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e-Visa in return of stapled Visa – Is this Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s diplomacy?

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Modi Xi (1)

By Harshmeet Singh

Before Narendra Modi left for China, his list of agendas included discussion about stapled visas issued to the citizens of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir by China. So when the Prime Minister overlooked it and extended the facility of e-visa to the Chinese tourists, it drew sharp criticism from many corners.

As expected, the Congress party latched on to this opportunity to criticize the PM and accused him of going too far ahead in the name of diplomacy. “Diplomacy is all about quid pro quo and reciprocity”,Congress spokesperson RPN Singh told PTI. Interestingly, just a few hours before the announcement, S Jaishankar, India’s foreign secretary had said “no decision has been taken yet” on the issue of extending the e-visas to Chinese tourists. While the sequence of events highlight that the decision was taken in haste, it would be worth analyzing the pros and cons of this spontaneous decision by the Prime Minister before arriving at a conclusion.

There are said to be contrasting views about the decision among the ministries. While the Home Ministry put forward its concerns regarding the misuse of such facility, these concerns were overridden by the Tourism Ministry’s support to the proposal.

All this for tourism?

According to the numbers furnished by the World Travel & Tourism Council, 6.6% of India’s GDP in 2012 was generated through tourism related activities. Modi Government’s push towards increasing tourism revenues in the country has been evident ever since it assumed office. According to the new Visa policy, citizens from close to 180 countries would be offered the facility of e-Visa in several phases.

According to the Indian Tourism Statistics 2013, published by the Ministry of Tourism, Chinese tourists accounted for a meager 2.51% of the total foreign tourists visiting India in 2013. At the same time, Indian tourists made up over 5.5% foreign tourists in China. Looks like our deficit with China goes much beyond trade!

Since the Government started offering e-visa facility from November last year, as per the Government’s assumptions, this should have increased the tourist inflow in the country, and made the rupee much stronger. On the contrary, rupee came down to a 4 month low level by the end of April. This is a clear indication of things happening contrary to the Government’s assumptions. May be it is time for the Government to understand that attracting tourists would take much more than extending the e-visa facility.

Would it give us FDI?

Some other experts also say that this move may help in the inflow of FDI into the country, which in turn, would boost the country’s infrastructure. But it would be immature to assume that a mere e-visa facility would open the floodgates for the flow of FDI into the country. Unless the Government gets rid of the red tape in the country and prepares an attractive ground for the investors, such facilities would hardly make any difference on the ground.

All diplomacy and no security?

The national security agencies were also opposed to the Government’s decision to offer such a facility. A Government official was later quoted saying, “The government has overruled the Intelligence Bureau and R&AW. So you can imagine the position of the government. We don’t want to bog down the intelligence agencies. The government has decided to bring their relationship with the most important country to a certain level, we have to take it forward,”

Such decisions which overlook feedback from all the concerned authorities and lack consensus are reminiscent of a Monarchy where one ruler has the final say irrespective of others’ voices.

Did India really have to offer this to China?

India and China have always been in an awkward relationship. Since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, several Governments have tried to read the mind of the dragon, but failed. In September last year, while Xi Jinping and Modi were on a swing at Sabarmati River Front, supposedly writing a new chapter in Indo-Sino ties, China’s troops were intruding into the Ladakh region.

Just a day before Modi’s gracious e-visa offer to the Chinese tourists, China’s national television broadcaster showed an Indian map sans the areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir. While this brought some strong reactions on the Social Media, there wasn’t any ‘official’ complaint from the Indian Government. The channel wasn’t asked to offer any apology either. This reaction is in stark contrast to a similar case in Australia last year before the G20 summit. The Queensland University in Brisbane, in Modi’s presence, showed an incorrect Indian map, with Jammu & Kashmir missing from top. At that time, India had registered a ‘strong official protest’ and demanded an apology from the officials. On the contrary, this time around, Modi went ahead and offered a freebie to China the very next day. It seems like all those strong words about protecting India’s sovereignty have been overlooked just for getting some tourists into the country.

