IAF aircraft departs with emergency aid for Gaza via El-Arish - Business Guardian
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IAF aircraft departs with emergency aid for Gaza via El-Arish



 A second Indian Air Force (IAF) C17 aircraft, carrying 32 tonnes of aid for civilians in Gaza caught up in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, on Sunday departed for the El-Arish Airport in Egypt.
Taking to his official handle on X, External Affairs Minister S Jaishanker reaffirmed New Delhi’s commitment to extend humanitarian assistance to Gazans, posting, “We continue to deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Palestine. Second @IAF_MCC C17 aircraft carrying 32 tonnes of aid departs for the El-Arish Airport in Egypt.”
Earlier, India sent 38 tonnes of humanitarian relief for civilians caught up in the ongoing ground offensive by the Israeli forces in the Strip.
The aid package comprised fluids and painkillers. The disaster relief material, weighing approximately 32 tonnes, also included tents, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, basic sanitary utilities, and water purification tablets, among other items.
Taking to X, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Official Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi posted after India shipped emergency aid for Gazans earlier, “India sends humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine! An IAF C-17 flight carrying nearly 6.5 tonnes of medical aid and 32 tonnes of disaster relief material for the people of Palestine departs for El-Arish airport in Egypt. The material includes essential life-saving medicines, surgical items, tents, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, sanitary utilities, and water purification tablets, among other necessary items.”
The spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said recently that India was planning to send more humanitarian assistance to the affected civilians in the region.
He said India has always stressed the need to avoid civilian casualties in the ongoing military operations in Gaza.
“This is not about one specific facility,” Bagchi said, adding, “India has always underlined the need for civilian casualties to be avoided, for humanitarian law to be observed, and to encourage any effort to provide humanitarian relief to those caught in the conflict.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his opening address at the Voice of Global South Summit on Friday, said new challenges are emerging from the events in West Asia.
He reiterated India’s condemnation of the Hamas terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7 while underlining that New Delhi has also sent humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine.
PM Modi said, “For global prosperity, sabka saath and sabka vikas is parmount. We all are seeing that new challenges are emerging from the events in the West Asia region.”
“India has condemned the terrorist attack in Israel on October 7. We have laid emphasis on exercising restraint, dialogue and diplomacy,” PM Modi said in his address.
He added that India has also sent humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine.
“We also strongly condemn the deaths of civilians in the conflict between Israel and Hamas. After talking to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, we have also sent humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine,” PM Modi added.
“This is the time when the countries of the Global South should unite for the greater global good,” he stated further.
The ongoing military operations in Gaza is in response to the Hamas terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7, which left over 1,400 dead. Over 2,500 terrorists crossed over into Israel from the Gaza Strip, unleashing mayhem on civilians.
They later sneaked back into Gaza with over 200 hostages, the majority of whom are believed to be civilians.
Israel has stated that its objective behind the Gaza offensive is to target Hamas’ infrastructure with the goal of eliminating the entire terror group while making efforts to minimise civilian casualties


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Apple under spotlight as OpenAI, Google raise AI standards



OpenAI on May 13 announced GPT-4o, its maiden artificial intelligence model with multimodal capabilities to reason across audio, visual, and text. A day after, on May 14, Google kicked off its annual developers-centric conference (Google I/O) with announcements focused on AI integration with its platforms and services, including Android and Search. These two technology behemoths have set the bar high with AI-focused events, but all eyes are now on Apple, which has scheduled its annual worldwide developers conference (WWDC) for June 10.

Apple has been trailing in the AI space while the competition has made significant strides. OpenAI, for example, made its most advanced GPT-4o model free for all. It also announced a dedicated app for its AI chatbot ChatGPT for Apple’s macOS. While the ChatGPT app has been available on iPhones, the macOS app brings deeper integration into the desktop platform. With the macOS app, ChatGPT users will be able to take a screenshot of what’s on the display and share it directly with the chatbot for discussion. This gives OpenAI an early mover advantage in Apple’s ecosystem, especially due to the lack of a native alternative.

