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Mekong-Ganga co-op, rescue op, other ext affairs

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New Delhi — The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC), established in the year 2000, focusses on expanding cooperation between India and countries of the Mekong region, viz. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. The key areas of cooperation under MGC are tourism, culture, education, and transport & communications, which aim to strengthen the ties between the peoples of the two regions. Efforts are also underway to widen collaboration between MGC countries in SMEs, conservation of rice germplasm, health and pandemic management, establishment of a Common Archival Resource Centre at Nalanda University and through Quick Impact Projects. The most visible manifestation of MGC is the MGC Museum of Traditional Asian Textiles at Siem Reap, Cambodia, established with Indian assistance in April 2014.

The Ministry of External Affairs has, through the ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund, granted six scholarships to students from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to pursue a Masters degree at Nalanda University. Selected students are eligible for waiver of full fees, including tuition fees, boarding, lodging and travel fare, for the period of study. A total of 4 students (2 from Laos, 2 from Myanmar and none from Cambodia) are currently studying at Nalanda University under this scholarship.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


Rescue operations by India

The Government of India regularly and closely monitors the evolving security situation in the Middle East, including in Iraq, Libya and Yemen, which had substantial Indian communities. The safety and security of our nationals in these countries is a matter of foremost concern for us. The government has made extensive efforts to enable the evacuation of Indian nationals from war-affected countries, as per details given below:

Our Embassy in Baghdad has facilitated the return of over 7,000 Indian nationals to India till date, by providing them assistance with travel documents, immigration and departure facilities and air tickets. The government had setup special camp offices in Erbil, Najaf, Karbala and Basra, to facilitate efficient evacuation. We have established 24 hour helplines to assist our nationals in Iraq and their concerned family members in India. The Mission is in close and regular contact with the Iraqi government to ensure the safety and security of the remaining Indian nationals in Iraq. A group of 39 Indian nationals working in a construction company in Mosul continue to be held captive by ISIS. The government is making every effort to secure their release.

3,600 Indians have been evacuated from Libya so far. These evacuations were facilitated through land, air and sea, with the assistance of countries neighbouring Libya. An estimated 2,000 Indians still remain in Libya. We keep a close watch on the situation in Libya and our Mission continues to make efforts to persuade the remaining Indian nationals to return to India.

The government conducted Operation ‘Raahat’ in March-April 2015 for the evacuation of Indian nationals from Yemen. This was acknowledged as a successful operation by the international community. Under this operation, we evacuated 6,710 persons from Yemen, including 4,748 Indians and 1,962 foreign nationals. The minister regularly reviewed the arrangements made in this regard. An inter-ministerial ‘Standing Group for Repatriation of Indian Nationals from Abroad’ was setup under the chairmanship of Secretary(East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, to coordinate and implement the evacuation plans in cooperation with the Ministries of Home, Defence, Shipping and Civil Aviation. We established a 24 hour control room and helplines in the Ministry of External Affairs. Similar helplines were also set up in our Embassy in Sana’a and a camp office was established at Djibouti. I personally travelled to Djibouti to supervise these efforts from this camp office. We also received the help of Indian railways and the concerned State governments to provide hospitality and transport for Indians arriving from Yemen in Mumbai and Kochi, all the way up to their home towns. We continue to monitor the internal developments in Yemen.

The government continues to keep a close watch on developments in these countries, issue advisories whenever required and engage the authorities in these countries to enable the safe evacuation of Indian nationals.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


Funding to United Nations

India contributes to the funding of the United Nations and its agencies.

Each member state is obligated to contribute to the UN. The contribution is calculated on the basis of scale of assessments, which takes into account the country’s share of the global Gross National Income with discounts given for low per-capita income and the country’s external debt. The contribution in respect of UN peacekeeping operations is also based on this scale of assessments with adjustments made for average per capita Gross National Income vis-a-vis global average Gross National Income. The scale of assessments is normally reviewed after every three years. Based on this scale, India’s contribution to the UN regular budget was fixed at 0.534% from 2009-12 and 0.666% from 2013-2015. India’s contribution to UN peacekeeping operations was fixed at 0.1068% for the period 2009-12 and at 0.1332% for the period 2013-15.

As a member state of the UN, it is mandatory for India to contribute to the UN budget. As such, there is no proposal to reduce India’s contribution below the scale of assessment determined by the UN.

