Union Cabinet approves extradition treaty between India and Belgium

Source: Business Standard, Mar 21, 2020

The Union Cabinet has approved the signing and ratification of an extradition treaty between India and Belgium that will enable the two countries to repatriate from each other any person who is accused of or convicted in an extraditable offence.

The decision was taken by the Union Cabinet on Friday and announced Saturday.

An extraditable offence means an offence punishable under the laws of both the countries with imprisonment for a period of one year or more.

Under the treaty, extradition shall be refused if the offence involved is political in nature.

However, the treaty specifies certain offences which will not be considered as political offences, an official statement said.

The treaty would provide a legal framework for seeking extradition of terrorists, economic offenders, and other criminals from and to Belgium. After ratification, the treaty will enter into force from the date of exchange of instruments of ratification between India and Belgium.

The new extradition treaty will replace the pre-independence extradition treaty between Great Britain and Belgium of 1901 that was made applicable to India through the exchange of letters in 1958 and is currently in force. “Due to the present procedural requirements and the fact that only limited number of offences are listed under the pre-Independence Treaty, the same has become obsolete in today’s context,” an official statement said.

India to go ahead with $2.3 billion Turkish shipyard deal

Source: The Economic Times, Mar 23, 2020

NEW DELHI: India is going ahead with a $2.3 billion (about Rs 15,000 crore) deal to manufacture fleet support vessels (FSVs) in collaboration with a Turkish shipyard following a review after questions were raised on Turkey’s links with Pakistan and the recent diplomatic tiff with the Recep Tayyip Erdogan government.

The formal contract was signed days after India issued a strong statement rejecting all references made to Jammu and Kashmir in a joint declaration by Turkey and Pakistan during President Erdogan’s visit to Islamabad last month.

Turkey’s TAIS had emerged as the lowest bidder for a contract to manufacture five of the 45,000-tonne FSVs at the Vizag-based Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL) last year, but the contract signing was put on hold in October following the repeated raising of Kashmir issue by Erdogan at international forums.

The contract was signed by HSL last month after clearances were given by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), said people aware of the matter. They said the Ministry of External Affairs was also consulted before the decision was taken.

HSL had been keen to resolve the matter at the earliest and had written several letters to the defence ministry over the past few months. “MoD has directed HSL to put the project on temporary hold in view of recent diplomatic developments with Turkey. HSL inputs regarding the legal and financial implications of cancelling the bid of M/s Anadolu shipyard have been submitted to the MoD,” the ministry told the parliamentary standing committee on defence.

The defence ministry’s vigilance department was asked to review the order and gave a go-ahead, said one of the persons, who did not wish to be identified. Similarly, inputs were received from MEA on diplomatic implications, after which it was decided to proceed with the Turkish collaborator. The contract was signed last month after the defence ministry removed its temporary hold order.
The Indian FSV project was initially given a go-ahead in 2016 after the Navy projected a requirement for ships that could carry fuel and other supplies for warships at sea.

As reported by ET, Turkish shipyards are a major supplier of warships to the Pakistani Navy and concerns had been raised on how access to the strategic HSL by its engineers and workers could result in serious security issues. HSL is located close to the Ship Building Centre, where India’s nuclear armed submarines are built, as well as the Eastern Naval headquarters.

Besides four new corvettes, Turkey has designed a fleet support vessel for Pakistan, supports its submarine fleet and has signed a deal to sell 30 T-129 attack helicopters that have been developed in collaboration with Italian company Finmeccanica (since renamed as Leonardo). In September last year, Erdogan had used the ceremony to launch new corvettes for the Pakistani Navy. Last month, he raised the Kashmir issue again and attempted to draw similarities to the Palestine conflict.

Since then, the Turkish President has visited Pakistan, where he repeatedly raised the Kashmir issue and said that Turkey was on Pakistan’s side over the conflict and that it would support it on the issue of being censored by the Financial Task Force as well. Following Erdogan’s visit in February, India issued a strong statement and on March 3 made a strong demarche with the Turkish envoy as well.

ArcelorMittal, Nippon Steel sign $5.15 billion loan pact to refinance Essar Steel buy

Source: The Economic Times, Mar 17, 2020

TOKYO: Japan’s biggest steelmaker Nippon Steel Corp said on Tuesday its joint venture with ArcelorMittal has signed a $5.15 billion loan agreement with Japanese banks, including Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

The 10-year-term loan would be used to refinance their acquisition of Essar Steel India, now known as ArcelorMittal Nippon Steel India Ltd.

