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July 2017 International Affairs

  • Netaji didn't die in air crash: French report
    French Secret Committee had given a different report, on the death of Indian freedom fighter Subhash Chandrabose. The Indian government had appointed three commissions. The Shah Nawaz Committee(1956) and Khosla Commission (1970) said that Bose died in an air crash on August 18, 1945 at Taihoku airport in Japanese-occupied Taipei, while the Mukherjee Commission (1999) concluded that he did not die in an air-crash. The government, however, rejected the findings of the Mukherjee Commission. But that didn't stop scholars from dwelling deep to find the truth. 

    Paris-based historian J B P More, who recently stumbled upon a brief French secret service report dated December 11, 1947 at the National Archives of France, has come up with a finding that Bose didn't die in an air crash and was still alive in 1947. 

    The gist of the matter for the French secret service, according to More, is that Bose did not die in the air crash on August 18, 1945, as commonly held. "But he escaped from Indochina alive and his whereabouts were unknown as late as December 11, 1947, as reported in the secret document. This implies that he was alive somewhere but not dead in 1947," said More, quoting the report written for the "Haut Commisariat de France for Indochina "SDECE Indochinese Base BCRI No. 41283 csah Ex No. 616, under the title: "Archival Information on Subhas Chandra Bose." "In this report, it is clearly stated that he was the ex-chief of the Indian Independence League and a member of Hikari Kikan, a Japanese organisation. It is further stated clearly that he escaped from Indochina, though it does not state how," he said. 

  • 80,000 children under age five suffering from acute hunger in Myanmar: UN
    Over 80,000 children under the age of five living in Muslim-majority areas of western Myanmar are "wasting" and will need treatment for acute malnutrition over the next year, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a report on 17th July. 

    The report from the UN agency was based on an assessment of villages in Rakhine state, where some 75,000 stateless Muslim Rohingya people have fled a bloody army crackdown, reports the Guardian. 

    Those who remain are now reeling from a food crisis, with WFP finding one-third of homes are experiencing extreme food deprivation in Maungdaw, one district particularly affected by the violence. This includes episodes of no food in the house or not eating for 24 hours. 

    No children under the age of two met minimum adequate diet requirements, the assessment found, while 225,000 people need humanitarian assistance. 

  • Suicide bomb attacks killing more Afghan civilians: United Nations
    The United Nations on 17th July called on insurgent groups in Afghanistan to curb attacks on civilians after more than 5,000 non-combatants were killed or wounded in the first six months of 2017. 

    The war in Afghanistan killed at least 1,662 civilians and wounded 3,581 in the first half of the year, roughly similar to the toll in the same period in 2016, U.N. investigators said in a statement released on 17th July

    Deaths and injuries from suicide-bombings and other “complex attacks” rose 15 percent, with at least 40 percent of all civilian casualties caused by anti-government groups using improvised explosives, including along roadsides. 

    In May, a massive truck bomb in the heart of the capital, Kabul, detonated by a suicide attacker, killed at least 92 people and wounding nearly 500 in what the United Nations called the “deadliest incident documented” since the international military intervention that toppled the Taliban regime in 2001. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. 

    Kabul has accounted for nearly 20 percent of all civilian casualties this year. The investigators said the Taliban were responsible for at least 43 percent of all civilian casualties. Islamic State was blamed for 5 percent, while unidentified anti-government forces accounted for another 19 percent of the total. 

  • US Slaps Sanctions on Iran Over Ballistic Missiles, Terrorism
    The US on 18th July announced fresh sanctions against Iran, targeting 18 individuals or entities for supporting the country's ballistic missile programme or radical groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that threaten Israel and stability in the Middle East. 

    The move came a day after the Trump administration told the Congress that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal signed two years ago with the US and other world powers, and as such would continue to be exempted from American sanctions. Iran continues to test and develop ballistic missiles in direct defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, according to US

    On 18th July, the State Department notified the Congress that the US continues to waive sanctions as required to continue implementing sanctions-lifting commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

  • World's first double hand transplant surgery a success
    The world's first double hand transplant surgery has been a success as the 10 year old child who received it, is now able to write, dress and even play baseball. Zion Harvey of the US was two-years-old when he had sepsis, a life-threatening infection. Doctors had to remove both his hands at the wrist, and his legs below the knee. He was given new hands when he was eight-years-old. 