The details are given in the annexure below:

Table showing India’s contribution to UN and its agencies during the last three years

(In US$)

S.No. Datails/Name of the Organization 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15
1 Regular Budget of United Nations 16,971,558 17,194,059 18,072,340
2 Contribution to United Nations Peacekeeping Operations 9,511,512 5,774,442 10,784,779
3 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 4,500,000 4,500,000 4,500,000
4 United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) 900,000 900,000 900,000
5 United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) 500,000 500,000 500,000
6 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 100,000 100,000 100,000
7 World Food Programme (WFP) 960,000 960,000 960,000
8 UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
9 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 100,000 100,000 100,000
10 United Nations Commission on Human Settlements(UNCHS) Programme (HABITAT) 100,000 100,000 100,000
11 UN Volunteers 15,000 15,000 15,000
12 UN Women 1,000,000 1,000,000 1,000,000
13 UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund 0 3,000 3,000
14 Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) 150,000 150,000 150,000
15 World Federation of UN Association (WFUNA) 3,000 3,000 3,000
16 UN International Law Seminar 5,000* 5,000* 5,000*
17 UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) 9,127 10,000 2,73,000**
18 World Health Organization- for Ebola 0 0 5,00,000
19 The UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons Sponsorship Programme 0 0 10,000
20 UN Geneva General Fund – Ottawa Convention Meetings 910.19 0 0
21 UN Geneva General Fund – BWC 8491.16 5797.86 9294
22 UN Geneva General Fund – 12th Mine Ban Convention 0 2893.77 0
23 UN Geneva General Fund – APCL Meetings 0 0 4475
24 UN Geneva General Fund – CCW Meetings 0 0 7958

* in Swiss Francs (CHF)

**in Rs

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


No visa to surrogate parents

The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued circular No. 462 dated 03.11.2015 which is addressed, among others, to Indian Missions/Posts abroad, wherein it has been instructed that:

(i) No visa should be issued by the Indian Missions/Posts to foreign nationals intending to visit India for commissioning surrogacy.

(ii) No permission should be granted by the Foreigners Regional Registration Officers (FRROs)/ Foreigners Registration Officers (FROs) to Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders to commission surrogacy in India.

(iii) No exit permission should be granted by the FRROs/ FROs to the child/children to be born through surrogacy to foreign nationals including OCI cardholders. However, for child/children born through surrogacy already commissioned on or before issue of this Circular, exit permission will be decided by FRROs/FROs on a case to case basis.

(iv) Visa, if any granted by Indian Missions/Posts to foreign nationals and permission, if any, granted by the FRROs/FROs to OCI cardholders, for commissioning surrogacy in India, from the date of issue of this Circular and date of receipts of the Circular, will be cancelled and the applicants will be informed of the position immediately.

All such requests received by Indian Missions/Posts are in the form of applications for medical visas for the purpose of commissioning surrogacy in India. In the last three years, 160,484 medical visas were issued by our Missions/Posts abroad. However, separate figures for visas issued for surrogacy cases are not available for this period.

Medical visas were being issued in all cases where documentation submitted by the applicants were complete, until the Ministry of Home Affairs issued circular No. 462 dated 03.11.2015.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


Linking passport offices with post offices

The Passport Offices have been traditionally associated with the Department of Posts for shipment of blank Passport booklets from India Security Press, Nashik. The Department of Posts is also involved in dispatch of printed passports to citizens. Recently, the Ministry of External Affairs has approached the Department of Posts for utilization of India Post network across the country for online filing of passport applications to address the challenge of digital divide.

It was also decided to explore authorizing Post Masters of appropriate level to issue Verification Certificates for Tatkaal passport applicants within their areas of jurisdiction, in view of their local knowledge. So far as police verification by postmen is concerned, the has been explored but not found feasible as Post Offices do not have access to criminal data and citizenship status of passport applicants.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


‘Act East’ Policy

India’s ‘Act East’ policy focusses on the extended neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region. The policy which was originally conceived as an economic initiative, has gained political, strategic and cultural dimensions including establishment of institutional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation. India has upgraded its relations to strategic partnership with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, Singapore and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and forged close ties with all countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Further, apart from ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and East Asia Summit (EAS), India has also been actively engaged in regional fora such as Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).

gen-vk-singh1
Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd)

The Act East Policy has placed emphasis on India-ASEAN cooperation in our domestic agenda on infrastructure, manufacturing, trade, skills, urban renewal, smart cities, Make in India and other initiatives. Connectivity projects, cooperation in space, S&T and people-to-people exchanges could become a springboard for regional integration and prosperity.
The Objective of ”Act East Policy” is to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationship with countries in the Asia-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels thereby providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region including Arunanchal Pradesh with other countries in our neighbourhood. The North East of India has been a priority in our Act East Policy (AEP). AEP provides an interface between North East India including the state of Arunachal Pradesh and the ASEAN region. Various plans at bilateral and regional levels include steady efforts to develop and strengthen connectivity of Northeast with the ASEAN region through trade, culture, people-to-people contacts and physical infrastructure (road, airport, telecommunication, power, etc.). Some of the major projects include Kaladan Multi-modal Transit Transport Project, the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway Project, Rhi-Tiddim Road Project, Border Haats, etc.

