VIF News Digest: International Developments (29 Oct – 04 Nov 2018)
Indian airlines are creating a lot of jobs in the US, says SpiceJet chairman Ajay Singh,
29 Oct 2018

Indian airlines are creating a lot of job opportunities in the US by placing orders for the Boeing flights, said Ajay Singh, Chairman and MD, SpiceJet. “As India grows, America grows with India. SpiceJet has placed an order for more than 200 Boeing aircraft, along with the orders placed by Jet Airways and Air India and as per the US department of commerce, that created an excess of 130,000 high paid jobs in the US," Singh said.

He was speaking at the board meeting of the US India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) in New Delhi on Monday. John Chambers, chairman, USISPF and founder and CEO of JC2 Ventures, on the US-India partnership said that the relationship between India and the US are the most strategic for both countries. Click here to read...

In US, Indian STEM students bag 56 percent of job training slots
29 Oct 2018

Indian students in the US hailing from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields dominated the scene when it came to participating in the optional practical training (OPT) programme, under which they can work in the United States once they obtain their degrees. They held 50,507 (or 56 per cent) of the total STEM-OPT authorisations in fiscal 2017. Chinese students, with 21,705 (or 24 per cent) of the total STEM- OPT authorisations, were next in line. Only a handful of students from other nations had STEM-OPT authorisations for the fiscal ending September 30, 2017. To illustrate, only 500 odd Canadian students and about 400 from Mexico participated in OPT. Click here to read...

Exclusive: Trump targeting birthright citizenship with executive order
30 Oct 2018

President Trump plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorised immigrants born on US soil, he said yesterday in an exclusive interview for "Axios on HBO," a new four-part documentary news series debuting on HBO this Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Why it matters: This would be the most dramatic move yet in Trump's hard-line immigration campaign, this time targeting "anchor babies" and "chain migration." And it will set off another standoff with the courts, as Trump’s power to do this through executive action is debatable, to say the least. Trump told ‘Axios on HBO’ that he has run the idea of ending birthright citizenship by his counsel and plans to proceed with the highly controversial move, which certainly will face legal challenges. Click here to read...

Issues driving mid-term voters
30 Oct 2018

Donald Trump, healthcare and immigration are the most important issues for Americans going into the November midterm elections according to new polling. A survey of 1,218 respondents fielded in the United States in early October 2018 by YouGov, on behalf of the United States Studies Centre, analysed the key issues Americans say are influencing their votes. “Democrats and Republicans differ markedly in what is important to them. Democrats nominate healthcare, Republicans emphasise immigration,” United States Studies Centre CEO Professor Simon Jackman said.

Climate change was the issue that saw the greatest difference between Democrats and Republicans, with 78 per cent of Democratic voters rating it as an issue of importance, as opposed to just 16 per cent of Republican voters. Click here to read...

US is sending 5,000 troops to the border. Here’s what they can and can’t do
29 Oct 2018

President Donald Trump has ordered an additional 5,200 troops to “harden” the US-Mexico border before the so-called caravan of migrants from Central America seeking asylum and a new life in the US arrives. The group of about 4,000 migrants from mostly Honduras and Guatemala is currently 1,000 miles and weeks away from the US border.

Senior officials from the Pentagon and the Customs and Border Protection told reporters on Monday that 800 service members are already headed to Texas, with the remaining 4,400 arriving over the coming days. The forces, deployed as part of Operation Faithful Patriot, will include military police, pilots, and engineers and will be in the area from November 5 to December 15. The goal is to “harden our ports of entry,” in California, Arizona, and Texas, Customs and Border Protection chief Kevin McAleenan said. Click here to read...

Will Republicans hold the House come November?
29 Nov 2018

It’s expected that Republicans will keep the majority in the Senate. However, it’s going to be much more of a challenge to take the House. 40 plus Republicans have announced their retirement and the Democrats only have to win 23 seats to overcome the GOP’s 42-seat majority. “Democrats are most likely to regain the majority in the House. But there are enough close races where a shift of just a few points overall in one direction is the difference between a narrow margin and historic gains,” said Nathan Gonzales, publisher of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political newsletter.

Not to mention, the Dems have raised much more funding than Republicans in most districts too. “More than 70 Democratic House hopefuls outraised Republican incumbents in the third quarter of 2018 … giving them a sharp financial edge in the final stretch of the midterms,” writes The Hill. Click here to read...

US withdraws GSP benefits of $70 million as India defers retaliation
2 Nov 2018

The US government withdrew GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) benefits to India worth $70 million on as many as 50 items effective from Thursday, on a day the Indian government further deferred by 45 days tit-for-tat retaliatory tariffs against 29 American products to counter the US move to unilaterally raise import duties on Indian steel and aluminium products.

Indian officials said the withdrawal of benefits is part of the 94 products on which the US has revoked GSP benefits for all countries and is not a major portion of India’s $5.6 billion exports through duty-free entry of 1,937 products to the US under GSP. “This will not affect the ongoing negotiations between the two countries for a trade package,” a commerce ministry official said under condition of anonymity.

US President Donald Trump issued a presidential proclamation on Tuesday, leading to the removal of these products from the privilege beginning 1 November. These are products that have gained competitiveness as their imports under GSP are more than 50 percent of the total import of the product by the US. Click here to read...

India, US talk on Ross, Lighthizer visits

31 Oct 2018

Lingering trade issues between India and the United States could come to the boil in the coming weeks even as talks are on to decide the dates for proposed travel to New Delhi by US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, according to official and industry sources. According to original plans, Mr. Ross and Mr. Lighthizer were to be in India this week for the bilateral commercial dialogue and the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), respectively. The meetings could not be announced as several trade and tariff issues remained unresolved between the two countries.