Apple’s exploration of the AI space, reportedly, began years ago. However, the company accelerated the development process only after the AI technology jumped onto the mainstream, fueled by OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Microsoft’s Copilot, and Google’s Gemini.

Apple is playing a catch-up game with big technology rivals in the AI space, but it may change come June 10 when it is poised to lay out a strategy for AI at WWDC. A hint of it was made at Apple’s May 7 launch event where it debuted the iPad Pro and iPad Air, with the former featuring its next-generation M4 silicon with a new 16-core neural engine. The company said this new neural engine or Neural Processing Unit (NPU) makes the “M4 an outrageously powerful chip for AI.” This was the first instance where Apple mentioned “AI” in its event.

Earlier, at Apple’s quarterly earnings call on May 2, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook pointed out generative artificial intelligence as the company’s next frontier. He said Apple continues to make significant investments in generative AI and that the company will share “some very exciting things” soon.

These instances along with the fact that researchers at Apple have been continuously publishing papers on new generative AI tools suggest that Apple is poised to enter the AI space very soon. However, if it will be able to catch up with the competition is to be seen. For context, Bloomberg has reported that Apple has been in talks with Google and OpenAI to bring AI features to iOS 18 for iPhones. A recent report from Bloomberg stated that Apple has closed in on an agreement with OpenAI to use its AI technology on the iPhone. According to the report, both the companies are finalising terms for a pact to use ChatGPT features in iOS 18, Apple’s next operation.

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Paytm added to small-cap index by MSCI, attracting potential inflows



One97 Communications, the parent company of the popular fintech brand Paytm, has achieved a significant milestone by being included in the MSCI Emerging Markets Small Cap Index. This inclusion is indicative of growing confidence among both domestic and international investors in Paytm, evidenced by substantial stake increases from foreign portfolio investors (FPIs), domestic investors, and prominent Mutual Funds such as Mirae and Nippon India Mutual Fund.

With Paytm being one of the 29 stocks included in the MSCI Small Cap Index, the move is expected to drive USD 273 million in inflows, which is crucial for benchmarking Indian companies on the international stage. The inclusion comes as part of MSCI’s routine review, aligning with evolving market conditions, scheduled for May 31, 2024. MSCI, a global leader in equity, fixed-income, and hedge fund indices, plays a pivotal role in shaping global investment trends.

During the March quarter of 2023-24, Indian mutual funds notably increased their holdings in Paytm. Mirae Mutual Funds elevated their shareholding to 2.39 crore shares (3.76 per cent), while Nippon Mutual Funds raised their stake to 1.66 per cent from 1.05 per cent over the same period. Consequently, domestic institutional investors (DIIs) witnessed an increase in stake to 6.86 per cent from 6.06 per cent.

The shareholding pattern available with the stock exchanges indicates that domestic mutual funds boosted their stake in Paytm by 1.77 per cent, reaching 6.15 per cent from 4.99 per cent at the end of the December quarter of the fiscal year. Retail investors also saw an uptick in shareholding, rising from 12.85 per cent to 14.53 per cent sequentially, while Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) witnessed an increase from 0.67 per cent to 0.85 per cent.

Simultaneously, FPI shareholding in Paytm surged by 2.49 per cent to 20.19 per cent in Q4-2023-24, with new investors including Tiger Pacific Capital, Societe Generale, and Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global investing in the stock. Notably, in February this year, Morgan Stanley Asia (Singapore) Pte. – ODI acquired 50 lakh shares of Paytm worth Rs 243.6 crore in a bulk deal, as confirmed by the company.

Abhilash Pagaria, head of Nuvama Alternative and Quantitative Research, expressed bullish sentiments on India’s equity markets, attributing it to active participation from mutual funds and High Net Worth Individuals (HNIs)/retailers. Paytm currently boasts 60.4 per cent holdings by FIIs as of the March quarter of 2023-24.

Following NPCI’s approval on March 14, 2024, to onboard OCL as a Third-Party Application Provider (TPAP) on the Multi Payment Service Provider API Model, Paytm has expedited integration with Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, State Bank of India (SBI), and YES Bank. All four banks are now operational on the TPAP, facilitating a streamlined process for Paytm to transition user accounts to these Payment Service Provider (PSP) banks.

