International Polity - Current Affairs for April,2017

Month and Year:   
▼ Madhesi parties unite   [04-24-17]

Five prominent Madhesi parties in Nepal have united to form a new united party named the Rashtriya Janata Party, which will be the fifth largest party in Nepal’s Parliament.

Interestingly the word “Madhes” has not been included in the new party’s name.

This announcement of unification has come ahead of elections to local government bodies scheduled on May 14.

The five parties that have united are Mahantha Thakur‘s Tarai Madhes Loktantrik Party, Rajendra Mahato‘s Sadbhawana Party, Sharat Singh Bhandari‘s Rastriya Madhes Samajbadi Party, Mahendra Yadav‘s Tarai Madhes Sadbhawana Party and Rajkishor Yadav‘s Madhesi Janadhikar Forum- Ganatantrik.

It has been announced that leaders of the five parties will lead the Rashtriya Janata Party by rotation.

As per the provisions, most of the key constitutional posts have been reserved for only citizens by descent. Madhesi parties object to this criterion as huge numbers of Madhesis have acquired citizenship by birth or naturalization.

This criteria makes them ineligible to hold the office of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly etc.

Madhesis want representation in terms of proportion. The Nepali constitution has given equal representation on the basis of “geographical area”.

▼ Australia scraps 457 visa schemes    [04-24-17]

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced sweeping changes to Australia’s citizenship laws, introducing tighter requirements for new applicants.

This is a move that follows the scrapping of the 457 visa schemes for foreign workers.

Under the new reforms, the applicants must be permanent residents for at least four years — three years longer than at present — and must be committed to embrace “Australian values.

Prospective citizens will have to pass a standalone English test that will focus heavily on respect for women and children, with possible questions about child marriage, female genital mutilation and domestic violence.

The test will have questions assessing an applicant’s understanding of and commitment to shared Australian values and responsibilities

▼ China reinforces the claim to AP   [04-20-17]

China has reinforced its claims to Arunachal Pradesh by naming six places in the state in standardised Chinese characters, Tibetan and Roman alphabet letters.

On April 14, China's Ministry of Civil Affairs announced on its website that the State Council - China’s cabinet had issued the new regulations.

The name of the six places in South Tibet - the name ascribed by Beijing to Arunachal Pradesh - are: Wo'gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoidêngarbo Ri, Mainquka, Bümo La and Namkapub Ri.

China criticised the Indian government’s approach to Dalai Lama activities in disputed eastern section of the India China boundary and also about his anti-China activities.

These activities are also against the Indian government’s commitments to China, Beijing held.

Naming the places is a step to reaffirm China's territorial sovereignty to South Tibet.

India was also questioning Beijing’s “one china policy,” the core of the country’s statehood.

MEA has made it absolutely clear that there is no change whatsoever in the Government of India’s policy towards the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Standardising the names from the angles of culture and geography could serve as a reference or leverage when China and India negotiate border issues in future.

▼ British PM Theresa May calls for elections, wins MP support   [04-20-17]

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called for an election on June 8, saying Britain's opposition parties risked worsening her negotiating hand in divorce talks with the European Union by opposing her Brexit plan.

PM May will not take part in TV debates ahead of the planned general election. The prime minister indicated she preferred "to get out and about and meet voters".

ITV has become the first broadcaster to confirm a debate ahead of the poll on 8 June. Labour's Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of dodging a head-to-head showdown.

Mrs May has promised a strong and stable leadership if she wins. MPs voted in favour of 8 June poll by margin of 509.

Brexit Vote: Know More

  • A referendum–a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part –was held on 23 June, 2016.
  • It was held decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union.
  • Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%.
  • The referendum turnout was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting.
  • England voted for Brexit, by 53.4% to 46.6%.
  • Wales also voted for Brexit, with Leave getting 52.5% of the vote and Remain 47.5%.
  • Scotland and Northern Ireland both backed staying in the EU.
  • Scotland supported Remain by 62% to 38%, while 55.8% in Northern Ireland voted Remain and 44.2% Leave.

▼ Recep Erdogan wins historic referendum   [04-18-17]

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly won a historic referendum on April 17, 2017 that will tighten his grip on power.

The knife-edge result left the country bitterly divided and the opposition crying foul.

This referendum creates a presidential system, giving Mr. Erdogan more power than any leader since modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and his successor Ismet Inonu.

Turkey which joined NATO in 1952 and for the last half-century has set its sights on joining the European Union is now on the move.

The 'Yes' campaign won 51.4 percent of the vote against 48.6 percent for 'No', in a count based on 99.5 percent of the ballot boxes. Turnout was a high 85 percent.

Supreme Election Board chief Sadi Guven confirmed that the 'Yes' camp had emerged victorious, but the opposition has vowed to challenge the outcome.

