India hands over first 50 houses built for Rohingya refugees in Myanmar

India on Tuesday handed over to Myanmar the first 50 houses built by the country for the displaced minority Rohingya Muslims in the restive Rakhine province. The housing units were handed over after President Ram Nath Kovind and his Myanmar counterpart U Win Myint held delegation-level talks and decided to step up bilateral ties.

India signed a development programme for Rakhine State in Myanmar late last year which was designed to assist the Myanmar government in Rakhine State to build housing infrastructure for displaced persons.

They are an Ethnic group, mostly Muslims. They were not granted full citizenship by Myanmar. They were classified as “resident foreigners or associate citizens”. They speak a dialect of Bengali and not Burmese. Ethnically they are much closer to Indo-Aryan people of India and Bangladesh than to the Sino-Tibetans of the Country.

Few years ago, religious and ethnic tensions between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists (who make up the majority of the population in Myanmar) escalated into widespread, deadly rioting. Hundreds of thousands were forced to flee. Since then, ongoing violent attacks have forced even more people to leave their homes.

The Myanmar Government says that Rohingya people are not Burmese citizens – but the Rohingya have been living in Myanmar for generations. Today, they are a people with no home or citizenship.

Rohingya people are being widely abused and exploited. They are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

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Pak. plans heritage park for Hindus, Buddhists

The Khyber Pakthunkhwa province plans to construct a heritage park in Elum Valley, which carries a historical significance to both the Hindus and the Buddhists, to promote religious tourism, officials said.

A fund of Rs. 5 million has already been allocated by the government to the authorities concerned as an initial grant for preparation of feasibility report of the project, they said. Elum Valley is located between the Swat and Buner districts in the province, Elum Valley has been a site of divinity and pilgrimage for both the Hindu and the Buddhist communities.

Elum Valley and its significance:

Elum Valley is located between the Swat and Buner districts in the province, Elum Valley has been a site of divinity and pilgrimage for both the Hindu and the Buddhist communities.

According to Hindu belief, Lord Ram spent time meditating there during his 14 years of exile, while Buddhists believe it to be the site where a previous incarnation of Lord Buddha gave up his life.

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China to inspect imports of Indian fish meal and fish oil

India and China signed an agreement allowing Beijing to inspect imports of Indian fish meal and fish oil, as the two nations work out a broader trade deal following a thaw in relations this year.

The decision was part of discussions between India’s commerce ministry and a six-member Chinese delegation, led by Vice Minister, General Administration of Customs of China, Hu Wei, on easing market access for exports of various farm products, the ministry said in a statement.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet on the sidelines of a G20 meeting this week, aiming to build on the thaw in ties after a military standoff on their disputed border last year, officials said.

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Protocol amending India-China DTAA

The Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of China have amended the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) for the avoidance of double taxation and for the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income, by signing a Protocol on 26/11/2018.

Purpose of the amendment of DTAA:

  • For the avoidance of double taxation.
  • For the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
  • Additional changes by signing the Protocol:
  • It updates the existing provisions for exchange of information to the latest international standards.
  • It incorporates changes required to implement treaty related minimum standards under the Action reports of Base Erosion & Profit Shifting (BEPS) Project, where India participated on an equal footing.

Under Section 90 of the Income-tax Act, 1961, India can enter into an agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for the avoidance of double taxation of income, for the exchange of information for the prevention of evasion.

Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA):

It is referred to as the Tax Treaty, a bilateral economic agreement between two nations that aims to avoid or eliminate double taxation of the same income in two countries.

A DTAA applies in cases where a taxpayer resides in one country and earns income in another.

DTAAs can either be comprehensive to cover all sources of income or be limited to certain areas such as taxing of income from shipping, air transport, inheritance, etc.

India has DTAAs with more than eighty countries.

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Kartarpur Corridor May Finally be the Answer to Encourage Religious Pilgrimages Between India & Pakistan

The foundation stone of Kartarpur Corridor was laid down by both India and Pakistan within two days of each other. Kartarpur Sahib is the only Gurudwara in Pakistan in which Muslims are allowed to enter. The place holds special significance for Sikhs because their founder, Guru Nanak, lived the last 18 years of his life there. It is also the place where the Sikh community’s second Guru, Bhai Lehna, later named Angad, hailed from.

Ravindra Singh Khurana, Ex-Vice President, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) believes that the opening of the Kartarpur Corridor is a great step from a religious point of view.

Located on the banks of river Ravi, Kartarpur has no habitation around it. There used to be a railway station named ‘Darbar Sahib Kartarpur’ which was 117 kilometers from Lahore. Indians who were only two kilometers away from the border had to see the final resting abode of the Nanak through binoculars placed at a Gurudwara in Gurdaspur, on the Indian side of the border. Now, the visa-free entrance will let them physically visit the holy place.

Though many people are happy that this border is opening up, many feel that the decision is leaving them out. This is because Kartarpur isn’t the only religious place that has been cordoned off by partition.

Katas Raj, also known as Killa Katas, holds major significance for Hindus in India. The temple is situated around a natural pond believed to be created by a teardrop of Lord Shiva. Legends claim that when Shiva was carrying the dead body of his wife Sati, one teardrop fell in this area and created the pond. It is believed that another teardrop fell in Ajmer, Rajasthan. It is also believed that the Pandavas lived in Katas for 12 years.

Katas Raj was a popular destination for Hindus before Partition. Believers from all over the country used to visit the holy to celebrate Shivratri, a major Hindu festival. But the war between India and Pakistan in 1965 barred Indian pilgrims from visiting the temple, up till 1984.

