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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - December 2019

Dec 2019

Dec 31, 2019

Trump Emerges Most Admired

  • President Donald Trump has shot to the top of Gallup's annual poll of the man Americans admire the most for the first time in a tie with his predecessor Barack Obama, who has now held that slot for 12 years.
  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama polled the most admired woman, for the second year, with current First Lady Melania Trump in the second position.
  • Gallup has polled Americans every year since 1948, with respondents having the option of choosing anyone in the world; 11% of them named their relatives or friends in 2019.
  • Others on the list of the most admired man were former US president Jimmy Carter, Tesla founder Elon Musk, Microsoft's Bill Gates, Pope Francis, Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressman Adam Schiff, the Dalai Lama and investor Warren Buffet.
  • The most admired women include talk show host Oprah Winfrey, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, climate activist Greta Thunberg, Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court justice Ruth Ginsberg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Germany's Angela Merkel and former US envoy to UN Nikki Haley.

Iraq Militia Warns of Revenge after US Strikes

  • A top Iraqi militia leader warned of a strong response against US forces in Iraq following air strikes in Iraq and Syria overnight that hit several bases of his Iranian-backed group and killed at least 25 people.
  • The US military had carried out air strikes against the Iranian-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia group in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor in a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base.

N. Korea Goes for Offensive Steps

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called at a ruling party meeting for positive and offensive measures to ensure security ahead of a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearisation talks with the United States.
  • Kim convened a weekend meeting of top Workers' Party officials to discuss policy matters amid rising tension over his deadline for Washington to soften its stance in stalled negotiations aimed at dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programmes.
  • The meeting was the largest plenary session of the party's 7th Central Committee since its first gathering in 2013 under Kim.
  • North Korea has urged Washington to offer a new approach to resume negotiations, warning that it may take an unspecified "new path" if the United States fails to meet its expectations.

Bangladesh Wants Written Assurance from India

  • Bangladesh has sought a written assurance from the Narendra Modi government that it won't send immigrants across the border after the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). The move came even as Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina continues to face criticism for being soft on New Delhi over the issue of National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  • The Bangladesh government had made a similar demand when Hasina was on a private visit to India in October months after the NRC exercise was carried out in Assam.
  • At the time, India had given a verbal assurance to Bangladesh that those rendered foreigners under the NRC in Assam will not be sent to Bangladesh. However, it had refused to give a written assurance, stating that the exercise was carried out as per directions of the Supreme Court.

Dec 30, 2019

India May Surpass Germany to Become Fourth-largest Economy in 2026: Report

  • India is expected to overtake Germany to become fourth-largest economy in 2026 and Japan to become third largest in 2034, according to a recent report by the UK-based Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). It further said India is also set to reach a gross domestic product (GDP) of USD 5 trillion by 2026, 2 years later than the government's target.
  • "India has decisively overtaken both France and the UK to become the world's fifth-largest economy in 2019. It is expected to overtake Germany to become fourth largest in 2026 and Japan to become the third largest in 2034," the report, titled 'World Economic League Table 2020', said.
  • Japan, Germany and India will battle for third position over the next 15 years, according to the CEBR.

China to Issue Revised Local GDP Figures under New Mechanism from 2020

  • China will revise its historical regional GDP data under a unified accounting mechanism from early next year. The Chinese economy grew at an annual pace of 6.0 per cent in the July-September quarter, the slowest growth since 1992.
  • The National Bureau of Statistics new mechanism will unify the standards and procedures for calculating national and local GDP numbers which had been calculated under different accounting methods adopted by local and national statistics authorities since 1985.
  • It said, the reform is expected to close the current discrepancy between national and regional figures, improving data quality while enhancing the credibility of the government statistics.

Dec 29, 2019

China Bans Labour Camp Detention for Sex Workers

  • Chinese lawmakers voted to abolish the custody and education punishment system, which allowed police to hold sex workers and their clients without charge for up to two years.
  • Critics say the nearly three-decade-old system has little to do with education.
  • Sex workers are subjected to police violence... forced labour, compulsory testing for sexually transmitted disease... humiliation and physical violence at these centres. Abolishing this system is a significant positive step. The arbitrary detention system will cease from December 29, and those held at education centers should be released immediately.
  • There has been a public push to close the centres ever since China's top legislative committee abolished its system of "re-education through labour camps" in 2013.

Ukraine and Pro-Russian Separatists Exchange Prisoners

  • Pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine have concluded a long-awaited prisoner exchange of 200 prisoners.
  • Ukraine's government received 76 captives, with the pro-Russian separatists reportedly taking 124.
  • Russian and Ukrainian authorities agreed to the swap - which is aimed at improving ties - at talks in December 2019.
  • Relations between the two countries deteriorated in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
  • Russian-backed rebels then began an insurgency in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine. More than 13,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
  • Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a total of 81 Ukranians had been released. He said the figure included 76 people who had already returned and six people who had opted to stay in the occupied territory because their families live there.
  • This is the second prisoner exchange involving Russia and Ukraine. In September, 24 sailors seized by Russia in the Kerch Strait off Crimea in November 2018 were released.

UAE Trashes Spy App Allegations

  • The UAE denied reports that a mobile app developed in the country was used for government spying. Apple and Google removed the ToTok app from their marketplaces last week following a report claiming it allowed the UAE to track users' conversations, movements and other details. But the country's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said that UAE laws prohibit any kind of data breach and unlawful interception.

Dec 28, 2019

Saudi Planning OIC Meeting to Discuss J&K

  • Saudi Arabia is planning to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers of member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for a discussion on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. This was conveyed by the Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud during a meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad.
  • Prince Faisal was on a day-long visit to Pakistan. Qureshi reportedly briefed Saud on the situation in Kashmir in the aftermath of India's August 5 move to nullify Article 370 that gave special status to J&K. He also reportedly spoke about the recently amended citizenship law and the National Register for Citizens in India.

Musharraf Files Plea against Sentencing

  • Pakistan's former President and army chief Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf filed a petition against the special court's verdict convicting him of high treason and sentencing him to death.
  • Last week, a court in Islamabad sentenced him to death in absentia for high treason following a six-year case.

Israel's Netanyahu Sweeps Party Poll

  • Benjamin Netanyahu won a landslide victory in a primary election for leadership of the ruling Likud party in Israel.
  • Official results announced early showed Netanyahu capturing 72% of the votes, compared with 28% for challenger Gideon Saar. Earlier, Netanyahu had declared a huge victory following an exit poll that put him on course for more than 70% of the vote.
  • The Prime Minister, head of Likud for the past 14 years, retained the famously loyal rightwing party's leadership in the internal ballot, despite battling three damning corruption indictments.

Indonesian Muslims Protest China's Treatment of Uighurs

  • More than a thousand Muslims marched to the heavily guarded Chinese Embassy in Indonesia's capital to protest China's treatment of its Uighur Muslims.
  • The protesters, many wearing blue headbands reading "Save Uighurs," chanted "Get out, China!" and unfurled Indonesian and Uighur flags as they marched to the embassy in downtown Jakarta.
  • In a speech, Yusuf Martak, a protest organizer, condemned the "oppression, torture and cruelty by the Chinese Communist government against brother Uighur Muslims."
  • Martak, a leader of a conservative Muslim alliance that held mass protests against Jakarta's ethnic Chinese governor, a minority Christian, in 2016, demanded an end to mass detentions of Uighur Muslims in China's Xinjiang region.
  • Slamet Maárif called on the Indonesian government to take action to help the Uighurs.

Dec 27, 2019

India Set To Cross 100gw Renewable Energy Capacity Mark In 2020

  • India is all set to cross the 100GW renewable energy capacity mark in 2020 and can make rapid strides towards the ambitious 175GW clean energy target by 2022 provided the government keeps a close eye on key issues and deals with those well in time.
  • The government however needs to promote storage to ensure 24X7 clean energy supply as coal fired thermal power still remains the base load in the country.

Turkey Top Court Rules Wikipedia Ban Breaches Free Speech

  • Turkey''s Constitutional Court ruled that the government''s ban on access to online encyclopedia Wikipedia violated freedom of expression, the official Anadolu news agency reported.
  • The ban imposed by Turkey''s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) has remained in place since April 2017.
  • At the time the measure was needed as Wikipedia had failed to remove content deemed false from its pages that linked Turkey with terror groups.
  • But the move caused an outcry among freedom of information activists who accuse Turkey of slapping bans on websites and social media with alarming regularity.
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