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Key highlights of India-Africa Forum Summit

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New Delhi: Reforms in United Nations Security Council, climate change, terrorism, defense and trade were among the major issues deliberated upon in the four-day India-Africa Forum Summit that concluded on Thursday at the Indira Gandhi National Stadium in New Delhi.

The two previous India-Africa summits in 2008 and 2011, in New Delhi and Addis Ababa respectively, saw only a representative participation from African countries. However, this was perhaps the first time that all the 54 African countries came together outside the continent for such a meeting. Over 50 heads of state or government and senior officials from across Africa converged in the capital for the October 26-29 summit.

In a continent where China has long ruled the diplomatic and economic zone with an investment of $200 billion in the last 15 years, this initiative by the Modi government has paved the way for India to reach out to the fast-developing continent which has a similar demographic profile to ours and also harbors rich resources.

Modi also announced that the summit will be held in five-year intervals instead of three to ensure that projects are implemented between two summits.

The summit discussed issues related to trade, self-reliance, economic liberalization and how to decrease Official Development Assistance (ODA) dependence in African nations. The following is what we took away from the IAFS:

CLIMATE CHANGE

  • Modi aims “to make solar energy an integral part of our life and reach it to the most unconnected villages and communities” and therefore, he invited African nations to join an alliance of solar-rich countries that India has proposed to launch in Paris on November 30 at the time of Conference of Parties meeting.
  • He hopes to reach a “comprehensive and concrete outcome” in the UN Convention on Climate Change with “a genuine global public partnership that makes clean energy affordable; provides finance and technology to developing countries to access it; and the means to adapt to the impact of climate change”.
  • Modi said that both India and the African nations want to “light up the lives of our people and power their future,” but that it should be done in such a manner that “snow on Kilimanjaro does not disappear, the glacier that feeds the River Ganga does not retreat.”

TERRORISM AND DEFENSE

  • Counter terrorism, maritime security, cyber security and defense cooperation were the most common issues in the series of bilateral talks, with 12 of the 19 meetings targeting terrorism and defense issues. This shift in focus speaks of the turn in the major world issues in the current timeline.
  • The Kenyan and Nigerian presidents respectively brought up the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya and the continuing raids by Boko Haram’s continued raids in Nigeria and neighboring states. Boko Haram, which has perpetuated violence in large parts of north-east Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, declared its allegiance to the Islamic State earlier this year.
  • The Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for “better information exchange between the governments”.
  • Lesotho Prime Minister Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili also discussed defence cooperation, and praised the Indian armed forces who have been training officers from Lesotho.
  • According to an Indian Express report, Africa “wants to increase the capability of their defence forces and have a robust intelligence-sharing mechanism”.
  • Modi has repeatedly spoken against the rising issue of terrorism plaguing the world and the need to counter it.

UNSC REFORMS

  • One of the top agendas of the summit was to gain support to win India a place in the UN Security Council. Modi spoke towards changing the working of the United Nations in a way which would better reflect the current geo-political picture of the world. He said that “our global institutions reflect the circumstances of the century that we left behind, not the one we are in today”.
  • “Our institutions cannot be representative of our world, if they do not give voice to Africa, with more than a quarter of UN members, or the world’s largest democracy with one-sixth of humanity,” the prime minister added, making a point that India and Africa need to “speak in one voice” towards the cause.

TRADE AND DEVELOPMENT

  • Modi promised to give high priority to the trade and investment flow between India and Africa and cited defence and security cooperation as the key to the India-Africa partnership. He also promised to ensure “full and effective implementation of the duty-free access extended to 34 countries”.
  • He also pledged a grant assistance of $600 million to the continent, which would include an India-Africa Development Fund of $100 million and an India-Africa Health Fund of $10 million. It will also include 50,000 scholarships for African students in India and “support the expansion of the Pan Africa E-Network and institutions of skilling, training and learning across Africa.”
  • “We will work with you to realise your vision of a prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth, empowered citizens and sustainable development; an integrated and culturally vibrant Africa; and, a peaceful and secure Africa, which has its rightful global place and is a strong partner for the world,” Modi said in his concluding remarks.
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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

Donald Trump, India
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)