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Current Events 3 May 2016



3 MAY 2016


Plans to link two rivers to tackle drought in State: Centre

The Central government plans to link Bhima and Manjara rivers in Maharashtra to tackle the water crisis in the Marathwada region, Rajya Sabha was informed.

Union Minister of State for Water Resources Sanwar Lal Jat said this in response to queries on the action the Centre is taking to figure long-term solutions for water shortage in Marathwada and Bundelkhand regions.

Jat said the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has prioritised Bundelkhand and parts of Marathwada for aquifer mapping and management programme.

The minister also said the CGWB had in 2013 prepared a conceptual document titled ‘Master Plan for Artificial Recharge to Ground Water in India’ which envisages construction of different types of artificial recharge and rainwater harvesting structures in the country including the two drought-hit regions.

Asked whether water level in the two regions have plunged to 500 ft below ground-level, Jat differed, saying the deepest ground water level recorded in Marathwada region is 45.62 m (140 ft), while that in Bundelkhand is 49.4 m — both according to a January 2016 assessment.

Responding to another question, he said four major dams monitored by CWC, namely Jayakwadi, Bhima, Yeldari and Girna, have reported zero water stock level as per the latest bulletin for week ending on April 21. —PTI


Four arrested for Uttarakhand fires: Javadekar

Four persons have been arrested in connection with the forest fires in Uttarakhand and are being questioned, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said . Confirmation of only three arrests, with B.P. Gupta, the nodal officer for forest fires in Kumaon and Garhwal regions, saying that two of those apprehended were from Nainital district and the third from Pithoragarh district.

High temperatures, along with manmade activities, were responsible for the fires.

Fires this year have ravaged at least 2,000 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand and there are now reports of fresh fires in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Some of the fires are said to have been caused by farmers who traditionally burn vegetation to induce fresh growth of grass.

“We need to spread more awareness among people and tell them that such activities are destructive,” Mr. Javadekar added.


Italian marine may go home

The lone Italian marine, Salvatore Girone, facing a murder charge in India could return home soon in the wake of a decision of an international tribunal at The Hague.

The verdict is the first big pronouncement of the PCA (Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague), after Italy approached it in June 2015.

Two Italian marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Mr. Girone are facing the charge of murdering two Indian fishermen in 2012 off the Kerala coast. The fishermen were killed when the marines on duty aboard MV Enrica Lexie, an Italian-flagged oil tanker, fired at them.

However, differences have cropped up between the two countries over the details of the verdict which will govern the marine’s return. While India has claimed that the verdict upholds the Supreme Court’s authority, Italian officials have said it is a vindication of their position that India has no jurisdiction.

‘SC authority upheld’

The statement from the Official Spokesperson also highlighted that India’s arguments in this case have been “recognised”. “The authority of the Supreme Court has been upheld. 


Beijing unveils doctrine to counter U.S. ‘Pivot’

China has announced the failure of the “Rebalance” strategy of the United States, and has invited Asian countries to join Beijing in framing a security governance model with “Asian features”.

China’s formal invite to neighbours to pursue a regional security doctrine that is led by Beijing, and not the United States, came during last week’s foreign ministerial Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in the Chinese capital. 

Xi’s call to step up dialogue 

A commentary in the People’s Daily, China’s official newspaper, pointed out that at the welcome ceremony of the CICA conference, President Xi Jiniping urged participants   “to build consensus and step up dialogue” to foster “a security governance model with Asian features.” The write-up said that the “new model” is the latest contribution China has made to regional governance. 

Details about what could emerge as China-centric collective security architecture in the Asia-Pacific is still a work-in-progress. The People’s Daily commentary, for instance, only mentioned that, “‘Asian features’ include openness and inclusiveness, and China strongly opposes exclusivity.” 

“As ‘Pivot to Asia’ failed” 

The write-up grounded the rationale for its new initiative, on the failure of the “Pivot to Asia” or “rebalance” doctrine of the Obama administration. It asserted that “the launch of the Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategy by the U.S. in recent years did not bring Asia peace, but only uncertainty.” It added: “It proved that a U.S.-led alliance system is not the right option to safeguard the peace and stability of Asia. Instead, a system of security governance with Asian features, as suggested by China, will be best for Asian development.” 

But stiffness in ties vis-à-vis SCS 

Tensions between the U.S and China have spiked, after the Chinese responded to the “Pivot to Asia” with fresh activism in the SCS(South China Sea ), including construction of artificial islands within waters claimed and controlled by Beijing. Washington has dubbed the growing Chinese assertion as a danger to “freedom of navigation”    which could hamper the 5.3-trillion dollar trade that passes through the SCS — a charge that Beijing hotly denies. 

