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June 2018 International Affairs

  • Erdogan declared winner of Turkey presidential polls
    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won tightly-contested presidential polls, the election authority said on 25th June, extending his 15-year grip on power as the opposition complained bitterly about the conduct of the vote count. 

    Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

    The stakes were particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers, without even a prime minister, under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan but which opponents say grants autocratic powers. 

    Erdogan won 52.5 per cent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), was on 31.5 per cent, based on a 99 per cent vote count. 

  • British Queen Elizabeth approves Brexit law that will end membership of European Union
    Britain's Queen Elizabeth granted royal assent to Prime Minister Theresa May's flagship Brexit legislation on 26th June, ending months of debate over the legislation that will formally end the country's European Union membership. 

    The House of Commons speaker John Bercow said the EU withdrawal bill, passed by both houses of parliament last week, has been signed into law by the monarch, to cheers from Conservative lawmakers. 

    The EU (Withdrawal) Bill repeals the 1972 European Communities Act through which Britain became a member, and transfers decades of European law onto British statute books in a bid to avoid any legal disruption. 

  • Top US Supreme Court backs Donald Trump travel ban on Muslim-majority countries
    The United States Supreme Court has upheld President Donald Trump's controversial order blocking entry by people from several Muslim-majority countries, a decision described as "disappointing" and "worrying" by advocacy groups. 

    In a 5-4 decision on 26th June, the high court found that Donald Trump's action was "squarely within the scope of presidential authority" under US immigration law and rejected a challenge that it discriminated against Muslims or exceeded his authority. 

    The current ban, announced in September and widely criticised by human rights and refugee advocacy groups, prohibits entry into the US by most people from Iran , Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. 

    It also affects two non-Muslim majority countries, blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families. 

    A sixth majority Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list in April after improving "its identity-management and information sharing practices," Donald Trump said in a proclamation. 

  • United Nations: 10,000 children killed, maimed in conflicts worldwide in 2017
    More than 10,000 children were killed or maimed amid armed conflicts worldwide last year (2017), while others were raped, forced to serve as armed soldiers or caught in attacks on schools and hospitals, a United Nations report said on 27th June. 

    A total of more than 21,000 violations of children's right were reported in 2017 a sharp increase from the previous year, according to the annual "Children and Armed Conflict" report. The UN blames a US-backed Arab coalition fighting in Yemen for at least half of the more than 1,300 child deaths or injuries recorded in that poor nation. 

    They were victims of aerial and ground attacks by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Houthi rebels opposed to Yemen's internationally recognised government. 

    Among the casualties tallied in the report were child soldiers as young as 11 fighting in Yemen's civil war and in other countries, the UN said. 

    The 21,000 violations of children's rights included 10,000 who were slain or maimed, especially in Iraq, Myanmar, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the report said. 

    The total was a dramatic increase from 15,500 such cases counted in 2016. Over 1,900 children were detained because of their or their parents' alleged association with the Boko Haram militant organization. 

    At least 1,036 children were held in Iraqi detention facilities on national security-related charges, mostly for their alleged association with the Islamic State group. 1,221 children were recruited and used as soldiers in South Sudan. The al-Shabab extremist group in Somalia allegedly abducted more than 1,600 children, some recruited and armed and others who became victims of sexual violence. 

    Children in Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen were prevented from receiving life-saving support. Syrian children were trapped in besieged areas amid deteriorating living conditions. 

  • EU leaders agree to extend economic sanctions against Russia
    European Union leaders agreed at a summit in Brussels on 29th June to extend economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine for a further six months. 

    The sanctions target whole sectors of the Russian economy including its oil businesses. The leaders made the decision after a very short discussion on Ukraine, Russia and the Minsk peace process. 

    In a summit statement, the EU leaders also reiterated their full support for a UN resolution on MH17 and called on Russia to accept its responsibility and fully cooperate with all efforts to establish truth, justice and accountability. 

    The EU first imposed the sanctions after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014 killing 298 people, an attack blamed by the EU on pro-Russian rebels. 

