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October 2017 International Affairs

  • Shinzo Abe's ruling coalition wins majority in Japan
    • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, have secured enough seats to maintain what is known as an absolute stable majority.
    • It will allow the parties to maneuver legislation through the chamber smoothly.
    • The governing coalition has passed the threshold of 261 seats.
    • With an absolute stable majority, it will have the ability to chair all standing committees and fill a majority of seats.
    • The majority is vital to Mr Abe's ambition to revise Japan's post-war, pacifist constitution.
    • Article 9 of the Constitution, enacted by the country's American occupiers in 1947, calls for the complete renunciation of war.
    • Japan has worked around the rule by stating that its army exists for the purposes of defence, but Mr Abe has long made it clear that he wishes to revise it.
    • The election raises Mr Abe's chances of securing a third three-year-term as leader of the LDP when the party votes next September.
    • That would give him the opportunity to become Japan's longest serving Prime Minister, having been elected in 2012.

  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump agree to raise pressure on North Korea
    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US President Donald Trump have agreed to strengthen bilateral ties to increase international pressure on North Korea. The two leaders agreed to discuss ways to address North Korea during Trump's visit to Japan. 

  • US withdraws military assistance from Myanmar over Rohingya violence
    The US is withdrawing military assistance units from Myanmar over the country's treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state. The State Department said it had also dropped travel waivers for Myanmar military officials and is considering economic sanctions. Myanmar's military says, it is fighting militants and not targeting civilians. 

    The US State Department said that it is imperative that any individuals or entities responsible for atrocities be held accountable. Bangladesh's envoy has said to the UN that almost a million Rohingya people have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. 

  • Russia vetoes UN resolution to extend Syria chemical weapons inspections
    Russia has vetoed a US-sponsored UN resolution that would extend the work of inspectors seeking to determine who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The veto will prevent inspectors from doing their job and investigating chemical weapons attacks in Syria unless a new agreement is struck to extend them before mid-November. 

    The Joint Investigative Mechanism was set up in 2015 to identify perpetrators of chemical attacks on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in April. Russia had been pushing to postpone a vote on its extension but could not get enough support and used its veto to block adoption. 

  • Trump administration makes it more difficult for H-1B, L1 visa renewal
    In the United States, the Trump administration has made it more difficult to renew non-immigrant visas such as H-1B and L1, popular among Indian IT professionals. Revoking its more than 13-year-old policy, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, in its latest memorandum, said the burden of proof in establishing eligibility is, at all times, on the petitioner. 

    Under the previous policy, if a person was once found to be eligible for a work visa initially, they would usually be considered for extension of their visa. Now during every extension, they need to prove to the federal authorities that they are still eligible for the visa they apply for. 

  • Move to introduce ‘gender inclusivity’ at WTO
    Waking up to the need to enable more women to participate in international trade, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and a group of member countries are making efforts to get a joint declaration on gender and trade to be adopted at the Buenos Aires Ministerial meet in December. 

    The proposed declaration has been initiated by Iceland, Sierra Leone and the International Trade Centre (ITC), a joint agency of the WTO and the United Nations. 

    Already endorsed by 40 member countries, the declaration asks members to exchange best practices that would happen over the next two years so that a report could be submitted to the next Ministerial meet two years down the line on the progress in connecting more women to international trade. 

    A report released by McKinsey Global Institute in 2015 finds that in a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26 per cent, could be added to the global annual GDP by 2025. 

    While 40 countries, including Argentina, Canada and the European Union are already supporting the initiative, several others, including India, are thinking about it. The proposed declaration will not be part of the formal Ministerial Declaration in Buenos Aires and is proposed to be adopted separately. 

    ITC is also part of another initiative ‘SheTrades’ to encourage women in business. The ‘SheTrades’ programme aims to connect one million women entrepreneurs to markets by 2020 with a campaign, a focussed networking app and a range of international and national information resources,” Gonzalez said speaking at a session on the role of women in trade at the two-day World Export Development Forum 2017 in Budapest. Launched last year, the initiative has already spread to 14 countries and has 10,000 registered members. 

