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February 2018 International Affairs

  • As a policy change Saudi women to start own businesses without male permission
    Women in Saudi Arabia can now open their own businesses without the consent of a husband or male relative. The policy change, announced by the Saudi government, also marks a major step away from the strict guardianship system that has ruled the country for decades. 

    The ministry of commerce and investment said on its website that women can now launch their own businesses and benefit from governmental e-services without having to prove consent from a guardian. 

    Under Saudi Arabia's guardianship system, women are required to present proof of permission from a male guardian - normally the husband, father or brother - to do any government paperwork, travel or enrol in classes. The kingdom has also opened 140 positions for women at airports and border crossings, a historic first that the government said drew 107,000 female applicants. 

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful heir to the Saudi throne, has been leading the drive to expand the role of women in the workforce in recent months. 

  • Khaleda Zia not eligible to contest polls: Bangladesh CEC
    In Bangladesh, Chief Election Commissioner, CEC on 19th February said BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia, who was convicted in a graft case, is not eligible to contest the next general election in the current perspective. The CEC said the Election Commission expects that BNP would be able to take part in the election, but if the party does not do so, the commission will have nothing to do. 

  • Indonesia volcano erupts, spewing a 5,000-metre ash cloud
    Indonesia's Mount Sinabung, which has been active since 2010, spewed volcanic ash as high as 5,000 metres into the air, as it erupted on 19th February. 

    The 2,460 metre-high volcano sent a hot cloud of ash in the southern and southeastern direction, according to a volcanologist report. But the eruption did not disrupt flight paths at the nearest city of Medan and Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no casualties were reported. 

    This was the biggest ever eruption of the volcano in 2018. Before an eruption in August 2010, Mount Sinabung had been inactive for four centuries. 

    Indonesia straddles the so-called "pacific ring of fire" and is prone to seismic activities and occasional eruptions. 

  • Maldives Govt extends emergency by another 30 days
    Maldives government on 20th February extended emergency in the country by another 30 days, after Parliament approved President Abdulla Yameen’s request. Only 38 MPs were present for the vote, despite 43 lawmakers being needed for the vote to take place as required by the constitution. 

    The voting took place on 20th February hours before the state of emergency was due to expire. All 38 MPs who voted for the extension were from the ruling party. 

    Opposition MPs boycotted the session to ensure the vote could not happen but the extension was approved anyway. Opposition MPs accused the speaker of bypassing the constitution and said the state of emergency was illegal. 

    According to the constitution, any vote that requires compliance by the people has to be taken with the presence of more than half of all MPs in 85 member house. 

    The state of emergency will end on March 22. Earlier, President Office in a statement had said that Parliamentary standing committee on national security voted to extend the emergency after it was deliberated by Parliament on 19th February. The statement said that restrictions on removal of President, cabinet ministers and prosecutor general have been removed. 

  • Amnesty International releases annual global survey of human rights
    The crisis in Myanmar and reported massacres of Rohingya Muslims are the consequence of a society encouraged to hate and a lack of global leadership on human rights, Amnesty International said on 22nd February. 

    The human rights group said in its annual report covering 159 countries that "hate-filled rhetoric" by leaders was normalizing discrimination against minorities. 

    More than 6,500 Rohingya Muslims are currently trapped on a strip of unclaimed land between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Amnesty said the international community had failed to respond robustly to "crimes against humanity and war crimes from Myanmar to Iraq, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen".

    It said that leaders in countries such as the United States, Russia and China were not standing up for civil liberties and instead were "callously undermining the rights of millions".

  • Pakistan Supreme Court bans Nawaz Sharif from leading his party
    Pakistan’s Supreme Court has barred Nawaz Sharif from his position as president of the country’s ruling party, ordering the reversal of all decisions he has taken in the role, in a move that plunges the country’s politics into fresh uncertainty. 

    The former prime minister, who was sacked by the Supreme Court last year, had managed to retain power by driving through a law that allowed disqualified politicians to lead political parties. 

    Twice-deposed in coups during the 1990s, the 68-year-old has long claimed his most recent eviction as prime minister is the result of a shadowy, anti-democratic conspiracy concocted between the judiciary and behind the scenes the army. 

  • Syria War: Russia says no agreement on ceasefire resolution
    The Russian Envoy cited concerns over enforcing the ceasefire and questioned the feasibility of quickly launching a major aid operation to reach civilians and lift sieges. 

    After two weeks of negotiations, Russia has told the UN Security Council that there was still no agreement on a 30-day ceasefire in Syria. The Russian envoy to the UN told an emergency meeting of the Security Council that Russia would not support the ceasefire resolution put forward by Sweden and Kuwait in its present form, calling it unrealistic. 

    The Russian Envoy cited concerns over enforcing the ceasefire and questioned the feasibility of quickly launching a major aid operation to reach civilians and lift sieges. 