Other banks part of the loan pact are MUFG Bank Ltd , Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp, Mizuho Bank Europe N.V. and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank Ltd (London Branch), Nippon Steel said in a statement.
Last November, India’s Supreme Court cleared the path for ArcelorMittal to take over bankrupt Essar Steel, following a legal tussle that had dragged through multiple courts for over two years.

Lima to host the sixth round of India-Peru FTA negotiations

Source: Financial Express, Mar 11, 2020

In an effort to conclude the special Free Trade Agreement (FTA) during the FY 2020-21, the sixth round of India-Peru Trade talks are scheduled for April, as both countries are making efforts to expand their trade basket. India and the South American nation are looking at the agricultural products, as well as rare minerals like Lithium, and gold, zinc and copper. A top diplomat told Financial Express Online that, “The sixth round of negotiations between the two countries is expected to take place between April 21-24 in Lima, Peru and this will help in increasing the current bilateral trade between the two which is around $ 4 billion.”

Besides liberalizing trade in goods and services, the negotiations are aimed at further enhancing the two-way commerce and investments well as the movement of professionals and procedures for customs and market access for good.

The discussions between the two countries had started in 2017 when senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce had visited Peru to identify the issues related to trade that needed to be addressed.

Peru and India are celebrating 56 years of bilateral relations and the South American country which is the sixth-largest producer of gold and the second-largest producer of silver. For Indian investors who are keen to expand their presence in the region, Peru which is ranked third-largest producer of copper, tin, zinc, and lead could be a gateway.

India is already importing gold, silver, and copper from that country which has witnessed a significant increase in the past few years as there is open trade between the two. Peruvian table grapes- the Red Globe variety, citrus fruits, avocado, grapes as well as the quinoa are now in the Indian market.

Why talks for FTA?

Both countries are keen to relax rules and norms which will help in promoting trade in services. Also, efforts are on to reduce and eliminate duties on most of the goods which are being imported in India from there.

Lithium in Peru Though it is too early to discuss, still the two sides next month are likely to talk about Peru’s latest finding of high-grade lithium. The finding is almost seven times more than what has been discovered in Bolivia and Chile.

PM Modi holds talks with Myanmar president; India, Myanmar sign 10 pacts

Source: Financial Express, Feb 27, 2020

India and Myanmar signed on Thursday 10 agreements with a focus on the socio-economic development of the southeast Asian nation as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held wide-ranging talks with Myanmarese President U Win Myint.

The Myanmarese president, who arrived in India on Wednesday, received a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He and First Lady Daw Cho Cho were welcomed by President Ram Nath Kovind and PM Modi.

The prime minister and President Myint later held talks at Hyderabad House and 10 agreements were signed between the two countries. The focus of many agreements was on development projects under India’s assistance, particularly in the conflict-torn Rakhine state.

The agreements included an MoU on ‘Cooperation for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons; Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Re-Integration of Victims of Trafficking’.

An agreement regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of Quick Impact Projects (QIP) was also signed between the two sides.

Three agreements for development projects in the conflict-torn Rakhine state were also signed during the president’s visit. The Rakhine state has witnessed a lot of violence in the past and scores of Rohingyas had fled the state facing persecution. The Myanmarese President and his wife also paid respects to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat.

Concor inks pact with Russia’s RZD for single invoice cargo transport

Source: The Hindu Business Line, Feb 26, 2020

New Delhi: The show of affection between India and the US during President Donald Trump’s visit has not deterred India from taking a step forward in announcing the use of the transport infrastructure to connect to Russia much faster through Iran, a country in spotlight facing the US sanctions.

Within three months, exporters and importers from India and Russia can move goods between the two countries through Iran, said Concor CMD V Kalyana Rama on Tuesday evening. Read the rest of this entry »

First leg of India-US trade deal likely in 3 months

Source: The Economic Times, Feb 26, 2020

NEW DELHI: The first leg of the India-US trade deal will largely be about tariff concessions on goods and would be concluded in around three months. A larger free trade agreement (FTA) would be all encompassing, and include aspects other than goods such as services, intellectual property rights (IPR) and investment, officials said.

The initial deal is likely to include restoration of benefits of low or zero duty to certain Indian exports under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP), and market access for each other’s agricultural products. Read the rest of this entry »