February 2017 International Affairs

  • JPG’s formed achieving sustainable Development Goals 
    The South Asian Speakers Summit decided to form joint parliamentary groups for achieving sustainable Development Goals. On the first day of the summit speakers of six countries deliberated on ways to achieve sustainable development goals. 

    The Parliament of India and Inter Parliamentary Union are jointly organizing the event. The South Asian Speakers’ Summit will explore the possibility of setting up joint parliamentary groups and these can look at women and child development and job creation. 


    Presiding officers of South Asian Nations, especially Afghanistan came down heavily on Pakistan for sponsoring terrorism in the region. The speakers would discuss on climate change and natural disaster to prepare the final draft of the 'Indore -Declaration'. 



  • Seven million Yemenis are closer than ever to starvation: UN
    Seven million Yemenis are closer than ever to starvation, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country warned on 21st February. This comes almost two years since a conflict escalated between the government and rebels. 
    Yemen's war pits the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Huthi rebels allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The fighting has intensified since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of the government in March 2015 after the Huthis seized the capital the previous September. 


  • 1.4 million Children face famine in four countries: UNICEF
    Almost 1.4 million children suffering from severe malnutrition could die this year from famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, the UN children's agency said. In Yemen, where war has been raging for nearly two years, 462,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition while 450,000 children are severely malnourished in northeast Nigeria. 
    Drought in Somalia has left 185,000 children on the brink of famine but that figure is expected to reach 270,000 in the next few months, said UNICEF. In South Sudan, over 270,000 children are malnourished and a famine has just been declared in parts of Unity State in the north of the country, where 20,000 children live. 


  • South Africa's decision to leave ICC ruled 'invalid'
    South Africa's decision to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been ruled unconstitutional and invalid by the High Court. South Africa notified the UN of its intention to leave in October, 2016 accusing the ICC of undermining its sovereignty. 


    The decision to pull out came after a dispute over Sudanese President Omar al-Bashar's visit to the country in 2015. South African authorities refused to arrest Mr Bashir despite him facing an ICC arrest warrant over alleged war crimes. Mr Bashir was attending an African Union summit in Johannesburg, when the government ignored an ICC request to arrest him. 



  • US issues tough guidelines 
    The Trump Administration has issued tough guidelines to widen the net for deporting illegal immigrants from the US, and speed up their removal. The new guidelines issued on 21st February, expand deportations to undocumented immigrants who have been charged with a crime, misrepresented themselves, pose a risk to public safety, or have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits. 

    New guidelines allow Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport people immediately. Local and state law-enforcement officials will also be allowed to arrest unauthorised immigrants. 



  • 9th BRICS Summit to be held in China's Xiamen city
    The ninth BRICS Summit will be held in China's Xiamen city from September 3 to 5, 2017. The First Sherpa Meeting of the summit in Nanjing was conducted on 23rd February. The theme of this year's event is 'BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future'. 

    The First BRICS Sherpa Meeting aims to lay the groundwork for the BRICS leaders' summit in September. The meeting attracted more than 100 participants, including coordinators from all sides, foreign diplomats, and representatives from the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB). 



  • Gender gaps in digital access threaten to ‘leave women behind’: UN report
    Wide gender gaps in access to the internet as well as mobile phone ownership threaten to “leave women behind” as countries develop, says a report by the UN high-level panel, calling for digital inclusion, especially of poor women, to achieve one of the key Sustainable Development Goals — economic empowerment of women — by 2030. 

    Worldwide, some 2.3 billion women do not have internet access and more than 1.7 billion do not own a mobile phone. Some 200 million fewer women than men have online access or mobile phones, says the recent report “Leave No One Behind’. 

    Pointing out that globally women on average are 14 per cent less likely than men to own a mobile phone, the report said in South Asia, this gap was at 38 per cent, with only 43 per cent women owning smart phones. 

    Prevalent social norms that deem digital use as “inappropriate” for women, such as in India, was also a key factor impeding the use of internet by women, the report said. 

    In Egypt and India, women were up to six times more likely than women in Uganda to report that internet was not appropriate for them or that their friends and family would disapprove of their using it. 

