December 02, 2013
India feels SCO can play a bigger role in Afghanistan
- India has called for a greater role by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in rebuilding and stabilizing Afghanistan. Since bulk of the SCO’s members and observers are Afghanistan’s neighbours.
- However, Iran’s opposition of the West and the SCO’s tendency of trying not to annoy the West led to the organisation playing a more subdued role in Afghanistan.
- SCO could also play a useful role in promoting trade connectivity in the region and countering terrorism.
- From India’s point of view, it would be looking to enter into an energy and minerals partnership with Uzbekistan especially in the area of uranium.
- India has been an observer country in the SCO since 2005. India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia have expressed their readiness to join Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan as its full members.
More about Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)
- The SCO is a Eurasian political, economic and military organisation which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
- It also has Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan as observers, and Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey as dialogue partners.
- It has also initiated a new security concept that is based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation.
- The SCO, which is an observer of the UN General Assembly, is the only regional inter-governmental organization founded in China.
Courtesy – http://english.cntv.cn/20130913/102515.shtml & Wikipedia
Protests across Israel over Bedouin settlement
- Thousands of Bedouin demonstrators and their supporters clashed with the police across Israel as they protested a government plan to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev desert. This reminded of the Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank.
- Activists had called for the protests as part of an international ‘day of rage’ against the plan, known as the Prawer-Begin plan. A bill that would turn the plan into law is expected to be brought to a final vote during the next session of Parliament.
- Since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, the land disputes between the Bedouins and the authorities remained. Hence in order to resolve the dispute, the plan proposes a mechanism to deal with land ownership claims and compensation. It also calls for the evacuation of 35 Bedouin villages that are not recognised by the state and the resettlement of the residents in existing or new towns.
- The Human rights organisations opposing the plan say it will involve the forcible relocation of 30,000 to 40,000 Bedouins, dispossessing them of their historic land rights. The plan was created without sufficient input by the Bedouins, and that it discriminates between the Bedouin and Jewish residents of the Negev.
- A third to half of the 170,000 or so Negev Bedouins live in unrecognised villages that are not connected to the state water or electricity networks.
- It has been argued that, the Bedouin of the Negev, being equal citizens, deserve adequate housing, public services and a better future for their children.
Pro-EU Ukrainians defy protest ban
- Pro-EU Ukrainians have defied a ban on protests and fears of police violence in Kiev to push for early elections after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a historic EU pact.
- The ex-Soviet nation was thrown into its deepest crisis since the 2004 pro-democracy Orange Revolution when Yanukovych shunned the EU leaders at a Vilnius summit recently and opted to keep Ukraine aligned with its former master Russia.
- The government’s decision has sparked off mass demonstrations that has turned violent.
- The protestors have demanded for early elections as well as a countrywide strike, including daily rallies aimed at blocking the entrance to the Ukrainian government seat in the capital.
- They were defying a ban suddenly imposed by Kiev’s (Ukrain’s capital) main administrative court on all protests on the Kiev’s iconic Independence Square s and its surrounding streets until January 7, 2014.
- While the U.S. and the German authorities have called on the Ukrainian government to ensure freedom of assembly and to protect the peaceful demonstrators from any kind of intimidation and violence. The jailed former PM Yulia Tymoshenko (Yanukovych rival) whose release was a condition for signing the EU deal has called on Ukrainians to press ahead with their fight.
China launches moon rover
- China has launched its first moon rover mission (Chang’e-3 rocket), the latest step in an ambitious space programme seen as a symbol of its rising global stature.
- The probe is due to land on the moon in mid-December to explore its surface and look for natural resources.
- It is the world’s third lunar rover mission following those by the United States and former Soviet Union decades earlier.
Challenges to the Banking Sector
- The annual report on “Trend and Progress of Banking in India’’ is w.r.t the terms of the Banking Regulation Act 1949. The report is an authentic account of the developments in the financial sector.
- Banks dominate the financial sector, accounting for over half of the financial flows in the economy.
The principal challenges facing banks:
- The domestic economy is slowing down while at the global level there is only a modest recovery. Regulatory initiatives over the past year sought to enhance the quality of risk-based supervision, better oversight over financial conglomerates and improved coordination among regulators. Banks are being equipped to face the challenges of financial inclusion.
- More specifically, banks need to address certain key issues. Reduction in the level of NPAs (non-performing assets) is a primary task. Simultaneously loan recovery methods have to be improved upon and strengthened. Financial inclusion should be implemented in a sustainable way. For this suitable business and delivery models will have to be developed. The asset quality of banks has decreased significantly. Credit appraisal and post-loan monitoring are other crucial steps which need to be improved upon.
- Competition among banks and with the rest of the financial sector will increase. New banks are proposed to be licensed shortly. There is a need for decisive changes in the banking structure to enable it to grow in size, resources efficiency and inclusivity. Two important recent developments here are the licensing of new private banks and announcing clear guidelines for foreign banks to set up shop in India or expand their footprint in India. Though awarding licences to corporate houses (among others) remains a highly controversial idea.
- Another area which will engage policy makers to a greater extent than now is strengthening the role of banks in inclusive development. Access to bank finance is still poor for many categories. They include the poor, rural and small and medium industries. Although recently a very large number of bank accounts have been opened, the actual number of transactions per account is still small, suggesting inadequacies on both demand and supply sides.
- Financial literacy will create awareness of bank schemes and thereby enhance the access to the financial system. Increased use of technology would help in achieving the goal of financial inclusion.
Iran and West Asian tensions
- The recently concluded Geneva meet among G5+1 (G5 + Germany) and Iran has not only brought temporary ease with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme and partial removal of Western sanctions, but it has also more significance to West Asia.
Repercussions on West Asia:
- With U.S withdrawing most of its troops from Afghanistan in 2014, Iran (now being a potentially valuable partner for the US) can help stabilise the country and deter the Taliban. Also Iranian troops had briefly assisted the U.S. in 2001.
- With respect to Syria, Iran can play a major role in bringing a settlement in Syria, as Shia President, Bashar al Assad’s adamant stand has prevented a settlement and caused over thousands of deaths in a terrible civil war, over which Western public opinion is strongly opposed to military intervention.
- With regard to Iraq, Iran already has considerable influence over PM Nouri al Maliki, where the illegal 2003 U.S-led invasion provided space for revived Sunni-Shia tensions which still cause thousands of deaths every year. Furthermore, Kurdish and even Sunni political groups have for some time now drawn on Iranian advice in forming Iraqi provincial coalition governments and resolving disputes.
Countries which were against the Geneva deal:
- However, the Geneva deal has shocked most West Asian leaders. Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its greatest rival, has openly expressed its displeasure, but West Asian Arab countries made no attempt to participate at Geneva. Since 2008, proposals by Bahrain, Iran and the former Arab League head Amr Moussa for regional security talks have met a dead-end.
- The standard responses to perceived security threats, such as using oil wealth to buy more weapons, even possibly including a nuclear umbrella, will not help the Arab leaders, because Iran is already cooperating with the G6, and increased weapons purchases would worsen a destabilising arms race.
- As for Israel, which shares many of the Arab countries’ interests, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has cautioned that he would do ‘anything necessary’ to defend his country, and continues to approve settlements in the occupied territories.
- But Mr. Rouhani has unquestionable democratic legitimacy, and even if justice for the Palestinians and democratic reforms in West Asia seem remote at present, it may not be long before those two issues are rightly at the top of the agenda again.