  • The first International Day of Parliamentarism celebrated on June 30 2018
    The first International Day of Parliamentarism is celebrated on June 30th, 2018, to highlight the role of parliaments worldwide as indispensable cornerstones of democracy. This date was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly in a resolution adopted on May 22nd as it coincides with the day in 1889, close to 130 years ago, that the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) — the global umbrella organization of parliaments — was founded. 

  • Largest ever Yoga celebrations in Netherlands
    Spiritual Guru Ravi Shankar on 17th June inaugurated the largest ever celebration of International Day of Yoga in The Netherlands. Several thousands have assembled at the prestigious museum square in Amsterdam to experience the day-long wellness festival. 

    It was organised at the initiative of the Embassy of India. Indian mission in Amsterdam said in a statement that a group session of traditional Indian yoga was followed by a talk and meditation session led by the spiritual guru. 

  • European Union extends Crimea sanctions for another year
    The European Union on 18th June rolled over for another year's tough sanctions imposed over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The measures prohibit certain exports and imports, and ban investment and tourism services by EU-based companies in Crimea. 

    The bloc said in a statement that the Council of EU member states extended the restrictive measures in response to the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia until June 23, 2019. 

    The EU reiterated that it does not recognize and continues to condemn this violation of international law. The sanctions were imposed in the wake of Russia's annexation of the strategic Black Sea peninsula in March 2014. 

  • US Senate passes bill seeking enhanced defence ties with India
    The US Senate on 19th June passed with an overwhelming majority a $716 billion defence bill which among other things seeks to strengthen ties with America's 'Major Defence Partner' India. 

    The US recognised India as a "Major Defence Partner" in 2016, a designation that allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from America at par with that of its closest allies and partners, and ensures enduring cooperation into the future. 

    The National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2019, passed by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 85-10, is named in the honour of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, who is battling cancer for the past several months. 

    The House of Representatives has already passed the bill. The two different versions of the bill now heads for a conference between the Senate and the House. 

    Once the joint committee agrees on an identical version, they would have to be voted by the House and the Senate again before being sent to the White House for US President Donald Trump's assent. 

    The Senate version of the bill authorises $5.2 billion for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund, $350 million in Coalition Support Funds to reimburse certain nations for support provided to or in connection with US military operations and authorises $300 million to train and equip the vetted Syrian opposition to counter the ISIS terror group. 

    The Senate bill authorises $500 million for US-Israel missile defence cooperation and up to $50 million for US-Israel counter-tunnel cooperation. 

    In what is being described could be a major clash between the Congress and the White House, the Senate as part of NDAA-2019, reinstated trade restrictions on ZTE. 

    The bill also allows a pilot programme for testing machine-based inspections in place of humans to determine the authenticity and security of microelectronic parts in weapons systems- a necessary ability in an era of Chinese-made knockoffs and counterfeits. 

    The NDAA also calls out China for illegally creating and fortifying islands in the South China Sea for military purposes and modernises the Committee on Foreign Investment to address national security concerns and stop China from trying to steal sensitive technology from US companies. 

  • United States withdraws from UN human rights council
    The United States announced it was withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The announcement has come on 19th June. 

    It marks the latest rejection of multilateral engagement by the Donald Trump administration - following its exit from the Paris climate accords and the Iran nuclear deal. 

  • Donald Trump signs executive order to end separation of immigrant families on US-Mexico border
    US President Donald Trump signed an executive order to end separation of immigrant families on the US-Mexico border, after images of children in cages sparked global outrage. 

    Donald Trump signed the executive order following widespread protests against the move of his administration to separate children from their parents who illegally enter the country. In recent weeks, more than 2,500 such children were separated from their parents. 

    The executive order, signed by Donald Trump, asks the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together while people await trial for illegal border crossing. But cases where there is a concern that parents "would pose a risk to the child's welfare" have been exempted from the executive order. 