    The report cited a survey of 10 developing countries, where about 13 per cent women and 18 per cent men reported experiencing harassment in phone or text messages, while 13 per cent women and 11 per cent men using the internet reported harassment from emails or social media. 


  • Switzerland votes to relax its citizenship rules
    People in Switzerland have voted to relax the country's strict citizenship rules, making it easier for third-generation immigrants to become Swiss. Initial projections suggest that 59% of Swiss voters said yes to simplify the rules. Being born in Switzerland does not guarantee citizenship. Non-Swiss residents must typically wait 12 years before applying. 

    The new proposal will exempt third-generation immigrants, who are born in Switzerland and whose parents and grandparents lived permanently in Switzerland, from interviews and tests in the naturalization process. 


  • North Korea fires ballistic missile
    North Korea fired a ballistic missile on 12 February, the first since Donald Trump became US president. The missile, launched around 7:55 am (local time) from Banghyon air base in the western province of North Pyongan Province, flew east towards the Sea of Japan. 


  • UNSC meeting on North Korea missile test
    The United States, Japan and South Korea has requested an urgent United States meeting to discuss North Korea's latest missile test. The US mission to the UN said in a statement that the United States anticipates a meeting on 14th February. 


  • Paris to erect wall of bulletproof glass around Eiffel Tower
    Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris announced that a 2.5-meter high bulletproof glass wall would be erected around the city’s most treasured monument, the Eiffel Tower. The security measure has been undertaken in order to protect the iconic architecture from the threat of terrorism. The Eiffel Tower is visited by over 6 million people every year. 


  • UNSC unanimously condemns North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch
    The UN Security Council has unanimously condemned North Korea's latest ballistic missile launch and threatened to take further significant measures against Pyongyang. The Council members including China, Pyongyang's main ally, agreed on a US-drafted statement describing the test-firing of the missile as a grave violation of the UN resolutions. 

    United States, Japan and South Korea on 13th February requested the urgent meeting after North Korea announced it had successfully tested a new missile on 12th February, the first launch since US President Donald Trump took office. 


  • Lahore High Court allows Pakistani private channels to show Indian films
    In Pakistan, the Lahore High Court has allowed private television channels to show Indian films. The court passed an interim order for channels having valid licenses to show Indian films as per their terms of agreement with the country's regulatory authority. 

    The order was passed on a petition challenging ban on airing Indian content on cable TV network. Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) had, in October, banned private channels from airing Indian content. 


  • European Parliament approves free trade deal with Canada
    The European Parliament has approved a landmark free trade deal with Canada. EU lawmakers backed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement by 408 to 254 votes despite crowds of protesters contesting the deal outside. 

    It means parts of the deal, such as tariff reduction, will come into force eight years after negotiations began. But other, more controversial aspects of the deal, such as the investor court system, will require ratification by EU member states which could take years. 


  • Two-state solution remains only: Israel-Palestine peace
    The two-state solution remains “the only way” to meet the aspirations of the Palestinians and Israelis, the UN envoy for the West Asia peace process told the Security Council on 16th February. The council met to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a day after President Donald Trump stepped back from the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution as part of a final peace deal. 

    The envoy urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “carefully contemplate the future”, which he warned could be one “built on perpetual conflict, rising extremism and occupation”. 


  • UAE to build first city on Mars by 2117
    The UAE has unveiled plans to build the first city on Mars by 2117 as the energy-rich country looks to transport people to the Red Planet over the next few decades. 

    Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the 100-year national project on which the Gulf state would collaborate with specialised international organisations and scientific institutes. 

    The announcement was made on the sidelines of the World Government Summit in the presence of representatives of 138 governments, six major international organisations, as well as leading international tech companies. 


  • Pakistan senate passes landmark bill to regulate Hindu marriages
    In Pakistan, the much-awaited landmark bill to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in the country is set to become a law. The Hindu Marriage Bill 2017, the first elaborate Hindu community's personal law, has unanimously been adopted by the Senate. 

    The bill is widely acceptable to Hindus living in Pakistan because it relates to marriage, registration of marriage, separation and remarriage, with the minimum age of marriage set at 18 years for both boys and girls. The bill will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage. It will be the first personal law for Pakistani Hindus, applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. 


