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2012 January International Issues

The fifth edition of the World Future Energy Summit was held in Abu Dhabi, capital of UAE from 16 to 19 January 2012. The theme of this year’s World Future Energy Summit was - Sustainable Energy for All. 

The summit discussed the need to exploit the alternative sources like solar, wind, tidal energy etc. Iran on 3 February 2012 successfully launched an observation satellite called Navid into orbit above Earth. It will be placed into an orbit at an altitude between 250 and 370 kilometres. The weight of the satellite is 50-kilogram and it is meant to stay in orbit for 18 months. 

India will provide a grant of $1.5 million to the University of Chicago to establish a Vivekananda Chair for Indian studies, as part of the initiatives to mark the 150th birth anniversary of the 19th century luminary, Swami Vivekananda. 

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in this regard between Dean of University of Chicago (UOC) Martha Roth and Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Culture Sanjiv Mittal, in the presence of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The grant is meant to honour Swami Vivekananda's life and legacy and facilitate exchange of research scholars from/to India.

Pakistan's Supreme Court issued a contempt of court notice to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for failing to re-open graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. The Apex Court also asked the Pakistan Prime Minister to appear before it on 19 January 2012. A seven-judge bench led by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk issued the order.

UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has recognised the efforts of the tribal community of Koraput to conserve biodiversity and develop climate resilient farm practices as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS). Mentioning this at the inauguration of the 99th Indian Science Congress, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded the Koraput tribals for the achievement. He honoured Raita Maduli and Chandra Pradhan of Koraput for preserving the traditional agricultural system of the region. 

The recognition of the Koraput Traditional Agricultural System as a GIAHS site is expected to guarantee local and international efforts for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of its genetic resources.

The member states of European Union(EU) on 4 January 2012, agreed in principle to ban import of Iranian crude oil to put pressure on Iran for its nuclear programme. However, the time-frame to implement this was not decided. The United States, which recently imposed fresh sanctions on Iran, has welcomed the news. Meanwhile, Iran has dismissed the threat of new sanctions and denies Western claims that it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons programme.

Maldives on 4 January 2012 lifted ban on spas in the upmarket tourist destination following its verification that these spas were not being used for prostitution. Earlier, it was alleged that these spas were the hub of prostitution. Following this, the tourism ministry ordered all massage centres to close six days ago.

The tourism industry is an important foreign exchange earner and employer in the Maldives and the ban on spas could harm the industry. Maldives in 2011 received more than 850000 tourists.

The Israel-Palestine talks ended in the first week of January 2012 with the international mediators from Quartet (the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia) and Jordan ended without any breakthrough in Amman, capital of Jordan. The talks and the outcome were positive and the two sides agreed to carry forward the discussions.

The Amman round of peace talks may not have yielded a breakthrough, yet it has broken the ice between the Israeli and Palestinian sides to discuss resumption of the stalled peace talks. Israel charged the Palestinians with raging propaganda campaigns and unilateral diplomatic initiatives against it while Palestine asked Israel to stop settlement construction and accept the 1967 borders.

The UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA on 12 January 2012 confirmed that Iran started enriching uranium to 20 percent. The production is taking place at Fordo, a nuclear facility 160 kilometers south-west of Tehran. The Uranium enrichment to the level of 20 percent means it can be upgraded more quickly for use in nuclear weapons than the Iran’s main enriched stockpile at Natanz plant.

The level is much higher than the 3.5 percent at Iran's main enrichment plant in Natanz and can be turned into fissile warhead material faster.

Australia on 9 January 2012 announced that it would scale back sanctions against Myanmar. Australia took this decision in recognition of steps taken by Myanmar’s military regime towards democracy and greater regional engagement.

Myanmar’s military junta held elections in 2010 and transferred power to civilians. However, Myanmar has failed to meet expectations on the release of political prisoners. In Australia, there is a blanket arms embargo to Myanmar.



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