    The draft, put forward by Kuwait and Sweden, calls for a 30-day nationwide truce to go into effect 72 hours after the resolution is passed. Medical evacuations and aid deliveries would start 48 hours after that. The draft says 5.6 million people in 1,244 communities across the country are in acute need. 

    In November, Russia used its veto to block a resumption of UN investigations into the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces. 

  • Syria war: UN Security Council approves 30-day ceasefire
    The UN Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in Syria to allow aid deliveries and medical evacuations. However, some of the biggest jihadist rebel groups, and their associates, are not covered by the truce, raising questions about its real impact. 

    The Eastern Ghouta rebel enclave near Damascus has been bombarded by government forces for the past week. After the vote in New York, activists said air strikes were continuing. 

    The vote had been delayed several times since 22nd February as members struggled to come to an agreement. Russia, an ally of Syria's government, wanted changes, while Western diplomats accused Moscow of stalling for time. 

    Some 500 people are said to have been killed by government forces in the enclave since 3rd week of February while rebels fire on Damascus has reportedly killed at least 16 civilians. 

  • UN Security Council fails to back appeal for Syria humanitarian truce
    The UN Security Council has failed to back an appeal from UN aid officials for a month- long humanitarian ceasefire in Syria, where four days of government raids have killed scores of civilians. Russia dismissed the proposal as unrealistic but Kuwait and Sweden, which requested the meeting, said they were considering other ways to address the worsening humanitarian crisis in the war-wracked country. 

    The UN humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, called for the month-long ceasefire to reach civilians in need as fighting in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib escalated. During the closed-door session, council members heard UN aid chief Mark Lowcock appeal again for the pause in fighting to allow safe access to civilians, diplomats said. But there was no agreement on a council statement, which requires consensus among the 15 members

    French Ambassador Francois Delattre called for a strong response from the council ahead of the meeting, appealing for an immediate ceasefire and unhindered access for aid workers. 

    UN aid officials accuse the Syrian government of blocking all aid convoys to besieged areas since January. More than 13.1 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian aid, including 6.1 million who have been displaced within the country during the nearly seven-year war. 

  • 2300 Army personnel to join UN peace keeping mission in South Sudan
    About 2,300 Army personnel are leaving for South Sudan to join the UN peace keeping mission in the war-torn African country. 

    According to the Army Spokesperson Col Aman Anand in New Delhi that to support the United Nations efforts in bringing peace and normalcy in a war torn country of South Sudan, Indian Army is contributing around 2,300 personnel. 

    He said the Army personnel, joining the UN mission, are from Infantry battalion of Garhwal Rifles regiment. 

    According to official figures, India is the largest cumulative troop contributor, having provided almost 200,000 troops in nearly 50 of the 71 UN peacekeeping missions over the past six decades, including 13 of the current 16 missions. 

  • Pakistan amends anti-terror law to include Hafiz Saeed-linked Jamaat-ud-Dawa as terrorist organisation
    Keen to avert international sanctions, Pakistan has quietly amended its anti-terror laws to include Hafiz Saeed-linked Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation (FIF) and other terrorist outfits on the list of UN proscribed groups. 

    A major impact of a new ordinance promulgated by Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain would be the proscription of Saeed-linked JuD and FIF along with the UN listed outfits of Al Akhtar Trust and Al Rashid Trust. 

    Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, heads the charity JuD, believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group. 

    The report said, the move to amend the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 ends an old discrepancy between the UN sanctions list and the national listing of terrorist groups and individuals. It has come ahead of the crucial Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meeting in Paris, scheduled to be held from 18th to 23rd of this month. 

    The US and India are spearheading an effort to get Pakistan included in the watchdog's international money-laundering and terror-financing grey list. Pakistan was last placed on FATF's grey list in February 2012 and stayed on it for three years. 

  • Venezuela, Libya lose UN vote for third time
    Venezuela and Libya have been suspended from voting in the UN General Assembly for the third time in three years because of millions of dollars in unpaid dues to the world body. 

    Secretary-General Antonio Guterres informed the General Assembly in late January that 14 countries including Venezuela and Libya were in arrears, and Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma confirmed on 14th February that Venezuela has lost its vote in the 193-member global organisation as a result. Libya did as well. 

    According to a letter from Guterres to the Assembly president, Venezuela must pay a minimum of USD 25,200,296 to restore its voting rights and Libya must pay at least USD 6,594,842. Venezuela is mired in an economic and political crisis and Libya has two rival governments, each backed by an array of militias. 

  • Aung San Suu Kyi 'complicit' in Rohingya slaughter: UN investigator
    The United Nations investigator of human rights in Myanmar has accused Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of “complicity” in the slaughter of Rohingya Muslims, an event which has the “hallmarks of genocide”. 

    Yanghee Lee, a leading child rights expert appointed to the UN post in 2014, said it is possible that Myanmar’s defacto leader could eventually face charges relating to genocide or crimes against humanity in an international tribunal. 