  • Pak Punjab govt. put Hafiz Saeed on restriction
    Mumbai attack mastermind and JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, who is under house arrest, has now been listed under Pakistan's anti-terrorism act, a tacit acknowledgement of his links to militancy. 

    The Pakistan Punjab government has included names of Saeed and one of his close aides, Qazi Kashif, in the fourth schedule of the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA). Those listed face a barrage of legal consequences like travel bans and scrutiny of assets. 


  • Israel passes law legalizing 4000 homes in occupied West Bank
    Israel's parliament has passed a law retroactively legalizing about 4,000 homes built on settlements in the occupied West Bank. The law passed by 60 votes to 52. It states that the original Palestinian landowners will be compensated with money or alternative land. 

    The new US President Donald Trump has taken a softer stance on Israel's settlements than his predecessor, Barack Obama, despite widespread international opposition. Palestinians condemned the law. 


  • Attorney Generals in 16 US states oppose Trump's travel ban
    In the United States, as many as 16 Attorney Generals have joined the movement, opposing President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations. 

    16 States have filed amicus curiae brief in the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals against the Executive Order, before whom the Trump Administration has challenged the stay order passed by a federal Court in Seattle. 


  • China blocks bid against Azhar at UN
    China has once again opposed a bid by US, UK and France to designate Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist by the UN. India raised the issue with the Chinese govt even as NIA special court declared him and 3 others proclaimed offenders. 

    China has put a "hold" on the proposal, which comes barely weeks after India's bid to get Azhar banned by the UN were scuttled by Beijing December, 2016. 


  • UK House of Commons passes Brexit bill
    British MPs agreed in House of Commons to let the government begin the UK's departure from the EU as they voted for the Brexit bill. The draft legislation was approved by 494 votes to 122, and now moves to the House of Lords. 

    PM Theresa May wants to trigger formal Brexit talks by the end of March. She will do this by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, but requires Parliament's permission before doing so. 


  • Trump-backed Bill seeks to cut legal immigrants by half
    Two top U.S. Senators have proposed legislation to cut the number of legal immigrants to the U.S. by half within a decade, a move that could adversely hit those aspiring to get a green card or permanent residency in the U.S., including a large number of Indians. 

    The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or Raise Act, introduced by Republican Senator Tom Cotton and David Perdue from the Democratic Party, would alter the U.S. immigration system to significantly reduce the number of foreigners admitted to the country without a skills-based visa. 


  • Britain limits lone child refugees
    Britain's Conservative government has placed a limit on the number of lone child refugees it will accept into the country, citing fears that people traffickers were exploiting the system. 

    Some 350 children will be allowed, far less than the 3,000 originally expected under the law that had been aimed at helping some of the tens of thousands of migrant children across Europe. Some 200 children have been brought in thus far. 

    Lawmakers in the House of Commons accused Rudd of trying to more closely align the country with President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria, a move that has sparked protests in the US and abroad. 


  • All members of UNSC should follow rules: China on Masood Azhar's ban
    Reacting guardedly to India's diplomatic protests over its move to block US resolution to list Pakistan-based JeM leader Masood Azhar as a terrorist, China on 10th February hoped all members of the UN Security Council who are part of the anti-terrorism committee will follow rules. 

    According to the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang, China is a responsible member of the UNSC as well as a subsidiary organ. China has always been acting in accordance with UNSC resolutions and rules of procedure of its subsidiary organs. 

    On February 8, Lu defended China's move to block a US attempt to list Azhar in the UN list of designated terrorists saying that the "conditions" have not yet been met for Beijing to back the move. He said Beijing resorted to this move to allow the "relevant parties" to reach a consensus. 


  • China releases theme for BRICS Summit 2017
    2017 BRICS summit to be held in Xiamen, China in September 2017, the summit will be held under the theme “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future “. Deepening cooperation, Strengthening global governance, Carrying out people-to-people exchanges, Making institutional improvements and Building broader partnerships. 


  • Strong quake strikes southern Philippines
    A powerful earthquake of 6.7 magnitudes in the southern Philippines killed at least six people and injured more than 120, with officials combing through cracked buildings and nearby towns on 11th February to check on the damage and other possible casualties. 

