more profitable to Sri Lanka and also addressed security concerns raised by other countries.

Wary of the Chinese

  • India’s apprehensions about the apparently growing Chinese presence in the island nation are well known, given the two countries’ competing strategic interests here. The Hambantota port is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • “Our foreign policy today is reaching out to everyone and not giving special treatment to anyone,” Mr. Samarasinghe said

‘India’s concerns slowing RCEP talks’

  • India’s reservations regarding the potential adverse impact of eliminating duties on its local manufacturing and job creation is understood to be slowing down the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.
  • The RCEP is a proposed mega Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 Asia Pacific nations including India and China, and aims, among other things, to liberalise investment norms in the region, besides boosting trade by dismantling most tariff and non-tariff barriers.
  • “Eliminating duties under the RCEP will impact many sectors including steel, aluminium, auto-components, many engineering items and readymade garments.”
  • CII Trade Policy Committee chairman Deep Kapuria said while many countries were urging greater focus on duty elimination, India ought to highlight the need for removal of non-tariff barriers including those in China.