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June 28 to 30 Current Affairs

International Issues

Afghanistan and Norway have finalized the draft of the strategic partnership agreement between the two countries. A press release issued by the Afghan President’s office in Kabul says the strategic partnership agreement was central to the discussions at a meeting between President Karzai and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre. 

The draft of the agreement is not ready for signature and the two countries will sign it in September this year. Norwegian Foreign Minister also briefed President Karzai on his recent visit of Faryab province in northern Afghanistan where Norwegian forces are posted. He said Afghan forces had now gained the capability to take over the responsibility for securing the province on their own.

President Karzai thanked Norway for all the help it has given to Afghanistan in the past ten years. Afghanistan has already signed strategic partnership agreements with the US, Britain, India, Germany, France and Italy. China has also shown interest to sign similar pact with Afghanistan recently.

The second Counter piracy conference in Dubai has once again brought into focus the plight of seafarers held hostage by the Somali pirates in the Gulf of Eden and off the coast of Oman. In all 190 hostages are still held by the Somali pirates; 43 of them are Indian seafarers from six hijacked ships.

These include 36 Indians on board on four ships hijacked by the Somali pirates. Among the ships is MV Iceberg, the longest held vessel which was hijacked off the port of Aden on its way to Jabel Ali port in UAE on 29th March 2010. It has six Indian sailors on board. Seven more Indian hostages are from the hijacked ship, Asphalt Venturer.

This ship has been released but the seven Indian seafarers are still held hostage ashore. Reports suggest all the 43 Indian hostages are safe while efforts are on to secure their release from their

National Issues

The government and Indian Institute of Technology, IITs have resolved their differences on the entrance exam row by agreeing on a compromise formula over holding the common exam from next academic year. As per the agreement, admission to the IITs from 2013 will be based only on the rank achieved in the advance test subject to the condition that selected candidates are in the top 20 percentile of successful candidates of various States’ Boards.

This formula replaces the proposed format of giving weightage to the class XII board results. The compromise was reached at a Delhi meeting of the IIT Council, the highest decision making body with representatives from the government and the Directors of all IITs.

The Planning Commission approved an Annual Plan outlay of 28,000 crore rupees for Bihar for the current fiscal. The state's Annual Plan outlay for 2012-13 was finalised at a meeting in New Delhi between the Commission's Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. 

Mr. Ahluwalia said that Bihar is fast catching up with developed states. He assured the state that the on-going special assistance package for Bihar would continue through the 12th Plan period. He also said that the Commission would be shortly seeking central government’s approval for the same. 

The commission applauded state's achievements in health and education sectors but there was need for improving the standards of education. It also pointed out that the main focus of the 12th plan would be on quality expansion rather than a quantity one.

North eastern States of the country will be provided 100 crore rupees for supporting rice cultivation under the National Food Security Mission, NFSM. All the eight north-eastern States, including Sikkim, are being covered under NFSM-rice this year. Till last year, only Assam was covered under NFSM-rice. This will also help in Self-Sufficiency in Rice Production.

Under NFSM-rice, States are given assistance for a large number of activities including seed distribution, soil management, pest control, machines and tools, training and field demonstrations. The interventions planned under NFSM are also likely to improve rice yield, which is low in the northern-eastern states.

Union minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources Pawan Kumar Bansal released a book titled - Remains- written by poet and diplomat Abhay Kumar at a function in New Delhi.

The book is a collection of vibrant and optimistic poems. This is the second book of poems written by the award-winning diplomat who has served in the Consulate General of India in St.Petersburg, Russia.

The government has reconstituted the National Advisory Council (NAC) chaired by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi by inducting Mihir Shah, Member, Planning Commission, and Ashis Mondal, founder of the Bhopal-based NGO, Action for Social Advancement.

The members who have been renominated are - N C Saxena, Narendra Jadhav, Pramod Tandon, Aruna Roy, A K Shiva Kumar, Deep Joshi, Anu Aga, Farah Naqvi and Mirai Chatterjee. The tenure of the members of the reconstituted panel is till May 31, 2013.

In Punjab, Kapurthala has become the first district in the country to start distributing enhanced 64 KB Smart Cards to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families as part of the national health insurance policy scheme - Rashtiriya Sawasthaya Bima Yojna (RSBY).

The decision to move from current 32kb smart cards to 64kb smart cards in a phased manner was taken by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment in February, this year.

Under the RSBY scheme, BPL families can avail cash less health serices upto 30,000 rupees by paying a premium of Rs 30 per annum and the policy will cover five members of a family for a year. Transportation charges and visit fee are also covered upto some extent. Central Government pays 75 percent of the total premium while State Government pays the remaining.

The new service tax regime comes in to force from July 1st, 2012. All services except the 38 services figuring in the negative list will attract 12 per cent service tax.

The government has widened the definition of 'Services' to bring in more activities under the tax net. Till now, 119 services has come under 'positive list' and these are subject to the levy.

But, services like metered taxis, auto rickshaws, betting, gambling, lottery, entry to amusement parks, transport of goods or passengers and electricity transmission or distribution by discoms have been kept in the negative list and will not attract the tax.

