The South Asia Channel
India announces FDI reforms; Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to lay new pipeline; UNICEF: Pakistan may be polio free by next year
India India announces FDI reforms The Indian government announced major policy changes on Tuesday aimed at easing rules for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 15 different sectors, including agriculture, mining, defense, broadcasting, civil aviation, single-brand retail, and private sector banking (TOI, The Hindu). The reforms include the development of a single document with all relevant instructions and regulations ...
India announces FDI reforms
The Indian government announced major policy changes on Tuesday aimed at easing rules for foreign direct investment (FDI) in 15 different sectors, including agriculture, mining, defense, broadcasting, civil aviation, single-brand retail, and private sector banking (TOI, The Hindu). The reforms include the development of a single document with all relevant instructions and regulations for FDI to be given to potential investors. The authority of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board has also been expanded with the ability to approve investments as large as 50 billion rupees ($755 million), up from the previous limit of 30 billion rupees ($453 million) – investments above the threshold require cabinet approval. “The crux of these reforms is to further ease, rationalize, and simplify the process of foreign investments in the country, and to put more FDI proposals on automatic route instead of Government route,” said a government press statement. The announcement comes one day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the United Kingdom, where he will make a pitch to investors to invest in India.
Indian military veterans return medals
Many Indian military veterans are returning their service medals on Tuesday in protest of the government’s proposed implementation of the “One Rank, One Pension” scheme (HT, TOI, NDTV). The proposed new pension scheme is intended to ensure equitable pensions for service personnel of similar rank, regardless of their date of retirement. Under the existing scheme, those who retired before 2006 receive less than those who retired later. However, many veterans are unhappy with the government’s proposed implementation of the new plan and have demanded changes. The protesting veterans want the government to review the payment scale every year instead of every five years, as currently proposed, and for maximum pensions from 2013 to be used as a new baseline instead of the average paid at the time. The government has argued that the “One Rank, One Pension” scheme it has proposed will help 2.4 million veterans and 600,000 spouses.
GE wins $2.6 billion Indian railways contract
General Electric (GE) said on Monday that it had been awarded a $2.6 billion contract to supply and service 1,000 new diesel trains for India’s state-owned rail company (WSJ, BBC). The deal represents GE’s largest-ever contract in India and the largest contract ever won by its transportation division. As a part of the deal, GE will invest $200 million in a manufacturing plant in the eastern state of Bihar, where the trains will be built. “This infrastructure project is further evidence of India’s position as a growth engine for Asia,” said GE CEO Jeff Immelt. The deal provides a boost to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” scheme to attract foreign investment to increase local manufacturing.
Bonus Read: “Afghans Arriving in Germany May Find the Welcome is Wearing Thin,” by Alison Smale and Rick Lyman (NYT)
Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to lay new pipeline
On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov agreed to jointly launch the construction of a natural gas pipeline (Post). TAPI, as the proposed pipeline is known, will pump natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. According to reports, the leaders agreed on Tuesday to formally start construction of the pipeline on Friday. Turkmenistan is believed to have the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves, but currently exports the majority of it to China.
President Ghani meets with special representative of China
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani met with Deng Xijun, China’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan on Monday, the president’s office said in a statement (TOLO News). According to the statement, Xijun said that “Afghanistan is an important partner of China and to that end we work jointly with Afghanistan to eliminate terrorism in the region and ensure lasting peace and economic development in the country.” Ghani called terrorism a “shared threat” for both Afghanistan and Pakistan noting, “The government of Pakistan should take action against the terrorist groups that declare war against the people of Afghanistan and by doing that show their cooperation and sincerity in fighting terrorism and ensuring lasting peace in Afghanistan,” according to the president’s office. Xijun underscored the importance of Afghan peace to regional security in the meeting to which Ghani agreed, calling peace a “basic need for Afghanistan.”
Afghan spy agency rescues eight kidnap victims
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) said in a statement on Tuesday that five men, two women, and a teenager were freed in Ghazni province today (NYT). While the NDS statement did not acknowledge who was responsible, senior government officials have said that ISIS was behind the abductions. It is not clear if the released individuals were among the 31 Hazaras abducted from a bus earlier this year, all of whom were initially believed to be men. This rescue follows Monday’s announcement that seven Hazaras were found beheaded in Zabul province.
Bonus Read: “As floods hit, Pakistan’s Kalasha people fear for their way of life,” by Rina Saeed Khan (Reuters)
Bonus Read: “The Polio Capital of the World,” by Arsla Jawaid (FP)
UNICEF: Pakistan may be polio free by next year
A health official for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced on Monday that Pakistan could be declared a ‘non-endemic country for polio virus’ as early as next year (ET). “The progress and achievement in polio eradication efforts has raised the confidence of health teams and Pakistan has set the target of complete obstruction of polio transmission in the country by May 2016,” said Muhammad Johar, UNICEF Team Leader for Polio Eradication in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He added, “In May 2016, Pakistan may be declared a non-endemic country for polio virus.” Pakistan experienced an 85 percent reduction in recorded polio cases in 2015 which officials are attributing to the military’s improvements in security. According to Johar, “The main reason behind the rise in number of polio cases between 2005 and 2014 was inaccessibility to tribal areas where hundreds of thousands of children were missed from immunization, resulting in the contamination of disease.”
Pakistan and Belarus sign economic cooperation agreements
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Belarussian Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Tuesday with a focus on industrial cooperation, agriculture and infrastructure development. Sharif said during the talks the two sides also discussed regional and global issues and signed seventeen other agreements, MOUs and protocols on cooperation in diverse fields including: agriculture, agricultural research, investment, science and technology, textile, healthcare and pharmaceuticals. The prime minister said that this is the third high level exchange between the two nations in the past six months and is reflective of the “importance the two sides give to their robust relationship.”
Vitol inks near $30 million deal with Pakistan oil company Hascol
On Tuesday, Pakistani oil company Hascol Petroleum Ltd. announced that global oil giant Vitol will acquire 15 percent of the company (Reuters). “We would like to inform that a term sheet has been signed by Vitol Dubai Limited with the major shareholders of Hascol Petroleum Limited (Hascol) to buy 15 percent of the issued share capital of Hascol,” Hascol Secretary Zeeshan ul Haq said in a statement. Hascol’s market capitalization of approximately $190 million would put the size of the new deal at about $28.5 million.
–Alyssa Sims and Udit Banerjea
Edited by Peter Bergen
Check out this week’s new Editor’s Roundtable (The E.R.) podcast. In this episode, David Rothkopf, Rosa Brooks, Kori Schake, and Ed Luce discuss the inevitable shift in the global affair’s infrastructure from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and why old alliances and “special” relationships are going to have to change accordingly. Listen and subscribe to The E.R. on iTunes and Stitcher
Photo by Yawar Nazir/ Getty Images