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Obama wishes Modi happy Diwali through newly-established hotline

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Washington: Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi to wish him a happy Diwali, US President Barack Obama has reaffirmed the importance of the US-India partnership in addressing both regional and global issues.

A White House readout of the call on Tuesday said Obama spoke to Modi by phone “to review joint efforts on key areas of bilateral cooperation and to preview global issues ahead of the upcoming G-20 summit, East Asia Summit, and Paris Climate Conference.”

“Noting that the conversation represented the first use of the new secure line between the two leaders, President Obama wished the Prime Minister a happy Diwali and reaffirmed the importance of the US-India partnership in addressing both regional and global issues.”

“Both leaders shared their perspectives on developments in South Asia and discussed the progress they have made on shared economic and security priorities, including implementation of the Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region and addressing the global challenge of climate change,” it added.

Earlier, in New Delhi, Modi tweeted after the call: “A short while ago @POTUS (President of the United States) called. We exchanged Diwali greetings. This was our first conversation through the newly-established hotline.”

“President Obama & I look forward to meeting in Turkey during the G20 Summit,” to be held on Nov 15-16, he said.

Modi said President Obama and he “discussed a wide range of other issues as well. It was good knowing how @WhiteHouse is marking Diwali.”

The G20 summit is being held after the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals agenda at the UN and ahead of the climate change summit in Paris on Nov 30-Dec 1.

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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US investments and technology partnerships with India set to grow

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Washington: Ahead of Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to the US, a key trade group has expressed confidence that as India continues reforms US investments and important technology partnerships with Indian industry will grow significantly.

Members of the US-India Business Council (USIBC) comprising 350 top-tier US and Indian companies hosted a Defence Policy Group (DPG) delegation from India ahead of Parrikar’s visit to the US in December. Senior Indian defence ministry officials are in the US for bilateral meetings with the US Department of Defence to discuss progress on joint initiatives such as the US-India Defense Policy Group (DPG) and Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI).

Welcoming the delegation to Washington, USIBC President Dr Mukesh Aghi welcomed Government of India’s recent announcements allowing FDI up to 49 percent under the automatic route and beyond that with the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s (FIPB) approval.

Former US Secretary of Defence, William S. Cohen, and board member of USIBC said he was encouraged by the unprecedented level of engagement between the two governments and the private sector in the area of defence.

“As the Government of India continues its reform effort and streamlines the defence procurement process, I am confident that US investments and important technology partnerships with Indian industry will grow significantly in support of India’s indigenization and national security goals,” he said.

Swami Iyer, Vice President, Honeywell Defense and Space, and Chair of USIBC’s Defence Executive Committee said: “With diligent collaboration, both government and industry can showcase Make in India and India’s improved ease of doing business in current and future defence procurements.”

“We believe continued success in US-India defence trade can be a great enabler for India’s economy and national security.”

The US-India bilateral defence relationship has grown in a robust manner from a mere $200 million in defence trade in 2000 to over $14 billion.

Boeing recently announced that it had won a $3 billion contract from the Indian Ministry of Defence for production, training and support of 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters.

The order includes options to further buy 11 Apache and 7 Chinook helicopters. These aircraft are being acquired by the Indian Government on Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) basis while their weapon systems like radars and missiles would be through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route from the US Government.

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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India, US cooperation on mega-city governance growing: Indian envoy

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Washington, Oct 9 (IANS) India-US cooperation in governance of mega-cities is part of a whole new paradigm of working together and forming habits of cooperation between the world’s two largest democracies, according to the Indian ambassador Arun K Singh.

“It takes diplomacy beyond the nation-state,” he said at an event at Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, on the Megacity Challenge ahead of a conference on Megacity Security in Mumbai next month.

“As our bilateral partnership goes forward under the motto of “Sanjha Prayas, Sab Ka Vikas” or “Shared Effort, Progress for All,” we need to take our cities along in this endeavour – with their myriad challenges and their limitless opportunities,” Singh said.

Noting that an expert committee had in 2011 indicated a requirement of investment in urban infrastructure to the tune of $1 trillion over the next 20 years, he said: “For us in India, the megacity challenge is a living challenge of massive proportion.”

The US government, private sector, businesses and the civil society, Singh said had been associated in several transformative initiatives in India.

The Bloomberg Philanthropies have supported the India Smart Cities challenge, he noted. The US has been identified as the lead partner in developing smart cities in three Indian cities — Ajmer, Visakhapatnam and Allahabad.

The USAID, through the Urban India Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Alliance, is serving as knowledge partner to support the Prime Minister’s 500 cities National Urban Development Mission and Clean India Campaign.

There was also growing bilateral cooperation for making the two countries’ megacities safe and secure, Singh said observing “the designs of terrorists over mega-cities was evident to both countries — during 9/11 in New York City and during 26/11 in Mumbai.”

To meet the challenges of modern day policing in megacities, Government of India has undertaken Megacity Policing initiative with focus on building the technology capability of Police forces.

Currently, police forces in seven cities – Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Ahmedabad — are being modernized under this scheme.

Megacities Policing is one of the six major components of India-US bilateral homeland security cooperation pursued under the Ministerial Homeland Security Dialogue, Singh noted.

“Whether it is tackling terrorism, investigation of modern crimes, identification of suspects, managing intelligent traffic system or building effective command and control system or fusion centres, the US has capacities that can be considered and adapted in India for mutual benefit,” he said.

“They will create security in our cities and potential for business and technology partnership,” Singh said.

“Of course, megacity policing is only one small part of our growing cooperation in the field of homeland security,” he said citing several areas from building capacity in cyber security to a partnership for counter-IED cooperation.

“Security cooperation in turn is a small subset of our wide-ranging strategic and global partnership,” Singh added.

 

(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Apple confirms Tim Cook, Modi meeting

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Tim_Cook_2009_croppedBy NewsGram Staff Writer

Apple CEO Tim Cook is due to meet with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi later this month during the latter’s tour of the US west coast, an Apple spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday, according to this AppleInsider report.

According to India’s Economic Times, the spokesperson declined to say what the topic of discussion would be. Three sources for the newspaper indicated that the prime minister’s Office is yet to set an agenda after discussion with Apple.

It is believed that Apple is interested to invest in building manufacturing capacities in India, which could prove to be a huge boost for Modi’s initiatives such as ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’. While India’s manufacturing sector has a long way to go, for Modi’s US visit, the main focus is on the entrepreneurship and digital innovation sectors, which are taking India to new heights.

Apple is dependent entirely on third-party resellers in the region and doesn’t even have a local online store. The company is working towards a brisk expansion of its reseller network, with special emphasis on improving iPhone sales, according to the AppleInsider report. Although iPhone numbers rose 93 percent in India during the June quarter, Apple has had difficulty making headway against Android-based phone makers. This is partly because phones are often sold in small independent shops that don’t fit with the company’s normal chain-oriented retail strategy.

Apple differentiates between refurbished and second-hand products in this Times of India article, saying that Apple products have a much longer life than Samsung or other similar products, if properly refurbished. Apple believes its refurbished products such as phones, computers, tablets and laptops have a big market in Asia. Under India’s current industrial policy refurbishing is not allowed. However, there might be a change in policy with Apple’s arrival.

Apple uses manufacturing facilities of Foxconn, which has recently promised to invest $5 billion in a manufacturing facility in Maharashtra. A local Apple-run R&D center might send more critical projects towards India’s direction instead of the backend software development that is usually pushed towards Indian firms like Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services.

Some of the other big names that Modi is scheduled to meet are Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen.