International Current Affairs: August 2016

Contents

Typhoon Nida makes landfall near Dapeng Peninsula in China

The severe tropical typhoon Nida (also known as Cariana in Philippines) made landfall near Dapeng Peninsula in China’s Guangdong Province. Gale-force wind with up to 150 kilometers per hour speed and heavy rain followed the tropical typhoon. The tropical typhoon Nida made landfall after battering the Philippines. It was caused by a tropical depression that had developed about 1,020 km to the east-southeast of Manila, Philippines.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal elected as 39th Prime Minister of Nepal

Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Chairperson (CPN-MC) PushpaKamalDahal ‘Prachanda’ (61) was elected as the 39th Prime Minister of Nepal. He was the sole claimant to the post of prime minister after then Prime Minister K P Oli had resigned in July following political turmoil. He will be second Prime Minister of Nepal under the newly adopted secular, republic and federal Constitution.

Union Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Lao

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of new Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR). ASA is the basic legal framework for any air operation between the two countries. Under the agreement, the designated airlines of the two countries will have equal and fair opportunity to operate the agreed air services on specified routes. The Agreement is expected to spur greater investment, trade, tourism and cultural exchange between two countries while ensuring greater safety and security.

7th meeting of SAARC Immigration Authorities held in Islamabad

The seventh meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Immigration Authorities was held in Islamabad, Pakistan. It reviewed different areas to maximize the potential of visa exemption scheme launched among the member countries in 1992. It also deliberated on development of security software for SAARC visa exemption scheme (SVES) and immigration matters. This software would help to transform the existing manual system of the scheme into an online visa application system. It will have a central database that will provide all member states with real-time and secure information.

SVES

SAARC visa exemption scheme (SVES) was launched in 1992 to liberalise visa regime the region by facilitating people to people contacts, among the peoples of SAARC countries. It provides certain categories of dignitaries a Special Travel document which exempts them from visas to travel within the region for the specified time period.

Union Cabinet approves MoU between India and South Africa

The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa for cooperation in the field of Tourism. The MoU was signed in July 2016.India has extended the Electronic Tourist Visa (eTV) facility for the South African Nationals. The eTV facility has elicited good response from travel trade. The MoU will be instrumental in increasing arrival from South Africa.

Pakistan based Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (JuA) declared as a terror group

The United States has declared Pakistan based Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (JuA) as a ‘terror group’ by adding it to its list of global terrorists. This declaration triggers sanctions against the terrorist faction that has staged multiple attacks on civilians, religious minorities and soldiers. After this declaration, anyone who supports Jamaat-ur-Ahrar could have his assets frozen by the US Government. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar(JuA)

It is a militant Sunni Islamic group. It is a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban movement. It has declared loyalty to Islamic State’s (IS). The aim of Pakistani Taliban allied with Afghan Taliban is to topple the Pakistan Government.

India seeks help from foreign countries to crack terror fund details

India has approached United States (US) and select European countries which are part of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to crack terror fund trail details of the Al Rehmat Trust from Pakistan. Al Rehmat Trust is financer of terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) which had carried out the attack at the Pathankot airbase (in Punjab) in January 2016. India has alleged that Al Rehmat Trust, founded by JeM chief, MaulanaMasoodAzhar, uses its money for funding and training terrorist modules against India.

FATF

FATF is an inter‐governmental policy making body with ministerial mandate to establish international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing. It was established in 1989 during the G7 Summit in Paris (France) to combat the growing problem of money laundering. It comprises over 36 countries including India. FATF Secretariat is housed at the headquarters of the OECD in Paris.

Union Cabinet approves Agreement between the India and Croatia on Economic Cooperation

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing and ratification of an Agreement between India and Croatia on Economic Cooperation. India and Croatia had signed an Agreement on trade and economic cooperation with an aim to promote and develop bilateral trade and economic relationsin September, 1994. The new Agreement between both countries is a step in continuity as the earlier Agreement expired in November 2009.

Sri Lanka and China signed tripartite pact to construct mega port city

Sri Lanka and China have signed a tripartite agreement to proceed with the construction of a Financial City Centre in Colombo. The agreement was signed between Sri Lanka’s Urban Development Authority, Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and China Harbour Engineering Company.
The Colombo International Financial City project aims to transform Sri Lanka into an international financial hub in the Indian Ocean region (IOR).

