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1st September Current Affairs

India envoy in Doha meets Taliban leader

(GS-II: International relations)

In News:

Official meeting between representatives of India and Taliban leaders in Qatar recently.

Details:

Indian Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal met with the head of the Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai

This is the first public engagement between India and the regime of Taliban

Discussions between the two were centered on- safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and travel of Afghan nationals who wished to come to India.

India also raised the issue of ensuring that Afghanistan shall not be used as a front to wage terrorist activities against India

Taliban regime at various times has expressed its interest to have ‘good relations’ with India since coming to power

India remains wary of establishing full diplomatic relations with Afghanistan considering the closeness of Taliban to Pakistan and how the former could be used as a proxy to harm the strategic interests of India and also the presence of elements such as Haqqani network amongst the Taliban who were responsible for terrorist attack against Indian embassy

India has adopted a ‘wait and watch’ approach in its future dealings with Taliban and any interaction of India with Afghanistan will be based on Afghanistan’s actions with regard to human rights, treatment of women and minorities, and attitude towards terror groups that could target India using the Afghan territory.

Afghanistan and its strategic location:

Significance of Afghan stability:

Can have spill over to Neighboring central Asian countrieslike Tajikistan, Uzbekistan etc

Taliban presence will revive extremism in the regionand the region can become a safe sanctuary for Let, ISIS etc.

The possibility of a civil war in Afghanistan will lead to a refugee crisisin Central Asia and beyond.

Afghanistan’s stability will help the Central Asian countries with the shortest access to the seaports of the Indian Ocean.

Afghanistan has been an important link in the regional trade, cultural, playing the role of a connecting bridge for Central and the rest of the world.

Why it is imperative now for India to engage with Taliban?

Taliban has now seized power in Afghanistan.

India is already having huge investments in Afghanistan. To secure assets worth $3 billion, India should engage with all parties in Afghanistan.

Taliban engaging with Pak deep state will not be in India’s best interest.

If India does not engage now Russia, Iran, Pakistan and China will emerge as the shapers of Afghanistan’s political and geopolitical destiny, which for sure will be detrimental to Indian interests.

The U.S. has announced a new, surprise formation of a “Quad” on regional connectivity — U.S.-Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistanthat does not include India.

India’s effort to trade with Afghanistan Via Chabahar port in order to increase the economy on scale.

Need of the hour:

Urgent need to collectively act for the safety of Afghan civilians by allowing for evacuation where required

Afghanistan should be given enough space in Central Asian architectures like SCO(Shanghai cooperation organisation)

Unified action for the refugee crisis

Indian engagement with Taliban to maintain peace with immediate neighbors.

Appointment of Supreme Court Judges

(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

Swearing-in of the nine new judges of Supreme Court

Details:

Nine new Supreme Court judges were administered their oaths of office by Chief Justice NV Ramana. It is for the first time in the history of Supreme Court that nine judges took oath of office at one go.

With the swearing-in of the nine new judges, the strength of the Supreme Court has now increased to 33, including the CJI, out of the sanctioned strength of 34.

Three of them were women judges. One of them, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, is slated to be Chief Justice of India in 2027. With this addition, the apex court will have four women judges for the first time.

It was the first time the Supreme Court allowed a live telecast of the ceremony.

Collegium System:

It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court, and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.

There is no mention of the Collegium either in the original Constitution of India or in successive amendments.

The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the CJI and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.

A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.

Related Constitutional Provisions:

Article 124(2)of the Indian Constitution provides that the Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President after consultation with such a number of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose.

Article 217of the Indian Constitution states that the Judge of a High Court shall be appointed by the President consultation with the Chief Justice of India, the Governor of the State, and, in the case of appointment of a Judge other than the Chief Justice, the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Evolution of the Collegium System in Judiciary:

First Judges Case (1981): It declared that the “primacy” of the Chief Justice of India (CJI)s recommendation on judicial appointments and transfers can be refused for “cogent reasons.”

The ruling gave the Executive primacy over the Judiciary in judicial appointments for the next 12 years.

Second Judges Case (1993): Supreme Court introduced the Collegium system, holding that “consultation” really meant “concurrence”.

It added that it was not the CJI’s individual opinion, but an institutional opinion formed in consultation with the two senior-most judges in the SC.

Third Judges Case (1998): Supreme Court on President’s reference expanded the Collegium to a five-member body, comprising the CJI and four of his senior-most colleagues.

National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP)

 (GS-III: NITI Ayog recommendations to achieve monetisation goal)

In News:

NITI Ayog recommendations: to improve retail participation

Details:

To make the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) a success, the government should give Income tax breaks to attract retail investors into instruments like Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs).