Coaching classes and training institutions will come under the net, though the tax will not be levied on school, university education and approved vocational courses.

Railway Minister Mukul Roy has said railways will not introduce service tax on freight and fare from tomorrow saying he has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is now looking after the Finance portfolio, on the issue.

The new approach to taxation of services is intended to take the country and the economy a step closer towards the introduction of Goods and Service Tax - GST.

The Second Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ICNP-2) is being held in New Delhi from 2-6 July, 2012.

The Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) is a new international treaty adopted under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan on 29th October, 2010, after six years of intense negotiations.

The CBD, one of the two agreements adopted during the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, is the first comprehensive global agreement which addresses all aspects relating to biodiversity.

The Convention, while reaffirming sovereign rights of nations over their biological resources, establishes three main goals:

(i) conservation of biological diversity,

(ii) sustainable use of its components and

(iii) fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources. A framework for implementing the third objective of the CBD, which is generally known as access and benefit sharing (ABS) is provided for in the Convention.

All living organisms: plants, animals and microbes, carry genetic material that has potential uses for developing a wide range of products and services for human benefits, such as in development of medicines, drugs, cosmetics, enzymes, agricultural and horticultural products, environmental techniques etc.

The Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad launched WHO’s new Country Cooperation Strategy with India (2012-17). 

The Statistics Day is celebrated on June 29, 2012. It is the 6th Statistics Day. The Statistics Day is being celebrated on the birth anniversary of Professor Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis, an eminent statistician whose contribution to the field of applied statistics and development planning is un-parallel.

Bilateral Issues

New Delhi will continue to pursue its vision of stabilizing Afghanistan through trade, investment and regional cooperation. This assurance was given by the External Affairs Minister, Mr S M Krishna while addressing the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan in New Delhi.

He also invited international investors and regional countries to join this vision for Afghanistan individually or in partnership with others. Justifying India's stand, Mr Krishna stressed the need to offer a narrative of opportunity to counter the anxiety of uncertainty, instability and foreign interference. He said investments can provide the hope for employment, training and opportunity for the future.

India and South Korea have decided to enhance engagement in civil nuclear energy cooperation as well as space activities, including the launch of Korean satellites by India.

The two sides also evaluated the progress and expansion of their Strategic Partnership during the 2nd India-Republic of Korea, Foreign Policy and Security Dialogue in New Delhi.

An External Affairs Ministry release says that both the sides reviewed the status of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and global issues of interest including the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Republic of Korea are likely to visit India later this year.

Indian side was led by Sanjay Singh, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, while the Korean side was headed by Ahn Ho-young, First Vice Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Economic Issues

Country's largest lender SBI has cut interest rate on loans to exporters by 0.5 per cent within days of the Reserve Bank increasing the export refinancing limits of banks. SBI Chairman Pratip Chaudhuri has told in Mumbai that the decision was taken at asset liability committee (Alco) meeting.

Export credit is linked to the bank's base rate and varies from 2.5 per cent to 6 per cent above that depending on various factors including credit rating of the exporter. SBI base rate is 10 per cent. SBI has recently announced up to 3.5 per cent cut in lending rates to top-rated corporates, SMEs and farm loan borrowers but not for individuals, effective June 1.

To address investor concerns over taxation issues, the Finance Ministry has proposed a monetary limit for invoking the controversial General Anti-Tax Avoidance Rules, GAAR in its draft guidelines issued late last night.

Although the draft did not specify the monetary limit, it said that those deals which are over a prescribed limit should be covered by GAAR provisions. The guidelines further said that GAAR provisions would be invoked only in cases where FIIs choose to take the benefit of double tax avoidance treaties.

The provisions, it said will apply only to the income arising to taxpayers on or after April 1, 2013. The draft guidelines also proposed setting up a three-member Approving Panel to decide whether a particular case would attract the provisions of the GAAR.

The Centre is planning to conduct the Sixth Economic Census as a Central Sector Plan Scheme in collaboration with all states and Union territories.

This was stated by the Minister of State for Statistics and Programme Implementation, Mr Srikant Kumar Jena while addressing a function in New Delhi to mark the Statistics Day. The Minister said it will provide the official count of entrepreneurial units located in geographical boundaries of the country involved in economic activities.


Surjeet Singh, an Indian prisoner in Pakistan jail for the last 30 years has crossed over to his motherland, after being released by Pak government.
He was arrested by Pakistan in 1981 allegedly for spying and was given death sentence which was later commuted to life sentence in 1989.

New Zealand, Alan Isaac took charge from him for a two-year term at the ICC Annual Conference in Kuala Lumpur.

The 60-year-old Isaac, a former New Zealand Cricket chief, became the eighth president of the ICC, while former South Africa wicket-kepeer David Richardson was confirmed as the new chief executive of the world body, taking over from countryman Haroon Lorgat.

Science and Technology minister Vilasrao Deshmukh took the additional charge of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. The development comes in the wake of resignation of former Union Minister Virbhadra Singh from the Cabinet.

Mohammed Mursi has been sworn in as the first democratically elected President of Egypt.



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