Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore on India’s defence and security outlook is expected to picture India’s ‘tightrope-balancing’ situation between the U.S. and its allies, and China.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Singapore and Jakarta is expected to focus more on the possibilities of security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the recently convened “Quadrilateral” with the U.S., Japan and Australia.
- Prior to Shangri-La dialogue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Indonesia and China’s Qingdao city for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.
Note that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit is also known as the “Eastern NATO”.
- In Indonesia, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to discuss security cooperation as well as information and expertise sharing on terrorism and countering violent extremism.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Joko Widodo will be meeting for the 4th time since 2014, when both leaders were elected to power in their countries.
They first met on the sidelines of the East Asian summit in 2014.
And subsequently President Widodo has travelled to India twice, for a state visit in December 2016, and in January, 2018 for the ASEAN-India summit.
It is to be noted that Indonesia is seen as a focal point in the Indo-Pacific, and has recently strengthened ties with Australia and Japan.
Article: Iran-backed Hezabollah winning Lebanon parliamentary elections may deepen political crisis in the country
- Lebanon has been facing major administrative and regional crisis. Recent major challenges include:
- Breakdown of waste management system
- Power shortage
- Syrian refugee problem which has further put a pressure on public infrastructure
- Poor economy
- Hezabollah is Lebanon’s most powerful Shia movement. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by USA and Israel
- Lebanon had not held a general election since 2009
- Hezabollah is Lebanon’s most powerful Shia movement and is opposed to Israel. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by USA and Israel.
- An anti-Hezbollah alliance led by Hariri won the majority in 2009 elections and Hariri was appointed as Prime Minister
- In the recently held parliamentary elections, Iran-backed Hezabollah has won maximum number of seats
- Hezbollah, along with allied groups and individuals, secured 67 seats. The number of seats by Hezabollah remained 13 (same as in 2009 elections), but candidates backed by the group made significant gains
- Future movement by Hariri won only 21 seats in the recent elections
- Despite the electoral loss, Hariri could remain Prime Minister being the leader of the largest Sunni Block. This is because of Lebanon’s unique system where Prime Minister must be a Muslim, President a Christian and Parliament speaker a Shia
- With recent withdrawal of USA from Iran-Nuclear Deal, there has been growing tension in the West Asia. Iran-backed Hezabollah winning parliamentary elections may lead to deepening of political crisis in Lebanon and complicate relations with Israel
Collegium system; SC
- Recently, the five-member collegium has unanimously agreed “in principle” that it would reiterate its previous recommendation on appointing the chief justice of the Uttarakhand high court, K.M.Joseph, as a judge of the apex court.
- With the reiteration, the Center will be bound to act on the resolution of the collegium and it may no longer be possible to delay Justice K.M. Joseph’s elevation to the Supreme Court.
- It is to be noted that the collegium’s reiteration will not bring into account only the name of K.M.Joseph.
- His name will reach the Center along with recommendation of other chief justices of high courts for appointment as Supreme Court judges.
- This is because the collegium wants to address the concern the Centre has indirectly raised about the need for fair representation to all high courts.
a.) Previously, Justice Joseph’s appointment was objected by the Center on the ground that he was not senior enough and ‘excessive representation’ from relatively ‘small’ high court (the Kerala High Court) may get after his appointment.
- The collegium’s recommendation of names for appointment as Supreme Court judges also bring a major challenge, i.e. the propriety of the Centre holding back one or two names from a list of recommendations and clearing the rest.
- Selectively approving some names from a batch of recommendations can make a difference to the seniority of the judges concerned, especially when seniority is the sole consideration for appointment of the Chief Justice as well as membership of the collegium.
