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January 2017 International Issues


INTERNATIONAL

Exchange of list of nuclear facilities between India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan on Sunday exchanged for the 26th consecutive year a list of their nuclear installations under a bilateral agreement that prohibits them from attacking each other’s atomic facilities.

Background:

  • It was  exchanged under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations. The agreement, which was signed on December 31, 1988 and entered into force on January 27, 1991.
  • It says that the two countries inform each other of nuclear installations and facilities to be covered under the agreement on January 1 of every calendar year. 
  •  This is the 26th consecutive exchange of such list between the two countries, the first one having taken place on January 1, 1992.

United Nations declares 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
The United Nations (UN) General Assembly has approved the adoption of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

  • The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to advance the contribution of the tourism sector to the three pillars of sustainability – economic, social and environmental.
  • This decision follows the recognition by global leaders at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) that “well-designed and well-managed tourism” can contribute to the three dimensions of sustainable development, to job creation and to trade.
  • The decision to adopt 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development comes at a particularly important moment as the international community embraces the new Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • Tourism is included as targets under three of the SDGs - SDG 8, SDG 12 and SDG 14.
  •   UNWTO is the lead agency for this initiative.

About UNWTO

  • The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
  • As the leading international organization in the field of tourism, UNWTO promotes tourism as a driver of economic growth, inclusive development and environmental sustainability.
  • UNWTO generates market knowledge, promotes competitive and sustainable tourism policies and instruments, fosters tourism education and training, and works to make tourism an effective tool for development through technical assistance projects in over 100 countries around the world. 

World Bank holds meet with India on Indo-Pakistan Indus Treaty 

  • In a meeting organised by World Bank, India  asked the World Bank not to rush in to broker a deal on its dispute with Pakistan over Kishenganga and Ratle project, asserting that the differences can be resolved bilaterally or through a neutral expert. 
  • The World Bank had decided to set up a Court of Arbitration (CoA) to settle the disputes following Pakistan's demand and also agreed to appoint a neutral expert sought by India. 
  • India had reacted strongly to the decision to appoint the CoA and last month the World Bank announced it would temporarily halt the two simultaneous processes to resolve the differences. 
  •  India also maintained that the design of the projects do not violate the Indo-Pak Indus Water Treaty (IWT). 

About IWT

  • The Indus Waters Treaty was signed on September 19, 1960 by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's President Ayub Khan. 
  • It was brokered by the World Bank.
  • The treaty administers how river Indus and its tributaries that flow in both the countries will be utilised.
  •  According to the treaty, Beas, Ravi and Sutlej are to be governed by India, while, Indus, Chenab and Jhelum are to be taken care by Pakistan.
  • However, since Indus flows from India, the country is allowed to use 20 per cent of its water for irrigation, power generation and transport purposes.
  • A Permanent Indus Commission was set up as a bilateral commission to implement and manage the Treaty. The Commission solves disputes arising over water sharing.
  • The Treaty also provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably.
  • Though Indus originates from Tibet, China has been kept out of the Treaty. If China decides to stop or change the flow of the river, it will affect both India and Pakistan.
  • Climate change is causing melting of ice in Tibetan plateau, which scientists believe will affect the river in future.
  • It maybe noted that both India and Pakistan are still at loggerheads over various issues since Partition, but there has been no fight over water after the Treaty was ratified.

China deepens military ties with Malaysia
For the first time, a Chinese submarine has docked at a port in Malaysia, signalling deepening military ties between the two countries, which are already partners in the development of the Beijing-led Maritime Silk Road.

  • It is being seen as a trigger for elevated tensions in the South China Sea (SCS). The Malaysian port has a naval base facing the SCS.
  •  China has stated that submarine arrived at the port for “rest and recreation” after completing an escort mission to the Gulf of Aden and Somalia.

Implications

  • Analysts say docking of Chinese submarine signals the emergence of special ties between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur. Submarine port visits can only happen when mutual trust between two navies has reached new heights, as submarine operations are very secretive and sensitive.
  • It  is adding a prominent military dimension to China’s ties with Malaysia which is fast emerging as Beijing’s top partner, close to the Strait of Malacca, along the Maritime Silk Road (MSR).

About MSR

  • The Maritime Silk Road, also known as the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" is a initiative aimed at investing and fostering collaboration in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa, through several contiguous bodies of water – the South China Sea, the South Pacific Ocean, and the wider Indian Ocean area.
  • The Maritime Silk Road initiative was first proposed by Xi Jinping during a speech to the Indonesian Parliament in October 2013.

