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Insights Daily Current Events – October 21, 2013

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NATIONAL

 Punjabi University starts ‘gatka’ course

  • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Punjab University and World Gatka Federation (WGF) recently to start a one-year diploma course in ‘gatka’ to promote the traditional Sikh martial art.
  • The students would be imparted education in various ‘gatka’ forms, fighting techniques, scientific and therapeutic aspects including soft skills, professional ethics and event management tactics.

INTERNATIONAL

India Russia 14th Annual Summit

  • The 14th Annual bilateral summit (starting from October 21st, 2013), between India and Russia would focus on a range of issues which will take the relationship between the two countries to the next level.
    • The discussions would be over the ‘liability clause’ of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. A legal green signal is required for the two governments to go ahead with Nuclear agreement between the two countries.
    • strategic issues including the shared interest in Afghanistan’s future, and peace and stability in the region
    • agreement which would allow Russians and Indians convicted in each other’s countries to serve out their sentence in jails in their home country.
    • co-operation on oil and natural gas
    • On international issues such as the crisis in West Asia and Afghanistan both sides want Afghanistan & W.Asia to be a stable region. They want Afghanistan to be free of extremism, terrorism and radicalism after the US military drawdown. This would send a strong message to Pakistan that it cannot claim ownership over Afghanistan post-2014.
    • On Syria, both sides were of the view that military involvement could not be the solution; instead it was Syrians to decide who rules them.

India rejects Pakistan’s plea for U.S. intervention on Kashmir

  • The Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had seeked U.S. intervention on resolving the Kashmir dispute. He referred to the arms race and said the situation could get dangerous. There was a need to limit this race and think about these issues.
  • But this was unequivocally rejected by India as it went against its long-held position of resolving the territorial dispute through bilateral dialogue.
  • India has retaliated that Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) is an integral part of India and the provisions of the Simla Agreement too states that there is “no question of any third party.”
  • India has consistently weighed against a third party intervention on resolving the Kashmir dispute, asserting that the two countries were absolutely capable of resolving the dispute on their own.
  • Ever since the Simla Agreement (which had superseded the Karachi Agreement of 1949), India has kept the United Nations Military Group in India and Pakistan on the sidelines and argues that it has become redundant.
  • The future of India-Pakistan ties depends on Pakistan being accountable of what happened in Mumbai and sustained effort in improving relations in other spheres.

What is Simla Agreement?

  • The Simla Agreement signed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan on 2nd July 1972 was much more than a peace treaty seeking to reverse the consequences of the 1971 war (i.e. to bring about withdrawals of troops and an exchange of PoWs). It was a comprehensive blue print for good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan. Under the Simla Agreement both countries undertook to abjure conflict and confrontation which had marred relations in the past, and to work towards the establishment of durable peace, friendship and cooperation.
  • The Simla Agreement contains a set of guiding principles, mutually agreed to by India and Pakistan, which both sides would adhere to while managing relations with each other. These emphasize: respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; respect for each others unity, political independence; sovereign equality; and abjuring hostile propaganda. The following principles of the Agreement are, however, particularly noteworthy:
    • A mutual commitment to the peaceful resolution of all issues through direct bilateral approaches.
    • To build the foundations of a cooperative relationship with special focus on people to people contacts.
    • To uphold the inviolability of the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, this is the most important CBM (confidence building measure) between India and Pakistan, and a key to durable peace.

Courtesy- Ministry of External Affairs

Few major outcomes of the Simla Agreement are:

  • Both countries will “settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations”. India has, many a times, maintained that Kashmir dispute is a bilateral issue and must be settled through bilateral negotiations as per Simla Agreement, 1972 and thus, had denied any third party intervention even that of United Nations. However, Pakistan does not agree with India’s view and seek UN intervention in Kashmir.
  • The agreement converted the cease-fire line of December 17, 1971 into the Line of Control (LOC) between India and Pakistan and it was agreed that “neither side shall seek to alter it unilaterally, irrespective of mutual differences and legal interpretations”. Many Indian bureaucrats have later argued that a tacit agreement, to convert this LOC into international border, was reached during a one-on-one meeting between the two heads of state. However, Pakistani bureaucrats have denied any such thing. This identification of a new “cease-fire line” by both the states has been argued by India as making United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP)in India and Pakistan insignificant. As according to India, the purpose of UNMOGIP was to monitor the cease-fire line as identified in Karachi agreement of 1949 which no longer exists. However, Pakistan have a different take on this issue and both countries still host the UN mission

Courtesy Wikipedia

Discriminatory ‘Visa’ Policy: India- China

  • With the PM Manmohan Singh’s meet scheduled to start from 22nd October, 2013 the issue over “discriminatory” visa policies has been raised by the Indian Chinese families.