  • World’s hungry population on the rise again: United Nations report
    The number of hungry people in the world has risen for the first time in more than a decade, according to a United Nations report released on 20th June

    There are now approximately 38 million more undernourished people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, the year for which the latest statistics are available. 

    According to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals 2018 report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries. 

    Noting the increasing impact of extreme events related to a changing climate, the report said economic losses attributed to disasters were estimated at over $300 billion in 2017. This is among the highest losses in recent years, owing to three major hurricanes affecting the United States of America and several countries across the Caribbean. 

    While there is little country-specific data in the report, it does examine the performance of various regions in meeting the 17 SDGs, which were adopted by UN member nations in 2015. The deadline to meet them is 2030. 

    South Asia, which includes India, has seen child marriage rates plunge, with a girl’s risk of getting married in childhood dropping by 40% from 2000 to 2017. On the other hand, water stress levels for many countries in the region are above 70%, indicating fast-approaching water scarcity. More than nine out of 10 people living in urban areas around the world are breathing polluted air, with southern Asia scoring the worst in this area. While electricity and sanitation deficits in south Asia are still poor, the report noted efforts are being made to close the gap. 

  • North and South Korea agree to hold reunions for war-separated families in August
    North and South Korea agreed to resume reunions for families separated by the Korean War in August - the first such meetings since 2015 and the latest step in a remarkable diplomatic thaw on the peninsula. 

    Millions of people were separated during the 1950-53 conflict that sealed the division of the two Koreas. 

    Most died without the chance to see or hear from their relatives on the other side of the border, across which all civilian communication is banned. 

    The resumption of the family reunions was among the agreements reached between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the South's president Moon Jae-in at their landmark summit in April. Officials from both sides met at the North's scenic Mount Kumgang resort and set a date for late August. 

  • OPEC members agree on increase in oil production
    OPEC members agree on a combined increase in oil production of one million barrels per day from next month, despite strong opposition from Iran. OPEC members have agreed on a combined increase in crude oil output of one million barrels per day despite strong opposition from Iran. 

    The actual increase will be smaller as several countries are unable to raise output. This was confirmed by the oil minister Saudi Arabia Khaled al-Faleh after the cartel's meeting in Vienna. The support for the increase, which had been proposed by Saudi Arabia against objections from Iran, was unanimous. 

    Ahead of the meeting, India had appealed to the OPEC Forum, which includes both producing and consuming nations to fill the supply gap, and restore "reasonable" pricing. 

  • SCO Summit adopts Qingdao declaration calling for 3-year plan to combat terrorism
    The Shanghai Corporation Organization summit concluded with the adoption of the Qingdao declaration. The declaration calls for implementing the three-year plan to combat terrorism, separatism and extremism. It also calls for implementation of the treaty on long-term good neighbourliness, friendship and co-operation. 

    All the heads of SCO countries held a restricted meeting before the summit. Mr Narendra Modi will have bilateral meetings with Presidents of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan later in the day. On 9th June, Narendra Modi met with the Chinese President after arriving in Qingdao on a 2-day visit. 

  • Government of Qatar takes United Arab Emirates (UAE) to UN International Court of Justice over human right violations
    The government of Qatar on 11th June said, it was taking the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations' International Court of Justice over what it described as human right violations. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt imposed a boycott on Qatar in June 2017, severing diplomatic and transport ties with the tiny, wealthy state, accusing it of supporting terrorism. 

    Doha denies it and says the pressure is aimed at stripping it of its sovereignty. The Qatari government said the UAE enacted a series of measures that discriminate against its citizens, including expelling them from the UAE, prohibiting them from entering or passing through the UAE, ordering UAE nationals to leave Qatar, and closing UAE airspace and seaports to Qatar. 

    Qatar said it believed the actions were in violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) - including discrimination on the basis of nationality - of which the UAE and Qatar are both signatories. 

    Qatar requested that the court order the UAE to take steps to comply with its obligations under the CERD, ceasing and revoking the measures and restoring the rights of Qataris. 