‘Frank talk on SCS issue’ 

Aware of the linkage between the SCS disputes and the acceptance of its doctrinal counter to the U.S. “Rebalance”, the commentary points out that Chinese leaders, during the CICA conference, had “ a frank talk about the South China Sea issue and reiterated China's ‘dual-track approach,’ calling for relevant countries to work together with China to safeguard peace and stability.” 

The write-up also stressed that China’s regional security model, will continue to strive for the integration of the Chinese Dream — China’s aspirational goal for energising “national rejuvenation” — and the Asian Dream “to create a brighter future for Asia.”

Regional diplomatic offensive

In the run-up to the espousal of its new doctrine, the Chinese have launched a regional diplomatic offensive to reinforce that an Asian homegrown solution was the best way to resolve SCS disputes, rather than interference by “outside” powers.

Last month Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a whirlwind visit to Cambodia, Laos and Brunei, to cull out, what the Chinese Foreign Ministry described is “an important consensus” on the SCS issue, which would be relevant to the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Ministry said that China has agreed with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos that the South China Sea territorial dispute should not impact on Beijing’s ties with the ASEAN. 

Russia too kept in the loop 

China’s diplomatic exertions have also paid off well with Russia, whose Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov stressed in Beijing  that the SCS issue should not be “internationalized.”


Core sector output accelerates to 16-month high of 6.4 %

India's infrastructure sectors clocked their highest growth in 16 months in March 2016, with the index for core industries climbing 6.4 per cent, buoyed by a sharp uptick in the output of cement, electricity, fertilisers and refinery products.

Wait and watch

The fertiliser sector grew at 23 per cent in March 2016, up from 16.3 per cent in February. The cement sector saw a growth of 11.9 per cent in March 2016, slower than the 13.5 per cent it saw in February.

The electricity sector grew at 11.3 per cent in March 2016, significantly faster than the 9.2 per cent seen in February.

Others, however, were not so optimistic, pointing to the poor performance of the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in April as being inconsistent with the seemingly sustained growth in the core sectors.

PMI in manufacturing 

“These numbers are throwing up results that are not in tune with what is happening in the economy,” K Ravichandran, Senior Vice President and Co-Head, Corporate Sector Rating at ICRA said. “So, one can’t say conclusively that the economy is on the mend. Investment is happening, activity is happening on government-led capital expenditure (capex) in road, rail and defence. But private capex is not really happening.


Manufacturing PMI slows to 4-month low

Indian manufacturers saw new orders slowing precipitously in April, after a strong showing in March, due to a contraction in demand, according to a private survey.

The Nikkei Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slowed to 50.5 in April from 52.4 in March. This places April’s manufacturing activity very near the 50 mark, a reading below which marks a contraction.

PMI data indicated that Indian manufacturers raised output at a slower pace in April as new business inflows were broadly unchanged during the month,” according to a statement from Nikkei.“The upturn in new export orders was sustained, although growth was at a six-month low.”

Expanded production

The inventory data indicate that, despite slowing new orders, production should continue to expand at a moderate pace in coming months. 


Non-trade issues at WTO, lack of legal experts worry India

Developing nations, including India, are facing a double disadvantage at the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), according to a senior government official.

Commerce Secretary Rita Teaotia said developing nations are challenged not only by the lack of a sufficient pool of trade law experts to represent them effectively at the DSB but also by certain efforts to bring within the body’s ambit non-trade issues such as labour and environment.

The efforts

Ms.Teaotia said said “such(labour and environment issues ) would pose a great challenge for developing nations because very often these are conditions that add as restrictions in the freedom of trade particularly for developing countries.” 

With the global trade slowdown and the consequent rise in trade restrictive measures taken by many countries, the world is witnessing increasing use of trade remedies (such as anti-dumping duty, safeguard duty and countervailing duty), the official said. She said many of these measures are also ending up as disputes at the DSB. 

Building capacity

There are only a few Indian law firms in trade law practice, Ms. Teaotia said. Therefore, to handle India’s trade disputes with other countries, the government has been engaging both international and Indian law firms.

The official said the commerce ministry was trying to build capacity to comprehensively track the trade restrictive measures taken by other countries, especially those that hurt India’s exports.

Ms.Teaotia’s comments (on efforts to include non-trade issues in the DSB’s jurisdiction) assume significance as India has been advocating that certain issues, including labour and environment, must be kept out of the WTO’s purview and instead be dealt with by the global bodies concerned such as the International Labour Organisation and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.




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