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2011December International Issues

The UN Security Council on 16 December 2011 lifted sanctions on Libya's central bank and the country's foreign investments banks. The move is aimed at easing the current cash crisis in Libya. The United States has also lifted most of the sanctions against Tripoli. The Libyan banks' assets abroad were frozen in early 2011 as part of sanctions against former Libyan leader Col. Muammer Gaddafi.

The USA rolled back most sanctions on the government of Libya to keep its commitment to the Libyan people.

OPEC, (The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) in its summit held in Vienna, on 14 December 2011 decided to increase its production ceiling to 30 million barrels a day, which is the first change in three years. Earlier, the production output was 24.88 million barrels per day. OPEC agreed to the new limit but it won't set individual quotas for each member country.

OPEC is an organisation of twelve oil-exporting countries consisting of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Angola, Venezuela, Libya, Algeria and Ecuador. The organisation has its headquarters in Vienna since 1965, and hosts regular meetings among the oil ministers of its member nations.

The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 15 December 2011 signed an agreement for the first tranche (113 million US dollars) under the 350 million US dollars Himachal Pradesh Clean Energy Transmission Investment Programme, which is a multi-tranche financing facility. 

The total estimated investment cost of the programme is 437.85 million US dollars which includes financing of 87.85 million US dollars by the state govt. of Himachal Pradesh. The programme is for the upgradation of transmission system to help Himachal Pradesh take greater advantage of its vast hydropower resources. It will help expand the supply of power to industry, commerce and households, within and outside the state, and thereby contribute to job creation and poverty reduction.

The US military officially ended its mission in Iraq on 15 December 2011. As per Pentagon statistics, approximately 4487 US soldiers lost their lives in Iraq war, with another 32226 Americans wounded in action. Despite the official declaration of ending its mission in Iraq, US military still has two bases in Iraq and 4000 troops. While in 2007, there were 505 bases and more than 170000 troops.

However, these two military bases will be closed and the final US troops will be withdrawn by 31 December 2011.

The Government of Canada announced on 12 December 2011 that women who aspire for Canadian citizenship can’t wear burqa or Islamic hijab when they take oath of citizenship. Belgium, France, Australia and Netherlands have also banned women from covering their face in public.

NATO on 11 December 2011 announced that it would withdraw its Iraq training mission by the end of 2011. The decision follows a nearly complete pullout of US troops from Iraq. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malki left for the United States to hold talks on ties between the two countries after the withdrawal of the American military troops.

The NATO had earlier agreed in principle to extend its stay till the end of beyond 2013. At present around 4,000 US troops are left in Iraq on four bases.

NATO ended its training mission in Iraq on 17 December 2011. The mission was aimed at assisting in the development of Iraqi security forces training structures and institutions. It was comprised of 120 soldiers from 12 countries. All of them will leave by the end of 2012. The move follows a day after US military handed over the last military base in Iraq and officially announced shutdown of its operations in the country.

Earlier, the alliance had been asked by Prime Minister Maliki to extend its training mission until the end of 2013 and it had accepted the request in principle. However, Baghdad made it clear that it can't grant immunity to the soldiers on its own as the matter has to be taken to the cabinet and then parliament for approval.

The leaders of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation) nations on 21 December 2011 agreed that the deployment of foreign bases in their territory would be done with the approval of all partners of the defence alliance. The CSTO summit was held in Moscow.

Besides Belarus and Kazakhstan, CSTO includes Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan succeeded Belarus as the President of CSTO.

However, the CSTO agreement does not apply to existing facilities such as a German air transit facility in Uzbekistan, French military aircraft in Tajikistan and US transit centre in Kyrgyzstan.

As per the Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index, India ranked as the most uncharitable nation of South Asia in 2011. India is the worst performer in South Asia with a global ranking of 91. India was ranked at 134 in 2010.

Pakistan was ranked to 34th position in 2011 while Sri Lanka ranked 8th. Bangladesh was placed at 78th position and Nepal at 84th. Thailand was the most generous nation, with 85 per cent of its people. The United Kingdom was the second most generous nation, with 79 per cent regularly giving to charity.Charities Aid Foundation’s World Giving Index ranked nations on the strength of monetary donations and charitable acts.

Syria on 19 November 2011 agreed to allow the Arab League observers to monitor the situation inside the country. The Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad signed the Arab League peace plan to this effect in Cairo. The plan is aimed at ending the crackdown on pro democracy protesters in Syria.

The League accepted the amendments suggested by Syria in the protocol on the movement of observers in the country. The independent observers will assess the ground reality in Syria. The Arab League had set the date of 21 December 2011 as deadline for Syria to sign the deal otherwise it would have referred the peace plan to U.N. Security Council.