Moreover, Paytm is directing its focus towards UPI Lite wallet, targeting users preferring wallets for low-value everyday payments. Paytm UPI Lite serves as an on-device wallet, allowing users to store funds and make hassle-free payments without requiring a PIN. It promises lightning-fast transactions that never fail, offering convenience and efficiency to users on the go.

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RBI warns NBFCs to stay alert for financial system risks



Deputy Governor Swaminathan J of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) emphasized the imperative for Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) to bolster their governance and assurance functions while remaining vigilant against potential risks and vulnerabilities. Speaking at an interaction in Mumbai, attended by about 280 participants from over 100 NBFCs, Deputy Governors M Rajeshwar Rao and Swaminathan J addressed the attendees.

The conference, primarily targeting Heads of Assurance Functions such as Chief Compliance Officers, Chief Risk Officers, and Heads of Internal Audit of select NBFCs, focused on the critical role of these functions in ensuring the stability and resilience of the financial sector. Swaminathan J underscored the heightened exposure of NBFCs to various risks, including cybersecurity threats and operational vulnerabilities. He articulated the RBI’s expectations regarding assurance functions, emphasizing the need for independent and effective oversight mechanisms.

Highlighting specific risks such as cybersecurity threats, operational challenges, credit risks arising from rule-based credit models, and liquidity risks, Swaminathan J conveyed the RBI’s supervisory expectations from regulated entities. The emphasis was on fostering fair and transparent conduct towards customers while ensuring robust risk management practices within NBFCs.

Deputy Governor M Rajeshwar Rao also contributed to the discourse by shedding light on contextual issues relevant to assurance functions. He discussed topics such as third-party dependencies, operational risks, customer conduct, and transparency in operations. Rao elaborated on the transformative journey witnessed in the Indian financial landscape and the significant contribution of the NBFC sector to this evolution.

The conference, attended by senior officials including Executive Directors S C Murmu, Saurav Sinha, J K Dash, and Rohit Jain, alongside representatives from the Regulation and Supervision departments of the RBI, featured technical sessions on the three Assurance Functions led by Chief General Managers of the RBI. These sessions aimed to delve into the nuances of governance, risk management, and internal audit within the NBFC sector.

Additionally, presentations were made by Heads of Assurance Functions from select NBFCs, offering insights into best practices and challenges encountered in their operational domains. The overarching theme of the event, ‘Resilient Financial System – Role of Effective Assurance Functions’, underscored the pivotal role of these functions in fostering stability and resilience within the financial ecosystem.

The conference, part of a series of supervisory engagements organized by the RBI over the past year with its regulated entities, exemplified the central bank’s commitment to proactive regulatory oversight. By facilitating dialogue and knowledge-sharing among stakeholders, such initiatives aim to enhance risk awareness, promote adherence to regulatory standards, and fortify the overall integrity of the financial system.

Previous iterations of this series included a conference for Heads of Assurance Functions of Scheduled Commercial Banks held in January 2024. The recurrence of such engagements underscores the regulatory focus on fostering robust governance frameworks and risk management practices across diverse segments of the financial sector.

In summary, the interaction between RBI Deputy Governors and Heads of Assurance Functions of NBFCs served as a platform to underscore the importance of governance, risk management, and internal audit in safeguarding the stability and resilience of the financial system. Through collaborative efforts and proactive engagement, regulators and industry stakeholders endeavour to promote a sound and resilient financial ecosystem conducive to sustainable growth and stability.

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Government e-marketplace records strong start in new fiscal with INR 8.57 lakh cr GMV



GeM, launched in 2016 by the commerce ministry, aims to bridge buyer-seller gaps through a digital marketplace, enhancing procurement across sectors.

The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) has emerged as a cornerstone in revolutionizing public procurement in India, achieving a remarkable milestone by surpassing Rs 8.57 lakh crore in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) as of April 30, 2024. This achievement marks the highest GMV recorded since its inception, underscoring the platform’s pivotal role in fostering transparent and inclusive trade practices within the country.