Myanmar to support China’s OBOR and BCIM initiatives

Myanmar has officially announced to support China’s ambitious One Belt and One Road (OBOR) connectivity initiative along the ancient Silk Road and the BCIM. BCIM corridor links Kunming in China with Mandalay in Myanmar and passes through Bangladesh and ends at Kolkata in India. The One Belt One Road is China’s investment and trade promotion scheme. The scheme aims to deepen economic connections between China and rest of the world.

China opens world’s longest and highest glass bridge

The world’s highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge was opened to visitors in central China. Some facts:

  • The bridge connects two mountain cliffs known as the Avatar Mountains in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province.
  • The glass-bottomed bridge is 430 metres long and is 6 metres wide.
  • It stands 300 metre above a canyon in the Tianmenshan National Forest Park.
  • It has been paved with 99 panes of three-layered transparent glass.
  • It has been designed by Israeli architect HaimDotan.
  • So far the bridge has set 10 world records for design and construction.

China, ASEAN countries agree to form South China Sea framework

China and ten member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to form a framework for a code of conduct to ease tension in disputed South China Sea. The agreement was reached between both sides during a meeting at Inner Mongolia in northern China. The two sides have agreed to get the framework for the code of conduct done by mid-2017.

This decision is considered as a significant rapprochement between China and ASEAN bloc, especially after Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling against China in July 2016. The PCA had ruled that China has no historical title over the disputed South China Sea and it has breached the Philippines sovereign rights. However, China had dismissed the ruling and had urged bilateral talks to resolve the issue.

BRICS Women Parliamentarians forum passes Jaipur Declaration

BRICS Women Parliamentarians forum has unanimously passed the Jaipur Declaration on the concluding day of the Forum’s meeting held in Jaipur. The 19-point declaration was adopted at the two-day meeting of BRICS Women Parliamentarians. The meeting was attended by heads and members of delegations from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Among others, the Jaipur Declaration called for the Strengthening of strategic partnership between members on all three dimensions of sustainable development viz., economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection.

PM Narendra Modi, Afghanistan President AshrafGhani jointly inaugurate the restored Stor Palace in Kabul

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani jointly tele-inaugurated the restored Stor Palace in Kabul. The Stor Palace is located in the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Campus in Kabul. The newly renovated and restored building will house the Afghanistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Besides, it will also serve as the venue for hosting official domestic and international events by the Afghan government.
A tripartite agreement for restoring Stor Palace was signed in 2011 during the visit of then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Afghanistan.

Earlier in June 2016, both countries had inaugurated the $300 million India and Afghanistan Friendship Dam in Herat Province. Besides, India also had gifted Afghanistan its new parliament building in December 2015. So far India has poured more than $2 billion dollars into Afghanistan reconstruction projects and humanitarian aid as part of its goodwill diplomacy making it one of the largest donors to the war-torn country.

India and Germany signs agreement on vocational training

India and Germany have signed an agreement on vocational training which aims to foster conditions to create and improve workplace-based vocational training in India’s industrial clusters. The agreement was signed between the Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and German International Cooperation (GIZ).Under the agreement, a new project which will focus on adapting elements of German dual system in select industrial clusters will be initiated. This project will be implemented in three selected clusters in India including the Automobile cluster of Maharashtra and Electronics cluster of Bangalore.

BRICS countries adopt Udaipur Declaration on disaster

The two-day meeting of Ministers of Disaster Management (MDM) of BRICS countries concluded in Udaipur, Rajasthan with the adoption of the Udaipur Declaration. This was the second meeting and in the follow up of the first meeting of the BRICS MDM convened by the Russia in St. Petersburg in April, 2016. It focused on two themes: (i) ‘Flood Risk Management‘and (ii) ‘Forecasting of Extreme Weather Events in the context of Changing Climate‘.

Udaipur Declaration:

  • BRICS nations to set up a dedicated Joint Task Force for Disaster Risk Management for regular dialogue, exchange, mutual support and collaboration among them.
  • The meeting was a new milestone in collaboration and cooperation among BRICS countries in the field of disaster management.
  • The roadmap for implementation of the three-year Joint Action Plan for BRICS emergency services (2016-18) was also finalised.

