November 22, 2013
Union Government and the Naga insurgents begin fresh negotiations
- The Union government and the leaders of the largest Naga insurgent group have begun a fresh round of negotiations, hoping to come to terms on a political settlement of the decades-old conflict.
- According to certain sources, the talks were centred around a deal which would give Naga communities in both Nagaland and Manipur similar substantial rights across State lines — but without territorial concessions from Manipur on Naga-inhabited areas in the districts of Tamenlong, Senapati, Ukhrul and Chandel.
- The best-case outcome would be a deal which would create an ‘institutional mechanism’ to give Naga communities across the region full recognition and rights, but without redrawing state boundaries.
- Pressure has been mounting on the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) since early this year (2013). Notably, there have been growing protests in Nagaland against the parallel taxation structure insurgents use to fund their operations. Earlier, thousands of people defied the NSCN-IM calls to rally in Dimapur (Nagaland)under the banner of the ‘Action Committee Against Unabated Taxation’ to protest against taxes imposed by underground organisations on salaries, businesses and contractors.
- The protests were organised not to fight with any underground faction but to reason with them that there has to be the rule of law on the lines of ‘one government, one tax.’
- Formations like the NSCN-IM came under further pressure in May, 2013 when the Nagaland government was reported to be considering granting tribal status to the Mao Nagas — a legal decision that brings with it opportunities of government employment and benefits. The Maos already have tribal status in Manipur.
- However, the move encountered resistance from some Naga tribal groups within Nagaland, a development with direct repercussions for the NSCN-IM, whose leadership is made up of Tangkhul Nagas, whose lands are mainly in Manipur.
- Though the State government later denied that it was granting the Mao Nagas tribal status, the issue led to friction between the Naga Tribal Alliance, a newly-formed association of tribes within Nagaland, and the Naga Hoho, which claims to speak for all Nagas.
- Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh have passed resolutions in their Assemblies that no territory will be given up for a Greater Nagland, and New Delhi fears it could stoke the ethnic-Meitei insurgency in Manipur.
All you need to know about NSCN-IM
- The Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) is a Naga nationalist group operating in Northeast India.The main aim of the organization is to establish a sovereign state, “Nagalim” unifying all the areas inhabited by the Naga people in Northeast India and Burma.
- The National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) was formed on January 31, 1980 by Isak Chishi Swu, Thuingaleng Muivah and S.S. Khaplang opposing the Shillong Accord signed by the then Naga National Council (NNC) with the Government of India.
- Later, misunderstanding surfaced within the outfit leaders over the issue of commencing negotiation dialogue with the Indian Government and on April 30, 1988, the NSCN split into two fractions; the NSCN-K and the NSCN-IM. The split triggered spat of violence and factional clash between the factions.
Operation of Parallel govt.:
- On the political front, the NSCN-IM has divided its area of influence into 11 regions .In many areas, it runs a parallel government. There are four major ‘Ministries’ – Defense, Home, Finance and Foreign Affairs. The most prominent among the Ministries is the ‘Home ministry’, which is considered as a replacement of the Indian State government machinery.
- The heads of 11 administrative regions report to the ‘Home Minister’ (Kilo Kilonser). The devolution of administrative arms of the organization goes down to the town and village levels in the NSCN-IM’s areas of influence.
- The outfit has also established a government-in-exile called the Government of the People’s Republic of Nagaland (GPRN) which, interacts with formal and non-formal world bodies and media. The GPRN sends emissaries abroad to garner support and raise funds for the Naga cause.
It’s Linkages with foreign countries: Area of concern
- Over the years, the NSCN-IM has tried to develop extensive linkages both within and outside India. It is alleged that Pakistan and China are providing finance as well as arms and ammunition to NSCN in their fight for independence against the Indian Government.
India’s Oil exploration to take place in undisputed areas in South China Sea
- Vietnam has offered India for exploring gas and oil blocks in the South China Sea in areas where there is no dispute over sovereignty.
- Vietnam’s offer for third country exploration pertains to a block in Uzbekistan – a country with which both India and Vietnam enjoy excellent political ties.
Measured Chinese response to India-Vietnam deals
- China has responded cautiously to India’s agreements with Vietnam on oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea, expressing its hope that countries would “do more things that are conducive” to stability, while at the same time not directly voicing its opposition to the projects.
- China, which in the past strongly opposed exploration projects in the disputed South China Sea citing its “indisputable sovereignty” over its islands and waters, a claim that is being contested by at least 10 countries, including Vietnam was more measured than the warnings directed at India in 2012 about undertaking projects in the region.