  • Catalan Parliament votes to declare independence from Spain
    The Catalan regional parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, just as the Spanish government appears set to impose direct rule. The move was backed 70-10 in a ballot boycotted by opposition MPs. The crisis began when Catalans backed independence in a disputed vote earlier this month. 

    The Catalan government said that of the 43% of potential voters who took part in the referendum, 90% were in favour of independence. But Spain's Constitutional Court had ruled the vote illegal. 

    In all, the motion declaring independence was approved with 70 in favour, 10 against and two abstentions in the 135-seat chamber. 

    Spain's Senate is still to vote on whether for the first time to enact Article 155 of the Spanish constitution, which empowers the government to take "all measures necessary to compel" a region in case of a crisis. It would enable Madrid to fire Catalan leaders, and take control of the region's finances, police and public media. 

  • 14th SAARCLAW Conference begins in Colombo
    The 14th South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation in Law (SAARCLAW) conference along with the 11th SAARC Chief Justices Conference was inaugurated in Colombo ON 27th October. The conference provides a platform for legal professionals to meet and discuss issues of mutual interests and emerging legal trends in the South Asian countries. 

    The conference felicitated Attorney General of India K.K.Venugopal for his lifetime contribution to the legal field. An encyclopedia containing the major treaties, charters and legal documents in SAARC region written by legal expert Hemant Batra was also unveiled at the inaugural function. 

    Over next two days, discussions will be held on 'The Role of National and International Counter-Tracking Laws in combating issues of Tracking and Forced Labour ‘, 'Artificial Intelligence and Human Aptitude working in Tandem', 'A Common Regional Platform for Combating Climate Change', 'The Confluence of Law and Technology', 'The Role of Law and Judicial Activism' and 'Promoting FDI and Cross-Border Transactions in the SAARC Region'. 

  • UN raises number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh To 537,000
    The United Nations has raised the number of newly arrived Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fleeing violence in Myanmar to 537,000. This is an increase of about 1,000 since the last UN report. 

    The report by the Inter Sector Coordination Group of the UN includes data up to October 14 and said the UN had been able to verify the arrival of 18,000 new refugees last week

    The report also said that the makeshift settlements in Kutupalong and Balukhali in the Cox's Bazar area, which have joined together due to increasing arrivals, have received 374,000 persons. Another 89,000 refugees have taken shelter with local host communities. 

    The Bangladesh government had counted 27,825 families and the Ministry of Home Affairs had registered 161,963 refugees until now, which is around 28 per cent of the total refugee population, according to the report. 

    The UN said that all the recently arrived refugees were in need of food, medical services and housing, although only 37,000 families had received an emergency kit, which includes a tarpaulin for temporary shelter. 

    The crisis began on August 25 when a insurgent group of the Rohingya Muslim minority staged a series of attacks on the police and army posts in Rakhine state, to which the Myanmar military responded with an ongoing large-scale offensive. 

    According to eyewitnesses and human rights organisations, the Myanmar army has razed villages and shot and killed an undetermined number of civilians while clearing the area. 

    Although Myanmar maintains that the violence was triggered by Rohingya rebels, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has accused the military of ethnic cleansing. 

    Before the military campaign, an estimated one million Rohingyas lived in Rakhine state in Myanmar, where the government denies them citizenship. 

  • EU reaffirms support for Iran nuclear deal
    The European Union on 16th October reaffirmed its support for a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers despite sharp criticism of the accord by US President Donald Trump. 

    It also urged U.S. lawmakers not to reimpose sanctions on Tehran. Trump defied both U.S. allies and adversaries by refusing to formally certify that Tehran is complying with the accord, even though international inspectors say it is and said he might ultimately terminate the agreement. 

    EU Foreign Ministers meeting in Luxembourg said a failure to uphold an international agreement backed by the UN Security Council could have serious consequences for regional peace and also undermine efforts to check North Korea's nuclear ambitions. 

