January: International

Contents

Second Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi

The second edition of Ministry of External Affairs’ annual Raisina Dialogue was held in New Delhi with the theme “The New Normal: Multilateralism in a multipolar world”.

The flagship geo-political conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was attended by delegates from 65 countries.

 Highlights PM Narendra Modi’s Speech
  • Outlined government’s foreign policy from May 2014 and also referred to differences with China, and India’s close partnerships with the US, Russia and Japan.
  • Pakistan and Terrorism: Pakistan must walk away from terror for dialogue with India as India alone cannot walk the path of peace.
  • Peaceful South Asia:India remained committed to vision for a “peaceful and harmonious” South Asia, and neighbourhood first.
  • Globalisation:Growing sentiment against trade and migration and rising parochial and protectionist attitudes are putting globalisation’s gains at a risk.
  • China:It has unprecedented business and commercial opportunities for India. However, rising ambition and festering rivalries (in Asia) are generating visible stress points such as freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
  • CPEC: The ambitious$45 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) connectivity project cannot override sovereignty as it runs through disputed parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
  • United States:US administration led by Donald Trump and India will further focus on building bilateral relationship.
About Raisina Dialogue
  • Raisina Dialogue is an annual conference held in New Delhi. It is envisioned to be India’s flagship conference of geopolitics and geo-economics.
  • The conference is held jointly by Ministry of External Affairs and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an independent think tank based in India.
  • The name of conference comes fromRaisina Hillwhich is the elevation in New Delhi where presidential palace of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan is located.
  • The first edition of the conference was held in March 2016 with the theme “Asia: Regional and Global Connectivity”. It is organized on the lines of the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore.
  • It is structured as a multi-stakeholder, cross-sectorial conclave, involving policy and decision makers, including cabinet ministers from various Governments, high-level Government officials and policy practitioners, leading personalities from business and industry etc.

Gen. Raheel Sharif to head Islamic Military Alliance

Pakistan’s former Army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif (retired) was appointed head of Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition of 39 nations.

 

India, Pakistan Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations

India and Pakistan exchanged the list of their nuclear installations and facilities under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations. This is the 26th consecutive exchange of such list between the two countries after the first list was exchanged on 1 January 1992. This exchange is done every year on 1st of January between them to prevent them from attacking each other’s nuclear facilities. Both countries also exchanged the lists of nationals (including civil prisoners and fishermen) of each country lodged in their respective jails as per provisions of the Agreement on Consular Access.

Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations  is bilateral agreement signed between India and Pakistan that bars them from carrying out any surprise attack (or to assist foreign power to attack) on each other’s nuclear installations and facilities. Under it, both countries inform each other about their nuclear installations and facilities that need to be covered under the Agreement on 1 January every year. It was signed on 31st December 1988 and entered into force on 27 January 1991. It was signed by then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his Pakistani counterpart Benazir Bhutto.

Agreement on consular access was signed between the two countries on May 21, 2008. It facilitates exchange of a comprehensive list of nationals of each country lodged in their jails twice each year on January 1 and July 1.

Turkish Parliament approves amendments for Presidential system

The Turkish Parliament has passed constitutional reform bill to adopt Presidential system and strengthen the powers of the President. The adaptation of bill paves the way for a referendum on the issue. Once accepted by people, the reform will enable the President to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and top state officials and dissolve Parliament. It will also allow incumbent President Tayyip Erdogan to stay in office until 2029. At present the presidential post in Turkey is largely ceremonial position.

Nepal launches 10-year-plan to cut reliance on vegetable imports from India

Nepal Government has launched a 10-year-plan (scheme) to cut reliance on vegetable imports from India and boost domestic production. The scheme starting this fiscal envisions adopting modern farm techniques to boost productivity and making the landlocked Himalayan country self-reliant in food. In recent times, Nepal is witnessing a continuous rise in the imports of vegetables from India. Nepal imports around 25,000 metric tonnes of vegetables worth Rs. 55 billion every year from India, but exports the same in negligible volume.