Though this will entail a cost in the form of loss of revenue for exchequer, the long-term benefits may outweigh the cost as linking investments in specified bonds with the capital gains exemption had proved to be success in the past.

Bringing InvITs under the ambit of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) to provide greater comfort to investors.

Since the trusts are not considered as ‘legal person’, the IBC regulations are not applicable for InvIT loans. Hence, the lenders do not have existing process for recourse to project assets.

While the lenders are protected under the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 (SARFAESI Act) and the Recovery of Debts and Bankruptcy Act, 1993, the provision of recourse under IBC regulations will bring in added level of comfort for the investors.

It would help lenders access a faster and more effective debt restructuring and resolution option.

Overseas settlement of G-sec deals on anvil: Das

(GS-III: Indian economy- issues related to growth and planning)

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is planning to enable international settlement of transactions in government securities (G-secs) through International Central Securities Depositories (ICSDs).

Details:

This proposal would expand the investor base for the G-secs market

Once operationalised, this will enhance access of non-residents to the G-secs market, as will the inclusion of Indian G-secs in global bond indices

An international CSD settles trades in international securities such as eurobonds although many also settle trades in various domestic securities, either directly or through local agents. International CSDs include Clearstream, Euroclear and SIX SIS.

What is a G-sec?

Government security applies to a range of investment products offered by a governmental body. Government securities come with a promise of the full repayment of invested principal at maturity of the security. Some government securities may also pay periodic coupon or interest payments. These securities are considered conservative investments with a low-risk since they have the backing of the government that issued them.

G- Sec prices fluctuate sharply in the secondary markets. Factors affecting their prices:

Demand and supply of the securities.

Changes in interest rates in the economy and other macro-economic factors, such as, liquidity and inflation.

Developments in other markets like money, foreign exchange, credit and capital markets.

Developments in international bond markets, specifically the US Treasuries.

Policy actions by RBI like change in repo rates, cash-reserve ratio and open-market operations.

China opens first road-rail transport link to Indian Ocean

(GS-II: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora)

In News:

The first shipments on a newly-launched railway line from the Myanmar border to the key commercial hub of Chengdu in western China was made recently

Details:

This project provides China a new road-rail transportation channel to the Indian Ocean

The transport corridor involves a sea-road-rail link.

This passage connects the logistics lines of Singapore, Myanmar and China, and is currently the most convenient land and sea channel linking the Indian Ocean with southwest China

China also has plans to develop another port in Kyaukphyu in the Rakhine state, including a proposed railway line from Yunnan directly to the port

Chinese planners have also looked at the Gwadar port in Pakistan as another key outlet to the Indian Ocean that will bypass the Malacca Straits.

Gwadar is being developed as part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to the far western Xinjiang region, but has been slow to take off amid concerns over security. The costs and logistics through CPEC are also less favourable than the Myanmar route with the opening of the rail transport channel from the Myanmar border right to western China’s biggest commercial hub, Chengdu.

About China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI):

What is BRI?

The Belt and Road Initiative, reminiscent of the Silk Road, is a massive infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe. It was launched in 2013.

The plan is two-pronged: the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road-The two were collectively referred to first as the One Belt, One Road initiative but eventually became the Belt and Road Initiative.

The project involves creating a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings.

Pakistan and BRI:

To date, more than sixty countries—accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population—have signed on to projects or indicated an interest in doing so.

Analysts estimate the largest so far to be the estimated $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a collection of projects connecting China to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

What was the original Silk Road?

The original Silk Road arose during the westward expansion of China’s Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), which forged trade networks throughout the Central Asian countries, as well as modern-day India and Pakistan to the south. Those routes extended more than four thousand miles to Europe.

How have other countries responded to BRI?

Some countries see the project as a disturbing expansion of Chinese power.

The United States shares the concern of some in Asia that the BRI could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development and military expansion.

What does China hope to achieve?

China has both geopolitical and economic motivations behind the initiative.

The country has promoted a vision of a more assertive China, while slowing growth and rocky trade relations with the United States have pressured the country’s leadership to open new markets for its goods.

Experts see the BRI as one of the main planks of a bolder Chinese statecraft under Xi, alongside the Made in China 2025economic development strategy.

The BRI also serves as pushback against the much-touted  “pivot to Asia,”as well as a way for China to develop new investment opportunities, cultivate export markets, and boost Chinese incomes and domestic consumption.

India’s views:

India has tried to convince countries that the BRI is a plan to dominate Asia, warning of what some analysts have called a “String of Pearls” geo-economic strategy whereby China creates unsustainable debt burdens for its Indian Ocean neighbors in order to seize control of regional choke points.

In particular, New Delhi has long been unsettled by China’s decades-long embrace of its traditional rival, Pakistan.