1. India and China to keep dialogue channels open
The 17th round of senior-level military talks was held on December 20 ‘in an open, constructive manner’, 10 days after the two Armies clashed in the Yangtse area of Arunachal Pradesh
India and China held the 17th round of Corps Commander-level talks on December 20, at the Chushul-Moldo border meeting point on the Chinese side, during which they agreed to continue dialogue through military and diplomatic channels and work out a “mutually acceptable resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Thursday.
The talks — which were not announced ahead of time, unlike in the past — came 10 days after soldiers of the two Armies clashed at the Yangtse area in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh, resulting in injuries on both sides.
Building on the progress made after the last meeting on July 17, 2022, the two sides exchanged views on the resolution of the relevant issues along the Line of Actual Control in the western sector in an “open and constructive manner,” the MEA said. “They had a frank and in-depth discussion, keeping in line with the guidance provided by the State Leaders to work for the resolution of the remaining issues at the earliest which would help in restoration of peace and tranquillity along the LAC and enable progress in bilateral relations,” it stated.
2. ‘Both nations not patrolling several points as agreed’
As several patrolling points in east Ladakh remain inaccessible to Indian troops more than two years after the Galwan clash, a source in the defence establishment told The Hindu that after disengagement, in some well-known areas, neither side is patrolling, as per the understanding reached during talks.
3. Airports to resume testing 2% of international flyers for COVID-19 from tomorrow
Modi chaired a meeting with officials and discussed the preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics and status of the vaccination campaign; States told to share more samples for sequencing
The penultimate day of the Winter Session of Parliament saw a return to masks and a few other COVID-19 protocols following a global spike in number of coronavirus cases, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a meeting of top government officials to assess India’s COVID-19 preparedness.
At Thursday’s briefing, Mr. Modi directed officials to strengthen the ongoing surveillance measures, especially at international airports. Random testing of 2% of the passengers arriving on every international flight will resume from 10 a.m. on Saturday, the Health Ministry said. At the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, attendees discussed the COVID-19 situation, preparedness of health infrastructure and logistics, status of the country’s vaccination campaign, and the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and their public health implications for India, said a statement from the PM’s Office.
Mr. Modi advised the States to audit COVID-19-specific facilities to ensure the operational readiness of hospital infrastructure, including oxygen cylinders. The Prime Minister was told that there were enough medicines, vaccines and hospital beds. He directed officials to ramp up testing and also whole-genome sequencing efforts. The States have been asked to share more samples with the designated genome sequencing laboratories on a daily basis. “This will support timely detection of newer variants, if any, circulating in the country and facilitate undertaking requisite public health measures,” read the statement.
Mr. Modi urged everyone to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour at all times, including wearing masks in crowded public places. Precaution doses should be taken, particularly by the elderly and those at heightened risk for infection, he said. Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya also made a statement on India’s COVID-19 situation in Parliament.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar asked MPs to wear masks inside the House and spread awareness of COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Global cases rising
A large number of cases are being reported globally, from countries including Japan, the United States, South Korea, France, Greece and Italy.
Mr. Mandaviya added the government planned to randomly test a 2% sample of all arrivals at all international airports to minimise the risk of ingress of any new variant.
4. India abstains from UNSC vote on Myanmar, calls for quiet and constructive diplomacy
India, along with Russia and China, abstained from a UN Security Council resolution criticising Myanmar’s military regime, and instead called for “quiet, patient” and “constructive” diplomacy with the junta.
The vote, which marked the first Security Council resolution on the situation in Myanmar in decades, and in particular, since the military overthrew the National Unity Government (NUG) in February 2021, demanded an end to the violence and the release of all political prisoners, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The resolution (S/RES/2669 (2022)) proposed by the United Kingdom, which was passed by 12 votes, made several references to the importance of the “ASEAN” process, referring to the “five-point consensus” passed by the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) last year.
“We believe that the complex situation in Myanmar calls for an approach of quiet and patient diplomacy. Any other course will not help in resolving the long-standing issues which have prevented enduring peace, stability, progress and democratic governance,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj, said. She added that the Resolution would only “entrench” the parties concerned in Myanmar, and its neighbours such as India would be among those most affected by the instability in that country.
India’s abstention is being criticised by human rights advocates in Myanmar as indicative of a soft position on the junta that has not only imprisoned most of the democratic leadership but has also prosecuted them on charges of treason.
In an interview to The Hindu this month, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi appealed to India to “support ASEAN efforts”, adding that distancing from the ASEAN-led process would not be effective in helping Myanmar.