  • United States decides to provide security guarantees to North Korea
    The United States on 12th June decided to provide security guarantees to North Korea, in exchange of Pyongyang's firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. This is according to the joint document which was signed by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following their historic maiden talks at Singapore's Sentosa island. 

    The document also said, both nations commit to establishing new relations in accordance with the desire of the people of the two countries for peace and prosperity. 

    Kim Jong Un said, they have decided to leave the past behind, and the world will see a major change. Before the delegation-level talks, both leaders met for a one-on-one meeting for about 45 minutes. 

    Earlier, Mr Donald Trump expressed hope that the summit would be tremendously successful. Kim Jong Un said, there were a number of obstacles to the meeting and they overcame all of them. 

    Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are the first leaders of their respective countries to meet, marking the culmination of months of diplomatic wrangling and negotiations. 

    The US President asserted that North Korea has already started destroying a missile engine testing site, and US is prepared to starting a new history with North Korea. Mr Donald Trump also thanked Singapore for hosting the summit. 

  • International Conference on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to be held in Kathmandu from June 17
    An International Conference on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) will be held in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal from June 17. The Theme of two day conference is “Sustainable Development Goals for Smart Society”. 

    The conference is organised by the Federation of Computer Association Nepal (CAN). According to organisers around 500 delegates, including ICT users, trainers, professionals, experts, and researchers from Japan, China, Korea, India and Nepal will attend the event. 

    The conference will provide a common platform to participants to exchange their knowledge and discover new insides. The conference aims to bring government and private sector together for developing a plan of action using sustainable ICT applications. It also seeks to unleash the prospects of SMART Nepal by 2030. 

  • UNGA adopts resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza
    United Nations General Assembly, UNGA has adopted an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza. 

    The resolution deplored excessive use of force by Israel, and requested recommendations to protect Palestinians. The resolution put forward by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries. In the 193-nation Assembly, which met last night, 120 countries voted in favor of the resolution, while 8 voted against it. 45 nations abstained. 

    A bid by the United States to present an amendment, condemning Hamas, failed to garner two-third majority needed for adoption. 

    Hundred and twenty Palestinians have been killed and hundreds wounded by Israeli soldiers stationed on the Israeli side, since the weekly protests began on 30th March near the Gaza border. 

  • UK High court orders Vijay Mallya to pay minimum of 2 lakh pounds to Indian banks
    The UK High Court has ordered embattled liquor tycoon Vijay Mallya to pay a minimum of 2 lakh pounds towards the costs incurred by 13 Indian banks in their legal battle to recover alleged dues. 

    Last month, Judge Andrew Henshaw had refused to overturn a worldwide order freezing Mallya's assets and upheld an Indian court's ruling that a consortium of 13 Indian banks led by State Bank of India (SBI) were entitled to recover funds amounting to nearly 1.145 billion pounds. 

    As part of the judgment, the court has also ordered Mallya, to pay costs towards registration of the worldwide freezing order and of the Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) of Karnataka's judgment in Britain. 

  • UK government tables changes to its immigration policy in Parliament
    The UK government has tabled changes to its immigration policy in Parliament. The amendments includes a review of its strict visa quotas available to professionals from countries like India. 

    As part of the immigration changes, the government said it would ask the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review the composition of the Shortage Occupation List. 

    This is likely to further ease up the visa regime for businesses to be able to bring in professionals from countries like India to work in the UK. The Indian IT sector is among those expected to benefit from the easing up of the cap, a move welcomed by Indian industry. 

  • G7 finance chiefs end annual meeting at Whistler in Canada
    The Finance Ministers of Group of Seven nations have ended their annual meeting at Whistler in Canada, calling on US President Donald Trump to reverse his decision to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. 

    US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin faced sharp criticism from the Finance Ministers of other G-7 nations over the issue, with Canada saying that the host government and five others have urged Mr Steve Mnuchin to relay their unanimous concern and disappointment to the US President. 

    Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau said discussions should continue at the G7 leaders' summit beginning in Quebec. 

