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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - June 2019

Jun 2019

Jun 30, 2019

China Proposes 5G Tie-up

  •  The rift between China and the United States over 5G technology exports to India sharpened, when Chinese President Xi Jinping pitched for a partnership with New Delhi and Moscow for expanding a joint footprint in cyberspace.
  • In his remarks at the Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Osaka, President Xi urged the three countries, in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin, to expand cooperation in 5G network, high technology, connectivity, energy and other areas.
  • He also called for reforming the World Trade Organisation (WTO), based on consensus.
  • Analysts say that Mr. Xi's advocacy for a trilateral cyber-partnership follows the Trump administration's campaign to discourage India and other countries from importing Chinese 5G technology, led by Huawei Technologies, the Shenzhen based telecom heavyweight, on security grounds.
  • The 5G technology, can interlink the mobile internet with manufacturing. It is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution, which would result in factories being run by robots, driverless vehicles and enabling remote surgeries.

UK human Rights Body Wants to Revive Caste Law

  •  The Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) comprising MPs and members of the House of Lords wants the Theresa May government to reconsider its July 2018 decision not to legislate to ban caste-based discrimination, calling it a real issue in the UK.
  • The 1.5 million-strong Indian community was deeply divided on the issue, with influential lobbies denying caste-based discrimination exists, stating that enacting such a law would entrench ideas of caste where none exist, while Dalit and other groups insist it exists.
  • Harriet Harman, JCHR chair, wrote to Penny Mordaunt, minister for women and equalities, insisting that legal prohibition from such racial discrimination is needed to provide real protection. Reviving the debate has been welcomed by the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance that campaigns for the law.
  • After years of consultations, research and debate inside and outside parliament on the sensitive issue, the May government decided in July 2018 not to legislate but rely on emerging case law in courts to deal with cases of caste-based discrimination.

Jun 28, 2019

Iran on Brink of Nuclear Deal Breach

  •  Iran appeared to have at least temporarily backed away from an ultimatum on breaching the 2015 nuclear deal, as European nations made last-ditch efforts to salvage what remains of the multilateral accord and avert a slide toward war.
  • Iran's atomic energy organization had said the country would probably exceed the cap on stockpiles of low-grade uranium, as it pushes back against crippling US economic sanctions imposed after the Trump administration unilaterally exited the agreement more than a year ago.
  • A European Union diplomat said remaining parties to the deal were "scrambling" to find a solution.
  • Whether they had been successful could become clear after a meeting in Vienna, of the commission that governs the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA.
  • Unnamed diplomats were cited by other media as saying that Iran was still short of the 300-kg cap on stockpiles of low grade enriched uranium that would put it in violation for the first time of the accord designed to prevent it developing a nuclear weapon.

Jun 27, 2019

Back to 2008 in Zimbabwe

  •  For Zimbabwe's government, the reintroduction of the national currency a decade after its demise is a return to normalcy.
  • For most of the country's citizens, it's a bitter reminder of years of hyperinflation, which destroyed their savings and left them bartering for daily basics.
  • The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe said that starting immediately, currencies such as the U.S. dollar and South African rand would no longer be legal tender.
  • Instead, a quasi-currency known as bond notes, which can't be traded outside the country, and their electronic equivalent, the RTGS$, will be termed the Zimbabwe dollar.
  • By reintroducing it, the government is taking the risk that more people will be driven into the black market, further starving the economy of already insufficient state revenue.
  • That could leave the state struggling to pay government workers, who account for about 90% of its budget, and with little money to shore up creaking infrastructure.

India Virtually Seals Bid for UNSC Seat

  •  India virtually sealed another stint on the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member after a 55-member bloc of United Nations member countries, including China and Pakistan, unanimously picked it as its sole contender for one of the five seats that go under a General Assembly vote int June 2020.
  • The Asia-Pacific Group, one of the five regional bodies of the United Nations, conveyed its endorsement of India's candidature by acclamation at a monthly meeting chaired by Tuvalu.
  • The UN general assembly votes every year around June to elect five of the 10 non-permanent members to the Security Council, picked according to regional quota and vacancies, and India is running for the 2021-22 term, polling for which will take place in June 2020. India would succeed Indonesia if elected.

Jun 26, 2019

Sri Lanka's Plan to Revive Death Row after 42 Years

  •  Amnesty International raised fresh concerns that Sri Lanka may soon end a 42-year moratorium on capital punishment and hang 13 men convicted of drug offences.
  • The London-based rights group was alarmed over media reports of preparations to resume hangings although the country still does not have a qualified hangman.
  • Sri Lanka's President Maithripala Sirisena must immediately halt his plans to resume executions for at least 13 prisoners convicted of drug-related crimes.
  • Sirisena in February 2019 announced he would carry out the first executions in 42 years within less than two months, but he is yet to sign any death warrant.
  • The President also appealed to human rights organisations not to pressure him on his decision.
  • Criminals in Sri Lanka are regularly handed death sentences for murder, rape and drug-related crimes but since 1976 their punishments have been commuted to life imprisonment.