Ms. Kamboj complimented the U.K. for taking the views of Myanmar’s neighbours and ASEAN countries into account while drafting the UNSC resolution but said India could not support it.
“Quiet and constructive diplomacy is the desirable recourse for seeking constructive and enduring solutions in Myanmar… In view of these concerns and our firm commitment to the democratic process and the well-being of the people in Myanmar, India has decided to abstain on this Resolution,” she said.
5. India’s neighbourhood remains volatile and uncertain: IAF chief
India’s neighbourhood continues to remain “volatile and uncertain” and amid this volatility, the country must enhance its collective strength by partnering with nations which share common beliefs and values, Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal (ACM) V.R. Chaudhari said on Thursday, while also taking note of the great power politics in the Indo-Pacific region.
“We must use our image as a stable country with considerable economic heft to forge mutually beneficial relationships and strategic partnerships. It is essential that we retain our strategic autonomy and to do that, in my opinion, a strategy of balancing… would be the way forward,” he said at the 19th Subroto Mukherjee seminar organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies. Referring to the Indo-Pacific region, he said that India saw great power politics in play where an “established superpower is increasingly being challenged by an established regional power with global ambitions” and the “outcome will have repercussions for all major players in the region”.
Stating that in the existing world order, where national interests and realpolitik dictate the actions of state players, there would always be an overlap between competition and cooperation, the Air chief said India must develop its own strategy to survive and thrive amid this competition without losing sight of our objectives.
6. Bill seeks to promote ease of doing business
The government on Thursday introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha seeking to decriminalise minor offences to promote ease of doing business. The Bill was later referred to a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament.
The Jan Vishwas (Amendment of Provisions) Bill, 2022, which was introduced by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal also envisages the rationalisation of monetary penalties, depending on the gravity of the offence and bolstering trust-based governance. The Bill will amend certain enactments for decriminalising minor offences to enhance trust-based governance for ease of doing business, Mr. Goyal said. It was later referred to a 31-member Joint Parliamentary Committee.
The members of the committee from the Lok Sabha are P.P. Chaudhary, Sanjay Jaiswal, Rajendra Agrawal, Poonam Pramod Mahajan, Gaurav Gogoi, A. Raja and Sougata Roy. The names of 10 members from the Rajya Sabha will be announced later.
7. Centre rules out an increase in MSP for cotton, but farmers seek more
The relatively higher prices offered for the produce, which is above the MSP, has not offset the increased input costs, say farmers; bad-quality seeds and pest attacks add to the woes; they demand a ban on import of cotton and cotton seeds
While cotton farmers in several States have demanded an increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of the crop, the Union government has said that it is “watching” the cotton production scenario and will decide accordingly.
A senior official of the Union Textile Ministry told The Hindu that the domestic prices of cotton right now were higher than its MSP.
“MSP operations will kick in if prices fall. At this point, it is not necessary. We are fully ready to come into MSP,” the official said, adding that the Cotton Corporation of India will start procurement if the market is unable to ensure the MSP.
The MSP for medium staple cotton for the 2022-23 kharif season is ₹6,080 a quintal. Though farmers said cotton got prices much higher than the MSP, it was inadequate given the rise in prices of inputs such as seeds, pesticides and fertilizers.
Price above MSP
For Praful Khandhadia, a cotton farmer from Rajkot, the fortunate absence of pink bollworm — a major menace — meant a comfortable production, though he had to contend with other problems.
“The income from cotton was not good in the past four years. So I have not cultivated cotton on about 60% of my land. Sowing was less, but the production was good. The harvest is going on. It will be over by mid-February,” he said.
Mr. Khandhadia is able to get ₹8,500 a quintal at present. “It is higher than the MSP. Last March, some farmers got even ₹15,000 a quintal, but the production was very less. Given the increased input cost, the MSP should be at least ₹10,000 a quintal. We are selling the crop at ₹8,500 because of our immediate household and farm requirements,” he said.
Harvest of cotton is over in Punjab. In Fazilka, a major cotton belt in Punjab, farmers are getting about ₹8,200 a quintal on average.
“The production was just three quintals on average for an acre here. We used to get at least 15 quintals from one acre. We have been demanding compensation for cotton farmers. The seed-supplying companies are the major culprits for our losses. They should be held liable for supplying bad-quality seeds. Cotton is a cash crop for us. Our lives are dependent on this. But the companies are looting us,” Gurbhej Rohiwala, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) Fazilka district president, said.
In Maharashtra, some farmers have got as much as ₹12,000 a quintal, Ajit Nawale, All India Kisan Sabha’s Maharashtra secretary, said. However, some have had a low production because of the pink bollworm attack.