The referendum was held under a state of emergency that has seen 47,000 people arrested in an unprecedented crackdown after a failed military ouster against Mr. Erdogan in July 2016.

The 'No' share of the vote climbed as more ballots were counted, after lagging well behind in the early count, but failed to overtake the 'Yes' votes.

Voting patterns showed Turkey deeply divided over the changes, with the 'No' vote victorious in the country's three biggest cities.

The 'Yes' vote held up strongly in Mr. Erdogan's Anatolian heartland but the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions and Kurdish-dominated southeast backed the 'No' camp.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini indicated that in view of the closeness of the result, the Turkish authorities need to seek the "broadest possible national consensus" for the changes.

Mr. Erdogan made relations with the EU a key issue in his referendum campaign.

Turkey's two main opposition parties said they would challenge the results over alleged violations.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said it would challenge two-thirds of the votes.

The opposition had already complained that the referendum was conducted on unfair terms, with 'Yes' posters ubiquitous on the streets and opposition voices squeezed from the media.

The new system would dispense with the office of prime minister and centralise the entire executive bureaucracy under the president, giving Erdogan the direct power to appoint ministers.

It is due to come into force after elections in November 2019. Erdogan, who became president in 2014 after serving as premier from 2003, could then seek two more five-year terms.

▼ Nepal, China hold first military exercise   [04-17-17]

Nepal and China will hold the first-ever joint military exercise from April 17 with a special focus on combating terror and disaster management.

The 10-day-long military drill that will last till April 26 is being organised by the two countries as part of their preparedness against terrorism that has posed as a serious security threat globally.

The military exercise named ‘Sagarmatha Friendship-2017’ will also focus on common interests like disaster management.

Sagarmatha is the Nepali name of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, that is bordering between Nepal and China.

Mount Everest: Know More

  • Elevation: 8,848 metres (29,029 ft)
  • Ranked: 1s
  • Listing in Professional Mountain Climbing: Seven Summits, Eight-thousander
  • Country's high point

▼ Montenegro to join NATO   [04-13-17]

President Donald Trump has signed off on the U.S. agreement of Montenegro joining the NATO military alliance.

Trump signed off on the instrument of ratification approved by the Senate last month in support of Montenegro joining the alliance.

This must be ratified by its 28 members.

The Balkan nation will attend the NATO leaders’ summit in Brussels next month, signalling to other NATO aspirants that the door to membership in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations remains open.

The U.S. would work to strengthen relations with the small Balkan nation, which would be the 29th NATO member.

The eastward expansion of the alliance has been a point of contention for Russia.

Two of the 28 NATO members, Spain and the Netherlands, have yet to ratify Montenegro’s membership.

NATO countries have pledged to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defence. Only five, including the United States, currently meet that goal.

Trump during his presidential campaign called for member nations to increase defence spending to support the organization.

The treaty signing comes after the Senate on Mach 28 voted overwhelmingly to back Montenegro joining NATO.

Republican Senators Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) were the only two Senate lawmakers to oppose the treaty.

Paul also blocked a vote on the treaty earlier in March, setting off Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).

All current NATO members will also have to approve Montenegro's membership.

▼ Neil Gorsuch is US SC's 9th justice   [04-11-17]

Neil Gorsuch was sworn in on April 10, 2017 as the US Supreme Court's ninth justice, moving the bench to the right as he filled the seat left vacant by last year's death of conservative icon Antonin Scalia.

Gorsuch was sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts. He will take a second oath later in the day at a public White House ceremony officiated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

His nomination to a life term marked President Donald Trump's first opportunity to shape for a generation a court that is the ultimate arbiter of many of the most contentious issues in American life.

In Gorsuch, Trump selected a respected federal appeals court judge who is seen as a fervent disciple of Scalia and a brand of conservative jurisprudence that calls for the strict interpretation of the US Constitution.

The Senate voted 54-45 to confirm him, but only after Republican leader Mitch McConnell swept aside longstanding rules to overcome a Democratic filibuster.

The judge's credentials include degrees from Columbia, Harvard Law and Oxford and clerkships with two Supreme Court justices, the late Byron White and Kennedy.

As a Justice Department lawyer from 2005-2006, Gorsuch led all government litigation arising from the US war on terror.

This is including its defence of the extraordinary rendition of Khaled el-Masri, a German-Lebanese citizen who was handed over to the CIA in Macedonia in 2003 and flown to Afghanistan.

Neil Gorsuch: Know More

  • Born: 29 August 1967, Denver, Colorado, United States
  • Nationality: American
  • Education: University College, Oxford, Columbia University, University of Oxford, Harvard University, Harvard Law School
  • Books: The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia

▼ Neomi Rao is regulatory czar, Vishal Amin IP czar   [04-10-17]

US President Donald Trump has nominated prominent Indian-American law expert Neomi Rao as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) (regulatory czar).