It was only in 2005 when LK Advani, then BJP President, was invited to the inauguration of the restoration work in Katas Raj that the temple regained the spotlight. The following year, 300 Hindus from India visited the temple for Shivratri. After that, 2,000 Pakistani Hindus visited the temple so as to keep the tradition of Shivratri alive in the temple.

Pakistani author and anthropologist Haroon Khalid said that the Valmiki temple is not as popular among Pakistani Hindus as the Katas Raj or Hinglaj. “These two are arguably the most famous Hindu pilgrimages in the country.

As far as Hindus from India visiting temples in Pakistan, Khalid said that the “upper caste Hindus might be skeptical of visiting Valmiki’s temple, which has essentially been the temple of ‘untouchables’ for generations”.

In 2016, India issued over 5000 visas to Ahmadis but security concerns prevented the adherents from attending. Over 6000 Ahmadis had attended the same conference the year before.

The Kartarpur Gurudwara in many ways evades the issues of border conflict. But whether it sets a precedent for other religious places, remains to be seen.

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AAI in pact with US agency to prepare modernisation roadmap

State-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) has inked an agreement with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to develop a roadmap for modernization of its air traffic services.

Air traffic services (ATS) comprises air traffic management (ATM) and communication, navigation and surveillance (CNS).

The collaboration is aimed at developing a CNS/ATM roadmap for the AAI for modernization of the national airspace system (NAS), the release said.

Under the pact, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing will provide technical assistance which will create a roadmap to enhance communications, expand existing systems and airspace capacity, and invest in CNS/ATM facilities, it added.

The double-digit growth in air passenger traffic over the last 49 months has brought several challenges with it, including maintaining safe and efficient aircraft operations, he said.

In this backdrop, it was decided to draw a robust roadmap for sustained ANS infrastructure to meet the growth challenges in a planned way, Mohapatra added.

According to the release, utilizing global and regional best practices as a benchmark, the technical help will recommend a roadmap and implementation plan to the AAI for improving airspace utilization and implement CNS/ATM air and ground equipage in the short, medium and long-term (up to 10 years).

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Russia tipped to win Army contract for air defence missiles

Russian defense major Rosoboronexport is understood to have emerged as the lowest bidder in the Indian Army’s tender for procurement of a batch of short-range air defense missile systems, official sources said late on Monday.

The other contenders for the deal were Swedish firm SAAB and French military firm MBDA.

The Indian Army plans to procure hundreds of short-range air defense missiles as part of its efforts to enhance its overall combat capability.

If Rososboronexport is awarded the contract, it will be another mega contract won by Russia after the S-400 air defense deal. In October, India and Russia finalized the S-400 air defense missile system deal for the Indian Air Force.

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India, China Hold Talks in Beijing on Defence and Security

Top officials of India and China held the ninth Annual Defence and Security Dialogue in Beijing after a one-year gap due to the Doklam standoff. Both countries agreed to enhance military exchanges and interactions.

The dialogue on November 13 was held between the two defense delegations headed by defense secretary Sanjay Mitra and China’s deputy chief of Joint Staff Department of the Central Military Commission.

At the talks, both sides agreed on enhancing defense exchanges and interactions at different levels between the two militaries, a press release by the Indian Embassy in Beijing.

The annual dialogue did not take place last year following the 73-day tense standoff between the two militaries at Doklam, which was triggered by the Chinese PLA’s plan to build a road close to the narrow ‘Chicken’s Neck’ corridor connecting India’s northeastern states in an area also claimed by Bhutan besides China.

The standoff ended when Chinese troops stopped the road construction after which both countries stepped up efforts to normalize relations leading to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year.

The defense dialogue was also held ahead of the 21st round of border talks between the special representatives of the two countries in the Chinese city of Dujiangyan on November 23-24.

National security advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese state councilor and foreign minister Wang Yi are the designated special representatives for the border talks.

Besides efforts to work out a solution to resolve the boundary dispute spanning 3,488 km, the border talks also focussed on discussions on other aspects of India-China relations.

The two militaries are due to hold the annual ‘Hand-in-Hand’ drills next month in China after a one-year gap.

During the dialogue, both sides also agreed on specific defense exchanges for 2019.

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India, UK sign pact to collaborate on cancer research

India and the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)  for collaboration in cancer research.

The pact between the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Cancer Research UK (CRUK) for the India-UK Cancer Research Initiative was signed here for collaboration for the next five years.

Both CRUK and DBT will invest five million pounds each in this five-year pilot project and seek further investment from other potential funding partners.

The India-UK Cancer Research Initiative will identify a core set of research challenges that address issues of affordability, prevention, and care of cancer patients by bringing together leading Indian and UK experts in clinical research, demographic research, new technologies, and physical sciences, the statement said.

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Wonderful! First passenger train service between India-Nepal to run on broad gauge from December

The first passenger train between India and Nepal is likely to run on the broad gauge from December this year. The passenger train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district, which falls in Janakpur zone of south-eastern Nepal, covering a 34 km long corridor stretch. A source was recently quoted in a PTI report saying that an immigration check-post is likely to be set up at Jayanagar railway station, manned by either the Bureau of Immigration or by the state government. Moreover, for Indian and Nepalese nationals crossing the border through this stretch, the visa will not be required.

The train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district in Janakpur Zone of south-eastern Nepal, which is a 34 km stretch.

No visa will be required for Indian and Nepalese nationals crossing the border through this stretch.

Significance:

After Beijing decided to extend its railway network up to Kathmandu, New Delhi proposed the construction of new railway links during Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s recent visit to India. The move is being seen as part of efforts to counter China’s plans to forge rail links with Nepal.

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