    Double hand transplantation is a complex procedure involving many surgical and non-surgical components. Although the first ever double-hand transplant was done in 1998, Harvey became the youngest to ever undergo the procedure. 

  • Pakistan among countries providing 'safe havens' to terrorists: US
    The US on 19th July listed Pakistan among the nations and regions providing "safe havens" to terrorists, saying terror groups like the LeT and JeM continued to operate, train, organise and fundraise inside the country in 2016. 

    In the report of US state department's 'Country Report on Terrorism 2016', the segments on South and Central Asia vindicated India's long-standing position on the menace of cross-border terrorism in the region. 

    In its annual 'Country Report on Terrorism', as mandated by the Congress, the State Department said that Pakistani military and security forces undertook operations against groups that conducted attacks within Pakistan such as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. 

    The Indian government continued to closely monitor the domestic threat from transnational terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which made threats against India in their terrorist propaganda. A number of individuals were arrested for ISIS-affiliated recruitment and attack plotting within India, the report said. In a separate chapter, the State Department listed Pakistan as one of the safe havens of terrorism. 

    The State Department said that numerous terrorist groups, including the Haqqani Network (HQN), the LeT and JeM continued to operate from Pakistani soil in 2016. 

  • Australia joins International Solar Alliance led by India and France
    Australia became the 35th country to join the International Solar Alliance (ISA), an initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2015 in Paris. The larger aim of ISA is to mobilise over $ 1000 billion by 2030 towards promoting solar power on all fronts generation and storage. India is contributing $1 million to the ISA fund the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) and Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). 

  • UK moves to tighten rules on drone use
    British officials announced plans to regulate drone use in an attempt to prevent accidents and threats to commercial aviation. The new rules, announced on 22nd July, will require drones that weigh 226.79 grammes or more to be registered, and users will have to pass a safety awareness exam

  • EU-Japan trade deal
    The European Union and Japan announced a broad agreement that would lower barriers on virtually all the goods traded between them, a pointed challenge to US President Donald Trump on the eve of a summit meeting of world leaders in Germany. 

    Though the deal still needs further negotiation and approval before it can take effect, it represents an act of geopolitical theater. 

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan said the deal signified the creation of “the world’s largest free, advanced, industrialised economic zone.” 

    The main aspects of the deal: 
    The Europeans are expected to scrap a 10% tariff on passenger cars made in Japan, over a period of seven years. Duties would be reduced for some car components. 

    The Japanese, in return, are expected to lower duties on European cheeses like Gouda from the Netherlands, while retaining their unusually complex regulations on dairy products. 

    Japan is also likely to make it easier for European companies to bid for major government contracts, a move that could benefit train makers like Siemens of Germany and Alstom of France. 

  • UNESCO Adds to World Heritage Sites
    The World Heritage Committee met in Krakow, Poland, to consider 34 significant historical and cultural sites to add to the list. This year's selections include the Iranian city of Yazd, which UNESCO describes as a "living testimony to the use of limited resources for survival in the desert." 

    Another site UNESCO added to the list is in the Swabian Jura in southern Germany, one of the areas in Europe where humans first arrived more than 40,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. They settled in caves, first discovered in the 1860s, and where they created some of the oldest known figurative art. 

    UNESCO also placed the Valongo Wharf in central Rio de Janeiro on the World Heritage List. The stone wharves were built in the early 1800s for slave ships sailing from Africa to Brazil. UNESCO also designated the Old City and Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as a Palestinian World Heritage Site, angering Israel. 

  • Qatar agrees to curb terrorism financing under deal with US
    The United States and Qatar on 11th July signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the steps to be taken by Doha to stop funding of terrorism, a demand which is being made by the four boycotting Arab nations. The MoU was signed during the day-long visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is touring the Gulf nations in a bid to find a solution to the diplomatic row involving Qatar. 

    The US believes that any escalation in the tension in the Middle East may hamper its effort to fight the ISIS and may also encourage realignment of loyalties which Iran can leverage to its advantage. 

