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September 6, 2017

‘Undersea line from Iran to port cheap gas’

  • A 1,300-km undersea pipeline from Iran, avoiding Pakistani waters, can bring natural gas from the Persian Gulf to India at rates less than the price of LNG available in the spot market, proponents of the pipeline said on Tuesday.
  • Releasing a study on the Iran-India gas pipeline, former oil secretary T.N.R. Rao said natural gas imported through the more than $4-billion line would cost $5-5.50 per million British thermal unit at the Indian coast, cheaper than the rate at which some of the domestic fields supply gas.
  • Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, imported through ships costs about $7.50 per million British thermal unit.

‘Via Oman to Porbandar’

  • Mr. Rao, who is the chairman of the advisory board of South Asia Gas Enterprise Pvt. Ltd. (SAGE) — the firm wanting to lay the undersea line — said the pipeline can first travel to Oman, and then onwards to Porbandar in the state of Gujarat.
  • The pipeline is planned to carry 31.5 million standard cubic meters gas per day and will be built in two years from the date of necessary approvals and a gas sale and purchase agreement (GSPA) being signed.
  • The subsea pipeline is being seen as an alternative to the on-land, Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. New Delhi has not been participating in talks on the 1,036-km Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline since 2007 citing security and commercial concerns. But, it has never officially pulled out of the $7.6 billion project.

India to flag worry on pace of services talks at RCEP

  • At the forthcoming ministerial-level meeting on the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) involving 16 Asia-Pacific nations, India will raise concerns regarding the ‘slow’ pace of negotiations on services trade liberalisation as opposed to ‘higher priority’ being accorded to commitments to open up goods trade in the region.
  • The mega-FTA is known in official parlance as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). It involves the 10-member ASEAN bloc and its six FTA partners including India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

‘First for new Minister’

  • Official sources said the new commerce minister Suresh Prabhu will be representing India during the fifth RCEP Ministerial Meeting, which is slated to be held on September 10 in Manila on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting and related meetings with ASEAN’s major trading partners. This would be Mr. Prabhu’s first major international trade meeting as the new commerce minister.
  • India is learnt to be upset that other RCEP nations seem to be focused more on “extracting as much (binding commitments) as possible on eliminating tariffs to open up goods trade”, instead of sticking to the RCEP ‘Guiding Principles and Objectives’ which state that the “negotiations on trade in goods, trade in services, investment and other areas will be conducted in parallel to ensure a comprehensive and balanced outcome.”
  • The sources said India will “talk tough and state that any more discussions” on opening up goods trade will be only after ensuring that negotiations on services trade liberalisation “catch up” with talks on goods trade. India is keen that in return for agreeing to open up goods trade (where most RCEP nations have an advantage), other member nations must commit to substantial liberalisation of services trade – including on easing norms on movement of professionals and skilled workers across borders for short-term work.
  • India is seeking support for its proposal on an ‘RCEP Travel Card’ for the purpose. India is relatively strong in services with its vast pool of professionals.

Govt. backs varying ages for girls’ marriage

  • The legislature may have taken a conscious decision to retain the minimum age range for marriage between 15 and 18 for girls considering the socio-economic conditions of the country, the government argued in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
  • A Bench of Justices M.B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta questioned the government about the logic behind keeping different minimum ages for marriage under different laws.
  • The court termed child marriages in the country “not marriages but mirages”.
  • The court had earlier said it was unfortunate that parents drove their minor children into marriage. “It is a hard reality and is unfortunate that most of the child marriages happening in the country are arranged by parents of the girl child. However, to this, there are odd exceptions when a minor boy and girl fall in love and marry on their own,” the Bench said. It is hearing a petition filed by an NGO, Independent Thought, challenging Exception 2 to Section 375 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code, which permits “sexual intercourse with a girl child aged between 15 and 18 only on the ground that she is married”.

U.S. ends amnesty scheme for young immigrants

  • The Donald Trump administration on Tuesday discontinued an Obama-era immigration reform measure that protected from deportation people who had entered the U.S. illegally as children.
  • “(T)he programme known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded,” Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said. The former President had introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as an interim relief even as a debate on a comprehensive immigration reform to address the status of 11 million undocumented residents in America was caught in a political logjam for years.
  • The Department of Homeland Security stopped processing any new applications under the programme but will continue to renew permits for anyone whose status expires in the next six months. If the U.S. Congress does not pass a law on their status within the six months, people will be at risk of being deported.