First China-Britain freight train arrives in London

The first China-to-Britain freight train run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment arrived in London after completing a 7,500-mile journey in 18-days. This marks a milestone in China’s push to build commercial links across Europe and Asia. The train had started its journey from Yiwu, a wholesale market town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang and passed through Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and the English Channel to reach Britain. The train was carrying cargo of small commodities including household items, clothes, fabrics, bags, and suitcases. This successfully journey of freight train from China, makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China as part of its ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

UNSC adopts resolution backing Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow

United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously approved a resolution expressing full support to Gambia’s new President Adama Barrow. The resolution called on longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh (in power since 1994 coup) to step down and also condemned Yahya Jammeh’s attempts to usurp power. Yahya Jammeh has refused to step down despite losing a disputed December 1, 2016 presidential election to Barrow. It has deepened political crisis in Gambia as Barrow was sworn in as Gambia’s president in Senegal. After his inauguration, troops from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a bloc of west African countries have entered Gambia in support of Adama Barrow.

UK unveils 12-point plan to leave European Union

United Kingdom unveiled her 12-point plan to leave European Union for implementing Brexit deal within two years in phased manner. The priorities include control over immigration; securing the rights of EU citizens in Britain; committing to retain workers’ rights; building a strong trading relationship with EU and rest of the world; removing Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice; and making Britain an attractive place for investors and students. In June 2016 referendum, UK had voted to leave the EU (a single market and the customs union with the 28-nation economic bloc) by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1%.

30 more countries apply for Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank

Thirty more countries have applied for joining the China-sponsored Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) apart from existing 57 founding members. The AIIB was officially established in 2015 with headquarters in Beijing, China’s capital. China is the largest shareholder with 26.6% voting shares. India is the second largest shareholder with 7.5% followed by Russia 5.93% and Germany with 4.5%. The US and Japan, however stayed away from joining the bank while most of the European countries have joined it. Japan and Indonesia agree to deepen defence ties

Japan and Indonesia have reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate on maritime security and deepen defence ties as both nations feud with China over sea territory. Both island nations committed to give maritime cooperation the highest priority. It was announced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Besides, Japan will actively encourage cooperation on maritime security and encourage the development of the remote islands of Indonesia. Earlier in December 2016, both countries had unveiled an agreement aimed in strengthening Indonesia’s ability to defend its vast marine borders. At present, Indonesia has no dispute with China over ownership of reefs or islets in the disputed South China Sea. But China’s expansive claims overlap with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) where it has the right to exploit resources around the Natuna islands.

One China policy is non-negotiable: China

China has made it clear that the One China policy is non-negotiable and no one can change it. China’s reaction came following US President-elect Donald Trump’s statement that the US policy on Taiwan is up for negotiation and that he is not fully committed to it. It also held that One China policy is the political foundation of bilateral ties between US and China and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The one-China policy underscores recognition of China’s sovereignty over Taiwan. This position has been held by the US since 1979. Moreover, any country that wants to establish political and diplomatic relations with China must adhere to this principle and not recognise Taiwan as an independent country.

US lifts 20-year economic embargo on Sudan

The United States of America (US) has announced the end of a 20-year economic embargo on Sudan by lifting trade and financial sanctions. The announcement made by outgoing President Barack Obama’s administration in an effort to foster ties with the Sudanese government to improve security in the region. This will be for the first time in two decades Sudan will be able to receive imported goods and services from US. The lift will also release frozen Sudanese property and assets held in the US and allow US companies to trade with the oil and gas industry in Sudan.

Ecuador takes chair of UN group of G77 countries

Ecuador has taken over from Thailand as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) countries of the United Nations for the year 2017. The group promote collective economic interests of the 134 developing countries at the United Nations, including India. The group was founded in June 1964 by the Joint Declaration of the Seventy-Seven Countries at the UNCTAD. There were initially 77 founding members of the organization, but by November 2013 the organization expanded to 134 member countries.

