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Sushma in Nepal, meets Deuba amid China’s looming presence, Doklam



Sushma in Nepal

Kathmandu, Aug 10 : Amid the India-China military standoff, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday called on Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and discussed a wide range of bilateral issues — in what is seen as New Delhi’s diplomatic outreach to Nepal, which shares a long border with Tibet.

Sushma Swaraj arrived in Kathmandu to participate in the 18th BIMSTEC Ministerial meeting, which she will be addressing on Friday.

According to Dinesh Bhattarai, Foreign Relations Adviser to Deuba, the meeting especially focused on Deuba’s upcoming state visit to India from August 23.

@SushmaSwaraj meets Ms. Bidhya Devi Bhandari, President of Nepal

Sushma Swaraj, according to Bhattarai, told Deuba that India is all set to welcome Deuba in New Delhi. This will be his maiden foreign visit since taking over in June as part of a power-sharing agreement.

Bhattarai said both sides discussed all bilateral issues in the meeting – ranging from the latest political developments in Nepal to Indian development assistance in Nepal and the status of India-funded projects in Nepal.

There was no communication whether Sushma Swaraj raised the Doklam issue with Deuba.

However, the two held a one-and-one meeting for 15 minutes – during which high-stakes diplomatic issues are likely to have figured, said officials.

The talks between the two sides comes as Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang is set to visit Kathmandu next week, – an event that would be closely watched by India. Nepal and China in May signed a framework agreement on Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, and the two sides are also in talks to build a cross-border rail link.

“The meeting was mainly focused on PM Deuba’s upcoming India visit and how both sides can optimize the opportunity,” Bhattarai said.

After the over five-month-long economic blockade on the Nepal-India border in 2015, ties between the two neighbours had reached a low ebb. There is now understanding that both sides will take ties to a new height.

The visit of Deuba will further consolidate the bilateral ties where both sides will discuss the pending Indian projects in Nepal, including some energy, infrastructure and cross-border connectivity.

After meeting with Deuba, Sushma Swaraj also called on President Bidhya Devi Bhandari at the President’s Office where the two sides discussed strengthening bilateral ties.

This is Sushma Swaraj’s sixth visit to Nepal and the first high level visit since the new government under Deuba assumed office in Nepal in June 2017, said an Indian Embassy statement.

According to the statement, the two sides discussed an expanded bilateral agenda reflecting the updated national priorities of Nepal. Progress in the reconstruction activities and cooperation in hydro power sector also came up for discussion. Both sides agreed that there are immense possibilities for cooperation in infrastructure, connectivity and energy.

In the evening, Sushma Swaraj attended the inaugural session of 15th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting.

(Anil Giri can be reached at [email protected])

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Congress reveals another ‘Bank Scam’ of Rs 7000 crore



New Delhi, June 25: Congress on Monday revealed another bank scam amounting to Rs 7000 crore involving Faridabad -based SRS group under the Modi government. Also accused the Centre of jeopardizing 38 Crore LIC policyholders by forcing it to purchase the failing IDBI bank. 

Addressing media, Senior Congress Randeep Singh Surjewala said “Today we are presenting another bank scam worth Rs 7000 Crore. Criminal conspiracy and fraud by Faridabad-based company SRS Group, has resulted in 113 cases registered against them”.

“Whistleblowers have presented a list of 251 shell companies of SRS group were used for money laundering”.

Surjewala accused the Centre of not taking any action against the Faridabad based group.

“Despite complaints, no government agency, including Prime Minister Office, has taken action against this group”, he stated.

Why did the banks not refer the matter of huge default by SRS Group to CBI/ED/RBI or other agencies, despite all the loans became NPA by the end of FY 2015-16, Surjewala asked.

Besides this, the Congress leader said that Central government is also jeopardizing 38 Crore LIC policyholders by forcing it to purchase the failing IDBI bank, despite it being worst performing public sector bank.

Banking scams under Modi government has now crossed Rs 70000 Crore. How will PM Modi recover this money from the fraudsters?, Congress leader poised a question.


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With 90% tax on petrol & diesel, bringing them under GST impractical: NITI Aayog VC



Rajiv Kumar

New Delhi, June 25: Petroleum is the taxation milch cow for the central and the state governments and it is unlikely to be brought under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) any time soon.

That’s also the view of the Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog, Rajiv Kumar. Several senior ministers have demanded that petroleum products — basically petrol and diesel — be brought under the new taxation regime.

But says Kumar: “It (oil) can’t be brought under GST. That’s because the total state and central taxes on petrol put together are around 90 per cent right now.”