Union Cabinet approves MoU with South Africa to establish cooperation in Grassroots Innovation

The Union Cabinet has been apprised of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa to establish cooperation in Grassroots Innovation. The MoU was signed in pursuance to the Inter-Governmental Agreement signed between the two countries for cooperation in Science & Technology in July, 2016 at Pretoria, South Africa. Under this MoU both countries will jointly organise various programmes such as forums, workshops, seminars and training on matters related to innovation. They will also share open source technologies with each other and jointly develop projects to assist innovators in converting their ideas into commercially viable innovations.

Union Cabinet approves signing of Air Services Agreement between India and Fiji

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of new Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Fiji. The Agreement is for updation of the existing ASA between the two countries which was signed in January, 1974. The objective of new ASA is to improve the air connectivity between the two countries by updating the existing ASA, keeping in view the latest developments in civil aviation sector. Under new ASA, both countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline. The designated airlines shall have fair and equal opportunity to operate the agreed services on specified routes. The routes and frequencies shall be decided subsequently.

Union Cabinet approves MoU between India and Myanmar for cooperation in field of Traditional Systems of Medicine

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Myanmar in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine. The MoU will provide structured frame work for promotion of AYUSH/Traditional Systems of Medicine in Myanmar. It will boost the importance of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) systems of medicine and conservation, production and standardisation.

Union Cabinet approves revised India-Cyprus Double Tax Avoidance Agreement

The Union Cabinet approved a revised Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income between India and Cyprus. The revised DTAA provides for source-based taxation of capital gains on transfer of shares instead of one based on residence. It also allows India to have the right to tax capital gains arising in India. It further removes distortion caused by the provisions in the earlier treaty for residence-based taxation for the sake of avoiding tax. Thus, it is considered as a major step in the fight against tax evasion, round tripping and base erosion/profit shifting. India and Cyprus had signed DTAA in 1994. Cyprus is a major source of foreign funds flows in India. Cyprus is considered a major haven for money laundering, round-tripping, and profit-shifting.

Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA)A DTAA is a bilateral economic agreement between two nations that aims to avoid or eliminate double taxation of the same income in two countries. It is also referred to as a Tax Treaty.

US to create world’s largest protected marine area off Hawaii

United States is going to create world’s largest protected marine reserve area named as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument off the Hawaiian coast. It will be created by expansion of present national monument off Hawaii. With this expansion, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument will now span to 582,578 square milesincreasing four times in size from present size. The expansion will further help to permanently protect coral reefs and underwater marine habitats which are home to marine species, including rare whales and sea turtles.

India, US sign LEMOA

India and the United States have signed Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) that will enable both countries to use each other’s bases for repair and replenishment of defence supplies. The logistics agreement signed was based on the memorandum in principle reached between two leaders in April 2016.

LEMOA is one of the three foundational agreements that guide US high technology cooperation in defence sector with other countries. Other two are Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).

LEMOA: LEMOA is another name for Logistics Support Agreement (LSA), an agreement that US has signed with many of its allies.LEMOA is facilitating agreement that establishes basic terms, conditions, and procedures for reciprocal provision of Logistic Support, Supplies, and Services (LSSS).
It allows defence forces of signatories to avail defence logistics support facilities such as fuel, spare parts, mechanics, etc. during joint training, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and port calls.

India, Myanmar ink four agreements to boost bilateral cooperation

India and Myanmar have signed four Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to enhance cooperation and bilateral relations between the two countries. These agreements were signed after delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting counterpart President of Myanmar U HtinKyaw in New Delhi. President Kyaw was on a four day visit to India from 27 August to 30 August 2016. President Kyaw is the first democratically elected President of Myanmar to visit India.

Signed Agreements are:

  • MoU on cooperation in the Field of Renewable Energy.
  • MoU on cooperation in the construction of 69 Bridges
  • MoU on cooperation in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine.
  • MoU on cooperation in the construction and upgradation of the Kalewa – Yagyi Road Section.

Union Cabinet apprises MoU between CERT-In and CERT-UK

The Union Cabinet has apprised the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) and CERT-UK. The MoU intends to promote closer cooperation between India and UK for exchange of knowledge and experience in detection, resolution and prevention of security-related incidents. It will facilitate both countries to exchange technical information on Cyber-attacks, response to cyber security incidents and find solutions to counter the cyber-attacks.