The ASEAN-India Plan of Action for the period 2016-20 has been adopted in August 2015 which identifies concrete initiatives and areas of cooperation along the three pillars of political-security, economic and socio-cultural. India continues with stepped up efforts to forge closer partnership with concerned regional and Multilateral organisation such as ASEAN, ARF, EAS, BIMSTEC, ACD, MCG and IORA. On the Civilizational front, Buddhist and Hindu links could be energized to develop new contacts and connectivity between people. On Connectivity, special efforts are being made to develop a coherent strategy, particularly for linking ASEAN with our North East. Measures, including building transport infrastructure, encouraging airlines to enhance connectivity in the region, contacts between academic and cultural institutions are underway. Our economic engagement with ASEAN has been stepped up – regional integration and implementation of projects are priorities. The ASEAN-India Agreement on Trade in Service and Investments has entered into force for India and seven ASEAN countries from 1 July 2015. The ASEAN-India Trade Negotiating Committee has been tasked to undertake a review of the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement. India has also invited ASEAN member states to participate in the International Solar Alliance which it has co-launched with France on 30 November 2015 at COP-21. On strategic issues, we have increasing convergence on security interests with key partners both in bilateral and multilateral format. Closer cooperation in combating terrorism, collaborating for peace and stability in the region and promotion of maritime security based on international norms and laws are being pursued.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


M-passport mobile application

The prototype of Mobile App “mPassport Police” was launched on the occasion of the Passport Seva Divas held during 24-26 June, 2015 at New Delhi.

The “mPassport Police” App would help the Police Verifying Officer to capture the data for Police Verification Report (PVR) on real-time basis at applicant’s place of residence and would expedite the submission of PVR, making the entire Police Verification flow digital and accountable. This app would be in addition to the existing mPassport Seva App which has been designed primarily for the citizens who are interested in Passport related information on their smart phones.

The development and testing of the “mPassport Police” App is at the advanced stage. It is expected to be implemented and operationalized during the current financial year.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


Line of credit

The Government of India is reasonably satisfied with the progress in implementation of Lines of Credit supported by India in foreign nations over the past 3 years. The Line of Credit is not a grant but a ‘soft loan’ provided on concessional interest rates to developing countries, which has to be repaid by the borrowing government. The LOCs also helps to promote exports of Indian goods and services, as 75% of the value of the contract must be sourced from India. The projects under LOCs are spread over different sectors (Agriculture, Infrastructure, Telecom, Railway, Transmission/Power, Renewable Energy etc.)

The actual implementation of projects in various countries is dependent on local factors, such as prevailing political & social conditions, statutory clearances by the borrowing governments, making available land and other infrastructural support. In many cases, the borrowing governments may not wish to proceed with the LOC or change the purpose or are unable to provide detailed information regarding the project through a proper Detailed Project Report / Feasibility Study.

The government has approved the new Indian Development Assistance Scheme (IDEAS) in December 2015. The scheme includes provisions to provide better terms of credit, which will be attractive to many developing countries, who are now seeking alternative means of finance. Several changes have been made in the operational guidelines such as making a DPR, or Feasibility Study essential for project proposals, strengthening of monitoring system, pre-qualification of competent companies and requirement of regular reports by the borrowing governments. In addition, regular monitoring is also being carried out by borrowing governments, Project Management Consultants (PMCs), implementing agency and Indian Missions abroad to ensure projects are executed in a timely manner. These changes should improve the implementation of projects undertaken through these LOCs.

It is true that in past some Indian companies had been awarded a majority of the projects under Lines of Credit, based on requests received from borrowing governments. However, several projects have also been executed by a variety of other companies, especially public sector organisations like RITES, IRCON, WAPCOS etc. PMCs/Contractors are selected by the borrowing government through an open competitive bidding process, as per the procurement laws of the borrowing country and prescribed LOC Guidelines of Government of India. Only Indian Companies/firms can bid for executing the LOC projects.

The percentage and amount of credit disbursed per country so far, as against the amount committed in Bilateral and Multilateral meetings is enclosed at Annexure. The disbursements for each are linked to the progress and completion of project milestones.