Next British PM to be Announced in July

  •  As per reports, the winner of the contest to replace Theresa May as leader of Britain's ruling Conservatives and Prime Minister would be announced on July 23.
  • Former Foreign Minister Boris Johnson is the favourite in the race, battling Britain's current top diplomat, Jeremy Hunt.
  • The two were chosen from a field of 10 by the Conservative party's 313 MPs, and are now seeking to woo an estimated 1,60,000 party members who would make the final choice.
  • Postal ballots would be sent out between July 6, 2019 and 8, and the deadline for returning them was set at 5 p.m. on July 22, 2019.
  • The announcement of the next leader of the Conservative party would be made the next day. 

Clash over Nizam of Hyderabad Funds in U.K.

  •  A decades-old legal dispute between India and Pakistan over around £35 million belonging to the Nizam of Hyderabad at the time of Partition and deposited in a London bank account has reached an important stage in the U.K. High Court.
  • The Nizam's descendants, Prince Mukarram Jah — the titular eighth Nizam of Hyderabad — and his younger brother Muffakham Jah, have joined hands with the Indian government in the legal battle against the Pakistan government over the funds lying with the NatWest Bank plc in London. 
  • The dispute revolves around 1,007,940 pounds and nine shillings that were transferred in 1948 from the then Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan, to the High Commissioner in Britain of the newly-formed Pakistan. That amount has since grown into millions. 

Jun 25, 2019

Pakistan Blacklisting Absolutely a Possibility

  • According to the outgoing president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Marshall Billingslea, there is absolutely a possibility that Pakistan could be on its blacklist after the international financial watchdog's next meeting in October in Paris.
  • Pakistan had significant work to do and was, with regard to an action plan agreed in June 2018, lacking in almost every respect.
  • Pakistan was cautioned in February at the plenary that they had missed almost all of their January milestones. And they were urged to not fail to meet the milestones in May. Unfortunately, Pakistan has yet again missed its May milestones.
  • Now the action plan is set to complete in September. So this (the June 16-21 Orlando plenary) was not the plenary where FAFT would discuss a blacklisting issue. This was the plenary where we examine how far and how far behind Pakistan is on its action.
  • There is much that must be done by September. If they fail to implement the action plan by September then the FATF has made clear that we will consider next steps.
  • China, Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council were among those at the Orlando plenary who had asked that Pakistan be given more time to comply with the action plan.

U.S. Seeks Non-military Ways to Stop Iran

  • U.S. intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression in the Gulf, pushed by the White House to develop new options that could help deter Tehran without escalating tensions into a full-out conventional war.
  • The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyberattacks conducted and that echo the shadow war the U.S. has accused Tehran of carrying out with attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf. Iran maintains that it was not responsible for the attacks on the tankers.
  • The cyberattacks were aimed at an Iranian intelligence group that U.S. officials believe was behind a series of attacks on tankers in the Gulf region.
  • The U.S. operation was intended to take down the computers and networks used by the intelligence group, at least temporarily. A separate online operation was aimed at taking out computers that control Iranian missile launches.
  • The White House told military and intelligence officials it wants options in line with the kind of operations conducted by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Trilateral Summit at G-20

  • China confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin wouldl hold their second trilateral summit in Osaka, Japan, during the G-20 summit later this week.
  • He also signalled that the top-level trilateral mechanism of the Russia, India and China (RIC) had now become institutionalised.
  • The mechanism of the trilateral meeting maintained a sound momentum of development.

Canadian Government's Skill Programme

  • While uncertainty over work visas persists with regard to the United States, Indian tech talent was the biggest beneficiary of the Canadian government's global skills Strategy (GSS) a program, launched in June 2017, to meet its skills demand, especially in the information technology sector.
  • The objective of the program was to make the country a magnet for tech talent from across the globe. Indian citizens appear to have taken advantage of the opportunity.
  • According to a data made available by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) at the end of December 2018, of the total 17,132 work permits approved, Indians accounted for over half of them at 9,462. Their numbers are over six times to that of next national group, China (1,420).

Palestinians Reject U.S.-Bahrain Peace Plan

  • The Palestinians vowed to reject a U.S.-led peace initiative to be presented in Bahrain that dangles the prospect of $50 billion as an Israeli envoy bluntly told them they should surrender.
  • Finance chiefs from the U.S., oil-rich Arab states and international development institutions were flying to the tiny kingdom, which in a rarity is openly welcoming Israelis, who have forged an indirect alliance with Gulf rulers due to mutual hostility with Iran.
  • Led by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the Peace to Prosperity economic workshop is billed as the start of a new approach that will later include political solutions to the long intractable West Asian conflict.
  • It proposes raising more than $50 billion in fresh investment for the Palestinians and their Arab neighbours with major projects to boost infrastructure, education, tourism and cross-border trade.
  • The Palestinian Authority is boycotting the workshop, denouncing the plan for saying nothing about ending the Israeli occupation. President Mahmud Abbas has said that the Palestinians would not be slaves or servants of Mr. Kushner or other Trump aides.
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