    Meanwhile , fresh tensions have erupted over a leaked secret document on CNN involving the regional Arab powers. The secret agreement signed in 2013-14 also known as the Riyadh Agreement allegedly is a confidential agreement between Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States signed by the respective Head of States in which all parties had agreed to stop terror funding and avoid interference in each other’s internal affairs. 

    According to Saudi, UAE and Bahrain , the leaked documents only suggest that Qatar has not complied with the letter and spirit of the agreement. 

  • IS chief killed, says Syrian Observatory
    Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reported dead, a day after Iraq declared it had driven the jihadists from their one-time biggest stronghold of Mosul. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime monitor of the country's conflict, said it had information from top IS leaders confirming Baghdadi's death. 

    His death would mark another devastating blow to the jihadist group after its loss of Mosul, which Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said had been retaken from IS after a gruelling months-long campaign. 

    The cost of victory has been enormous: much of Mosul in ruins, thousands dead and wounded and nearly half the city's population forced from their homes. 

  • Brexit bill to cause constitutional clash with Scotland and Wales
    Theresa May appeared to be heading for an explosive constitutional clash over Brexit after the Scottish and Welsh governments said they could not support the great repeal bill – the key proposals drawn up to extricate Britain from the EU. 
    The historic legislation, formally known as the European Union (withdrawal) bill, came under sustained attack after it was published on 13th July, with MPs and human rights campaigners, as well as leaders in Edinburgh and Cardiff, dismissing it as a Westminster power grab. 

    Just hours after the government published the 66-page bill that will repeal the European Communities Act of 1972, and bring decades of EU law on to the UK statute book, the Scottish and Welsh leaders, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones, rejected it. 

    Campaigners and parliamentarians raised a series of other concerns about the legislation, including the risk that human rights could be undermined and the threat that ministers could seize sweeping powers to tweak laws without full parliamentary scrutiny. 

  • India, Pakistan should resolve Kashmir issue through talks: UN chief 
    UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has reiterated the need for India and Pakistan to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue through engagement and dialogue. He reiterated for the need to find a peaceful solution through engagement and dialogue. 

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Guterres had met in St Petersburg earlier in June on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. During the meeting, Modi had stressed on multilateralism to address global challenges such as terrorism

  • India becomes Facebook's largest user base with 241 mn users, overtakes US
    India has overtaken the US to become Facebook's largest country audience with a total 241 million active users, compared to 240 million in the US. 

    The change at the top of the platform's country rankings comes just a few days after Facebook announced it has more than two billion monthly users around the world, a report in The Next Web. The portal was quoting figures that the social media giant released to advertisers. The figures indicate that active users in India were growing more than twice as fast as in the US. 

    Active users in India are up 27 per cent in the past six months alone, compared to growth of 12 per cent in the US over the same period. 

  • US House of Representatives passes defence budget
    The US annual defence budget of about USD 621.5 billion for the 2018 fiscal has been passed by the House of Representatives. Among other things, it seeks advancing of military cooperation with India, already a major defence partner of America. 

    An amendment on enhancing cooperation with India was moved by Indian-American Congressman Ami Bera and was adopted by a voice vote by the House as part of the National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, beginning October 1 this year. The NDAA-2018 was passed by the House 344-81. 

    The India-related amendment passed by the House requires the Secretary of Defence, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to develop a strategy for advancing defence cooperation between the United States and India. 

  • Oldest emergency helpline 999 turns 80 in U.K. 
    The world’s oldest emergency helpline 999 on 2nd July completed 80 years of its existence in the U.K., with the Scotland Yard celebrating the “cornerstone” of British policing by organising several events. 

    In 1937, the first-ever emergency number system anywhere in the world came into being in London with the introduction of the 999 call — marking an unprecedented change in the way the public communicated with the Metropolitan Police. 

    In the early days of the 1930s, just 24 staff in the old Victoria Embankment headquarters of the Metropolitan Police dealt with a couple of hundred calls a day. It was launched after a major fire in London in 1935 resulted in five fatalities. A committee was set up to look at how telephone operators could identify emergency calls. 

    Now, there are three centralised communication complexes in Bow, Hendon and Lambeth, employing over 2,000 people dealing with 13,000 to 20,000 calls per day. Met Police Chief Superintendent David Jackson, head of the Met Central Communications (CC) said. 