China steps up naval patrols in disputed islands with Japan

China has stepped up its naval patrols in the waters of the disputed Sankakus islands (Diaoyu islands) under the administrative control of Japan in the East China Sea.The move could anger Japan as both countries doggedly trying to enforce the claims over the uninhabited islands. China is saying that it is conducting such patrols on a regular basis in its territorial waters.These islands were under the control Japan since 1895 till 1945 after they went under administration control of United States as part of the Ryukyu Islands till 1972. They are strategically located close to key shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds, and there may be oil reserves in the area. Since Japan asserted its control by nationalising Sankakus islands in 2013 to step up its claims, China has started its naval patrols in the disputed waters.

Russia begins military withdrawl from Syria

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has ordered to scale down its military deployment in Syria as the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad regime intensified its control over the war-torn country. Russia’s naval group headed by aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov would be the first to leave the area as task set for it during its military mission was fulfilled. Russia still had sufficient air defence capabilities thanks to its S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in the war-torn country. Russia’s military intervention in September 2015 had helped turn the tide in favour of President Bashar Al-Assad, whose forces scored a major victory in December 2016 with the recapture of opposition stronghold east Aleppo. Since then, Russia along with fellow regime ally Iran and rebel backer Turkey are pushing for peace talks and also brokered ceasefire between the regime and the rebels.

Finland to pay unemployed basic income of USD 587 per month

Finland became the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens a basic monthly income, amounting to 560 euros (USD 587). This announcement was made as part of a social experiment hoped to cut government red tape, reduce poverty and boost employment. It will be two-year trial in which 2,000 randomly picked citizens will receive unemployment benefits from January 1, 2017. The unemployment rate of Finland stood at 8.1% in November 2016 with some 213,000 people of total 5.5 million population was without a job.

Nepal’s Supreme Court gives go ahead to govt on crucial Constitution amendment bill

Nepal’s Supreme Court has given nod to government to go ahead with a crucial Constitution amendment bill to accommodate the demands of the agitating Madhesi and ethnic groups. The division bench of SC held that the judiciary cannot not bar legislature from using its wisdom in the formulation of legislation, on the basis of the principle of separation of powers. The Constitution amendment bill seeks to resolve issues related to citizenship and boundary demarcation issues among others.

US imposes sanctions 7 Pakistani entities associated missile programme

United States Department of Commerce has announced sanctions against seven Pakistani entities allegedly associated with the country’s missile programme.  These entities added to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) list determined by the US government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. Their placement on the list imposes a licence requirement for all items subject to the EAR and a licence review policy of presumption of denial.

UNSC approves Russian-drafted resolution on Syria ceasefire

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously passed a resolution drafted by Russia that endorses a nationwide Syrian ceasefire. The ceasefire between the rebels and Bashar al-Assad regime was brokered by Russia and Turkey. Two agreements were signed between Syrian government and seven armed opposition groups for ceasefire. The UNSC also expressed its support for the efforts taken by Russia and Turkey and aimed at stopping violence in Syria and launching a political process.

Russia delivers advanced Sukhoi jets to China after two year delay

Russia has finally delivered four fifth generation Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets to China after a delay of two years. The Su-35 is an advanced version of the Su-30s operated by the Indian Airforce (IAF). Russia had feared that its fifth generation Su-35 jet will lose its value after Chinese military unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter. However, Russia did not change its stance on the export of the Su-35 until the J-20 fighter was unveiled. Russia believes that with the commissioning of the J-20 by China, the Su-35 will soon lose its value in the Chinese market. While China made advances in manufacturing of new type of fighter jets, it is still dependent on Russia for engines aswell as avionics. In recent years, Russia has been selling some of its advanced weaponry to China due to economic crisis and sanctions faced by it over Crimean Crisis.

Antonio Tajani elected as President of European Parliament

Italian conservative Antonio Tajani was elected the new President of the European Parliament (EP). In the elector contest of four rounds, he defeated another Italian socialist Gianni Pitella by securing 351 votes against 282. Antonio Tajani will succeed Germany’s Martin Schulz and head the parliament for the next two-and-a-half years. Tajani is a former spokesman for Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and an ex-European commissioner. The EU Parliament president chairs the plenary sessions of the legislature and is the face of the parliament in the EU and on the international stage. The European Parliament (EP) is the directly elected parliamentary institution of the EU. It exercises the legislative function of the EU along with the Council of the European Union (the Council) and the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 751 members who are directly elected. EP represents the world’s second largest democratic electorate (after the Parliament of India) and the largest trans-national democratic electorate in the world.