“The prices are good because of the global situation. The import has decreased and that is the reason farmers are getting good prices. We have been demanding that cotton import should be banned at any cost. Along with this, cotton seeds import should also be stopped,” he said.
8. Sahitya Akademi Awards announced, Anuradha Roy among 23 winners
Tamil author M. Rajendran, Telugu writer Madhuranthakam Narendra and Sanskrit poet Janardan Prasad Pandey ‘Mani’ are among the 23 authors who won the Sahitya Akademi awards for 2022 announced on Thursday.
Anuradha Roy has been selected for her English novel All the lives we never lived.
The Bhasha Samman will be given to Udaya Nath Jha for his contribution to the field of classical and medieval literature in the eastern region. Seventeen books have been selected for the translation awards which included Yaad Vashem by N. Nallathambi and Akupacha Kavithalu by Varala Anand.
The selections in 23 languages include seven books of poetry, six novels, two collections of short stories, three dramas, two literary criticism works and one each of autobiographical essays, collection of articles and literary history. The awards, recommended by jury members, were approved by the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi, which met on Thursday.
In Assamese language, Manoj Kumar Goswami won the award for his collection of short stories Bhool Satya. Gulam Mohammad Shaikh won in Gujarati for Gher Jatan, a collection of autobiographical essays, while Mr. Rajendran won in Tamil for his novel Kala Pani.
Winners in other languages are: Maya Anil Kharangate (Konkani), Praveen Dashrath Bandekar (Marathi), Mr. Madhuranthakam Narendra (Telugu), Anis Ashfaq (Urdu), Veena Gupta (Dogri), Kamal Ranga (Rajasthani), K.B. Nepali (Nepali), Farooq Fayaz (Kashmiri) and Rashmi Choudhury (Bodo).
M. Thomas Mathew won the award in Malayalam for his work on literary criticism, Ashaante Seethayanam, while Mudnakudu Chinnaswamy won in Kannada for a collection of articles, Bahutvada Bhaarata mattu Bouddha Taatvikate. The award for Bengali works will be announced later.
The Sahitya Akademi ‘Yuva Puraskar’ was awarded to Pawan Nalat for his Marathi poetry collection Mi Sandarbha Pokharatoy. The Bal Sahitya Puraskar has been given to Ganesh Marandi for his Santali book Hapan Mai. The books were selected based on the recommendations by a three-member jury in each of the languages.
9. Japan reverses nuclear plan adopted post Fukushima crisis
Japan on Thursday adopted a new policy promoting greater use of nuclear energy to ensure a stable power supply amid global fuel shortages and to reduce carbon emissions, in a major reversal of its phase-out plan following the Fukushima crisis.
The new policy says Japan must maximize the use of existing nuclear reactors by restarting as many of them as possible and prolonging the operating life of old reactors beyond their 60-year limit, and by developing next-generation reactors to replace them.
Anti-nuclear sentiment and safety concerns rose sharply in Japan after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, and restart approvals have since come slowly under stricter safety standards. Utility companies have applied for restarts at 27 reactors in the past decade. Seventeen have passed safety checks and only 10 have resumed operations. That was in line with Japan’s earlier plan to phase out nuclear energy by 2030.
In a reversal, the new policy says nuclear power provides stable output and serves “an important role as a carbon-free baseload energy source in achieving supply stability and carbon neutrality” and pledges to “sustain use of nuclear power into the future.”
10. Need taxonomy, definitions to avoid ‘greenwashing’: Rao
Green infrastructure investment trusts, green bonds can help financing of green projects, says RBI Deputy Governor; stresses need for regulated entities to assess climate-linked financial risks
Reserve Bank Deputy Governor M. Rajeshwar Rao on Thursday called for a taxonomy on green finance to avoid the risk of “greenwashing”. Green financing refers to lending to environmentally sustainable economic activities.
Speaking at an event here, Mr. Rao said a formal definition of green finance along with a taxonomy “is the need of hour” and added that it will enable more precise tracking of finance flows to green sectors.
“A taxonomy would help banks and financial institutions in better assessing the climate risk in their loan portfolio, scaling up… sustainable finance and mitigating the risk of greenwashing,” he said.
The call for clear definitions and a classification system, establishing a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities, comes at a time when India is looking at increasing green finance to help the climate. Greenwashing refers to dishonest practices aimed at duping people.
Mr. Rao also said that green infrastructure investment trusts could help scale up green finance, given the need to rapidly scale up finance because of the country’s climate commitments.
“There is a need for regulated entities to develop and implement comprehensive frameworks for understanding and assessing the potential impact of climate-related financial risks in their business strategy and operations,” the senior RBI official added.