India has now proposed December first week for Mr. Lighthizer’s visit for the TPF and the US has proposed 2019 January last week for Mr. Ross’s visit for the commercial dialogue. Neither India nor America has responded to the other’s proposal yet, an Indian official told The Hindu. Meanwhile, multiple points of friction between the two countries on trade issues could come to the forefront in the coming days. Click here to read...

Govt delays imposition of retaliatory tariffs on US goods till 17 December
1 Nov 2018

India has delayed the implementation of higher tariffs on some goods imported from the United States to 17 December, according to a government order that put off for a third time retaliatory action against US import tariffs on steel and aluminium. In September, India said it would raise tariffs on US goods on 2 November.

Trade differences between New Delhi and Washington increased since US President Donald Trump took office, but India’s decision to further delay the imposition of tariffs comes as the two countries negotiate a package to remove trade friction over a range of items. Angered by Washington’s refusal to exempt it from new steel and aluminium tariffs, New Delhi decided in June to raise the import tax from 4 August on some US products, including almonds, walnuts and apples.

The Indian government later delayed imposing the tax until 18 September and then again until 2 November. Click here to read...

US Ambassador Juster bats for free flow of info across borders
1 Nov 2018

US ambassador to India Kenneth Juster on Thursday batted for free flow of information across borders against the backdrop of India asking foreign companies to store data locally—a point of friction between India and the US.

In a speech on connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region, Juster said that the free flow of information across borders via the internet drives productivity, growth, and innovation. “For that reason, we urge India and other countries to remain cautious in enacting data localisation and data privacy legislation which certainly can address legitimate privacy concerns but, if not done carefully under the involvement of all stakeholders, can also unnecessary restrict data flows, cause unnecessary regulations, and disrupt connectivity,” Juster said. Click here to read...

Leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany hold Syria talks
28 Oct 2018

A four-way summit on Syria has ended with no major breakthrough, even as the leaders of Turkey, Russia, Germany and France agreed that a fragile ceasefire in Idlib should be preserved and said a committee tasked with drafting the war-torn country's new constitution needs to convene by the end of the year. Saturday's meeting in Istanbul was aimed at laying the groundwork for an eventual peace plan in a country devastated by more than seven years of war.

In a joint communique following their meeting, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin called for "an inclusive, Syrian-led and Syrian-owned political process" and said conditions needed to be created for the safe and voluntary return of refugees. Click here to read...

Russia-Ukraine ties sour further as Moscow imposes sanctions
1 Nov 2018

The bitter relations between Moscow and Kiev continued their downward spiral on Thursday, as the Russian government imposed economic sanctions against a broad cross-section of Ukraine’s political and business elite.

The Russian Prime Minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev, issued a decree freezing the assets of 68 businesses and 322 individuals, with the list reading like a who’s who of the Ukrainian government. The decree specified that those sanctioned would not be able to repatriate any financial holdings in Russia to Ukraine. The decree said that the step was being taken now to “counter Ukraine’s unfriendly activities toward Russian citizens and entities,” a reference to similar sanctions that Kiev imposed on Russians earlier this summer. Click here to read...

Russia to hold live missile drills outside Norway amid massive NATO drills
31 Oct 2018

Moscow is holding missile drills in international waters outside Norway, where NATO is hosting massive war games of its own involving 50,000 troops, making it the largest exercise since the end of the Cold War era. The Russian military is holding the live missile firing drills on November 1-3, amid the ongoing Trident Juncture 2018 NATO exercise. The war games kicked off last week and will go on until November 7, with over 50,000 personnel, some 10,000 vehicles, 250 aircraft and 65 ships participating.

The naval area Moscow has picked for the missile tests overlaps with the zone where the Trident Juncture participants perform maritime and air operations. The Russians will “operate in the international waters and they have notified us in a normal way,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. Click here to read...

India signs $950 million contract with Russia to buy two stealth frigates
1 Nov 2018

India has signed a $950 million contract with Russia for two upgraded Krivak III-class stealth frigates.

A government-to-government contract was signed between India and United Shipbuilding Corporation of Russia last week for the supply of two stealth frigates after two years of negotiations, an Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) official said.

The deal comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India on Oct. 5 and the ruling National Democratic Alliance government cut a $5.43 billion deal to buy five Russian S-400 Triumf missile systems despite objections from its ally the United States.

The MoD official said the procurement of the frigates will involve a rupee-rouble transaction instead of using U.S. dollars to avoid American sanctions on Russian defense companies under CAATSA, or the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act. Click here to read...

Russia is a rising military power in the Asia-Pacific, and Australia needs to take it seriously
31 Oct 2018

Many analysts have seen China's rapidly growing naval power as a sign that Australia needs to rethink its defence strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, China has made remarkable strides in building up its defence capability. But it is worth noting that another military power is increasingly making its presence felt in our region — Russia.

The Coalition government does not give Russia much consideration at all in its current strategic planning. None of the recent Australian defence white papers, including the 2016 paper, considered Russia a significant military power. This perception stems from post-Cold War assumptions that Moscow has little political influence due to its reduced military power and limited economic engagement with our region. Perhaps these assumptions were true in the 1990s or even 10 years ago. However, current strategic realities are very different. Click here to read...

NATO urges Russia to comply with INF nuclear treaty
1 Nov 2018

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday urged Russia to make quick changes to comply in full with the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty. Stoltenberg called on Russia to provide details about a new missile system the United States and other allies claim violates the accord.

The NATO chief voiced his dissatisfaction that Moscow had not responded to the Alliance's concerns over its SSC-8 missile program (known in Russia as the 9M729). "NATO has urged Russia repeatedly to address these concerns in a substantial and transparent way, and to actively engage in a constructive dialogue with the United States," Stoltenberg said at talks between Russian and NATO envoys in Brussels. Click here to read...

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