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16th January Current Affairs

India, Qatar and the continuing saga of eight detained ex-Indian Navy officers

(GS-II: International Relations)

In News:

Eight retired Indian Navy personnel who were arrested by Qatari authorities in August, will mark 127 days in imprisonment in Doha.

Details:

The eight veterans were in a defence services provider company owned by an Omani national, who was also arrested along with the eight Indians.

Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retd) received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award 2019 (the only person from the armed forces to receive the honour) for his contributions to improving India-Qatar ties.

According to the company’s website, it provided training, logistics and maintenance services to the Qatari Emiri Naval Force (QENF) – the naval branch of the armed forces of the State of Qatar.

The charges against the men have not been made public, but their solitary confinement has led to speculation of their detention in connection with a security-related offence.

India and Qatar – A history of friendly ties:

Since diplomatic relations between India and Qatar were established in 1973, the two countries have maintained friendly relations.

However, since the visit of India’s PM (Manmohan Singh) in 2008, the first by an Indian PM, the relationship has grown.

When the Qatari Emir (Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani) visited in 2015, five MoUs entailing cooperation in several fields were signed.

Additionally, an agreement on prisoner repatriation was made, permitting citizens of India or Qatar who have been convicted and sentenced for a crime to be extradited back to their home country to serve the remainder of their prison sentence.

Last year, the two sides agreed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2023.

Indian community: It is the largest expatriate group in Qatar which is estimated to be around 800,000 Indians. They are contributing in a variety of areas, the most visible of which is the projects related to the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Economic ties: In 2021, India was one of Qatar’s top four export destinations, as well as one of the top three import sources. The bilateral trade is about $15 billion, with over $13 billion in LNG and LPG exports from Qatar.

Defence co-operation: The India-Qatar Defence Cooperation Agreement, signed in 2008 and officially described as a “pillar” of Indian-Qatar cooperation, was extended for another five years in 2018.

The pact included training of the QENF by India, as well as mutual visits.

Two editions of a joint naval exercise called Zair Al Bahr have been held.

Recent challenges in the relationship:

India-Qatar ties in perspective of India-Arab relations:

The eruption of the Qatar diplomatic crisis in 2017 complicated India’s relations with the Arab Gulf states.

The Indian government referred to the rift as an internal matter involving the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The Saudi-led bloc’s closing of sea, land, and air borders appeared to present Delhi with hurdles in maintaining trading links with Qatar.

However, the feared negative consequences of the dispute never occurred. After Delhi temporarily halted exports to Qatar, normal commercial flows between the two countries resumed.

India is being painted as anti-Muslim: The first major test of the relationship (after 2017) was a ruling party’s spokesperson’s derogatory references to the Prophet on a TV show. Qatar was the first country to react and demand a “public apology” from India.

The jailing of the eight ex-Navy personnel: The second major challenge signalled that all is not well with the relationship.

Conclusion:

The long custody of the veterans for reasons not yet in the public domain is a test for Indian diplomacy and its engagement with the Indian diaspora.

The well-being of Indians abroad should be the priority by reaching out personally to individuals in need or their families.

PM greets people on Magh Bihu

In News:

Prime Minister greeted the people on the occasion of Magh Bihu.

About Magh Bihu:

  • It is a harvest festival of Assam where people express gratitude for a good harvest and marks the end of the harvest season.
  • It believes in sharing the gifts of nature as a community and strengthening a sense of identity and belonging.
  • The festival of Bihu has three forms: Bohag Bihu, Kati Bihu, and Magh Bihu. Each of these falls in the agriculture calendar.

This day is considered auspicious in the Hindu lunar year as well and is known as the Makar Sankranti, i.e., the day when the sun begins its northward journey or Uttarayan and transitions into the Hindu zodiac sign of Makara.

On this day the Sun God is worshipped in various parts of India in the form of different festivals such as Pongal (Tamil Nadu), Maghi (Punjab), and Uttarayan (Gujarat).

SPIC MACAY and Ministry of Culture collaborates for ‘Music in the Park’ series under “Shruti Amrut”

In News:

SPIC MACAY organizes its very popular ‘Music in the Park’ series this year under the name “Shruti Amrut”in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the New Delhi Municipal Council. The beauty of Indian Classical Music was showcased  by eminent artists from across the country.

Details:

The concert begun with Sarod performance by Aman Ali Bangash, 7th Generation musician from Senia Bangash Gharana. He was accompanied by Anubrata Chatterjee (Tabla) and Abhishek Mishra (Tabla). Following this, Hindustani Vocal performance by Padma Bhushan Begum Parween Sultana of Patiala Gharana accompanied by Akram Khan (Tabla), Shrinivas Acharya (Harmonium) and Shadaab Sultana (Vocals) were performed.

SPIC MACAY- The Society for Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture amongst youth is a voluntary youth movement that promotes the tangible & intangible aspects of Indian & world heritage by organizing programs and workshops of Indian Classical, Folk Music and dance, Yoga, meditation, crafts, and other aspects of Indian culture. It is a movement started in 1977 and has chapters in over 850 towns across the world.

National Coal Index

In News:

While launching the sixth-round commercial coal mines’ auction for 141 coal mines, the ministry of Coal has decided to annually revise Performance Bank Guarantee (PBG) annually based on the National Coal Index (NCI) for the month of April at the beginning of the year.

Why the revision in PBG?

Since the prices of coal fluctuate and have increased recently, the revision of PBG will ensure ease of doing business for companies and allow more investors in the coal sector.

What is PBG?

It is a bank guarantee that needs to be submitted for each successfully auctioned coal mine by the winning entity. It shows that the entity has the capability to carry on the mining activity.

What is a coal auction?

After the cancellation of coal licenses by India’s supreme court, an auction-based regime was introduced in 2014, which allowed private sector participation. However, it was limited to captive usage in its own end-use plants. The sector has recently been opened for commercial mining by the private sector.

What is NCI?

It is a price index reflecting the change in the price level of coal in a particular month relative to the fixed base year (2017-18 in this case)

The ministry of coal has started the commercial auction of coal mines on a revenue-share basis using the National Coal Index