The USA government on 16 December 2011 lifted most of its sanctions on Libya, unfreezing some of Libya's assets held in the United States. The USA government freed about 30 billion dollars in assets owned by the Libyan government and 2 Libyan banks that had been blocked since February. But holdings of the late leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and his family, as well as those of his aides, will be kept frozen.

The US decision coincided with a similar action by the UN Security Council, which decided to end a freeze on the assets of Libya's financial institutions, including the central bank.

India and Australia on 16 December 2011 signed an agreement to amend DTAA (Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement) with the objective of ensuring more effective exchange of financial information between the two countries. DTAA was signed between India and Australia in 1991. 

The revised tax agreement will facilitate the exchange of information on banking related information and taxation policies. The revised agreement also has a provision that India and Australia can assist each other in the collection of revenue claims.

In one of their biggest arms deal, the US and Saudi Arabia on 28 December 2011 inked an agreement worth 29.4 billion US dollars for the sale of 80 new F-15SA combat jets and modernisation of another 70.

These F-15SA aircraft, manufactured by The Boeing Company, are among the most sophisticated and capable aircraft in the world.

China on 29 December 2011 issued a white paper entitled China’s Space Activities in 2011. The white paper is on the development of space industry since 2006 and the major tasks for the next five years. It was the third white paper on China’s space activities. The white paper was issued by the State Council Information Office.

China has made the space industry an important part of the nation’s overall development strategy with the objective of exploring and utilizing outer space for peaceful purposes.

India and Pakistan concluded their Sixth Round of Expert Level Talks on Nuclear Confidence Building Measures in Islamabad on 27 December 2011. In this meeting, both the nations agreed to recommend to their foreign secretaries to extend the validity of the agreement on reducing the risk from accidents relating to nuclear weapons. Pakistan suggested to India that heavy artillery should be removed from the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

India and Pakistan also reviewed the implementation and strengthening of CBMs in the framework of Lahore MoU. The nations also agreed to explore possibilities for mutually acceptable additional CBMs.

A team of 50 Arab League Observers arrived in Damascus in Syria on 26 December 2011. The team consisting of experts from Algeria and Tunisia is led by Sudanese General Mustafa Daby. It would take about a week for Arab League to find out if the peace plan is being implemented in totality.

The Arab Observer mission to monitor the implementation of League mediated peace plan would visit the worst hit cities in phases. However, the group will maintain an element of surprise by only announcing the specific areas they would be visiting on the same day of departure. The 50-member group consists of politicians, lawmakers and military officials. They will split themselves into ten groups for different cities. The team is likely to visit Homs amidst reports of killings of 23 people by the security forces.

The United Nations (UN) and the Iraqi Government on 24 December 2011 signed an agreement to relocate Iranian exiles living in a camp in northeastern part of Iraq. The Iraqi government has been insisting on closing the camp by the end of this month.

Under the agreement, UN High Commission for Refugees will monitor the relocation while Iraqi Government will be responsible for their security. UNHCR would decide the refugee status for the residents of Ashraf here. This will be the first step toward resettlement to the third countries other than the native or the host countries.

The first Global Buddhist Congregation which was aimed to provide a joint platform to Buddhist communities across the world and also to impact geo-politics in Asia was concluded in New Delhi on 30 November 2011. The four-day congregation decided to set up a new international Buddhist organization in India. It was attended by heads and representatives from Buddhist Sanghas, national Buddhist federations, organizations and institutions from 46 different countries of the world.

The international Buddhist organization in India is to serve as a common platform for Buddhists worldwide. The congregation in India was organized by the Asoka Mission. The new body was named as the International Buddhist Confederation which was decided to be based in India as Buddhists all over the world recognize India as the home of Buddha. This move could be proved to be an important one for a diplomatic row between India and China.

The European Union slapped increased sanctions on Syria over continuing violence. International pressure is mounting on Syria to comply with the measures as per the Arab League's peace plan. European Union banned the purchase of Syrian bonds and the sale of surveillance software to the Syrian government. It also stopped EU companies from participating in oil or power projects in Syria. Arab League identified a list of 17 powerful people from Syria against whom the travel bans have been issued. These include the Syrian defence and the interior ministers.

Meanwhile, the report released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stated that more than 4000 people were killed in the crackdown on anti-government protesters in Syria.

The United Kingdom shut down the Iranian embassy in London and expelled all its staff in retaliation to the storming of the British diplomatic compound by an angry mob. They were asked to leave the UK within 48 hours. The British government also shut its embassy in Iran and evacuated the staff.

France and Germany have both recalled their ambassadors to Iran for consultations following the attack on the U.K. embassy in Tehran.

The 4th International Tax Dialogue (ITD), a global conference on Tax and Inequality was inaugurated by the Finance Ministry of India from 7 December to 9 December 2011. Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the three-day Tax meet.

