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ALGERIA

Cabinet approves Agreement between India and Algeria on Cooperation in the field of Space Sciences, Technologies and Applications, New Delhi, 06 December 2018.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri NarendraModi has been apprised of Agreement between India and Algeria on Cooperation in the field of Space Sciences, Technologies and Applications. The Agreement was signed at Bengaluru on 19th September 2018.

Salient features:This Agreement shall enable pursuing the following potential interest areas of cooperation such as, space science, technology and applications including remote sensing of the earth; satellite communication and satellite-based navigation; Space science and planetary exploration; gse of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and application of space technology.

The Agreement would lead to set up a Joint Working Group, drawing members from DOS/ISRQ, and the Algerian Space Agency (ASAL), which will further work out the plan of action including the time-frame and the means of implementing this Agreement.

Impact:Signing of the Agreement will strengthen the cooperation between India and Algeria and provide impetus to explore newer research activities and application possibilities in the field of remote sensing of the earth, satellite navigation, space science and exploration of outer space.  The Agreement would lead to development of joint activity in the field of application of space technologies for the benefit of humanity. Thus, all sections and regions of the country will get benefited.

Background:India and Algeria have been pursuing 'commercial' interactions in the field of space, Antrix Corporation Limited has been interacting with Algerian officials towards establishment of ground station and launch of satellites (3 micro-satellites and one nano-satellite of Algeria were launched by PSLV during 2010-2016). Algeria expressed interest to pursue space cooperation with Indta through diplomatic channels. In December 2014, MEA requested ISRO / DOS to consider Algeria's proposal for entering into an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) for space cooperation and forwarded the draft agreement, provided by Algeria.

The draft IGA has been reviewed by ISRO and Algerian Space Agency (ASAL) and comments were exchanged through email. After a few iterations, both sides have arrived at a workable version of the agency-level space cooperation Agreement.Source: Press Information Bureau (PIB)

EGYPT

India condemns the cowardly terrorist attack on the tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, New Delhi, 29 December 2018.

We condemn the cowardly terrorist attack on the tourist bus near the Giza Pyramids in Egypt on 28th December in which innocent lives were lost. We convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and wish speedy recovery for those injured. We stand with the Government and people of Egypt in their fight against terrorism. Source: Embassy of India, Cairo

IRAN

India strongly condemns terrorist attack in Chabahar, Iran, New Delhi, 06 December 2018.

India strongly condemns today's despicable terrorist attack in Chabahar, Iran. We express our condolences to the Government and the people of Iran and the families of the victims of this attack. We wish speedy recovery to those injured. The perpetrators behind this dastardly attack should be brought to justice expeditiously. There can be no justification for any act of terror.Source: Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

First meeting of the Follow-up Committee between India, Afghanistan and Iran for operationalization of the Chabahar Agreement, New Delhi, 24 December 2018.

The first meeting of the Follow-up Committee for implementation of the trilateral Chabahar Agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran at the level of Joint Secretary/ Director General was held on December 24, 2018 in the port city of Chabahar in Iran.

On the occasion, India Ports Global Limited company opened its office and took over operations at the ShaheedBehesti port at Chabahar.

Positive and constructive discussions were held between the three sides on full operationalization of the Trilateral Transit Agreement for international transit & transport through the Chabahar Port. They agreed on the routes for the trade and transit corridors between the three countries.

It was agreed to finalise at the earliest the Protocol to harmonize transit, roads, customs, and consular matters. It was agreed to allow cargo movement at Chabahar using TIR Convention provisions.

It was decided to hold an event to promote and popularize the potential of Chabahar on 26 February 2019. Also, a study would be initiated for determining measures to make the route attractive, decrease logistic costs and pave the way for smooth operationalization of the Chabahar Agreement.

The next Follow-up Committee meeting, followed by the 2nd Coordination Council Meeting the level of Secretaries/ Deputy Ministers, will held in India in 2019.Source: Embassy of India, Tehran

IRAQ

Visit of Indian Business Delegation led by CII to Iraq (16-20 December 2018), Baghdad, 16 December 2018.

 A 23-member business delegation led by Confederation of Indian Industries, one of the apex business Chambers of India is visiting Iraq from December 16-20, 2018. The delegates belong to key infrastructure sectors, including construction, electricity, steel, petrochemicals, renewable energy, agriculture, chemicals, water treatment, fire safety, among others. They are going to discuss business opportunities in various sectors of Iraqi economy with key decision makers of the Government, Business Chambers and private sector of Iraq during this visit.