Launched on August 9, 2016, by the commerce ministry, GeM was conceived with the vision of establishing a digital marketplace that bridges the gap between buyers and sellers, facilitating seamless procurement processes across various sectors. The platform’s exponential growth trajectory is evidenced by its remarkable performance during the financial year 2023-24, where it surpassed Rs 4 lakh crore in GMV. As the new financial year, 2024-25, commenced, GeM witnessed a robust start with GMV soaring to Rs 60,094 crore in the inaugural month alone, according to insights shared during an internal meeting at the commerce ministry.

The significance of GeM extends beyond the procurement of goods, as it also serves as a conduit for the acquisition of services. As of April 30, 2024, the GMV of services on GeM has reached an impressive Rs 3.56 lakh crore since its inception. Notably, during the financial year 2023-24, the GMV of services amounted to Rs 2.07 lakh crore, indicating a substantial uptick in demand. The contribution of services to GeM’s GMV in the first month of the financial year 2024-25 stands at Rs 46,460 crore, reflecting the growing reliance on the platform for service-related transactions.

One of GeM’s notable achievements lies in its support for Micro and Small Enterprises (MSEs), which form the backbone of India’s economy. Over 9.26 lakh MSEs are registered on the GeM portal, having received orders exceeding Rs 4.01 lakh crore. This accounts for more than 46.93% of GeM’s cumulative orders by GMV since its inception, highlighting the platform’s role in empowering MSEs and fostering their growth in the competitive marketplace.

Furthermore, GeM has been instrumental in empowering women entrepreneurs, with 1.63 lakh MSEs led by women being registered on the platform. These enterprises have received over 9.20 lakh orders amounting to Rs 24,369 crore till April 30, 2024, underscoring GeM’s commitment to promoting gender inclusivity and economic empowerment.

In addition to supporting established businesses, GeM has also emerged as a catalyst for fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in India. The platform has played a pivotal role in supporting over 24,181 startups in establishing their presence in the Indian marketplace. These startups have successfully processed orders exceeding Rs 24,369 crore in GMV, signalling GeM’s role as a facilitator of growth and innovation within the startup ecosystem.

The success of GeM can be attributed to its user-centric approach, robust infrastructure, and commitment to fostering a conducive environment for trade and commerce. By leveraging technology to streamline procurement processes, GeM has not only enhanced efficiency but has also promoted transparency, accountability, and fair competition in public procurement.

As GeM continues to chart new milestones and facilitate greater participation from diverse stakeholders, it reaffirms its status as a catalyst for economic growth, empowerment, and inclusive development in India’s digital landscape.

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International Relations

French Summit sees tech & aero deals, TCS & Motherson invest



The Choose France Summit strengthens economic ties between India and France through significant investment commitments by Indian companies, highlighting their growing partnership.

Indian companies made significant commitments at the Choose France Summit held in Paris this week, signaling a deepening of economic ties between the two nations. Motherson, a prominent player in manufacturing, announced its investment to acquire a French company, positioning France as the central hub for its global aerospace strategy. Additionally, IT services giant TCS pledged to establish a Global Artificial Intelligence Centre in Paris.

The French Embassy in India shared these developments on its social media platform, highlighting the importance of these investments. Overall, about Rs 1.35 lakh crore of new investments were announced at this year’s summit, with the Indian projects contributing substantially to this figure.

President Emmanuel Macron met with Indian CEOs during a special session dedicated to India, underscoring the growing partnership between the two countries. He welcomed the increasing Indian investments in France and emphasized the potential for further collaboration.

The Choose France Summit, an annual flagship business event hosted by President Macron, aims to promote France’s economic attractiveness and encourage international investment. This year, India was honored as the first-ever country of focus, with a dedicated roundtable and participation from leading Indian CEOs.

Among the Indian business leaders present at the summit were Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, N Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons, and Pankaj Munjal, Chairman and MD of Hero Cycles, among others. Their presence underscored India’s keen interest in expanding its footprint in France.

