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Mahabalipuram summit: Were there any takeaways?

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Xi Jinping and PM Modi

New Delhi, Oct 12 : Beyond the optics, did the Mahabalipuram summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping achieve anything tangible in smoothening the ruffles of the bilateral relationship?

According to experts, the fact that the two leaders spent a lot of time together and displayed a very positive body language shows that there is a good understanding between them, and they are prepared to invest in the bilateral relationship.

But, besides the high-level economic and trade dialogue mechanism to deepen economic cooperation and sort out the concerns pertaining to bilateral trade issues, there was nothing substantive, feel some experts.

Former diplomat Ashok Sajjanhar told IANS that the fact that the Mahabalipuram meeting did take place at a time when the relationship between the two nations was passing through a rather stressed and tensed time was important.

“The fact that both the leaders decided to invest so much time, effort and energy is demonstrative of the importance that both attach to this partnership. Both have found it (informal summit) a useful format, without any pressure of agenda or joint declaration. And they have decided to continue to take it forward,” he said.

Harsh V. Pant, Director of Studies, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), told IANS that the “intent behind these informal summit conversations is now well understood and has had its impact. When the top leadership is communicating to each other, there is less possibility of entering into a crisis like situation. And that has been the importance of this conversation.”

However, Pant added: “By and large, I am underwhelmed by the outcome of the Mahabalipuram summit. If you see the statement post Wuhan, it was more ambitious, there was talk of India-China collaborating in third countries, but this time it is very amorphous. The only concrete thing they have done is to create a new mechanism on trade to sort out trade differences, which is very welcome, and there is some recognition in China that the trade deficit is a real problem, which needs to be sorted out.”

“But that seems to be the only big takeaway. Other than that, it is all very generic… I don’t know if it will change anything on the ground so far as the reality of Sino-India relations is concerned. My hunch is nothing will change,” Pant added.

According to Sajjanhar, the fact that not only terrorism, but terror funding and support to terrorism were also mentioned in the MEA statement, was “a step forward”.

“But then, earlier too we have seen at the Xiamen BRICS summit where all the terror groups and people were named, but China did not do anything about it. So one will have to discount that.

“What I find disappointing is that there was no discussion on Pakistan or Kashmir. Possibly discussion did take place and Modi sensitised Xi about our concerns and gave him our perspective on the situation there. I think that would definitely have been done. We wouldn’t have let go of the opportunity to tell him. It will be too much to expect that they will take all our concerns on board. But even if that helps to moderate their support for Pakistan, that would be a big forward movement,” Sajjanhar felt.

According to Pant, Modi once again emphasised how we need to be sensitive about each other’s core concerns.

“But we know that China has not been sensitive to India’s core concerns, not just because it is not in its strategic interests,” he said.

Pant said while there “are limits to such kind of summitry, I think it is very productive for two large neighbours like India and China to continuously engage with each other at the top level. And as the Prime Minister put it, strategic communication is very important, and it has improved since Wuhan.”

“So I think that might be the only big accomplishment of this summit at this moment,” he said.

Pant said that he did not see it having changed much on the ground. “Once when you have difficult issues on the table, I’m sure we will be poles apart once again,” he added.

Sajjanhar said there were a number of question marks on whether the summit would take going in the beginning.

“The fact that it has happened and that we have these outcomes… Basically, I think it has contributed to better understanding and stability in our relations going forward,” he added.

According to Pant, the civilisational focus of the conversation between the two leaders had a subtext — “that India is also a centuries-old civilisation and therefore both of us are very similar in that sense, and neither of us should underestimate the other.”

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No decision to discontinue printing Rs 2,000 notes: Govt

Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL) has informed that printing of bank notes at their presses was also affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

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Rs 2000 Notes

New Delhi, Sep 19 : Although printing of Rs 2,000 denomination notes has been significantly lowered, the Centre has not decided to discontinue the high denomination notes.

In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha on Saturday, Minister of State for Finance, Anurag Thakur said that printing of bank notes of particular denomination is decided by the government in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to maintain desired denomination mix for facilitating transactional demand of public.

“During the year 2019-20 and 2020-21, no indent has been placed with the presses for printing of Rs. 2000 denomination notes. However, there is no decision to discontinue the printing of Rs. 2,000 denomination bank notes by the Government,” he said.