- It had opposed ‘unilateral energy exploration’ and called on India to respect its “sovereignty and national interests” over exploration of blocks 127 and 128, which according to Chinese was located in a basin that is currently under Vietnam’s control but fell within their claim lines.
- China had mounted a far stronger response to India’s deals on blocks 127 and 128, issuing formal protests. India has since returned the first block as explorations did not yield significant finds, while the second block has reportedly stalled on account of financial and technical difficulties.
- The issue strained bilateral relations at a time when China was seen as adopting a more assertive stand on territorial disputes. In recent months, however, the new leadership under Xi Jinping, who took over in March, 2013 as President, has attempted to tone down regional tensions.
India’s position at WTO not in conflict with food security Act
- The All-India Kisan Sabha and Third World Network (comprising 270 civil society groups) have urged India not to agree to a “peace clause” in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations on subsidies for public stock holding for food security.
- The Commerce Ministry has said draft ministerial declaration on the subject (i.e., agreement to limit food security to four years under a “peace clause”) still awaits a decision and is not an agreed position in the WTO.
- India has maintained that its position on the subject in the WTO is in line with the government’s resolve to offer food security on a lasting basis to the targeted population. India’s position does not contradict or conflict with its commitment under the National Food Security Act and remains aligned to stated national policy.
- Meanwhile, rejecting the interim solution offered by WTO Director-General Roberto Azvedo to the G-33 proposal, the KisanSabha called upon the government to “intervene” in the negotiations to protect the livelihoods of millions of farmers and remain committed to India’s sovereign right to decide its price support policy as well as the food security programme.
- The Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) allows subsidy only upto 10% of production cost which defies logic calculated as it is on a fixed reference price of 1986-88 when prices were much lower. “This reflects inflated subsidies while remaining totally ignorant to the present day global agricultural prices. It also calculates subsidy on the basis of total production rather than actual procurement.”
- A peace clause means that the use of such subsidies is still illegal but WTO members will not go to dispute settlement for this period (i.e. 4 years according to the clause).
(For more information on this issue refer our – ‘INSIGHTS CURRENT EVENTS ANALYSIS OCTOBER – 2013’ MAGAZINE)
India, France to lead study on monsoon
- India and France will spearhead an international, 10-member country project to study the impact of melting polar ice caps and glaciers on the monsoon.
- The changes in the polar region would affect circulation and temperature structure in the oceans, which in turn, impacts the Indian monsoon.
- The other countries in the project include the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, Brazil and Germany.
- India would be joining Arctic Council as an observer, this holds significance since anything that happens in Arctic directly affects weather and climate and India was keen to take up studies in Iceland, Greenland, Canada and other areas in the region.
Maoist walkout raises fears for Nepal’s election legitimacy
- International observers as well as political and civil society groups in Nepal have called on the Maoists to reverse their decision to walk out of the counting of votes polled in the elections for the second Constituent Assembly, saying it could erode the legitimacy of democracy.
- The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had walked out of the counting centres alleging that the elections were rigged. However independent observers had certified the elections to be free and fair.
- The Nepali Congress and the rival Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist criticised the Maoist decision, noting that they had accepted the popular will despite doing badly in the 2008 elections.
U.S. – Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) pact
- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has backed a ‘proposed security pact’-Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)’ with the United States that would allow up to 15,000 foreign troops stay. It has been touted as vital to the country’s future after 2014, when the bulk of NATO’s 75,000 troops will pull out.
- From the U.S. side, the forces (military) have assured that it would not enter Afghan homes “except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals”.
- A similar security deal between the U.S. and Iraq collapsed in 2011 over the issue of whether American troops would be answerable to local courts, leading Washington to pull its forces out.
- It is believed that the Afghanistan President Mr. Karzai had bowed to a U.S. demand that American troops would not be tried in local courts if they are accused of crimes — an issue that became a major hurdle in the negotiations.
NGOs walk out of Warsaw talks
- In a rare sign of frustration and solidarity, over 800 representatives of NGOs staged a walkout from the climate negotiations here, citing lack of commitment from developed countries and take over by corporate interests.
- The environmental NGOs have always been an integral part of the climate talks and are allowed to not only sit in and watch the negotiations but also intervene at times with their demands.
- Thousands of activists and NGO representatives of wide range attend the talks to put pressure on the countries to act beyond just immediate national interests to fight climate change.
- Climate talks in Warsaw are supposed to create solutions to deal with increasing typhoons, rising seas and dying species. Instead of leading at these talks, rich countries have back-tracked.
- The developed countries have collectively blocked progress on two key issues — Loss and Damage and delivering finance to the poor countries.