What is the Issue about?

  • They oppose rule barring Chinese citizens from acquiring PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) status- that effectively prevents Indian citizens who are married to Chinese spouses from raising their families in India.
  • 150 families most of whom are residing in China or other countries have found it difficult in relocating to India
  • Their main objection is to a long-standing rule that bars Chinese citizens or anyone whose parents, grandparents or even great-grandparents were Chinese nationals from acquiring PIO status, which is granted to most other foreign nationals who marry Indian citizens.
  • Cumbersome extension process this leads to a “visa vacuum” situation where extensions are not granted even beyond the original expiry date. Add to this are the bureaucratic hurdles involving inordinate delays in applying for entry visas; inconsistent application of rules across different Indian Consulates and Embassies, and difficulties in renewing visas at Foreigner Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) in India.
  • According to the existing rules, Chinese spouses have to apply for “X entry” visa, which has to be renewed in India every year, and has five-year validity. It can take up to four or five months for the visa to be issued, and delays on account of Home Ministry clearances.
  • During the five-year period, the Chinese spouses are barred from working in India. This restriction would cause financial burdens on the family. Only when spouses can apply for Indian citizenship — usually after at least seven years of being resident in India can they start working.
  • Unlike business visas, granting visas to the family does not involve “security threat”. The current rules are basically infringing on the right of citizenship to family life.

Other countries that are facing similar problems

  • The bar on PIO status also extends to citizens of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Iran.

More about Persons of Indian Origin Card

  • PIO Card is a form of identification issued to a Person of Indian Origin who holds a passport in another country other than Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The conditions for issuing a PIO card to a person are that:

  • The person ever held an Indian passport; or
  • The person’s parents or grandparents or great grandparents were born in and permanent residents of   India and never moved to (i.e. were never nationals of) Bangladesh and Pakistan, or
  • The person is the spouse of a citizen of India or of a PIO and has been so for two years or more; or
  • The person and his/her parents, grand parents or great grandparents must not have been a national of Bangladesh or Pakistan at any point of time.

The PIO Card Program came into effect on 15 September 2002.

The various benefits available to PIO cardholders are:

  • No visa required for visiting India during the period of validity of PIO Card.
  • Exemption from the requirement of registration if stay in India does not exceed 6 months. Should the continuous stay exceed six months, registration will be required within 30 days of the expiry of six months with the concerned Foreigners Registration Officer.
  • Parity with non-resident Indians in respect of facilities available to the latter in economic, financial and educational fields.
  • All facilities in the matter of acquisition, holding, transfer and disposal of immovable properties in India except in matters relating to the acquisition of agricultural/plantation properties.
  • Facilities available to children of Non Resident Indians for getting admission to educational institutions in India including medical colleges, engineering colleges, Institutes of Technology, Institutes of Management etc. under the general categories.
  • § Facilities available under the various housing schemes of LIC, State Governments and other Government agencies.

Persons with a PIO are not

  • allowed to vote
  • Eligible for an inner line permit. They have to apply for a protected area permit.

Registration/Residential Permit

  • PIO card holders need to register with the appropriate FRRO (Foreigner Regional Registration Office) if they are planning to stay in India for more than 180 days. This requirement is not applicable for minors. The FRRO will issue a “Residential Permit for PIO” which is typically valid till the expiry of the PIO card holder’s passport.

Courtesy Wikipedia

Developed nations silent on funding

  • The recently concluded meeting of EU Finance Ministers failed to agree on putting any figure on the table at the Warsaw meet, which is starting form November 11, 2013.
  • The U.S. too, had overlooked the call for committing midterm figures at Warsaw. It instead focused on private investments and removing barriers in the developing world to such investments.
  • What is the issue between the Developed & the Developing countries?
  • The developed countries had committed to provide a ‘fast-start fund’ of $30 billion to poorer countries between 2010 and 2012 and then $100 billion annually starting 2020. The developing countries have been demanding that these countries put forward a road map for scaling up finance between 2013 and 2020. Many developing country groupings, including the BASIC, have put forth the view to make mid-term commitments and also to bring transparency to the figures they claim to have spent so far.
  • Earlier in this year (September, 2013) the EU had suggested to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that the emerging economies too should contribute to the $100-billion fund. This has not been agreed to at the U.N. negotiations so far. The EU is also pro private investments though it does not undermine the ‘important role’ of public funds.
  • Existing overseas development assistance (or ODA commitments) has been recycled as climate ‘change finance.’
  • The U.S too has been criticized on the same lines.
  • The issue of financial commitments for the short term was last raised by many developing countries, including India, at a meeting of about 40 countries organised in Poland. The meeting was organised in the run-up to the official November talks.