Women issue; domestic violence
- The Supreme Court has upheld that the divorced women is entitled to get protection under the Domestic Violence Act
- The Supreme Court upheld that the domestic Violence Act extends to all man-woman relationships
- The SC confirmed a Rajasthan High Court ruling of 2013 which stated that Act would not only apply to marital relations, but the expression “domestic relations” incorporates a relationship in the nature of marriage and familial relationships
- The court observed that domestic violence can continue even after divorce. Therefore, the extent of Act should not be limited by ensuring protection only to women living in marriage
Hyrdrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy; oil sector
Recently, the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) has announced the completion of first round of bidding under Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP)
- OALP is a part of Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) which replaced the New Exploration and Licensing Policy (NELP). HELP was launched in 2016.
- OALP allows companies to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
- OALP allows investors to choose particular areas they think attractive to invest in. Under NELP blocks were chosen by the government which often had only a small fraction of hydrocarbon reserves. Investors had to bid for the entire block even they were interested in a small portion.
- Unlike NELP, HELP provides for is a uniform licensing system which will covers hydrocarbons (oil, gas, coal bed methane, shale gas and shale oil)
- Under NELP, there was profit sharing with the government. This led to complications over what exactly constituted cost and thus profit. However, under HELP contracts are based on biddable revenue sharing.
- Recently, 55 blocks were offered in the first round of bidding under OALP
- The production potential of the blocks is low owing to their small sizes.
- Problems in Oil and Gas sector in India:
- The increase India’s domestic oil and gas production is insufficient to reduce dependence on imports.
- Ineffective enforcement of rules
- Monopoly of GAIL-India over the market– This has led to discriminatory and unfair practices
Global price rise of oil – This has put the oil marketing companies in a dilemma about whether to pass on the increases to customers or absorb the losses. However, inventory gains due to rising prices would help to offset losses.
- Crude oil and natural gas are outside the purview of GST. The inclusion of natural gas in GST would to help producers contain cost and aid in moving towards a gas-based economy.
The Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmexcil); pharma sector
- The Commerce Ministry has extended the date for implementation of track and trace system for exports of drug formulations to 15th November 2018
- The track and trace system is the bar-coding system for export of drug formulations
- The manufacturer or the exporter of drug formulations would have to print the barcode as per global standard at primary, secondary and tertiary packaging levels
- This would help tracking and tracing of the products and consequently minimize the chances of genuine medicine being considered fake or sub-standard
- The implementation of track and trace system applies to both non-SSI (small scale industry) and SSIs manufactured drugs.
Insolvency and bankruptcy code; consumer right
- Even after a key amendment in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016, the grey areas are still not been fixed.
The key issue which still revolves around the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 is as follows:
- The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), 2016 classified company creditors into two categories: (a) financial creditors (banks and financial intuitions) and (b) operational creditors (suppliers and vendors).
- It did not address the position of other creditors or customers who could not fit into either of the two categories.
- As a result, the other creditors comprised segments like homebuyers, deposit holders and customers who had made advance payment for purchase, etc.
- Thus, an amendment was brought in 2017 where Regulation 9A created a new residuary category of creditors, namely, other creditors (all creditors other than financial and operational).
- This enables other creditors to file claims against a firm under insolvency by filing Form F with the Resolution Professional (RP).
- But the recent cases of Aircel and Nathella have again brought into focus the question whether customers who had paid advances to these companies can file their claims in Form F (meant for other creditors) with the RP since their position as far as repayment is concerned still remains to be determined.
- There is no answer to the classification of customers of Aircel and Nathella and the like.
- The suggestive way out for this issue is that creditor/customer too should deemed to be a financial creditor and/or permitted to be part of the committee of creditors and have a vote.
- Additionally, it is to be noted that there is no definite rule on the treatment of customers under the IBC, 2016.
- It is because of the complexities of business models, dynamics of day-to- day transactions and dynamics of different scheme.
- As for example: In the case of Jaypee Infratech, though homebuyers do not fall under the definition of financial creditors, the Supreme Court intervened and directed that the dues owed to buyers should be paid off first.
- Based upon such intervention, the Insolvency Law Committee has recommended that homebuyers with an agreement with the developers should be treated as financial creditors.