South China Dispute

  •  The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely the Nation of Brunei, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia, Indonesia, the Republic of the Philippines, and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
  • As a high proportion of the world's trade passes through the South China Sea, there are many non-claimant nations that want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with several nations (e.g. the United States of America) conducting "freedom of navigation" operations
  • In July 2016, an arbitral tribunal constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ruled against China's maritime claims in Philippines v. China.
  • Although it is not enforceable. China does not acknowledge the tribunal nor abide by its ruling, insisting that any resolution should be through bilateral negotiations with other claimants

India gears up to ink pact for global customs transit system 
India is gearing up to sign the Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR), or the customs convention on the international transport of goods, as it eyes seamless trade connectivity with both Eurasian region and Southeast Asia. 

TIR

  • TIR is the only global customs transit system that provides easy and smooth movement of goods across borders in sealed compartments or containers under customs control from the customs office of departure to the customs office of destination. 
  • It plays an important role in boosting regional connectivity and facilitating cross-border trade flows, according to connectivity experts. 
  • This will allow India to take full benefit of International North South Transportation Corridor or INSTC, which enables access to Eurasian region via Iran, and Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement. 
  • The TIR system operates with certain parameters – secure vehicles or container, international guarantee chain, TIR carnet, reciprocal recognition of customs controls, controlled access and TIR IT risk management tools. 
  • These elements guarantee that goods travel across borders with minimum interference en-route and at the same time provide maximum safeguards to customs administration.
  •  The TIR system has a globally accepted electronic control system for integrated transit operations. 
  •  Aligning with the TIR system will also enable India to take full advantage of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). 

INSTC

  • It is a land and sea-based 7,200 km long network comprising rail, road and water routes that is aimed at reducing costs and travel time for freight transport in a bid to boost trade between Russia, Iran, Central Asia, India and Europe. It will link South Asia to western and northern Europe. 
  • A study conducted by the Federation of Freight Forwarders’ Associations in India showed that INSTC will be 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than the existing routes.

The first test shipment between India and Russia through INSTC took place in October last year. Germany has also decided to trade with Iran via this connectivity project. 

Cabinet approves India’s Membership in the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), South Korea 
The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval to the proposal for India’s taking full membership of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) Governing Council. 
The move involves payment of annual contribution of US $ 5,00,000 to the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), Seoul, South Korea. 

India’s engagement with IVI

  • In the year 2007, with the approval of Cabinet, India joined IVI. India is a long-term collaborator and stake-holder of IVI.
  • In December, 2012 the Board of Trustees (BOT) of IVI approved the formation of its new governance structure. 
  • As per the new governance structure of IVI, a member State has to contribute to the IVI by paying a portion of its core budget. Since India is classified in Group-I, it has to pay an annual contribution of US $ 5,00,000. 

IVI

  • The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) is an international non-profit organization that was founded on the belief that the health of children in developing countries can be dramatically improved by the use of new and improved vaccines.
  • Working in collaboration with the international scientific community, public health organizations, governments, and industry, IVI is involved in all areas of the vaccine spectrum – from new vaccine design in the laboratory to vaccine development and evaluation in the field to facilitating sustainable introduction of vaccines in countries where they are most needed.
  • Created initially as an initiative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), IVI began formal operations as an independent international organization in 1997 in Seoul, Republic of Korea
  • The Institute has a unique mandate to work exclusively on vaccine development and introduction specifically for people in developing countries, with a focus on neglected diseases affecting these regions.

Second Raisina Dialogue held in New Delhi
Second edition of Raisina Dialoge was held from January 19-21, 2017, with the theme of "The New Normal: Multilateralism with Multi-Polarity". It was inaugrated by current PM Narendra Modi, with 69 nations participating

About Raisina Dialogue

  • The Raisina Dialogue is an annual conference held in New Delhi, envisioned to be India's flagship conference of geopolitics and geo-economics.
  • The conference, organized like the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, is held jointly by Ministry of External Affairs, India and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an independent think tank based in India. Its inaugural session was held from March 1 through 3rd in 2016. 
  • The conference name comes from Raisina Hill, the elevation in New Delhi, which is the location of both the Government of India as well as the presidential palace of India, Rashtrapati Bhavan, which inspired the design of the conference symbol.


Minister of MSME inaugurates Workshop on MSME Cooperation amongst Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Member Countries 

Union Minister of MSME inaugurated Workshop on MSME Cooperation amongst Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Member countries. Speaking on the occasion, which  will strengthen economic relationship amongst the member countries in the field of trade and investment facilitation especially in MSME sector.

Background:

  • Workshop on MSME Cooperation amongst IORA member countries was organized in pursuance of the commitment made by India in the Economic Business Conference - II (EBC- II) held in Dubai in April, 2016. 
  • The Ministry of MSME, Government of India in consultation with the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and IORA Secretariat organized this Workshop.