Brazil to host summit on internet governance

  • With the recent controversy over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) -mass surveillance and global spying activities, the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has announced a plan to host a global meeting on Internet governance in April, 2014.
  • The meeting could be a game-changer for the management of the worldwide web. Representatives of many countries, infuriated by the spying programmes, would also take part in the meet.
  • Since June, 2013 when NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden escaped to Hong Kong from the U.S., NSA’s mass surveillance activities have been exposed. India was also one of the biggest targets of the NSA’s clandestine programmes ‘Prism’.

Israel allows Indian Jews to immigrate

  • 899 Indian Jews – the“lost” Bnei Menashe tribe, are all set to migrate from India to Israel. Most of them are from Manipur and Mizoram.
  • The immigration of the community would be in multiple groups with the first batch expected by the end of this (2013) year.

Who are Bnei Menashe?

  • The Bnei Menashe (literally meaning sons of Menashe) tribe trace their roots to one of the 10 “lost tribes” of Jews exiled by the Assyrian regime over 2,700 years ago.
  • Hundreds of Bnei Menashe are already living in Israel, having made aliyah (immigration) with the help of NGO Shavei Israel, which is dedicated to bringing “lost Jews” around the world to Israel.

ECONOMICS

IMF’s methodology under scanner

  • The Finance Minister (FM) P. Chidambaram has questioned the accuracy of growth forecasts of member-countries put forward by IMF. Specifically the sharp downgrade of India’s growth forecast for 2013-14.
  • The IMF’s latest estimate shows that Indian economy would grow by just 3.8%, drastically lower than its 5.6% forecast in July, 2013
  • Speculations have now arisen over this drastic downgrade and the IMF’s methodology of the growth forecasts. The IMF’s calculation of the national accounts statistics is based on market prices whereas India publishes its estimates on factor cost. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) does give calculations on market prices also but those at factor cost are the usual reference point.
  • However, even if India’s GDP is expressed at factor cost, according to IMF it will be only 4.25%
  • Official statistics from the government of India, the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) and the Reserve Bank of India expect the economy to grow by between 5 % and 5.5% during fiscal 2013-14.
  • The FM has also questioned the value of IMF’s surveillance mechanism, specifically on how it failed to warn member-countries of the possible detrimental consequences of the tapering off of the ultra soft monetary policies of the U.S. and other advanced countries.
  • Too frequent downgrades in growth estimates impact negatively on market expectations and spread gloom and this would have huge impact especially on the emerging economies.
  • IMF’s assessment of the world economy has changed quite drastically over the past few months.
  • The most important change has come from the way major countries have fared since April, 2013. In the post-recession period, the big emerging economies were in the forefront of recovery and the developed economies were lagging behind. However, by April 2013, according to IMF there was a “three-speed recovery”– with emerging economies growing rapidly, the U.S. and Japan doing reasonably, and Europe still mired in crisis.
  • But recently IMF’s chief has stated that in many advanced countries, “we are finally seeing signs of hope,” while momentum is slowing in countries such as India, China and Brazil. This has led to further speculations from the developing countries.
  • Against this backdrop, IMF’s lower forecast for India has to be explained in more satisfying terms than what the numbers suggest.
  • Europe’s recovery has been marked by surpluses in the current account, which is matched by deterioration elsewhere, especially in India and other developing countries. This, in turn, has created vulnerabilities, as, for instance, the capital flight from India and other countries in the wake of the Fed’s hint of tapering, leading to rapid currency depreciation, inflation and a greater burden of foreign debt.

What is market price?

  • The current prices price at which buyers and sellers trade an asset or service. It depends on the demand and supply.

What is factor cost?

  • Factor cost is income or output based on the cost of factors of production, instead of market prices. Hence here subsidy or the indirect tax levied by the government is not taken into account.

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