 

CEPI formally launched at WEF, Davos

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was officially launched at World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos after it received $460-million to develop vaccines against 3 emerging highly-contagious and fatal diseases.

These three diseases are Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-coronavirusLassa fever, and Nipah virus.  CEPI will use this fund to contain outbreaks these 3 diseases before they become global health emergencies.

Key Facts
  • Under it, CEPI will solicit proposals from academic researchers and industry to develop candidate vaccines for its three target viruses.
  • In 5 years, it aims develop at least two vaccines for each virus through early human studies so that they are ready for a real-world test as soon as one of these viruses surfaces again.
  • CEPI also intends to fund vaccine platforms—technologies like harmless viral vectors or messenger RNA that can serve as backbones for a variety of vaccines.
  • It has has received $100 million commitments from Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway have pledged to contribute additional $260 million.
About Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
  • CEPI is a public-private alliance to finance and coordinate the development of new vaccines to prevent and contain infectious disease epidemics.
  • It plans to develop early phases of vaccines without knowing the details for the form in which the deadly infection will appear but to cut down the time to tailor the eventual vaccine to be effective to epidemic.
  • CEPI’s plan includes preparations for possible outbreaks of Marburg fever, Lassa fever, MERS, SARS, Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, chikungunya, and others.
  • It is being funded by the Wellcome Trust, t Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, World Economic Forum (WEF), Governments of Norway, Japan, India (Department of Biotechnology) and Germany.

India rejects attempts of EU, Canada for global investment agreement

India, along with Brazil, Argentina and some other nations rejected an informal attempt of European Union (EU) and Canada to work towards a global investment agreement at World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level.

The EU and Canada proposed agreement incorporates a contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. They wanted their investment pact to be the template for a similar multilateral agreement.

What Is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Mechanism?

The ISDS mechanism permits companies to drag governments to international arbitration without exhausting the local remedies. It also allows them to claim huge amounts as compensation citing losses they suffered due to reasons, including policy changes. The contentious ISDS mechanism already has been incorporated by investment pact by the EU and Canada.

What Is India’s Position?

India has rejected such mechanism. It clearly held that only after all local options have been exhausted for settling disputes between a corporate and a government, then the issues can be taken up in international arbitration tribunals. It also held that such provisions could be a part of bilateral agreements but they can’t be allowed in a multilateral agreement.

Pakistan conducts first flight test of Ababeel missile with MIRV technology

Pakistan successfully conducted the first flight test of Ababeel surface-to-surface medium range ballistic missile. The test flight was aimed at validating various design and technical parameters of missile’s weapon system.

It is claimed that Ababeel missile has the capability to carry nuclear as well as conventional warheads and engage multiple targets with high precision by defeating the enemy’s hostile radars.

Key Facts
  • Ababeelmissile is capable of delivering multiple warheads, using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology, first of its kind in Pakistan’s missile arsenal. It has a maximum rangeof 2,200 kilometres.
  • The development of Ababeel Weapon System aims at ensuring survivability of Pakistan’s ballistic missiles in growing regional Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) environment in reference to the India’s Prithvi and Ashwin BMD systems. It also seeks to further reinforce Pakistan’s deterrence.

Comment

  • With this successful test, Pakistan becameseventh countryto join the elite club of nuclear countries that have MIRV capabilities.
  • Other countries having MIRV capabilities are United Kingdom, France, Russia, the United States, China and India. India and China had achieved this capability over the past couple of years.
  • The test comes after Pakistan successfully tested its first submarine-based nuclear-capable missile Babur-3 recently on January 9, 2017 from an underwater, mobile platform somewhere in the Indian Ocean.
  • The Babur weapons system incorporates advanced aerodynamics and avionics that can strike targets both at land and sea at a range of 700 km with high accuracy.

India inks deal with UAE for strategic oil reserves storage

India has signed a deal with United Arab Emirates (UAE), fifth biggest oil supplier as part of its quest for energy security and strategic reserve system.