    In the UN’s strongest condemnation yet of the one-time hero of democratic rights, Lee said Suu Kyi is either in denial or far removed from the Myanmar military’s atrocities against Rohingya in the country’s Rakhine State, including mass killings, rapes and the burnings of children, which have been extensively documented. 

    Ethiopia declares national state of emergency
    • A state of emergency has been declared in Ethiopia after the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.
    • Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation citing a decision by the Council of Ministers said in Addis Ababa on 16th February that a state of emergency has been declared as of now.
    • However, it was not immediately clear how long it would last.
    • Hailemariam, who has sat at the helm of the government since 2012, announced he would be stepping down as the Prime Minister and head of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition.
    • He said he saw his resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.
    • The government has been under pressure because of continuing street protests in the country.
    • In August 2017, Ethiopia lifted a 10-month state of emergency imposed after hundreds of people were killed in anti-government protests.


  • North Korea cancels joint cultural performance with South Korea
    South Korea's Unification Ministry said on 29th January that North Korea has abruptly cancelled a joint cultural performance with South Korea that is scheduled for the 4th of next month, blaming South Korean media for encouraging so-called insulting public sentiment regarding the North. 

    Seoul said North Korea's decision to cancel the joint performance is very regrettable and stressed Pyongyang should uphold all agreements made between North and South Korea. The joint cultural event is slated to be held at Mount Kumgang in North Korea. 

  • US lifts ban on refugees from 11 countries
    The United States has announced it was lifting its ban on refugees from 11 "high-risk" countries, but said those seeking to enter the US would come under much tougher scrutiny than in the past. Applicants from 11 countries, unnamed but understood to include 10 Muslim-majority nations plus North Korea, will face tougher risk-based assessments to be accepted. 

    The 11 countries, hit with a ban in October in the Trump administration's revised refugee policy, have not been identified officially. But refugee groups say they comprise Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 

  • India's foreign policy has become vibrant, assertive: Chinese think-tank
    India's foreign policy has become vibrant and assertive under the Modi Government with its risk-taking ability also on the rise. This was stated by Rong Ying, Vice President of China Institute of International Studies, a think-tank affiliated to Chinese Foreign Ministry, in an article in the CIIS journal, the first of its kind by a Chinese think tank on the Modi Government so far. 

    He said over the past three years, India's diplomacy has been vibrant and assertive, and has formed a distinctive and unique 'Modi Doctrine', a strategy for the rise of India as a great power in the new situation. 

    Rong, who also served as a diplomat in India, took a critical look at India's relations with China, South and South East Asia, India's closer relations with US and Japan, saying Indian foreign policy under him has become increasingly assertive while offering mutual benefits. 

    On India-China ties, Rong said since Modi took office, the development of overall relations between the two countries has maintained steady momentum. Rong, also a senior research fellow at the CIIS, said India and China should stick to the strategic consensus of mutual support for each other's development. 

    On the future formula for ties, he said as major countries on the rise, India and China are both partners and competitors. 

    India’s huge market potential will bring about opportunities for the successful transformation of China’s economy, especially for Chinese enterprises going global,he added. 

  • China successfully launches first seismo-electromagnetic satellite
    China on 2nd February successfully launched its first seismo-electromagnetic satellite to study seismic precursors, which might help it establish a ground-space earthquake monitoring and forecasting network in the future. A Long March-2D rocket, which was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gobi Desert, carried the 730-kilogramme China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES) into a sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of about 500 Kms. 

    Known as Zhangheng 1 in Chinese, it will help scientists monitor the electromagnetic field, ionospheric plasma and high-energy particles for an expected mission life of five years. 

    Zhangheng 1 will record electromagnetic data associated with earthquakes above 6 magnitude in China and those above 7 magnitude around the world, in a bid to identify patterns in the electromagnetic disturbances in the near-Earth environment. 

    Zhangheng 1 cannot be used to predict earthquakes directly, but it will help prepare the research and technologies for a ground-space earthquake monitoring and forecasting system in the future. 

  • North Korea earned nearly 200 million dollars last year by exporting banned commodities: UN
    A UN report says, North Korea earned nearly 200 million dollars last year by exporting banned commodities in breach of international sanctions. The confidential report by a panel of experts said, several countries including China, Russia and Malaysia had failed to stop the illegal exports. 

    It said, there is evidence of military co-operation with Syria and Myanmar. Pyongyang is subject to sanctions from the US, UN and EU over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. 

    But the report, which was submitted to the UN Security Council and seen by news agencies, said the North continued to export almost all the commodities prohibited in the resolutions between January and September 2017. 

    The report said, several unnamed multinational oil companies are being investigated for their alleged role in supplying petroleum products to North Korea. 

    It said, shipments of coal had been delivered to China, Malaysia, South Korea, Russia and Vietnam in breach of sanctions using a combination of multiple evasion techniques, routes and deceptive tactics. 

    China's embassy in North Korea denied flouting Security Council sanctions, but said in a statement that the two neighbours had maintained normal trade exchanges.
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