1. India becomes fourth largest spender on defence
i. India has become the world’s fourth largest spender on defence, following a 13.1% increase in its 2016-17 defence budget, according to US research firm IHS Inc.
ii. India’s rise in the rankings from sixth position last year is a result of an increase in expenditure to $50.7 billion, combined with cuts to military spending by Russia and Saudi Arabia, where low oil prices have put considerable strain on their finances.
iii. According to IHS analysis, short-term pressures, caused by increases to military pay and the introduction of one rank, one pension (OROP) are the main reasons for the higher rate of growth in budget allocation to defence.
iv. As a result, spending on the acquisition of military equipment remained largely static in real terms and remains lower than its 2013-14 peak, despite an increase in the overall budget.
v. The Indian defence budget is expected to reach $64.8 billion by 2020 with procurement expenditure expected to grow faster than overall spending, according to IHS.
2. Japan to lend Rs.14,000 crore for Indian projects
i. The Government of Japan has committed a loan of JPY 242.2 billion (around Rs.14,251 crore) for various projects across India, including Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and the North East.
ii. The Official Development Assistance is to be deployed for a transmission system strengthening project in Madhya Pradesh, an integrated sanitation improvement project in Odisha, a dedicated freight corridor project, a road network connectivity improvement project in the North East, and a micro drip irrigation project in Jharkhand, according to a government release on Thursday.
iii. The Government of Japan has committed a total of JPY 390 billion in the current financial year which is the highest amount committed in a year.
iv. India and Japan have had mutually beneficial economic development cooperation since 1958.
v. In the last few years, economic cooperation between India and Japan has strengthened and grown into a strategic partnership.
3. Vietnam's parliament elects first female speaker
i. Vietnam’s National Assembly (NA) elected Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan as the country’s first female house speaker.
ii. Ngan has been elected and sworn in as the NA Chairperson with 472 votes out of 481 valid ballots at the ongoing 11th session of the 13th NA .
iii. She was also elected as the Chairperson of the National Election Council with 467 votes out of 477 valid ballots.
iv. Prior to the election, Ngan served as Vice Chairperson of the Natonal Assembly from July 2011.
4. 4th Nuclear Security Summit begins in Washington
i. The fourth edition of Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) began in Washington, United States to discuss a gamut of issues pertaining to nuclear security.
ii. In this edition of summit, heads of about 53 countries and representatives of five international organisations including the UNO, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), European Union (EU), Interpol are taking part.
iii. India is being represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the two-day summit. The fourth summit is the last summit under the current format and also under the presidency of Barack Obama.
iv. The summit will highlight achievements and commitments of several countries towards safeguarding nuclear devices and technologies and reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.
v. This edition of summit is expected to take stock of the measures being taken by all countries to safeguard nuclear materials and facilities and also prevent non-state actors gaining access to them.
5. ICCR to set up first Indian Chair in Arab world at Cairo
i. An MoU in this regard was signed between India’s Ambassador toEgypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya on behalf of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and and Prof. Abdel Wahab Ezzat, Acting President of ASU.
ii. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister.
iii. Its objectives are to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes pertaining to India’s external cultural relations.
iv. It is to foster and strengthen cultural relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries; to promote cultural exchanges with other countries and people; and to develop relations with nations.
6. Union Government launches Startup India portal and mobile app
i. The Union Government has launched the Startup India portal (http://startupindia.gov.in) and mobile application.
ii. It was launched by the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) Ramesh Abhishek in New Delhi as an integral component of the Action Plan of the Startup India.
iii. The portal and mobile app provide up-to- date information issued by various Government ministries/ departments.
iv. They will also provide information regarding incubators and funding agencies recognized for the purpose of recommending Startups. v. Startup India Hub was established within Invest India, will be a single point of contact for the entire Startup ecosystem. It would enable exchange of knowledge and will work in a hub and spoke model with Governments, Angel Funds, VCs, Incubators, Mentors, etc.
7. Russia approved OVL deal to acquire 15% stake in Vankor oilfield for $1.3 billion
i. Russia has approved a deal of ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) to acquire 15% stake in Vankor oilfield from Rosneft, The deal size of 1.3 billion US dollars’was signed between the OVL and Rosneft in September 2015.
ii. The new deal enables OVL’s stake in Vankor will raise to 26% from 15% and will give it about 3.5 million metric tonnes of oil a year Consequently.
iii. Rosneft will retain the remaining 50.1 per cent and also retain full control of infrastructure of the Vankor cluster.
iv. ONGC Vankor is Russia’s second biggest oil field with capacity of total 500 million tonnes recoverable reserves barrels.
v. It currently has 14 projects across 16 countries. ONGC is India’s largest oil and gas exploration and production company.
