Current Affairs India - 31 July 2014

1. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is currently on a 3-day visit to India in order to improve bi-lateral ties between two countries. He and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj co-chaired fifth Indo-US Strategic Dialogue today during which both the sides discussed about different initiatives in key areas of security and energy.

Mr. Kerry along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker also met Finance and Defence Minister Arun Jaitley. He will also try to convince India to agree to the WTO deal before the deadline to end the deadlock caused by India-s U-turn recently raising food security concern regarding the WTO deal it agreed last year.

2. Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag took over as the head of the 1.3 million strong Indian army today. He succeeded Gen Bikram Singh who retired. Gen Suhag assumed charge after his predecessor handed over to him the Chief of Army Staff baton in his South Block office here.

He will have a tenure of 30 months as the 26th Army Chief. Suhag was made the Vice-Chief of Army Staff in December last year.

3. Defence scientist Avinash Chander has been chosen for the prestigious Lokmanya Tilak award for this year. He will receive the same on 1st August. He is the chief architect of the long-range ballistic missiles in the country covering a range of about 300 km to 5,000 km.

This is also the 32nd year of the award, which carries a gold medal, memento, citation and cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.

4. Global credit rating agency Fitch Ratings has retained the 'BBB-' sovereign rating, the lowest investment grade, on India today and said that a revision will depend on the new government's efforts to push bold reforms in order to improve both economic growth and financial health. The global credit rating agency has also retained 'stable' outlook for India-s ratings.

Fitch said the Budget 2014-15 announced by the new government is positive of credit-ratings and further revision will depend on actual steps taken by the new government. Apart from Fitch, Moody's also holds a stable outlook on the country's sovereign ratings. The present 'BBB-' rating is the lowest investment grade rating.

Fitch also projected India-s real GDP growth at 5.5% in the current fiscal year FY2014-15 and 6.5% GDP growth in the next fiscal year FY2015-16. The government has kept the fiscal deficit target at 4.1% of GDP for the current fiscal year and sets target of 3% by FY2017.

5. India-s eight core sector, consisting of Crude Oil, Coal, Steel, Electricity, Natural Gas, Fertilizers, Cement and Petroleum sectors, grew by 7.3% in June due to strong growth in Coal, Crude Oil, Cement and Electricity sectors. This is much higher compared to 12% growth in the same month last year. These eight core sectors have 38% weight in overall Index of Industrial Production (IIP).

Coal, crude oil, cement and electricity recorded a growth of 8.1%, 0.1%, 13.6% and 15.7% respectively in June while Natural gas and fertilizer output recorded a negative growth of 1.7% and 1% respectively. During April-June period of current financial year, core sector growth stood at 4.6% compared to 3.7% growth in the same period last year.