    After a closed-door meeting chaired by EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini on how best to proceed on the Iran issue, the ministers issued a joint statement saying the 2015 deal is key to preventing the global spread of nuclear weapons. 

  • European Union imposes fresh sanctions on North Korea
    European Union has imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea as part of international efforts to punish the pariah regime for its nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes. Foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 16th October signed off a new package of measures including a ban on investments in North Korea and on EU exports of oil to Pyongyang. 

    They also tightened the restrictions on North Korean workers in the EU to try to stop money being sent home that could be used to fund the disputed weapons programmes. 

  • India should not ask Veto to get permanent membership: US
    The key to India becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council is “not to touch the veto”, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has said as she identified Russia and China as the two global powers against changes in the current structure of the Security Council. 

    The permanent five (members of the Security Council) have the ability to veto. Russia, China, UK (United Kingdom), US and France and none of them want to give that up. So, the key to getting India on the Security Council would have to be not to touch the veto, according to Haley. 

    For long India has been calling for reform of the UN Security Council. India and a large number of countries believe that the current UN and its powerful Security Council does not reflect the ground realities of the 21st century. Last month, foreign minister of G4 countries – India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – met in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to push their case for reform of the Security Council including expansion of its permanent and non-permanent members. 

    India has also received support from several other multilateral groupings during the current General Assembly session in this regard, including BRICS and IBSA. Several countries have taken up the floor of general assembly to support India’s permanent membership. 

  • US Judge rules against latest travel ban 
    A federal judge in Maryland early 18th October issued a second halt on the latest version of President Donald Trump's travel ban, asserting that the president's own comments on the campaign trail and on Twitter convinced him that the directive was akin to an unconstitutional Muslim ban. 

    U.S. District Judge Theodore D. Chuang issued a somewhat less complete halt on the ban than his counterpart in Hawaii did a day earlier, blocking the administration from enforcing the directive only on those who lacked a "bona fide" relationship with a person or entity in the U.S., such as family members or some type of professional or other engagement in the United States. 

  • Pakistani anti-corruption court indicts ousted PM Sharif, daughter
    A Pakistani anti-graft court on 19th October indicted ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter for allegations linked to ownership of posh London flats. 

    Sharif, his daughter Maryam, as well as her husband Muhammad Safdar, had all been indicted. They all pleaded not guilty. 

    Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court in July for not declaring a source of income that he disputes receiving. 

    Pakistan’s top court also ordered a wide-ranging investigation by the National Accountability Bureau and trial of Sharif family members. 

  • G7 and Google, Facebook and Twitter agree on plan to block dissemination of Islamist extremism over internet
    G7 countries and tech giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter on 21st October agreed to work together to block the dissemination of Islamist extremism over the internet. 

    Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said in Ischia, after a two-day meeting with his Group of Seven counterparts that these are the first steps towards a great alliance in the name of freedom. 

    He stressed upon the importance of the internet for extremist "recruitment, training and radicalisation. 

    Officials said the accord aimed at removing jihadist content from the web within two hours of being posted. 

    The Group of Seven Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US said it had also called on the web giants to work with their smaller partners to bolster the anti-extremism shield. 

  • Donald Trump outlines tough immigration measures
    US President Donald Trump, who pledged to help protect young people known as “Dreamers” brought illegally to the United States as children, called for money to fund a border wall to be part of any immigration deal. 

    In a list of “principles” laid out in documents released by the White House, the Trump administration also pressed for a crackdown on unaccompanied minors who enter the United States, many of them from Central America. 

    The plan, which was delivered to leaders in Congress on Sunday night, drew a swift rebuke from Democrats, who are seeking a legislative fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme that Trump ended last month. 

    The Trump administration wants the wish list to guide immigration reform in Congress and accompany a bill to replace DACA, the Obama-era programme that protected nearly 800,000 “Dreamers” from deportation and allowed them to secure work permits. 