Last month, China called Arunachal Pradesh issue a ‘Huge dispute’ and formally opposed Modi’s visit to the state. All this was done when Modi was supposed to visit Beijing in a month’s time. If the PM wants to go around the real issues and offer freebies in a hope that it will soften China’s stand on various disputes, he would be well advised to refer to the history of Indo-Chinese relations and learn the lesson!

 

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Will India be able to travel in the Bullet Train Soon? Yes, Say Railway Officials; Indian Railways Target Completing the Project Before the August 2022 Deadline

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14

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Bullet Train
Railway Board Chairman held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, and Niti Aayog Vice Chairman. (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : Unfazed by opposition criticism, Indian Railways is working overtime to push ahead with the much-talked about the “Bullet Train” project, aiming to complete it ahead of the August 2022 deadline set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani, who has a reputation of a turnaround man, has taken up the task of monitoring and chairing the periodic review meetings of the project that is estimated to cost over Rs 1 lakh crore ($15 billion).

Lohani held a high-level meeting in Rail Bhavan last Thursday which was attended by Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar, Central government officials, Principal Secretary-rank officials of Gujarat and Maharashtra, officials of NHSRCL (National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited), officials of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the General Manager of Western Railway.

A senior railway board member, requesting anonymity, told IANS, “The railways is in no mood to delay the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train project. Lohani will now hold a review meeting once every three months… And even on weekly basis, if required.”

Emphasising on the government’s intention, the official said, “The attendance of the Niti Aayog Vice Chairman, the Japanese Ambassador and the CRB in the review meeting is a clear signal that the government is taking the project seriously and there is no scope for any delay.”

“The CRB wants Indian Railway officials to take lessons from their Japanese counterparts about meeting deadlines,” he said.

The opposition has attacked the government for taking up a project at a huge cost instead of focusing on safety, a dire need of the time, and on schemes to improve passenger amenities.

The official said it was also decided at the meeting that “a road map for consultancy and civil engineering works will be prepared by January 2018”.

A ministry official associated with the Bullet Train project said a report on the signalling system and electrical reports would be ready by April 2018. According to him, the tracks and most of the signalling system would be brought from Japan.

The foundation stone for the Rs 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) 508-km Ahmedabad-Mumbai Bullet Train was laid in Ahmedabad by Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe on September 14.

Of the Rs 1.08 lakh crore, Japan is giving a loan of Rs 88,000 crore at a minimal interest of 0.1 per cent for 50 years. And the repayment will begin only after 15 years.

The railway official said that to encourage the Prime Minister’s ambitious ‘Make in India’ programme, “an appeal will be made to Indian and Japanese companies to make use the opportunity to work together”.

Meanwhile, the officials of the government of Maharashtra and Gujarat assured the railways of their help in land acquisition and smooth shifting of raw materials to construction venues.

A three-level monitoring committee was also constituted, including the Vice Chairman of Niti Ayog and Special Advisor to Japanese Prime Minister.

A working group led by Managing Director of NHSRCL Achal Khare and consisting of representatives of the ministries concerned, and the representative of JICA, has been formed. Besides the two committees, a technical expert committee led by the Managing Director of NHSRCL has also been formed.

Of the 508 km stretch, 92 per cent (468 km) of the route will be elevated, six per cent (27 km) will be in tunnels and the remaining two per cent (13 km) will be on the ground .

The high-speed train would also pass through the country’s longest tunnel of 21 km, of which seven km will be under the sea.

Twelve stations have been proposed that include Mumbai, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Vadodara, Anand, Ahmedabad and Sabarmati.

The distance will be covered in two hours and seven minutes if the train stops at four stations — Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat and Mumbai. If the train stops at all 12 stations, it will cover the distance in two hours and fifty-eight minutes.

According to Railway Ministry officials, the operating speed of the bullet train would be 320 kmph and the maximum speed would be 350 kmph.