More than 400 senior tax policymakers from almost 90 countries attended it including Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund – Min Zhu, World Bank Vice President – Otaviano Canuto, and Deputy Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development – Rintaro Tamaki.

The ITD is a joint initiative of various organisations working on tax issues – the IMF, the OECD, the World Bank, the European Commission, the IADB, and CIAT. This conference provides an opportunity to address how taxation can be seen as a part of the solution to growing inequalities in income and wealth around the world. The use of plenary and parallel sessions, with active country participation, allows a peer dialogue between Ministers of Finance and Heads of Revenue Administration internationally.

Japan announced on 9 December 2011 that it is imposing a fresh round of financial sanctions against Iran. Japan will freeze the assets of 106 organizations, one individual and three Iranian banks. 

More than 350 Iran-based entities are now subject to Japanese sanctions. However, the move will not restrict imports of Iranian crude oil, a step many Western nations have been urging.

Resource-starved Japan relies on Iranian oil for 10 percent of its energy supply.

Turkey on 8 December 2011 announced a new set of sanctions against Syria. Turkey would impose 30 percent tax on goods coming from Syria. The move as a response to Damascus imposing 30 percent customs duty on goods imported from Turkey besides suspending the free trade agreement with Ankara.

Turkey earlier announced a series of economic sanctions on Syria for its crackdown on anti-regime protests. These include an immediate ban on transactions with the Syrian Government and its central bank and freezing the Syrian government assets in Turkey.

Turkey has also been seeking alternative routes to bypass Syria for trade with the Middle East. The Turkish government was considering three alternative routes through Egypt’s Alexandria, Lebanon and Iraq to bye pass Syria.

Greek Parliament on 7 December 2011 approved a budget for 2012 pledging tough fiscal goals demanded by European Union partners in return for fresh loans. The austerity budget projects a modest primary surplus excluding interest payments on debt.

A broad majority of the parties backing Lucas Papademos' caretaker administration secured the economic blueprint's passage by 258 votes to 41, after the vote concluded.

Australia’s ruling Labour Party on 4 December 2011 in its annual policy conference approved plans to open up uranium sales to India. This cleared the way for talks on a bilateral nuclear agreement between India and Australia.

The conference held in Sydney overturned its own ban, which prohibits Australia to sell uranium to nations such as India that have not signed Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

The policy change does not need to be approved by Parliament. Australia possesses approximately 40 percent of the world’s known uranium reserves.

The Prime Minister of India visited Russia on 15-17 December 2011 to participate in the 12th Indo-Russian annual summit. India and Russia signed five major agreements during this summit, which includes licensed production of an additional 42 Sukhoi combat planes and to manage fly ash residue at thermal plants in Siberia.

During this visit, India and Russia also issued a joint declaration. The main features of this joint declaration are as following:

• India and Russia decided to commemorate the 65th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Russia in 2012 in both the countries in a fitting manner.

• The sides commended the successful launch, by India, of the jointly built YouthSat for space science studies; and expressed satisfaction on the progress in implementation of the joint lunar exploration project.

• The nations welcomed the outcome of the eleventh meeting of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation in addressing issues of mutual concern.

• As an important element of their Strategic Partnership, both sides reaffirmed their commitment to work together to strengthen the central coordinating role of the United Nations in international affairs as well as the crucial role of its Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security.

• The sides expressed concern over negative trends in the global economy.

• The nations identified successful completion of the IMF reform under the terms and conditions agreed in the framework of the G-20 as a key element of the general reform of the international financial architecture.

• In the context of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the sides reaffirmed their commitment to the principles of: searching the way to overcome crises in the region in compliance with law, exclusively through peaceful means, avoiding violence and outside intervention, through broad, inclusive national dialogue on democratic reforms, taking into account the legitimate rights and aspirations of the peoples of the region.

• The sides agreed that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) had become an important factor for regional security and cooperation.

• The sides attached importance to strengthening cooperation among BRICS countries.

• India and the Russian Federation, as responsible states, possessing advanced nuclear technologies, share the objective of preventive proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, including preventing their possible acquisition by terrorist groups.

• The sides recalled the bilateral Moscow Declaration between India and the Russian Federation on International Terrorism signed on November 6, 2001 in Moscow.

• Both sides reaffirmed the need for all states to combine efforts to vanquish terrorism.

• The sides emphasized the importance of joint bilateral and multilateral efforts in the fight against illicit drug trafficking which poses a growing threat to international peace and stability.

• India and the Russian Federation expressed concern over the situation emerging around Iran’s nuclear programme. Both sides support a comprehensive and long-term settlement of the situation through exclusively political and diplomatic means by promoting dialogue.



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