    The quake was centered about 16 kilometers (8 miles) northwest of the provincial capital of Surigao at a relatively shallow depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles), said Renato Solidum of the Philippine Institute of Seismology and Volcanology. Nearly 100 aftershocks have been felt. 


  • US judge blocks deportations following President Trump's immigration ban order
    A US judge has issued a temporary halt to the deportation of visa holders or refugees stranded at airports after President Donald Trump issued an order barring entry to them for 90 days. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a case in response to the order issued on 28th January. Thousands of people have been protesting at US airports over Mr. Trump's clampdown on immigration. 

    The ruling from federal Judge Ann Donnelly, in New York, prevented the removal from the US of people with approved refugee applications, valid visas, and other individuals legally authorised to enter the United States. 


  • Trump gives US military 30 days to prepare anti-ISIS strategy
    President Donald Trump signed an executive order on January 28th giving the US military 30 days to devise a plan to "defeat" the Islamic State group. The plan makes good on a key campaign pledge of Trump, who mocked and criticised the slow pace of his predecessor Barack Obama's progress in the fight against the extremist fighters. 

    The text, which calls for a "comprehensive strategy and plans for the defeat of ISIS," is seen as meaning more US forces and military hardware moving into Iraq and Syria. 


  • Washington state sues Trump over immigration order
    Washington state's attorney general has said he is suing President Donald Trump over the order. Attorney General Bob Ferguson became the first state attorney general to announce a legal action against the Trump administration over one of its policies. 

    Meanwhile, outrage and protest has been growing across the US and the world against the travel ban imposed against people of 7 Muslim-majority countries by Donald Trump. Protests witnessed against President Donald Trump's executive order from outside the White House to airports across the country. 


  • 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. 

    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 the base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS) Action Plan adopted by the OECD and G20 countries in 2013. 


  • British PM receives Parliament's approval to begin Brexit process
    UK Prime Minister Theresa May has received Parliament's approval to begin the process of Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) after winning a crucial vote in the House of Commons on 31st January. British MPs voted in favour of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. The bill now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law. 


  • UK unveils Brexit plan
    The UK government on 2nd February unveiled a policy document on its negotiating plans for quitting the 28-nation European Union under a mutually beneficial deal. The document cites India as among the key countries on its target list for stronger trade ties post-Brexit. 

    David Davis, minister for exiting the European Union (EU), told the House of Commons, that the government will publish another White Paper before the Great Repeal Bill. The White Paper comes a day after British MPs voted in favour of May invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon to trigger the two-year timeline to negotiate a new deal as a non-member of EU. 


  • US imposes new sanctions on Iran
    The United States has imposed new sanctions on Iran following its recent ballistic missile test. The sanctions target 13 people and 12 companies, including groups in China, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. 

    US Treasury Department's Acting Sanctions Chief, John Smith said in a statement that Iran's continued support to terrorism and development of its ballistic missile programme pose a threat to the region, the United States and its partners worldwide. Iran has denounced the sanctions as illegal. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said, Tehran would impose legal restrictions on American individuals and entities helping regional terrorist groups. 


  • Federal Judge in Seattle temporarily blocks Trump's executive order
    US Customs and Border Protection has informed US airlines that they can resume boarding travellers who had been barred by an executive order in last week of January, 2017, after it was blocked nationwide by a federal judge in Seattle. 

    The district court on 3rd February issued a temporary nationwide block on President Donald Trump's ban on travellers from seven mainly Muslim nations. Federal Judge James Robart ruled against government lawyers' claims that US states did not have the standing to challenge Mr. Trump's executive order. 


  • UN removes Afghan warlord Hekmatyar from designated terrorists list
    The United Nations has removed Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar from its list of designated terrorists. It also lifted the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo imposed on the insurgent leader. The Security Council's al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee said in a statement that it has removed Hekmatyar's name from the ISIS (Da'esh) and Al-Qaida Sanctions List. 

    A former Prime Minister and a prominent anti-Soviet commander in the 1980s was listed on February 20, 2003. He had signed a landmark peace agreement with Kabul last September. Following the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan and fall of the Taliban, the US State Department designated him as a terrorist, accusing him of taking part in and supporting attacks by al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

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