About IORA

  • The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.
  • The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them. 
  • It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment, Promotion as well as Social Development of the region.
  • The organisation was first established as Indian Ocean Rim Initiative in Mauritius on March 1995 and formally launched on 6–7 March 1997 by the conclusion of a multilateral treaty known as the Charter of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation
  •  The objectives of IORA are as follows: 

              1.    To promote sustainable growth and balanced development of the region and member states
              2.    To focus on those areas of economic cooperation which provide maximum opportunities for development, shared interest and                            mutual benefits
             3.    To promote liberalisation, remove impediments and lower barriers towards a freer and enhanced flow of goods, services,                                    investment, and technology within the Indian Ocean rim.

India to focus on BIMSTEC after hurdles from Pakistan
India has decided to focus on strengthening the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) amid Pakistan's continued intransigence in blocking key anti-terror and connectivity initiatives under the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC.
It was manifested in the recent move to club BIMSTEC Division with SAARC in the external affairs ministry.

Major highlights

  • The Modi government signaled that strengthening regional cooperation between South and Southeast Asia through BIMSTEC is a priority, choosing the grouping as it did for outreach with BRICS leaders following their summit in Goa.
  • Although India has strong bilateral counter-terror cooperation with certain BIMSTEC nations – Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal – an annual national security adviser level meet for the grouping and launch of a BIMSTEC de-radicalisation initiative are on the cards.
  • Pakistan has been blocking connectivity initiatives such as SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Railways Agreement, and refusing to cooperate on combating cross-border terrorism. 

About BIMSTEC

  • The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organisation involving a group of countries in South Asia and South East Asia. 
  • These are: Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka,  Thailand,  Bhutan  and  Nepal.
  •  The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population. 
  • The region has a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.7 trillion. In the last five years, BIMSTEC member states have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.
  • The cooperation within BIMSTEC will be based on respect for the principle of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, non-interference in internal affairs, peaceful co-existence and mutual benefit.

What is India’s interest in the grouping

  •  The BIMSTEC is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. The two Southeast Asian countries in the grouping, Myanmar and Thailand, have a crucial place for India’s ambitious connectivity plans for north-eastern region. 
  • Myanmar is only Southeast Asian country India has a land boundary with. An India-Myanmar-Thailand highway is one of the key projects that figures in a big way in the government’s Act East (earlier Look East) policy. 
  • With the India-Pakistan bickering coming in way of a smooth functioning of the SAARC, groupings such as BIMSTEC can take forward the concept of regional cooperation in a different manner

Sample Questions
Q1.Consider the following statements
1.    United Nations has declared 2016 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
2.    Tourism is included as targets under three of the SDGs - SDG 8, SDG 12 and SDG 14.
3.    UNWTO is the lead agency for this initiative.
     Choose the correct option
a)Only 1,2                      b)Only 2,3
c)Only 1,3                      d)All

Q2.Consider the following statements regarding Indus Water Treaty
1.    The Indus Waters Treaty was signed on September 19, 1960 between India and Pakistan
2.    It was brokered by United Nations
3.    The treaty administers how river Indus and its tributaries that flow in both the countries will be utilised.
4.    The Treaty  provides arbitration mechanism to solve disputes amicably
Choose the correct option
a)Only 1,2,3            b)Only 1,3,4
c)Only 3,4                d)All

Q3.Consider the following statement regarding Maritime Silk Road initiative.
1.    It is a initiative aimed at investing and fostering collaboration in Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North Africa, through several contiguous bodies of water.
2.    The Maritime Silk Road initiative was first proposed by Chinese President  Xi Jinping.
3.    India have shown proactive interest in joining the initiative.
Choose the correct option
a)Only 1,2                         b)Only 2,3
c)only 1                            d)All

Q4.Consider the following statements regarding International Vaccine Institute.
1.    The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) was founded  to help developing countries to introduce new vaccines
2.    India has become its full member in 2015.
3.    Along with vaccine introduction ,it also works to introduce new and affordable medicines
Choose the correct option
a)Only 1,2                b)Only 1
c)Only 2,3                d)All

Q5.Which of the following countries are not included in BIMSTEC
1.    Afghanistan
2.    Thailand
3.    Indonesia
4.    Maldives
Choose the correct option
a)Only 1,2                   b)Only 2
c)Only 2,3                   d)Only 2,4

Q6.Consider the following statements regarding Indian Ocean Rim Association  (IORA).
1.  It is of tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia.
2. It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening Economic Cooperation particularly on Trade Facilitation and Investment
Choose the correct option
a)Only 1                           b)Only 2
c)Both                               d)none

 

Answers
Q1. b     Q2. b     Q3. a   Q4. b     Q5. b   Q6.c