    Tightening Norms
    • Trump is insisting on the construction of a wall across the southern border
    • The hiring of 10,000 immigration agents
    • Tougher laws for those seeking asylum and denial of federal grants to sanctuary cities
    • The White House is also demanding the use of the
    • E-Verify programme by companies to keep illegal immigrants from getting jobs
    • End to people bringing their extended family into the US
    • A hardening of the border against thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America

  • WHO distributes 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine in Rohingya refugee camps
    The World Health Organization, WHO, on 10th October began distributing 900,000 doses of cholera vaccine in Bangladesh's camps for Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar, the aim is to prevent a major outbreak of the deadly disease. WHO said more than 10,000 cases of diarrhea have been reported in the past week alone. 

    Dr N. Paranietharan, the WHO's representative in Bangladesh said there is a clear risk for cholera. Cholera has not been identified in testing of patient samples by Bangladesh's health ministry; although clinics say they are waiting for reports of some samples sent last week. 

    The first round of the vaccination campaign will cover 650,000 people aged one year and older. A second round will target 250,000 children aged between one and five with an additional dose for extra protection. 

  • Catalan leaders sign independence declaration but put it on hold
    Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and other regional leaders have put on hold the implementation of declaration of independence for several weeks after signing it. 

    They signed the declaration of independence from Spain on 10th October, calling for Catalonia to be recognised as a sovereign state, following the disputed referendum. 

    However, its implementation was suspended for weeks to allow talks with the government in Madrid. The move was immediately dismissed by the Spanish central government in Madrid. 

    A October-1 referendum in the north-eastern province which Catalan leaders say resulted in a Yes vote for independence, was declared invalid by Spain's Constitutional Court. 

  • US withdraws from UNESCO accusing the cultural body of 'anti-Israel bias'
    The United States announced on 12th October that it will withdraw from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, accusing the body of anti-Israel bias. UNESCO head Irina Bokova has regretted the US decision, and called it a loss to multilateralism. 

    While the US stopped funding UNESCO after the international body voted to include Palestine as a member in 2011, the State Department has maintained a UNESCO office at its Paris headquarters and sought to weigh in on policy behind the scenes. 

    The decision comes as the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation is voting to choose a new director this week, intense balloting overshadowed by the agency’s funding troubles and divisions over Palestinian membership. 

  • Trump refuses to sign off on Iran nuclear deal
    US President, Donald Trump has condemned Iran as a fanatical regime and refused to continue signing off on a landmark international nuclear deal. He said Iran has already violated the 2015 deal, which imposed curbs on Iran's nuclear capability in return for easing international embargoes. 

    Trump said he is acting in order to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon. The president said that congressional leaders are already drafting amendments that will curb the ballistic missile development and eliminate expiry dates on restrictions to Iran's nuclear development. 

    In a joint statement, the UK, Germany and France said they are concerned by Trump's move but remain committed to the deal. Russia said it remains committed to the deal and is opposed to the use of aggressive and threatening rhetoric in international relations. 

    Congress requires the US President to certify every 90 days that Iran is upholding its part of the agreement. Trump has already re-certified twice, but refused to sign a third time ahead of a 15th October deadline. Congress now has 60 days to decide whether to pull out of the nuclear deal by re-imposing sanctions. 

  • Burqa ban comes into effect in Austria
    Austria's law banning face veils such as burkhas or niqabs comes into effect from on 1st October. The government said, acceptance and respect of Austrian values are basic conditions for successful cohabitation between the majority Austrian population and people from third countries living in Austria. 

    It also said, exemptions under certain conditions include items like clown disguises at cultural events, work wear such as medical masks, and scarves in cold weather. There are around 7 lakh Muslims in Austria, which has a population of about eight million. 

  • China opens new highway in Tibet close to Arunachal Pradesh border
    China on 1st October opened a 409-km new expressway costing about linking Tibet's provincial capital Lhasa with Nyingchi, which is close to Arunachal Pradesh border. According to the State-run Xinhua news agency, the toll-free expressway has linked the two major cities which are also tourist attractions in Tibet. Most of the expressways in Tibet are compatible for military equipment, providing advantage for the Chinese military to move its troops and weaponry faster. 