The Indian business delegation is scheduled to call on senior dignitaries of Government of Iraq, including Ministers of Trade; Minister of Health &Environment; Minister of Oil; Minister of Construction& Municipalities; and Deputy Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Communication, Electricity among others. They are also scheduled to meet Chairman of Economic Committee of Iraqi Parliament; Chairman of the National Investment Commission; Chairman of the Federation of Iraqi Chamber of Commerce; Chairman of the Federation of Iraqi Industries; Head of Central Bank of Iraq and Trade Bank of Iraq and several other senior officials in various Ministries and Departments in Baghdad.

The delegation is also visiting Erbil for interaction with Government, Chamber of Commerce and business community of the Kurdistan region.

This is the third business delegation from India to Iraq in a span of last one month, including a 40-member delegation for the Baghdad International Fair led by Federation of Indian Exporters’ Organization (FIEO) and a 25-member delegation in food sector led by Trade Promotion Council of India last month. This indicates seriousness of the Indian business community and industry to return to Iraq and to contribute to the reconstruction and development of post-war Iraq. Source: Embassy of India, Baghdad

MOROCCO

Cabinet approves MoU between India and Morocco for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, New Delhi, 06 December 2018.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri NarendraModi has been apprised of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Morocco for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The MoU was signed at New Delhi on 25th September 2018.

Salient Features:

This MoU shall enable the following potential interest areas of cooperation     such as, space science, technology and applications including remote sensing of the earth; satellite communication and satellite-based navigation; Space science and planetary exploration; use of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and application of space technology; and

The MoU would lead to set up a Joint Working Group, drawing members from DOS/ISRO and Royal Centre for Remote Sensing (CRTS) and the Royal Centre for Space Research and Studies (CRERS), which will further work out the plan of action including the time-frame and the means of implementing the MoU.

Background:Morocco expressed interest in cooperation with India in the field of space in early 1990s, ISRO and Centre Royal de Tele detection Spatial (CRTS-Royal Centre for Remote Sensing) have exchanged draft and arrived at a mutually agreed version of the Memorandum of Understanding for space cooperation in 1998, However, this has not materialized due to the cancellation of the visit by VVIP from Morocco side. Subsequent attempts by MEA to sign this MoU did not fructify.

Indian Ambassador to Morocco has negotiated an updated version of this MoU at Government level and shared with ISRO. The draft inter-Governmental MoU was by ISRO and expressed its readiness to sign this MoU on September 25, 2018 during the visit of Moroccan Minister in charge of Defence Administration.Source: Press Information Bureau (PIB)

OMAN

Indian Coast Guard Ship Vikram Goodwill Visit to Muscat, Muscat, 24 December 2018.

Indian Coast Guard ship (ICGS) Vikram is scheduled to enter Muscat, Oman on Wednesday, 26December 2018, on a three-day goodwill visit. The visit is aimed at enhancing interactions and cooperation between the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Royal Oman Police Coast Guard (ROPCG).

2. ICGS Vikram (“Vikram” means ‘Valorous”), the 1st in the series of    98 meters Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) is a newly commissioned ship of Indian Coast Guard. The ship has a compliment of approximately 100 personnel and is commanded by Commandant Raj Kamal Sinha.

3. ICGS Vikram has been designed and built in India by M/s Larsen & Toubro at its Defence shipyard at Kattupalli. The ship is fitted with most advanced state-of-the-art technology, navigation and communication equipment, sensor and machinery. The vessel is fitted with a 30mm gun for the fighting efficiency of the ship. The features include an Integrated Bridge System (IBS), Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS), Automated Power Management System (APMS) and High-Power External fire-fighting system. ICGS Vikram class OPVs are long-range surface ships which operate in Indian maritime zones including island territories. Their role is to conduct coastal and offshore patrolling, policing maritime zones, Search and Rescue, surveillance, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations with limited wartime roles. The ship is designed to carry one twin engine helicopter and two high speed boats along with two hull inflatable boats. The ship is also capable of carrying limited pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea.

4. The ship is on a month-long deployment in the GCC which has resulted in the build-up of mutual understanding and comradery amongst Coast Guards of the region. Oman and Indian Coast Guards signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Crime Prevention at Sea in May 2016 and regularly conduct high level meetings. The next high-level meeting is scheduled in India in late 2019. During the three-day visit to Muscat, the ship’s crew will utilise the opportunity to undertake various maritime related joint training activities with ROPCGfocussing on Marine Pollution Response, Maritime Search & Rescue and Maritime Law enforcement. The close relations developed between the ROGCP and ICG has been very beneficial in coordination of search and rescue efforts in the Arabian Sea.Source: Embassy of India, Muscat

PALESTINE

Message from Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Shri NarendraModi on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, New Delhi, 22 November 2018

On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, I wish to convey India’s strong support for the Palestinian cause and to express our solidarity with the Palestinian people in their efforts to establish a sovereign, independent and united state of Palestine, co-existing peacefully with the State of Israel.