He told IANS in an interview here: “I can’t see how any state will take a cut so huge as the highest rate under the GST is 28 per cent. A new GST band will have to be opened up — and that will be an enormous exercise.”

While supporting “in principle” the idea of bringing all items under the new indirect tax system, he said those talking about doing it now have not thought this through.

“The better way to do this is to first start reducing taxes (on petroleum products) as I have said many times in public. States impose ad-valorem tax on oil and so they all had a windfall gain (when prices rose). There is a need to rationalise it,” he said, adding “states should especially cut taxes.”

Kumar said that both the central and the state governments should start the process of weaning themselves away from their dependence on oil taxation.

According to him, the Central government collects Rs 2.5 lakh crore as tax on oil while almost Rs 2 lakh crore is collected by the states. “From where will they compensate it?” he asks adding that if the taxes are reduced gradually, the burden on the economy will get reduced.

“Higher oil prices are like a tax on the economy. If oil prices are brought down, economic activity will also improve,” Kumar said.

“Once that is achieved, once the revenues have gone up from other sources and the economy has picked up, then you can think of bringing oil under GST. It’s not that easy,” he added.

Ever since the new tax legislation was rolled out on July 1 last year, there had been talk of bringing it under the GST with top government officials and ministers supporting the need for such a move. The Opposition parties, of course, have been clamouring for it.

In December last year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had told the Rajya Sabha that the Central government was in favour of bringing petroleum products under the ambit of GST after building a consensus with states.

More recently, in April, when the international crude oil prices were going up sharply, pushing the domestic petrol prices to record levels, BJP President Amit Shah told a rally in Mumbai that efforts were on to bring petrol and diesel under the GST.

From Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to Petroleum and Naural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, almost every senior BJP minister has favoured bringing petroleum products under the GST.

Among states, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has also expressed willingness to bring petrol and diesel under GST in his state if a consensus was brought about on it.

Kumar says he was in favour of such a change, but it has to be thought through in practical terms.

“I am just simply saying that let’s not try to hurry it because you would only run into problems as there is a huge dependence on oil,” he said.

“Even electricity should be brought under GST. Everything should be under GST. But I am not sure whether it is worked out yet. Let’s agree to bring it under GST but over a period of time as is practical,” he said.


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Live: India, Seychelles Sign Six MoUs after PM Modi’s talks with Faure



New Delhi, June 25 : Following talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Danny Faure on Monday, , India and Seychelles signed six Memorandums of Understanding at Hyderabad House.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted, “Welcoming the esteemed guest at Hyderabad House! PM @narendramodi received the President of Seychelles Danny Antoine Rollen Faure for bilateral talks. Special ties with a maritime neighbour.” Faure, who is on his first bilateral visit to India, was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Modi this morning.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also called on the visiting leader and discussed with him expanding bilateral cooperation in key areas, including capacity building and human resource development.

Sushma Swaraj met President  and termed the relationship between both the countries as deep-rooted & historical.

“The relationship which is deep-rooted & historical! EAM @SushmaSwaraj calls on President of #Seychelles Danny Faure in New Delhi. Good discussion on expanding bilateral cooperation in all areas, specially capacity building, human resource development and people-to-people contacts,” Kumar said in a tweet.


President of the Republic of Seychelles Danny Faure received ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in Delhi on Monday. He was received by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival at Rashtrapati Bhawan, to hold bilateral talks soon.

Seychelles President Danny Faure, who is on six-day visit to India, will hold crucial bilateral talks focussing on defence and security issues with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan on Monday.

Mutually beneficial relationship based on shared values and commitment to the ideals of democracy and development! President of Seychelles Danny Antoine Rollen Faure was accorded a ceremonial welcome @Rashtrapatibhvn by President Ram Nath Kovind and PM @narendramodi, tweets MEA Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

His visit to India comes days after Faure government rejected India’s plan to  develop a naval base jointly at Assumption Island in his country. Seychelles signed an agreement with India in 2015 to develop a naval facility at the island which would have given New Delhi a strategic advantage in the Indian Ocean Region.

Faure, who landed in Gujarat on Friday, has arrived in Delhi on Monday after visiting Ahmedabad and Goa, was received by Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar.

“Connected by ‘SAGAR’ – Security and Growth for All in the Region”! President of Seychelles Danny Antoine Rollen Faure warmly received by MoS @mjakbar at Delhi airport on his first bilateral visit to India,” Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

He visited the Sabarmati Ashram on Saturday, where Mahatma Gandhi lived between 1917 and 1930.

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