  • G20 should support open trade to promote economic growth: WTO
    The World Trade Organization, WTO has asked the G20 group of nations including India and the US to take lead in promoting open trade globally for pushing economic growth and development. 

    In its monitoring report on G20 trade measure, the Geneva-based multi-lateral body has also stated that trade restriction measures in G20 economies have raised at a moderate rate despite an uncertainty in global economy. 

    G20 is a group of developed and developing countries that also includes Australia, Brazil, China, France, UK and the European Union. 

    The report said, a total of 42 new trade-restrictive measures were applied by G20 economies during the review period of mid-October 2016 to mid-May 2017. These measures include new or increased tariffs, customs regulations and rules of origin restrictions. 

    WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo called on G20 governments to show leadership in supporting open and mutually beneficial trade as a driver of economic growth and development. 

    The report assumes significance as the WTO in September 2016 lowered its global trade growth forecast for this year to 1.7 per cent, stating that this slowdown is serious and should serve as a wake-up call for nations. It said, India's exports are recording positive growth since September 2016. In May, the exports grew by 8.32 per cent to 24 billion US Dollars. 

  • India, China to drive road freight fuel consumption: IEA
    Emerging and developing countries in Asia, particularly China and India will account for about 90 per cent of the net increase in road freight oil demand till 2050, according to International Energy Agency (IEA). 

    In its report titled ‘The future of trucks’ it says that this demand will be equivalent to around 30 per cent of the total oil demand growth from all sectors. IEA estimates that the oil demand from road freight vehicles is set to rise by 5 million barrels per day to 2050. 

    The report also notes that energy intensity would fall by nearly 40 per cent below the current levels, as road freight vehicles become increasingly more efficient. These efficiency improvements will be driven by Canada, China, Japan and the United States, the only countries with heavy-duty fuel economy standards already in place. 

    And from the European Union, Mexico, India and Korea that are are looking to introduce them. The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that by 2020, the European Union, India, Korea and Mexico will have adopted standards for heavy duty vehicles. In 2015, these countries comprised about 20 per cent of the world’s sales of new heavy-duty vehicles. India’s oil demand for road freight transport has seen the largest growth among all countries since 2000. Road transport oil use in India and the Middle East has tripled since 2000 as well. Interestingly, Latin America and the Middle East each consumed about 1.4 mb/d in 2015, around 90 per cent and 85 per cent of which was diesel in each region. 

    In Africa, the ASEAN countries and Brazil, road freight oil use has more doubled since 2000. Brazil’s consumption now totals about 0.7 mb/d (about 95 per cent diesel), while it is 0.8 mb/d in India (and nearly all diesel). 

    In emerging countries in particular, growth in on-road freight activity accelerated as demand for consumer and industrial goods increased. The report notes that road freight activity in India increased by more than ten-fold over the past 3 decades. In China, estimated activity growth of more than thirty-fold occurred between 1975 and 2015. 

    Economic growth and population growth are the main drivers of a robust projected increase in road freight activity over the coming decades. 

    Global road freight activity is expected to grow by 2.4 times over present level by 2050, concomitant with economic growth. The majority of the increase in road freight activity occurs in emerging and developing economies between 2015 and 2050 that account for nearly 85 per cent of the global growth. Together, China and India comprise nearly 40 per cent of the global growth in road freight activity by 2050. 

  • North Korea launches ballistic missile
    North Korea has launched a ballistic missile on 4th July. The "unidentified ballistic missile" was fired from a site near Banghyon in North Phyongan province. It said the missile came down in the East Sea, the Korean name for the Sea of Japan. 

    The launch came just days after Seoul's new leader Moon Jae-In and US President Donald Trump focused on the threat from Pyongyang in their first summit. 

    Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have discussed the crisis on the Korean Peninsula and the Syrian War during the meeting in Moscow and agreed to cooperate on the issues. 

  • WHO declares end of Ebola outbreak in Congo
    World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the end of the latest Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The announcement comes 42 days (two 21-day incubation cycles of the virus) after the last confirmed Ebola patient in the affected Bas-Uele province of DRC tested negative for the disease for the second time. Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a viral hemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by Ebola viruses. 