8. UltraTech buys Jaypee cement units for Rs 15,900 cr
i. UltraTech Cement, a part of the Aditya Birla group, agreed to buy Jaiprakash Associates' 21.2 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) cement capacity for Rs 15,900 crore on Thursday.
ii. While the deal will take UltraTech's cement capacity to over 91 mtpa from the present 68 mtpa, it will help Jaypee group reduce its debt.
iii. As against the earlier estimate of Rs 16,500 crore, the deal size reduced by about 3.5 per cent or Rs 600 crore, as the transaction excludes the 1.2-million tonne plant in Karnataka.
iv. The transaction will help debt-heavy Jaiprakash Associates to reduce its debt, which touched an alarmingly high of Rs 60,000 crore.
v. The lenders, led by ICICI Bank, had asked the company to sell assets so that it could repay its loans.
9. Flipkart acquires mobile payments firm PhonePe
i. India’s largest e-commerce company Flipkart has acquired PhonePe, a Bengaluru-based mobile payments company, which was co-founded by ex-Flipkart employees Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari.
ii. The financial details of the acquisition were not divulged.
iii. PhonePe is building India’s a Unified Payments Interface (UPI) based product, which is, planned to go live in April.
iv. The interface will allow users to transact using their unique identification and mobile phone number or virtual payments address without sharing any other bank details.
v. The PhonePe team will transition to Flipkart but will function as an independent business unit, the company said in a statement.
10. Ficci, AIBC sign MoU to strengthen business ties
i. In a bid further strengthen and promote business ties with Australia, FICCI on Friday announced inking an MoU with Australia India Business Council (AIBC).
ii. The agreement was signed in the presence of the visiting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during the 'Invest in India Round Table Conference' here.
iii. According to National Chairman of AIBC Dipen Rughani: "The signing of the MoU is a great milestone in the bilateral relations between the two organisations and will certainly have a positive impact and add tremendous value to the business relations between the two countries."
iv. The agreement reinvigorates the ongoing relationship between the two organisations to further promote, facilitate and grow the trade and investment relationship between Australia and India.
v. The MoU also solidifies the partnership for the upcoming "Engaging with India" conference being held on 16 and 17 May, for which AFR is also a partner, AIBC said.
11. Telangana government launches M Wallet mobile App
i. State Road Transport Authority’s brand-new mobile app, M-Wallet, was launched by IT minister KT Rama Rao and transport minister P.Mahender Reddy.
ii. Telangana State Transport Authority’s launched brand-new mobile app named M-Wallet, which is first of its kind in India.
iii. The initiative is going to benefit 60 lakh driving licence holders, 80 lakh vehicle The App was launched by IT minister KT Rama Rao and transport minister P.Mahender Reddy.
iv. It will help motorists to avoid physically carrying documents like driving licence, registration certification and other vehicle related documents, since digital certificates can be uploaded through the App.
12. Haryana fixes edu qualification for Urban Bodies' polls
i. Haryana Assembly passed two Bills mandating minimum educational qualification for contesting urban local bodies polls in the state.
ii. The minimum educational qualification for a general male candidate will be Class X, while that for women and those belonging to SC category would be Class VIII.
iii. Haryana had earlier fixed similar qualification for gram panchayat elections as well.
iv. Under the new rules of Lokpal Act, all central government employees have been asked to declare details of assets and liabilities including those of their spouses and children by April 15.
v. The employees also have to furnish details of deposits made in foreign banks. According to a new directive by Kerala's Transport and Road Safety Commissioner.
13. Mumbai to get international arbitration centre by August
i. Mumbai Financial capital of India is likely to get the International Arbitration Centre.
ii. This will be the India’s first arbitration centre for dealing the financial disputes.
iii. The financial disputes of India were dealt in the Singapore Arbitration centre, now with the establishment of the International arbitration centre in Mumbai.
iv. It will be a boon to the Indian companies Out of the 259 cases registered at Singapore arbitration centre in 2013, 85 were from Indian companie Most of the arbitration cases from India are over dispute between private equity firms and investee companies, and in some instances, the dispute is between family members.
14. Rajiv Gauba takes over as Secretary of Urban Development Ministry
i. Rajiv Gauba took over as Secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Urban Development.
ii. Gauba has wide-ranging experience in senior positions at policy making and programme implementation in the Central and State iii. Governments and in international organisations. Hailing from Punjab, the 1959 born Gauba is a physics graduate from Patna University.
iv. He was Chief Secretary, Jharkhand for 15 months before joining the central government today.
v. Gauba also served in the International Monetary Fund representing the Country for four years on the Board of IMF. He was Collector and District Magistrate for 7 years in the districts of Gaya, Nalanda and Muzaffarpur.
15. Renowned Iraqi-British Architect Zaha Hadid passes away
i. Renowned Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid passed away due to heart attack. She was 65.
ii. She was world’s most famous female architect and was known for her neofuturistic design which was her signature architectural style.
iii. She was the first female winner of the top Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004), also known as the Nobel for architecture.
iv. Zaha Hadid Born on 31st October 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. Hadid first had studied mathematics at the American University in Lebanon and later pursued architecture at the Architectural Association in London in 1972. She had designed the London Aquatics Centre, which was used during the 2012 London Olympics.
v. She has won many awards like- Pritzker Prize (2004), Royal Gold Medal in architecture (2016) by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Twice won the RIBA Stirling Prize, Britain’s most prestigious architecture award in 2010 and 2011. Queen Elizabeth II had honoured her with a damehood (knighthood) in 2012.