She will oversee the US President’s plan to eliminate 75% of federal regulations. OIRA is a statutory part of the Office of Management and Budget within the Executive Office of the President.

It reviews regulations from federal agencies and has the power to reject rules that do not fall in line with the President’s goals.

Currently She is a professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.

Earlier, she had served as Associate Counsel to President George W Bush; counsel for nominations and constitutional law to the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

US President Donald Trump has also nominated Indian-American Vishal Amin as Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator in the Executive Office of the President (IP czar).

He will coordinate US law-enforcement strategy around copyright, patents and trademarks. His appointment needs confirmation of US Senate and will succeed Daniel Marti.

Presently, Amin is a Senior Counsel on House Judiciary Committee.

He also had served in the administration of President George W Bush as Associate Director for Domestic Policy and at the US Department of Commerce, as Special Assistant and Associate Director for Policy in the Office of the Secretary.

▼ Kazan - Russia's nuclear powered multipurpose attack submarine!   [04-6-17]

Russia has floated its newest nuclear-powered multipurpose attack submarine.

The launch of Kazan, considered a counterpart to U.S. Seawolf and Virginia-class, comes as Moscow claims its submarine fleet has increased combat patrols to levels last seen during the Cold War.

The Kazan is the first upgraded Project 885M Yasen-class attack submarine.

Equipped eight vertical missile launchers, it can deliver Kalibr or Oniks antiship and land-attack cruise missiles – particularly significant after Russian ships and submarines fired long-range missiles from the Caspian and the Black Sea into Syria in 2016.

For the first time in Russian shipbuilding, the torpedo tubes are located not in the bow but just forward of the sail or fin, making room for a large Irtysh-Amfora spherical sonar system in the bow.

The Yasen subs also have six 650mm and two 533mm torpedo tubes that can also deploy mines and launch underwater drones.

Russia: Know More

  • Capital: Moscow
  • Currency: Russian rouble
  • President: Vladimir Putin
  • Population: 143.5 million (2013) World Bank
  • Prime minister: Dmitry Medvedev

▼ Israel approves new settlement, UN protests   [04-3-17]

Israel's Security Cabinet on March 30, 2017 unanimously approved the construction of a new settlement in the West Bank.

This is marking the state's first new settlement in Palestinian territory in more than 20 years.

The new settlement, which will be constructed north of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, is intended for Israeli settlers evacuated from Amona, an outpost destroyed by Israeli authorities in February.

The Security Cabinet also advanced plans to construct 2,000 homes inside existing settlements.

These homes are part of a plan approved 2 months ago to grow settlements by more than 5,500 homes.

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution in December 2016 condemning Israeli settlements constructed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as illegal.

These territories, occupied by the Israeli military since 1967, are located where Palestinians plan to create their future state.

UNSC Resolution 2334 was passed after the US abstained from voting.

UN was the first to protest against the new settlement. While the Obama administration was a fierce critic of the Netanyahu government, a regime change with Trump marks new realities for Israel and Palestine.

Chronology of events
Russia has a project for a nuclear-propelled submarine, which would carry seismological equipment instead of missiles. The vessel would be used to explore the Arctic’s mineral riches. The project of the first-ever nuclear sub for civilian use was revealed by Viktor Litvinenko, head of a project group at the Advanced Research Fund, a state agency with close ties to the military.
The US on April 5 indicated its considering all options to tackle the threat posed by North Korea’s repeated nuclear arms tests, hours after Pyongyang fired another ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.
Ecuadorean leftist Lenin Moreno has won 2017 Presidential election after a tight contest with his right-wing opponent. Moreno won 51.16% of valid votes versus 48.84% for conservative challenger Guillermo Lasso, with 99.65% of votes counted.
The Russian frigate Admiral Grigorovich left the port of Sevastopol in Crimea for the Mediterranean where it will join the country’s naval forces deployed near the Syrian coast. The frigate will be operating as part of the permanent Russian Navy force in the Mediterranean,”
Pakistan’s Field General Court Martial has sentenced to death Indian national and alleged RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) agent Kulbhushan Jadhav (46) who was arrested last year on charges of spying. The death sentence was confirmed by army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa after the Field General Court Martial found him guilty of all the charges.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of Egypt, in April 2017 announced a three-month state of emergency following attacks on two Coptic churches that left at least 44 dead.
China has urged US to resort to peaceful measures for solving rising tensions in Korean peninsula due North Korean nuclear programme.
Nepalese president Bidya Devi Bhandari arrives Monday for a five-day visit to India, seen as a key marker of warmer ties between the two countries after months of tensions between the two neighbours over Nepal’s new constitution.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been disqualified from running in next month’s presidential elections. His name was left out of the final list of approved candidates that was announced on 20 April 2017.
India has made a quarter-million-dollar contribution to the UN programme for helping countries to hold elections and develop their electoral systems.