- On a third track, negotiations have been dragging with the rich countries trying to break the firewall between the developed and the developing countries and hence backtracking on their commitments to fight climate change.
- The unity among the NGOs has been rare as they too at times get divided along the broad North-South divide that underlies the broader framework of climate negotiations.
- Few instances where climate change had an adverse impact on India – People have died due to cyclones like Phalin and Haiyan and flash floods which occurred in Uttarakhand.
U.N. cannot force Rohingya citizenship’
- Myanmar would not allow itself to be pressured by a U.N. (United Nations) resolution calling on it to grant citizenship to members of the Muslim ethnic minority that identify themselves as Rohingya.
- The government does not recognise that there is a group called Rohingya, instead it refers them as Bengalis.
- The U.N. General Assembly’s human rights committee had passed a resolution urging Myanmar to give the stateless Rohingya minority equal access to citizenship and to crack down on Buddhist violence against them and other Muslims.
- But U.N. has been criticized for interfering in Myanmar’s internal affairs.
- Communal violence in the past two years had left more than 240 people dead and caused another 2,40,000 to flee their homes, most of them Rohingya. Bengalis living in Rakhine state who are qualified as citizens under the 1982 citizenship law would be given citizenship.
- The citizenship law recognises eight races and 130 minority groups, but omits the country’s 8,00,000 Rohingya. Many Myanmar Buddhists view the Rohingya as interlopers brought in by British colonialists from what is now Bangladesh, but many Rohingya say they have lived in the country for hundreds of years. The Rohingya speak a Bengali dialect and resemble Bangladeshis, with darker skin than most people in Myanmar. Bangladesh also refuses to accept them as citizens.
Tymoshenko’s release bills scuttled in Ukraine
- Ukraine’s Parliament has failed to pass bills that would have enabled the release of jailed former Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, dealing a harsh blow to its chances of integration with the European Union (EU).
- The West calls Ms. Tymoshenko’s seven-year sentence for abuse of office politically motivated and has refused to sign a landmark association agreement with Ukraine unless she is freed.
(For more information on Ukraine joining EU refer to our ‘INSIGHTS CURRENT EVENTS ANALYSIS OCTOBER – 2013’ MAGAZINE)
Banks’ asset quality remains a major concern, says RBI
- The RBI has said that it would focus on the monitoring of banks’ asset quality and help improve the poor debt recovery process, underlining the central bank’s growing discomfort with rising bad loans.
What is the concern?
- Bad debts have surged as economic growth has slowed to a decade low, while investments have also stalled.
- The focus on asset quality comes as bad debts at banks have nearly doubled since 2009 to 4.2 % of total loans at the end of September, 2013, while debt restructuring is also at a record high.
- The non-performing assets (NPA) ratio of all major sectors weakened during 2012-13. While the primary driver of the deteriorating asset quality was the domestic economic slowdown, the contribution of other factors like delays in obtaining statutory and other approvals as well as lax credit appraisal/monitoring by banks was also significant.
Guidelines from RBI to streamline NPA (Non-Performing Assets)
- The RBI has advised banks to put in place mechanisms for early detection of signs of distress and to use early warning signals to avoid non-performing loan. It has also advised banks to strengthen information sharing, making it compulsory to receive and share information on borrowers before loans are approved.
- The central bank also cited an urgent need to speed up operations at fast-track government courts for lenders that deal with cases involving the recovery of debt called debt recovery tribunals and asset reconstruction companies.
- Regarding effectiveness of the recovery system, RBI has said that there is urgent need for accelerating the working of Debt Recovery Tribunals and Asset Reconstruction Companies. It is also necessary to collect credit data and examine large common exposures across banks. This will enable the creation of a central repository on large credits, which can be shared with the banks.
(Regarding NPA, Basel-III norms, asset quality refer to our ‘INSIGHTS CURRENT EVENTS ANALYSIS OCTOBER – 2013’ MAGAZINE)
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Seismic monitoring gets a boost
- India’s real-time seismic monitoring capabilities received a boost with the inauguration of a state-of-the-art permanent digital network of seismological and geophysical sensors spread across the country. The Indian Seismic and GNSS Network (ISGN) Project provides critical services for disaster management.
- There is a need for building a resilient hazard mitigation system through a combination of knowledge expertise, organisations’ response and community awareness.
- Under the ISGN project, 50 standalone seismic stations, including one located at Siachen, have been connected as also 40 GPS stations scattered across the country to receive data in real time.
- Data from several regional networks operated by national institutions such as Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and National Geophysical Research Institute (NGRI) get integrated into ISGN using high-speed terrestrial links.