Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.
India-Israel Now Strategic Partners: India and Israel elevated their ties to a “strategic partnership” on Wednesday, vowing to work more closely to protect their key interests and combat radicalisation and terrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw the signing of a series of bilateral pacts for cooperation on satellite technology, water and agriculture, as well as the creation of a $40 million innovation fund. A joint statement issued at the end of talks between the two leaders said it would focus on water conservation, waste water treatment and its reuse for agriculture, desalination, water utility reforms and cleaning of the Ganga. Reaching out to the Indian diaspora in Israel, Modi announced plans to launch flight service to Tel Aviv from Delhi and Mumbai.
The Next Big Reform: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday that after launching goods and services tax (GST), the government will take up “cleansing” of political funding as its top priority. “In the immediate future, after GST process is complete ...we are looking forward for some major steps to be announced by which we want to cleanse the whole process of political funding,” the minister said. Noting that the current system of political funding, which has prevailed for over 70 years, does not bring any credit to the world’s largest democracy, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been insisting on this reform and it will be taken as a “top priority” as there is “strong public support” for it.
Jammu and Kashmir Adopts GST, Finally: Amid opposition from the National Conference and Congress, the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly on Wednesday adopted the Goods and Services Tax (GST) resolution during a special session on Wednesday. The resolution moved by state Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu, was adopted through a presidential order calling on the Centre to safeguard the special status and exclusive taxation powers of the state. Drabu said Article 370, which gives the state special status, shall not be compromised in any way. He said that under no circumstances would section 5 of the state constitution, which gives Jammu and Kashmir exclusive taxation powers, be eroded.
Banerjee-Tripathi Spat: Centre Steps In To Resolve Row: The situation in West Bengal’s riot-torn Baduria in North 24 Parganas district remained tense on Wednesday even as the spat over the communal violence continued between Governor K N Tripathi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Tripathi alleged Banerjee’s charges are meant only to emotionally blackmail the people of the state even as the Centre stepped in to defuse the row. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tripathi and Banerjee separately and is understood to have told them to resolve their differences amicably. Meanwhile, Banerjee has called for peace in Baduria even as Bharatiya Janata Party demanded imposition of President’s rule in the state. Communist Party of India Marxist, however, said the situation in West Bengal doesn’t call for President’s rule.
India Growth Outlook Improving: IMF: International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that India's economic growth outlook has improved as the impact of demonetisation is fading and some key reforms are paying off. In its 'Surveillance Note' prepared for the G20 leaders ahead of their two-day summit on 7-8 July in Hamburg, Germany, the IMF said there is 'cautious optimism' about the global economy but policy efforts are still needed to strengthen the recovery. "In India, the outlook has improved as the impact of demonetisation seems to be fading and recent key structural reforms continue to pay off," the multilateral lender said. However, the IMF has flagged vulnerabilities in the country's banking system.
Record Railway Revenue In Passenger Segment: Robust growth in the passenger and freight segments helped the Indian Railways post revenue growth of more than 10 per cent in the first quarter, aided by its dynamic fare system for premium trains. The railways reported a combined revenue of Rs 43,000 crore in the three months ended June from Rs 38,833 crore in the same period last year. Revenue in the passenger segment increased to almost Rs 14,000 crore from Rs 12,000 crore a year earlier. “This is the highest ever revenue railways has posted in the passenger segment. Higher earnings have been driven due to the dynamic fare system for all premium trains. We have launched more premium trains such as Tejas, Humsafar and Uday, which will give a further boost to passenger earnings,” a top rail official said.
UK Denies Permission For Burhan Wani Day Rally: Birmingham City Council on Wednesday withdrew its permission for a planned rally to mark "Burhan Wani Day" on Saturday after India lodged a protest with the UK government against the "glorification of terrorists". The rally was being planned by UK-based Kashmiri groups to mark the first death anniversary of the commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit killed in a gun battle with Indian armed forces in the Kashmir Valley on 8 July last year. Groups such as Tehreek-e-Kashmir Europe are believed to be involved in the organisation of the rally as part of a so-called 'Martyrdom Day' call for Wani from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
North Korea Missile Test: US Prepared To Use Force: United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile launch test a "clear and sharp military escalation" and said that US military action remained on the table. "The US is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies," Haley said. "One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction." She said the US preferred global diplomatic action against Pyongyang for defying world powers by test launching a ballistic missile that could hit Alaska. North Korea says the missile could carry a large nuclear warhead.
MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS
With PM Narendra Modi’s Israel Visit, India Crosses The Rubicon: Geopolitically, Modi has completed a full circle with his much-awaited Israel trip. His personal diplomacy with Gulf Arab nations, Turkey and Iran in the past three years have yielded material benefits for India. Now that Modi has crossed the Rubicon and ended the wait, the natural partnership has been freed from a sense of incompleteness and will gallop exponentially.
Will IndiGo’s Dream Of Acquiring Air India Come True? The work culture in AI, which has remained in the public sector for a long time, will differ. More than the financial management, it is people management and cultural integration that have proved to be the toughest aspects of mergers and acquisitions.
Giving NPAs A Decent Burial: India needs to develop a track record for resolving bad debts in a timely, transparent manner. Only by keeping in mind all that’s necessary for that to happen as mentioned above can the value of distressed assets be maximised, and capital and other productive resources get redeployed efficiently.
Even As India Attempts To ‘Act East’, It Is ‘Thinking West’: India’s vital interests and the changing regional dynamics will require it to deepen relations with all important actors in West Asia, preserving its careful balancing act while stepping up to play a more active regional role. Completely normalising relations with Israel, as this first visit by an India prime minister irrevocably does, is an important step towards that objective.
As RBI Pumps In New Rs 200 Notes, It’s Time For DeMo-2 – Slow Withdrawal Of Rs 500 And Rs 2,000 Bills: The case for DeMo-2 is strong, and it should be put into effect without fanfare as soon as enough Rs 100 and Rs 200 notes are printed. The Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes can then be withdrawn and squeezed out of the system without any disruption.
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