Historical ties between India and Palestine have further strengthened in recent years. My visit to Palestine in February this year was the very first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine. The visit was an assertion of India’s strong commitment for the development of Palestine and led to significant outcomes to further India-Palestine developmental partnership. India has announced an increase in the armed scholarships for Palestinian students, six new projects including construction of a speciality hospital, women empowerment centre, national printing press and school and an increase in its annual contribution to UNRWA. Our financial and technical assistance is an expression of our strong resolve to strengthen Palestinian institutions.

As we mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, we hope for an early resumption of dialogue between Palestine and Israel for moving toward a comprehensive and negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On behalf of the people of India, I extend my best wishes to the friendly people of Palestine in the pursuit of statehood, peace and prosperity.Source: Embassy of India, Ramallah

SAUDI ARABIA

Bilateral Annual Haj 2019 Agreement between India and Saudi Arabia Signed at Jeddah, Jeddah, 13 December 2018.

Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Government of India Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, and Haj and Umrah Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dr Mohammad Saleh bin TaherBenten signed bilateral annual Haj 2019 agreement between India and Saudi Arabia at Jeddah today.

Shri Naqvi said that the Saudi Arabia Government has always played active and effective role to ensure safety and better facilities to Indian Haj pilgrims. It is a part of strengthened bilateral relations of the two countries. He said that India-Saudi Arabia relations have achieved newer heights under the leadership and guidance of Saudi Arabia King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and Prime Minister of India Shri NarendraModi. Both the countries share strong cultural, historical, economic and political relations.

Shri Naqvi thanked The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz for his guidance and active support to make Haj 2018, successful. He said that the Government of India, in coordination and cooperation with Saudi Arabia Government, Indian Consulate and various concerned agencies in Saudi Arabia, is working to ensure safety and better facilities, medical facilities for the pilgrims during Haj 2019.

Shri Naqvi said that a large number of Muslim women are likely to go to Haj 2019 without “Mehram” (male companion). More than 2100 women have applied to go to Haj 2019 without “Mehram”.For the first time, the Centre’s Modi Government had lifted ban on women going to Haj without Mehram last year, which resulted into about 1300 Indian Muslim women went on Haj 2018 without any male companion. They had been exempted from the lottery system. For the first time, more than 100 women Haj Coordinators and Haj Assistants had been deployed to assist Indian women Haj pilgrims in 2018.

The Minister said that Haj Committee of India has received more than 2 lakh 47 thousand applications yet for Haj 2019. This includes about 47 per cent women. For the first time after the Independence, a record number of Muslims from India performed Haj 2018 and that too without any subsidy. Record 1,75,025 Muslims from India performed Haj 2018 which include about 48 per cent women. The Indian Government has requested the Saudi Arabia Government to increase India’s annual Haj quota for Haj 2019 also.

Shri Naqvi said that making the Haj process completely online/ digital has helped to make the entire Haj process transparent and pro-pilgrims. For Haj 2019, about 1 lakh 36 thousand online applications have been received.

Shri Naqvi said that Ministry of Minority Affairs, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia Haj Consulate, Haj Committee of India and other concerned agencies, had completed preparations for Haj 2018 about 2 months before schedule to ensure smooth Haj pilgrimage. This time, preparations for Haj 2019 had been started 3 months before schedule to make this Haj more comfortable for the pilgrims.Source: Press Information Bureau (PIB)

Question No.1615 Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Kerala, Rajya Sabha, New Delhi, 27 December 2018.

1615. SHRI K.K. RAGESH:Will the Minister of EXTERNAL AFFAIRS be pleased to state:

(a) whether any decision has been taken on the proposal to establish the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Kerala;

(b) if so, the status of the proposal; and

(c) whether any favourable decision has been received from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in this regard?

ANSWER: THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

[GEN. (DR) V. K. SINGH (RETD)]

(a) to (c) No.

This Ministry is not in receipt of any proposal for the establishment of Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Kerala. No information has so far been received from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in New Delhi with regard to this issue.Source: Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

UAE

Visit of EAM to UAE for the 12th Joint Commission Meeting, Abu Dhabi, 04 December 2018.

1. Smt. SushmaSwaraj, External Affairs Minister of India led a delegation of senior officials to the United Arab Emirates for the 12th session of the India-UAE Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) for Economic and Technical Cooperation, held on 03-04 December 2018, in Abu Dhabi.

