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September 5, 2017

Modi-Xi meet will seek to erase Doklam tensions

  • Ahead of the proposed one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, India has signalled that it wants to open a new chapter in ties with China, going past the Doklam crisis as a reference point in the New Delhi-Beijing equation.

Long-term solution

  • But ahead of the summit, the Chinese had also pointed out that the two countries must find a long-term solution to prevent incidents such as the face-off on the Doklam plateau.
  • In a briefing on the eve of the summit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hoped the two countries “will join hands and work together for the rejuvenation of, for the development of our region and contribute our share to the greater development”.
  • On Sunday, Chinese President Xi Jinping had also highlighted the urgency of avoiding “confrontation” as the security template for the five emerging economies. He underscored that the BRICS grouping must uphold the value of diplomacy to resolve “hotspot issues”.
  • With the rise of protectionism in major markets like the U.S. and parts of Europe, “BRICS must step into this vacuum and give some clear direction about what they see as the future of globalisation, and play their part in building the next phase of globalisation.”

Daily revision of fuel price to stay: Pradhan

  • Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Monday that the daily revision of fuel prices had benefited consumers. He said the recent increase in prices was “mainly” driven by rising global prices.
  • Mr. Pradhan, who has been elevated to the Cabinet rank and given additional charge of the Skill Development Ministry, said he would seek to meet the Prime Minister’s expectations from the Skill India Mission of creating “dignified job opportunity” for the youth.

BRICS names JeM, LeT terror groups

  • The Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping unequivocally named Pakistan-based groups — Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) — as terror organisations, removing a key irritant in ties between New Delhi and Beijing and stepping up the fight against global extremism.
  • A joint communiqué released at the BRICS summit on Monday expressed concern about the regional security situation and listed the Taliban, IS/Daesh, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb-ut-Tahrir as sources of violence.

Naming JeM, LeT not new; action must shift to UN

  • The BRICS declaration at Xiamen, which included a paragraph on terror, has been hailed as a major shift of China’s policy of protecting Pakistan-based groups. However, experts say the reference to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is not a first for Beijing and must be reinforced by a bilateral commitment on terrorism during the meeting between President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected on Tuesday.
  • In particular, officials say they hope the BRICS statement will translate into China removing its block on designating JeM chief Masood Azhar as a U.N. Security Council-sanctioned terrorist when its current hold on the process at the Security Council expires on November 1.

Beyond statements

  • “It is obvious that China’s new role in the region, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) leadership, has given it new responsibilities, and it is significant that this shift also comes post-Doklam. It is to be hoped that they will go further than the statements, however,” said former diplomat Amar Sinha, a key official involved in drafting last year’s BRICS declaration in Goa and the one at the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar, both of which China attended.
  • Monday’s statement says with regard to the violence in Afghanistan that the BRICS countries “express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
  • Last year’s BRICS conference in Goa had seen a major tussle over including the names of Pakistan-based terror groups and the term “cross-border terrorism” in the wake of the Uri attacks. Admitting that they had not been successful in having the specific names of groups added to the statement apart from that of the Islamic State, officials at the time had said they were “satisfied” with the final consensus.
  • However, two months later, at the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar, India had attempted a different line during negotiations on the joint text, which was signed by 14 countries including China and Pakistan, naming groups that attack security forces in Russia, China, India, Pakistan and others.The resultant declaration had the same language used in the BRICS declaration on Monday.
  • “We remain concerned by the gravity of the security situation in Afghanistan in particular and the region, and the high level of violence caused by the Taliban, terrorist groups including ISIL and its affiliates, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaida, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkistan Islamic Movement, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Jundullah and other foreign terrorist fighters,” it said.
  • Officials involved in India’s counter-terrorism efforts say they hope the BRICS statement will be seen as a progression in China’s stand, but add it has been 16 years since China and other UNSC countries designated JeM and more than a decade since LeT was similarly designated.

No assurance from Centre on Rohingya

  • The petition by the Rohingyas contended that any move to deport them would violate the constitutional guarantee of the Indian state to “protect the life and liberty of every human being, whether citizen or not.”
  • Their deportation, the petition said, would violate India’s commitment to international conventions which recognise the ‘Principle of Non-Refoulement.’ This principle of customary international law prohibits the deportation of refugees to a country where they face threat to their lives.
  • The UNHRC Report of 2016 has noted successive patterns of serious violations to the right to life, liberty and security of the Rohingyas by state security forces and other officials in Myanmar.Violations, the report said, included summary executions, enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, forced labour, arbitrary arrest and detention of hundreds, including women and children.

India pitches for a credit rating agency

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday strongly pitched for the setting up of a BRICS credit rating agency to counter western rating institutions and cater to the financial needs of sovereign and corporate entities of developing nations.
  • In an address at the plenary session of the BRICS Summit here, Mr. Modi said a separate rating agency would help the economies of the member countries and other developing nations.
  • “Our Central Banks must further strengthen their capabilities and promote cooperation between the Contingent Reserve Arrangement and the IMF [International Monetary Fund],” the Prime Minister said, urging early creation of the BRICS rating agency.
  • Three western agencies hold over 90% of the sovereign ratings market.

SC poser to online giants on offensive content

  • The Supreme Court on Monday asked Google, Microsoft, Facebook and WhatsApp to provide the number of complaints received from India of any objectionable material posted online on their sites between the period of January 1, 2016 and August 31, 2017.
  • A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit said the court wanted to know whether the online giants had taken any action on the complaints received from India on materials like videos or pictures of child pornography, rape and gangrape, uploaded on their sites.
  • The Bench further asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to respond to whether any prosecutions were initiated under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act of 2012. The court wanted to know the number of prosecutions initiated under Sections 19 and 21 of the Act between January 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017.

China, U.S. investing in Nepal

  • Indicating the growing importance of the Himalayan region in global politics, a new round of competition has begun in Nepal among the great powers. On Sunday, Nepal concluded one of the biggest infrastructure-related deals with China even as reports came of a big grant of funds by the U.S.
  • Sunday’s agreement on a cement venture was between the Investment Board of Nepal and Hongshi-Shivam Cement, a Nepal-China venture. “The signing of the agreement is a signal to the private sector, both external and internal, that Nepal has good business climate,” Finance Minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said. The deal is likely to boost the infrastructure sector in Nepal, which is drawing international investment.
  • The timing of the agreement is important as it came just four days before Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara will hold talks in Beijing on Nepal’s place in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) scheme.

$500 million grant

  • In the backdrop of the landmark boost to Nepal-China infrastructure segment has come the U.S. announcement of a grant of $500 million for Nepal to work on its development goals.
  • Reports said the grant would be made by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. government organisation active in the field of poverty reduction and economic development. This fund too will be used to build an electricity transmission network and construct 300 km of roads.
  • The Chinese and American projects in Nepal are taking off even as India is conducting the fortnight-long annual Nepal-India joint military exercise to be concluded on September 16. Nepal’s infrastructure sector has received attention from India in the recent past.