Annexure

Amount committed and disbursed to countries under line of credit by India:

S No. Country Amount of Credit committed

(in USD mn)

Disbursements until 30 Nov, 2015 by Exim Bank

(in USD mn)

% of disbursement under the
1 Angola 85.00 79.35 93%
2 Benin 72.61 30.77 42%
3 Burkina Faso 261.50 49.94 19%
4 Burundi 84.39 25.53 30%
5 Cameroon 79.65 37.21 47%
6 Cape Verde 5.00 0%
7 Central African Republic 89.19 41.77 47%
8 Chad 108.40 61.08 56%
9 Comoros 41.60 7.80 19%
10 Cote d’Ivoire 136.30 60.36 44%
11 D.R.Congo 494.94 235.90 48%
12 Djibouti 49.13 32.79 67%
13 Eritrea 20.00 19.95 100%
14 Ethiopia 1,004.54 558.03 56%
15 Gabon 81.69 4.35 5%
16 Gambia 170.58 32.48 19%
17 Ghana 393.26 169.99 43%
18 Guinea Bissau 25.00 9.96 40%
19 Guinea 35.00 0%
20 Kenya 161.60 28.58 18%
21 Lesotho 9.70 8.69 90%
22 Liberia 144.00 0.81 1%
23 Madagascar 25.00 25.00 100%
24 Malawi 156.50 155.18 99%
25 Mali 253.00 152.39 60%
26 Mali & Senegal 27.70 27.67 100%
27 Mauritania 87.48 6.77 8%
28 Mauritius 812.50 72.70 9%
29 Mozambique 639.44 192.45 30%
30 Niger 96.54 40.75 42%
31 100.00 0%
32 R. Congo 214.90 55.00 26%
33 Rwanda 200.05 79.87 40%
34 Senegal 288.28 130.68 45%
35 Seychelles 28.00 3.95 14%
36 Sierra Leone 90.00 43.90 49%
37 Sudan 737.07 592.21 80%
38 Swaziland 57.90 45.99 79%
39 Tanzania 523.04 140.58 27%
40 Togo 110.10 24.78 23%
41 West Africa 500.00 242.55 49%
42 Zambia 89.03 75.22 84%
43 Zimbabwe 115.60 11.98 10%
44 Afghanistan 50.00 0%
45 Bangladesh 2,862.00 222.35 8%
46 Cambodia 102.12 49.79 49%
47 Iran 200.00 85.79 43%
48 Lao PDR 153.83 86.30 56%
49 Maldives 80.00 14.36 18%
50 Mongolia 20.00 0%
51 Myanmar 747.59 248.18 33%
52 Nepal 1,350.00 71.52 5%
53 Sri Lanka 1,734.16 1,001.57 58%
54 Syria 225.00 87.52 39%
55 Vietnam 191.50 70.53 37%
56 Belarus 55.60 55.57 100%
57 Cuba 12.76 0%
58 Guyana 94.10 28.38 30%
59 Honduras 56.50 26.63 47%
60 Jamaica 7.50 7.50 100%
61 Nicaragua 67.53 3.00 4%
62 Panama 10.00 0%
63 Suriname 47.05 46.49 99%
64 Fiji Islands 125.78 48.50 39%

Note: There is usually a time lag between the commitment to a and actual disbursement to begin, which happens only after the preparation of Feasibility Report/Detailed Project Report, finalization of contracts etc. Subsequent disbursement is linked to the progress in the implementation of the project. Since a number of LOC projects are long-gestation infrastructure projects, disbursements usually take place over a period of several years.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


World Hindi Conference

The 10th World Hindi Conference was organized in Bhopal City of Madhya Pradesh on 10-12 September, 2015. Delegates from 39 foreign countries in addition to delegates from India participated in the Tenth World Hindi Conference.

Delegates participating in the conference emphasized on making Hindi an Official Language of the United Nations.

The government has been actively taking necessary measures for the introduction of Hindi as one of the Official Languages of the UN. A High level Committee under the chairmanship of the external affairs minister was constituted on 26 February, 2003 followed by a sub-Committee under the chairmanship of the minister of state for external affairs in August, 2003 to look into the matter and take necessary measures. Keeping in view this objective, the 8th World Hindi Conference was organized in New York on 13 July 2007 and its inaugural session was held at the UN Headquarters, which was attended by the UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon. In addition, a World Hindi Secretariat has been set up in Mauritius since 11 February 2008 to promote Hindi as an international language. On several occasions, Indian leaders have delivered statements at the UN in Hindi. On 27 September 2014, Prime Minister addressed the 69th UN General Assembly Session at New York in Hindi. He also addressed the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit at New York in Hindi on 25 September, 2015. On 01 October 2015, External Affairs Minister delivered her statement at the General Debate of the 70th UN General Assembly Session at New York in Hindi. Necessary arrangements were made for simultaneous interpretation of these statements in English by the Permanent Mission of India in New York. The Government of India’s sustained efforts have also ensured that the United Nations also offers its programmes on the UN Radio Website in Hindi. The government continues to work steadfastly in popularizing Hindi and for the objective of Hindi being designated as a UN language.”

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd.) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.


Visa to Arunachalis

It has been conveyed to the Chinese side on several occasions, including at the highest level, that all Indian passport holders should be treated equally on the basis of reciprocity. Arunachal Pradesh is an integral and inalienable part of India.

Minister of State for External Affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd) provided this information in reply to a question in Lok Sabha today.

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