2. During her visit, EAM called on the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The Crown Prince emphasized the special nature of India-UAE relations under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi. He stressed the importance that both nations attached to the values of peace and tolerance. He expressed his desire to do more with India in future to achieve the full potential. EAM briefed HH the Crown Prince on the discussions in the JCM, particularly with respect to energy, space, railways etc. She recalled his historic visit to India in January 2017 for the Republic Day as Chief Guest. EAM expressed gratitude for the support extended to the construction of temple by the UAE leadership and appreciated his inter-faith dialogue.

3. EAM co-chaired the JCM with Foreign Minister, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In the JCM, the two sides discussed all the areas of mutual interest including Trade & Commerce; Investments; Energy Security; Agriculture & Food Security; Railways; Defence and Space; Security and Combating Crime; Education & Culture; Civil Aviation; Consular, Immigration and Indian Community related issues and agreed to enhance cooperation in these areas. An Agreement on Currency Swap between the Reserve Bank of India and the Central Bank of the UAE was exchanged during the visit.

4.‚ÄčThe two sides further signed anMoU on Development Cooperation in Africa, and further agreed to join their expertise and resources in a pioneering project for establishing a Centre of Excellence in Information Technology (CEIT) in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

5. EAM, along with the Foreign Minister of the UAE, launched the Gandhi-Zayed Digital Museum in Abu Dhabi marking the celebrations of 150 years of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth and centenary celebrations of the birth of Shaikh Zayed, founder of the UAE. EAM also interacted with the Indian community in Abu Dhabi.

6. EAM’s visit to the UAE helped consolidate the understanding between the two governments on entire gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues, and set out a road map for future high-level engagements.Source: Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

List of documents signed during the visit of External Affairs Minister to United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi, 04 December 2018.

Sl. No.

Name of MoU/Agreement

Signatory/Dignitary exchanging on the Indian side

Signatory/Dignitary exchanging on the UAE side

1.

Currency Swap Agreement

Ambassador of India to UAE

Dy. Governor of Central Bank of UAE

2.

MoU on Development Cooperation in Africa

Secretary (Economic Relations)

Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Source: Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

MULTILATERAL ISSUES

Question No.1611 Indians Living Illegally in Gulf Countries, Rajya Sabha, New Delhi, 27 December 2018.

1611. SHRI K.C. RAMAMURTHY:Will the Minister of EXTERNAL AFFAIRS be pleased to state:

(a) whether the Ministry is aware that more than 70,000 Indians are living illegally in Gulf countries;

(b) if so, the details thereof, country-wise;

(c) whether the Ministry is also aware that UAE has issued a directive to illegal migrants to leave its country and given three months’ time and has also given one-month amnesty period which expired in November this year; and

(d) if so, the manner in which the Ministry is going to help these hapless people for their return and providing them employment, etc.?

ANSWER

THE MINISTER OF STATE IN THE MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

[GEN. (DR) V. K. SINGH (RETD)]

(a) & (b) Ministry is aware that a number of Indians are living illegally in the Gulf countries. The number of such people, however, cannot be quantified as no clear data in this regard is provided by the host governments.

(c) Yes. Amnesty in the UAE was declared for 3 months from August 01, 2018 till October 31, 2018. It was extended up to November 30, 2018 and then further till December 31, 2018.

(d) Through the provisions of the Amnesty Scheme the UAE Government aims to assist the illegal immigrants as per the following regulatory measures:

(i) The individuals who are staying illegally can regularize their visas by getting a new sponsor and paying the prescribed fees.

(ii) Those who wish to exit the country can approach the UAE Immigration directly and get exit permit without ban by paying the prescribed fees.

(iii) Those who entered the country illegally without any valid documents, can get exit clearance with two years' ban by paying the prescribed fees.

(iv) If there is an absconding report against a person, the Immigration will remove absconding report against him and on payment of prescribed fees will issue exit permit without ban.

(v) The UAE Government is also facilitating the amnesty seekers by providing them a 6-months’ temporary job seekers’ visa with which they can legally stay in UAE and search for a job. Job seekers will also have an opportunity to look for employment by registering in the virtual job market available on the website of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation.

Also, to enable the Indian Missions to meet contingency expenditure incurred by them for carrying out various on-site welfare activities for the most deserving cases of overseas Indian Citizens who are in distress, Government of India has established the Indian Community Welfare Fund (ICWF).Source: Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)

As part of the policy, the MEI@ND standardizes spellings and date format to make the text uniformly accessible and stylistically consistent. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND. Editor, MEI@ND P R Kumaraswamy.