 

(Editorial note : This article has been written by Anand K. Singh and was first published by IANS. Anand can be contacted at can be contacted at anand.s@ians.in)

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The major Challenge is to make the Youth of the Country Entrepreneurial and not Job Seekers : Venkaiah Naidu

"The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers," Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government's various initiatives.

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Venkaiah Naidu
Venkaiah Naidu. Wikimedia Commons
  • At a time of tepid job growth and continuing income disparities, the major challenge is to make the youth of the country entrepreneurial and not job seekers, Vice President  Venkaiah Naidu said on Thursday.

“Disparities continue to remain in India and so there is a need for inclusive growth… there is the need to take care of the suppressed, oppressed and depressed,” Venkaiah Naidu said at the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust’s (BYST) silver jubilee celebrations here with Britain’s Prince Charles as the chief guest.

“The challenge for us is to make the youth entrepreneurial, and not become job seekers,” Venkaiah Naidu said pointing to the NDA government’s various initiatives to encourage youth enterprises like Startup India, Standup India and the Mudra financing scheme for underprivileged sections.

Modelled on Prince Charles’ Trust for business startups, BYST, founded by Lakshmi Venkatesan, daughter of former President R. Venkatraman, is engaged in building rural entrepreneurship — “grampreneurs” — as also enterprise among under-privileged sections, which includes business mentoring. The current BYST chairman is Bajaj Group chief, Rahul Bajaj.

“Without mentoring, it would be very difficult to set up startups, with all the business, marketing and other vital issues involved in the first two-three years,” Prince Charles said in his address at the International Mentoring Summit organized by BYST to mark its 25 years.

“What amazes me are the sheer number of jobs these young entrepreneurs had created. The aim of such a project should be to create a virtual cycle of creating entrepreneurs who can then invest in the future of business,” Charles said referring to his trust.

BYST was officially launched in 1992 by Prince Charles and expanded its operations to six major regions of India.

Out of these six regions, four — Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad — run the urban programme while two regions — Haryana and Maharashtra — run the rural programme.(IANS)

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India sends Emergency Fuel Supplies to Sri Lanka

According to Indian public broadcaster Doordarshan, Modi assured all assistance from India to Sri Lanka following Siriena's request for emergency fuel supplies and petrol shipments.

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emergency fuel supplies
India is sending additional fuel to Sri Lanka, confirmed PMO onTwitter (representative image) Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 9, 2017 : Following reports of Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) rejecting a shipment of petrol from Lanka IOC (LIOC), the Sri Lankan subsidiary of Indian Oil, India on Wednesday made emergency fuel supplies to Sri Lanka following a telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

“In the telephone conversation with Sri Lankan President @MaithripalaS, PM @narendramodi conveyed that India is sending additional fuel to Sri Lanka and assured India’s continued support for development cooperation,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) tweeted.

According to Indian public broadcaster Doordarshan, Modi assured all assistance from India to Sri Lanka following Siriena’s request for emergency fuel supplies and petrol shipments.

LIOC has made available 3,500 kilo litres of its own stock to CPC, Doordarshan said in a shared tweet.

A ship with an additional 21,000 kilo litres of petrol also left for Sri Lanka and additional petrol is being made available from Kochi refinery in Kerala.

Citing CPC sources, the Sunday Times said an emergency fuel supplies’ shipment that arrived at the Colombo harbour on October 17 had been tested for a second time and rejected on a quality test.

However, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said he did not agree that LIOC was responsible for the current fuel shortage in the country and said two oil shipments would be arriving in the country within two day, acording to a report in the Colombo Page.

“Apart from petrol shipment arriving on November 8, another shipment is due from India on November 9, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe informed the parliament on Tuesday responding to a question raised in the parliament regarding the fuel crisis,” the statement said.

It said that Wikremesinghe said a discussion was held with the Indian High Commissioner in this regard and the Indian ship would arrive either November 9 or 10. (IANS)