    French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, the participants had tense discussions, describing the meeting as far more a G6-plus-one than a G7. 

    Germany Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said, US tariffs were a very severe problem for transatlantic relations. 

    After Mr Steve Mnuchin faced criticism over the US decision, US President Donald Trump said in a tweet that Washington cannot afford to lose a trade war when it is being ripped off. 

  • British Cabinet backs expansion of London Heathrow Airport
    Britain’s Cabinet on 5th June gave the go-ahead to building a third runway at London Heathrow, Europe’s biggest airport by passenger numbers, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said. The Parliament is expected to vote on the long-mooted project in the coming weeks. 

    The expansion project is highly contested, mainly because of concerns about the environment, as well as the implications for noise levels and disruption from construction for a large area of west London, where Heathrow is located. 

  • Myanmar, UN sign pact on steps for Rohingya return
    Myanmar and UN agencies signed an agreement on 6th June that could lead to the return of some of the 700,000 Rohingyas who fled brutal persecution by the country's security forces and are now crowded into makeshift camps in Bangladesh. 

    Myanmar's security forces have been accused of rape, killing, torture and the burning of Rohingya homes in western Rakhine state, where most Rohingyas lived. 

    The UN and US have described the army crackdown that began in August last year (2017) as ethnic cleansing. Myanmar and Bangladesh agreed in November to begin repatriating Rohingyas. 

  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj unveils bust of Mahatma Gandhi at Pietermaritzburg
    External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on 7th June reached the Pieter-maritz-burg station where 125 years ago Mahatma Gandhi decided to fight against injustice and colonialism. 

    The journey that acted as a catalyst for Mahatma Gandhi to practise satyagraha. A symbolic train ride was undertaken by EAM and 300 other dignitaries from Pentrich station to Pieter-maritz-burg station in South Africa. The event was organized to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's eviction from the train for being a non-European on June 7, 1893. 

    Train coaches and engine were draped with Khadi. She also inaugurated the 2-sided bust of MK Gandhi, called the "Birth of Satyagraha". It acts as a constant reminder, to all of mankind, of the momentous moral journey that young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi undertook. 

    A modern addition to the Pieter-maritz-burg station which has remained untouched for the last 125 years, the minister also inaugurated "The Mahatma Gandhi Digital Museum" consisting of interactive screens, videos, audio commentary on infamous incident. 

    To mark the occasion, EAM released a coffee table book, titled "The Birth of Satyagraha. Further to mark 25 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations, EAM and Deputy Foreign Minister of South Africa jointly released postal stamps on Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay and Oliver Tambo. 

  • More than three-fourths of Green card waiting list comprise of Indians: US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 
    Indians account for more than three-fourths of those highly-skilled professionals waiting in queue to obtain legal permanent residence status in the US, popularly known as Green Card, according to latest official figures. 

    As of May 2018, there were 395,025 foreign nationals waiting for Green Card under the employment-based preference category. 

    Of these 306,601 were Indians, according to the latest figures released by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This does not include counts of dependent beneficiaries associated with the approved immigrant petitions

    India is followed by a distant second China, which currently has 67,031 Chinese waiting for the Green Card. Thereafter none of the other countries have more than 10,000 people waiting for Green Card. 

    Other countries are El Salvador (7252), Guatemala (6,027), Honduras (5,402), Philippines (1,491), Mexico (700) and Vietnam (521). 

    Under the existing law, no more than seven per cent of the Green cards may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year. As such Indians have the longest waiting period for Green Card. 

    Indian-Americans, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of green cards or permanent legal residency. 

    As a result, the current wait period for Indian skilled immigrants for green card can be as long as 70 years. 

    According to a newly-launched group, GCReforms.org, under the current regulation, skilled immigrants from India need to wait anywhere between 25-92 years for a Green Card due to per-country limits. 

    The US Green Card, also known as the permanent resident card, gives the holder permanent residence in the United States. Green Card holders can legally live and work in the US. The Green Card is the first step toward US citizenship.
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