  • European Parliament approves first ever EU-Cuba pact
    The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved July 5th a first-ever cooperation deal between the EU and Cuba, despite lingering concerns about human rights violations in the communist-ruled country. MEPs in the eastern French city of Strasbourg approved the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, signed in December 2016, which is widely seen as a European riposte to US President Donald Trump's hardline stance against Havana. 

    With the deal, Cuba joins other Latin American countries with similar agreements with the EU, whose relations with the island had previously been conducted within the so-called Common Position that linked ties to improvements in human rights. 

  • The need for a strong approach to counter terrorism dominated the G-20 Summit during its deliberation on the first day in Hamburg, in Germany on 7th July. The issue dominated the deliberations of both G 20 and BRICS meeting. 

    The world leaders discussed the issue of counter terrorism at different forum on the sidelines of the G-20 while India took a lead by proposing a set of eleven actionable points to take the fight against terrorism in a more concerted and systematic manner. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who led a high level delegation to the G-20 sought quick action by the world leaders. 

    The action plan proposes a set of practical measures like exchange of information on designated terrorist between the G 20 countries and deterrent action against the countries who provide sanctuary and financing to the terrorists. 

    Mr Modi also called upon the G 20 countries to set up a Weapons and Explosive Task Force to cut off all kinds of resources to terrorists and simplification of legal processes on extradition

    Mr Modi discussed the action plan during the retreat session of the G20 leaders as also on the sidelines of of the summit. The issue also figured prominently during the meeting of leaders of BRICS nations when they met in the run up to the forthcoming BRICS summit to be held in China in September this year. 

    Prime Minister highlighted during the two meetings about the important role that the BRICS has to play on issues like climate change and terror. He said that BRICS should focus on stability, reform, progress and governance at the world stage. 

  • UN Security Council sanctions splinter group of Pakistan Taliban
    The UN Security Council has sanctioned a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, subjecting it to assets freeze and an arms embargo. The Security Council's Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee added Jamaat-Ul-Ahrar (JuA) to the terror group Islamic State and Al-Qaida Sanctions List. 

    The outfit is also known as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan Jamaat ul Ahrar and is located in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan as well as in Mohmand Agency, a district in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. 

    According to information on the UN website, Jamaat-Ul-Ahrar is the splinter group of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and is associated with the Islamic State terror group. 

  • G20 nations pledge to strengthen health systems
    The G20 nations, including India, on 8th July pledged to strengthen health systems and also combat the menace of antimicrobial resistance, AMR in Hamburg, Germany. The group termed AMR as a growing threat to public health and economic growth. The declaration adopted by the nations said, they would aim to tackle the spread of AMR through implementation of their respective national action plans based on "one health" approach. 

    These nations recalled that universal health coverage is a goal adopted in the 2030 Agenda and recognised that strong health systems are important to effectively address health crises. The grouping also pledged to strive to fully eradicate polio. 

  • US, Russia reach ceasefire deal for southwest Syria
    The United States and Russia have reached an agreement on a cease-fire in southwest Syria as President Donald Trump held his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. US officials said in Hamburg that the deal marks a new level of involvement for the Trump administration in trying to resolve Syria's civil war. Jordan and Israel also are part of the agreement. The two US allies both share a border with the southern part of Syria and have been concerned about violence from Syria's civil war spilling over the border. 

    The deal is separate from an agreement that Russia, Turkey and Iran struck earlier this year to try to establish "de-escalation zones" in Syria where violence would be reduced. 

  • UN adopts treaty to ban nuclear weapons
    Over 120 countries have voted in the UN to adopt the first-ever global treaty to ban nuclear weapons, even as India and other nuclear powers including the US, China and Pakistan boycotted the negotiations for the legally binding instrument to prohibit atomic weapons. 

    The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, the first multilateral legally-binding instrument for nuclear disarmament to have been negotiated in 20 years, was adopted on 7th July by a vote of 122 in favour to one against (Netherlands) and one abstention (Singapore). 

    India and other nuclear-armed nations — the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel had not participated in the negotiations. 

    A substantive session was held in March this year to negotiate the legally binding instrument aimed at prohibiting nuclear weapons. 

    India had abstained from voting on that resolution. In its Explanation of Vote (EoV) given for its abstention on the resolution in October, India had said that it was “not convinced” that the proposed conference could address the longstanding expectation of the international community for a comprehensive instrument on nuclear disarmament.
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