The deal allows UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC) to fill half (about 6 million barrels of oil) of an underground crude oil storage facility at Mangaluru, Karnataka.

India has already filled the other half of the Mangaluru storage in Karnataka state with six million barrels of Iranian oil. It also has filled a Vizag storage site in southern Andhra Pradesh with 7.55 million barrels of Iraqi oil and has invited bids from suppliers to fill an 18.3 million-barrel facility at Padur in Karnataka.

Background

As one of the fastest growing economies and world’s third-biggest oil consumer, India is building emergency storage in underground caverns to hold 36.87 million barrels of crude, or about 10 days of its average daily oil demand. This move aims to hedge against energy security risks as it imports most of its oil needs. In 2014, India already had started talks to lease part of its strategic storage to ADNOC. Under those discussions, India was to have first rights to the stored crude in case of an emergency, while ADNOC will e able to move cargoes to meet any shift in demand.

Significance
  • Strategic petroleum reserves have become indispensable to safeguard the economy and to help maintain national security in the event of an energy crisis.
  • These crude oil reserves (or stockpiles) can be held by the government of a particular country, as well as by private industry.

Japan successfully launches first military communications satellite

Japan has successfully launched its first military communications satellite Kirameki-2 (kee-RAH-meh-kee 2) satellite.

It was launched on board of H-2A rocket that lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. The satellite separated from the rocket and entered a designated orbit.

Key Facts
  • The Kirameki-2 satellite has been designed to upgrade Japan’s existing communication network in the face of China’s increasingly assertive maritime activity and North Korea’s missile threat.
  • It is the first of three satellites that will replace three civilian satellites currently used by Japan’s military. The new satellites will allow military units to communicate on a high-speed and high-capacity network.
  • These satellites aimed at stepping up Japan’s emergency response capability in case of natural disaster, China’s maritime activity from southern Japanese waters to South China Sea, as well as missile threats from North Korea.
  • They will be also used by Japanese troops operating overseas as part of international peacekeeping operations, including those off the Somali coast and in South Sudan.
  • India ranks 79 in Corruption Perception Index

India has been ranked 79th out of 176 countries in the recently released Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for the year 2016 by the Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI).

The index has been complied by using World Bank data, the World Economic Forum (WEF) and other institutions  It ranks countries on the score in the scale ranging from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Key Facts
  • Top 10 Countries:New Zealand and Denmark in joint first place (with a score of 90), followed by Finland (3rd), Sweden (4th), Switzerland (5th), Norway (6th), Singapore (7th), Netherlands (8th), Canada (9th) and Germany (10th).
  • Counties bottom of the index:Somalia was ranked the most corrupt country. Other countries with lower rankings were Syria, South Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
  • In this edition of list, India, China and Brazil with a score of 40 each figured in the 10 key economies in the mid-range.
  • Over two-thirds of the 176 countries in this year’s index fall below the midpoint of the scale of 0 to very clean of index. The global average score is 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector.
  • In this edition of list, India has marginally improved its ranking index for 2016 by two points from 38 score in 2015. India’s condition showed growth with inequality.
  • India’s ongoing poor performance with a score of 40 reiterates the state’s inability to effectively deal with petty corruption and large-scale corruption scandals.
  • Regionally, South Asia had performed poorly. Bangladesh at 27th and Nepal at 29th positions were slotted in the highly corrupt section.

Seven new countries join BEPS agreement

Seven new countries Lithuania, Gabon, Hungary, Indonesia, Malta, Mauritius and Russia – have signed Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement for Country-by-Country Reporting (CbC MCAA).

With this, the total number of signatories has increased to 57 including India (signed in May 2015). CbC MCAA is a tax co-operation agreement to enable automatic sharing of country-by-country information.

About CbC MCAA
  • The CbC MCAA aims to boost transparency by multinational enterprises (MNEs) by allowing signatories to bilaterally and automatically exchange country-by-country reports.
  • This exchange of information is facilitated as part of Action 13 of thebase erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) Action Plan adopted by the OECD and G20 countries in 2013.
  • The agreement will help to ensure that tax administrations obtain better understanding of how MNEs structure their operations and also ensure that the confidentiality and appropriate use of such information is safeguarded.