Shell firm; economic offender
- The government is looking to provide a proper definition of shell companies
- There is no clear definition of shell companies. It is term generally used for companies that are set up for financial transactions only or are kept dormant for some future use.
- Shell companies exist only on paper can be used for money laundering and other financial wrongdoings
- The lack of a proper and uniform definition of shell companies hinder investigation against entities using ‘shell companies’ for financial irregularities
- The definition by Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) defines shell company as a firm that is formally registered, incorporated or otherwise legally organised in an economy but which does not conduct any operations in that economy other than in a pass-through capacity.
- At present, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is considering suggestions from a multi-agency taskforce. The agencies include: Enforcement Directorate, Financial Intelligence Unit, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and SEBI.
- SEBI has defined Shell Company as any entity having no significant operational assets or business activity of its own but acting in a pass-through capacity as a conduit.
- China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier began trial from a port in North-eastern China
- This carrier will be China’s second aircraft carrier and first to be built and designed entirely in China
- The carrier is based on the former Soviet Union’s Kuznetsov class design. It has ski jump-style deck for taking off and a conventional oil-fueled steam turbine power plant.
- The carrier is expected to be commissioned by 2020
- The trial aimed to demonstrate the reliability and capability of the ship’s propulsion systems
- China’s present operational carrier, the Liaoning was bought second-hand from Ukraine. It started service in 2012
- The first domestically built aircraft is a landmark step in China’s mission to modernize its military to increase its prominence in the disputed South China Sea.
ISRO; Science and technology
- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) seeks to replace hydrazine fuel with an environmental-friendly propellant to power satellites and spacecrafts
- ISRO is working to replace hydrazine with hydroxylammonium nitrate based (HAN) monopropellant
- Monopropellant is a chemical propulsion fuel which does not require separate oxidizer. It is used in satellite thrusters for orbital correction and orientation control
- Advantages of using Hydrazine
- High performance characteristics: one of the highest specific impulses (kilogram of thrust obtained by consumption of 1 kg of propellant in 1 sec). Therefore, despite hazards, has been preferred as propellant.
Disadvantages of using Hydrazine:
- Highly corrosive
- Carcinogenic and Toxic
- Storage and handling issues
- The HAN-based monopropellant has been formulated by researchers at Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC)
- The formulation consists of HAN, ammonium nitrate, methanol and water
- Advantages Of HAN-based Propellants over Hydrazine Propellants:
- Less toxic than hydrazine
- Performance: Higher density (1.4 to 1.5 g/cm3) than hydrazine propellants (1.0g/cm3)
- Safety: Non-combustible, hence, a safer alternative
Inclusive development; development model
- P. Radhakrishnan, Professor of Sociology, Madras Institute of Development observes the inconsistencies of Kerala’s development experience
- The communist regime in Kerala started in 1957 with CPI being elected.
- Gains from communist regime and social movements:
- Weakening of caste and religious system in interpersonal relations
- Social inclusiveness
- Strong democracy. Kerala is the first state to introduce coalition government and successfully implement it.
- Strong civil society
- Upliftment of peasants, workers and other oppressed sections
- High levels of Literacy
- High levels of life expectancy
Issues and challenges:
- Change in land use- Conversion of land to non-agriculture activities. There has also been emergence of real-estate mafia
- High suicide rates
- High educated unemployment rate
- Neglect of aged predominantly because of high youth migration
- Emergence of caste and religion based politics
Wildlife protection act
- In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has held that tusks are property of the government
- The judgement dealt with alleged unauthorised collection and storage of tusks by an individual in Wayanad, Kerala
- The Kerala Forest Act of 1961, does not mention tusks in the definition of ‘forest produce’
- The SC observed that the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 clearly stated that tusks are government’s property
- India prohibits import and export of ivory
- Conservationists are of the opinion that the Supreme Court order would facilitate curbing ivory trafficking and poaching