France has positioned itself as the most attractive European economy for foreign investments, with favorable economic conditions such as lower inflation, ongoing reforms, and reduced tax rates. This has made the country an appealing destination for foreign investors, including Indian companies like L&T Technology, TCS, and Tata Tech, which have already established a presence in France.

Since its inception in 2018, the Choose France Summit has played a pivotal role in promoting France’s economic attractiveness on the global stage. Convened by the President and members of the Government, the summit brings together leaders from multinational corporations to explore investment opportunities across France.

Last year’s summit witnessed substantial investment commitments totaling over 13 billion Euros for 28 projects, highlighting the event’s effectiveness in attracting international capital. With the continued success of the Choose France Summit and the deepening economic partnership between India and France, both countries stand to benefit from enhanced collaboration and investment opportunities in the years to come.

The Choose France Summit serves as a platform for fostering dialogue and cooperation between France and its international partners. With India being honored as the country of focus this year, the summit has further solidified the bilateral ties between the two nations. The presence of prominent Indian CEOs underscores the mutual interest in exploring opportunities for investment and collaboration. As France continues to enhance its economic attractiveness through reforms and favorable policies, Indian companies are increasingly looking to leverage these opportunities for growth and expansion in the European market.

The Choose France Summit plays a crucial role in facilitating this exchange and driving economic cooperation.

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IIFCL posts highest ever sanctions of Rs 42,309 cr, PAT grows 44% in FY24



India Infrastructure Finance Company Limited (IIFCL) has announced its all-time high performance for the fourth year in a row, recording the highest ever annual sanctions and disbursements of Rs 42,309 crore and Rs 22,356 crore respectively during the financial year (FY) 2023-24. This performance surpassed the previous years’ figures of Rs 29,171 crore and Rs 13,826 crore respectively, a year-on-year growth of 45 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.

The government-owned financial institution caters to the long-term financing needs of India’s infrastructure sector and is amongst the most diversified public sector infrastructure lenders in terms of eligible infrastructure sub-sectors and product offerings.

The cumulative sanctions and disbursements stood at Rs 2,55,687 crore and Rs 1,28,004 crore as of 31 March 2024, of which 46 per cent of the cumulative sanctions and 44 per cent of the cumulative disbursements were achieved in the last four years. The consolidated sanctions and disbursements of IIFCL stood at Rs 2.97 lakh crore and Rs 1.48 lakh crore as of 31 March 2024.

The infrastructure major also posted the highest ever profitability numbers. The company registered its highest ever profit before tax (PBT) of Rs 2,029 crore, recording a growth of 59 per cent over the previous year’s PBT of Rs 1,277 crore. Profit after tax (PAT) grew by 44 per cent over the previous year to Rs 1,552 crore in FY 2023-24, up from Rs 1,076 crore in FY 2022-23, representing a 30x increase over PAT of FY 2019-2020. The company’s net worth grew 11 per cent to Rs 14,266 crore in FY 2023-24 (up from Rs 12,878 crore in FY 2022-23 and 38 per cent over Rs 10,306 crore of FY 2019-20), thereby opening an additional window of opportunity for IIFCL to lend more to infrastructure projects by enhancing exposure limits.

The results displayed growth with quality. As of 31 March 2024, IIFCL has been able to improve its asset quality with a significant decline in gross NPA ratio to 1.61 per cent (down from 4.76 per cent in the previous year and 19.70 per cent as on March 2020) and net NPA ratio to 0.46 per cent (down from 1.41 per cent in the previous year, which stood at 9.75 per cent as on March 2020).

The company recorded year-on-year growth of 21 per cent in its standalone portfolio to Rs 51,017 crore in FY 2023-24 from Rs 42,271 crore in FY 2022-23. In order to boost the availability of longer-tenor debt finance for infrastructure projects, IIFCL ventured into investment in Infrastructure bonds and InvITs in FY 2021-22. Since then, the company has recorded a substantial increase in the investments made in Bonds and InvITs with Rs 8,467 crore and Rs 11,600 crore respectively, as of 31 March 2024.

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