A total of 273.98 crore notes of the denomination of Rs 2,000, were in circulation as of March 31, 2020, compared to 329.10 crorenotes in March 31, 2019.

On a question regarding the impact of the pandemic on the currency printing process of various denomination notes, Thakur said that according to RBI in view of nation-wide lockdown printing of notes stopped temporarily.

However, the note printing presses resumed production in a phased manner, as per the guidelines issued by Central and state governments.

The production activities at Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL) presses were suspended from March 23, 2020 to May 3. Printing of bank notes at BRBNMPL presses resumed from May 4, 2020.

Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Limited (SPMCIL) has informed that printing of bank notes at their presses was also affected due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

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Centre to buy aircraft worth Rs 250 cr for weather forecast

It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. Through this nodal agency, the people will get information about the weather.

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New Delhi, Sep 19 : The government is planning to use more hi-tech methods for accurate weather forecast. Union Minister Harsh Vardhan said there is a plan to purchase an aircraft at a cost of Rs 250 crore, which will help in accurate weather prediction in different parts of the country.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences, Ministry of Aeronautics and Technology is planning to purchase this aircraft. The information was given by Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences Dr. Harsh Vardhan in written reply to a question in Lok Sabha on Friday.

On Friday, an MP in the Lok Sabha had asked whether the government is considering a proposal to buy a special aircraft for conducting experiments related to the weather forecast.

Answering this question, Harsh Vardhan said that his Ministry is considering purchasing a special research aircraft for atmospheric process studies in the country. Equipped with scientific equipment, the cost of this aircraft system can be Rs 250 crore.

Harsh Vardhan said the aircraft is likely to be used to solve various atmospheric research problems in weather, atmosphere in different parts of the country. This will help with meteorological cloud physics data.

The minister said that apart from this, it can also be helpful in the evaluation of air pollution assessment and studies related to health, need, climate environment and hydrology.

He said that Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) Pune will work as the nodal agency for this entire scheme.

It is an autonomous body under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. Through this nodal agency, the people will get information about the weather.

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BS-IV vehicles needed for public utility services & purchased up to March 31 be registered: SC

The issue of pollution from vehicles had cropped up before the apex court which is hearing a matter related to air pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

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New Delhi, Sep 18 : The Supreme Court Friday said BS-IV vehicles, which were purchased on or before March 31 this year and are necessary for municipal corporation in Delhi to carry out essential public utility services, should be registered.

The apex court had in October 2018 said that no BS-IV compliant vehicle would be sold or registered in India from April 1, 2020.

In 2016, the Centre had also announced that India would skip the BS-V norms and adopt BS-VI by 2020.

BS emission norms are standards instituted by the government to regulate output of air pollutants from motor vehicles.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde which dealt with applications related to registration of three types of vehicles — CNG , BS-IV and BS-VI compliant — for being used for essential public utility services.

“Insofar as CNG vehicles are concerned, there cannot be any valid rejection to the vehicles, as the emission from these vehicles is within the limits. Therefore, we direct that these vehicles may be registered,” said the bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian.

It noted that BS-VI norms came into force on April 1, 2020 and vehicles purchased up to March 31 this year were BS-IV compliant.

“Admittedly the emission from BS-VI compliant vehicles is within the norms and hence the vehicles purchased on or after April 1, 2020 and which are BS-VI compliant, should also liable to be registered,” it said.

The top court noted in its order that BS-IV compliant vehicles purchased up to March 31 this year must have been registered with the E-Vahan portal of the government before the cut-off date to establish the date of purchase.

“If the purchase had been made on or before March 31, 2020 and these vehicles are BS-IV compliant, such vehicles necessary for the municipal corporation to carry essential public utility services should also be registered. But such cases shall be scrutinized by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA),” the bench said.

The bench said to avoid repeated applications being filed before the court just for the purpose of getting registration, “we direct that the EPCA shall scrutiny the pending cases and submit a report to this court so that a common order could be passed without the necessity for several interlocutory applications.”

The issue of pollution from vehicles had cropped up before the apex court which is hearing a matter related to air pollution in the Delhi-national capital region (NCR).

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