  • More than 50 killed, 500 hundred injured in Las Vegas shooting
    In the United States, more than 50 people have been killed and 500 hundred injured in a mass shooting at a Las Vegas concert. Islamic State claimed to be behind the attack. A gunman, named as 64-year-old Nevada resident Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel towards an open-air music festival attended by 22,000. 

    Police say he killed himself as officers stormed the room where 10 guns were found. The attack is the worst mass shooting in recent US history. 

  • Catalonia to declare independence from Spain 
    Catalonia will move on 9th October to declare independence from Spain following October 1's banned referendum as the European Union nation nears a rupture that threatens the foundations of its young democracy. 

    Catalan President Carles Puigdemont said he favored mediation to find a way out of the crisis but that Spain’s central government had rejected this. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s government responded by calling on Catalonia to “return to the path of law” first before any negotiations. 

    Mireia Boya, a Catalan lawmaker from the pro-independence Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) party, said a declaration of independence would follow a parliamentary session on 9th October to evaluate the results of the Oct. 1 vote to break away. 

  • IMF calls on world's largest economies to address stalling growth, productivity
    The IMF on 6th October called on the world's largest economies to address stalling growth and productivity and worrisome current accounts imbalances, saying the global recovery is not guaranteed to continue. 

    In a report on the economic health of Group of 20 nations, the International Monetary Fund said group members had made substantial progress in spurring recovery after the Great Recession, with growth stabilising and unemployment falling. 

    According to the report, as potential growth rates in more than half of G20 economies were estimated at two percent or lower. Current accounts imbalances in the Britain and the United States, which run persistent trade deficits, could spur protectionism, it added. 

    The report said collective action by G20 members would promote the largest gains in GDP growth, adding about 3.5 percent to member countries' growth by 2028 under IMF forecasting models. 

    The IMF and World Bank are due to convene annual meetings next week with member states, during which G20 representatives will also gather. 

  • US agrees to sell THAAD missile defence to Saudi Arabia
    The US government has approved the sale to Saudi Arabia of its advanced Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system. In a statement, the State Department said on 6th October that the 15 billion US dollar agreement furthered US national security and foreign policy interests. 

    The statement said this would enhance Saudi Arabia and Gulf security against Iranian and other regional threats. The Pentagon's Defense Security Co-operation Agency opined this agreement would not alter the military balance in the region. 

  • BRICS-themed subway train debuts in China
    A BRICS-themed subway train with carriages representing the five member nations, including India, has started test operations in China's south-eastern Xiamen city where the grouping's summit was held last month. According to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency the Indian carriage depicts elephants and yoga. The Chinese carriage is red and displays icons such as the Great Wall and Tian'anmen Square. The Brazilian carriage is green and decorated with images of footballs and football stars. 

    The Russian carriage shows off the country's ballet and Matryoshka dolls, while the South African carriage displays pictures of diamonds. 

    The sixth carriage combines cultural elements from all the five BRICS countries. The subway's test operations will last until 11th October. 

  • Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of Oxford honour
    An honour bestowed on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi by the city of Oxford has been withdrawn as a reaction to her perceived inadequate response to the plight of Rohingya Muslims in the country. 

    The 'Freedom of Oxford' had been granted to the de facto leader of Myanmar in 1997 for her "long struggle for democracy" by the Oxford City Council. 

    A cross-party motion was unanimously passed by the council on 2nd October which said it is no longer appropriate for her to hold the honour. 

    Oxford City Council leader Bob Price supported the motion to remove her honour and confirmed it is an unprecedented step for the local authority. The city council will hold a special meeting to confirm that the honour is removed on the 27th of next month. 

    Nearly 500,000 people belonging to Myanmar's Rohingya minority have been displaced after violence allegedly instigated by the country's military, causing a major humanitarian crisis. Suu Kyi has been Myanmar's State Counsellor, a position similar to Prime Minister, since April, 2016.


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