CERT-In: CERT-In is nodal government agency that deals with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing in India. It is a nodal department under the aegis of Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology with its headquarters in New Delhi.

Emirates Flight EK 521

Emirates flight EK-521 crash-landed in Dubai International airport. The flight took from thiruvananthapuram.

India Myanmar inks pacts related to security and connectivity

Security and connectivity issues dominated talks between India and Myanmar during the visit of Myanmarese President U. HtinKyaw, who has chosen India as the first foreign destination after assuming office in March. President Kyaw is the head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which is Myanmar’s first democratically elected government in five decades.

Two Mous were signed between the two nations:

  • Agreement for construction of 69 bridges including approach in the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa section of the Trilateral Highway. The second connectivity pact involves the construction and upgradation of the Kalewa-Yagyi road section, also a section of the trilateral highway.The highwaywill connect India with Thailand through Myanmar. The highway is expected to be completed by 2020.
  • MoU to cooperate in efforts to fight insurgency.

France and the burkini ban

France’s ban of burkini in public spaces like beaches has snowballed into a national debate in that country with people taking sides. France, a strictly secular country does not favour bringing religion into the public sphere. It firmly opposes public assertion of any form of religious identity. In addition with attacks on its soil by terrorists pledged to the Islamic State, the government is strictly following a policy of banning a form of Islamic dress, the burkini. However, the human rights groups have challenged the legality of the bans imposed by the government. The legal right of Muslim women to wear burkinis is now under judicial examination and a verdict can be expected soon.

Colombia peace deal: permanent cease-fire

In Colombia, revolutionaries and the government have announced that they will permanently cease hostilities against each other, and thus bringing to an end a half-century of political violence that has claimed more than 220,000 lives and displaced more than 5 million people. The country will hold a national referendum on Oct 2 to give voters a chance to approve the peace accord. After the signing of peace agreement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) would begin handing their weapons over to the UN sponsored monitors.

World’s tallest moving observation tower opens to public in Britain

British Airways i360 is the world’s tallest moving observation tower that has been recently opened to the public in Brighton seafront.The tower will transport 200 visitors gently up to a height of 138 metres in a fully enclosed, hand-crafted glass viewing pod to have breath-taking 360-degree views across Brighton. Designed by David Marks and Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield Architects (the firm behind the iconic London Eye), it took 12 years in making.

Turkish President has blamed Gulen Movement for last week’s coup

Turkish President RecepTayyip Erdogan has blamed Gulen movement for the recent bloody attempted coup.

Gulen movement: A well organised community of people who follow US-based Islamic cleric FethullahGulen. He is sometimes described as the second most powerful man in Turkey. Gulen advocates tolerant Islam which emphasize on altruism, modesty, hard work and education.

US gives financial assistance to Kurdish Peshmerga forces

US have given $22.2 million in financial assistance for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. This is the first batch of financial assistance given to the Peshmerga forces as per the MoU signed between them which requires Peshmerga to assist Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul and allow passage of Iraqi troops through Kurdish territories.

Peshmerga Forces: Peshmerga means “those who face death”. They are Kurdish fighters active in northern Iraq. They have been fighting against the Islamist militants of the Islamic State (ISIS).

BRICS University gets delayed due to Technical issues

The idea for BRICS Network University (BRICS-NU) was first mooted in March 2015. The university was scheduled to be launched in 2016. But there exists several technical issues like curriculum, language differences, nature of infrastructure, and nature of university that needs to be resolved among the member states. The BRICS member countries (Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa) are yet to find common modalities for launching the university.

Pakistan to take the river water dispute with India to Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA)

Pakistan has decided to initiate international proceedings to settle a dispute with India over sharing waters of the Kishenganga and Ratle rivers at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), The Hague. Pakistan’s decision will erode the established mechanism of river water sharing disputes which has served both sides successfully under the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960.

Earlier, in 2013, Pakistan had lost the case against India when the International Court of Arbitration ruled in favour of India and recognized India’s rights over the river. It had also lost the case at the PCA, which delivered a verdict defending India’s right to divert water of Kishenganga. But, unlike earlier, Pakistan this time plans to take up the issue of design of the Kishenganga and Ratle river projects in Kashmir.

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