1. Women officers can now get permanent commission in Army
Defence Ministry issues formal order
- The Ministry of Defence has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of permanent commission (PC) to women officers in the Army.
- “In anticipation, the Army Headquarters had set in motion a series of preparatory actions for conduct of the Permanent Commission Selection Board for affected women officers. The Selection Board will be scheduled as soon as all affected Short Service Commissioned (SSC) women officers exercise their option and complete requisite documentation,” the Army said in a statement on Thursday.
- The order specifies the grant of permanent commission to SSC women officers in all the 10 streams in which they presently serve — Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and Intelligence Corps, in addition to the existing streams of Judge and Advocate General and Army Educational Corps, the Army said.
- The order follows a Supreme Court verdict in February that directed the government that women officers be granted PC and command postings in all services other than combat. Following this, Army chief Gen. Manoj Naravane said it was an enabling one and gave a lot of clarity on how to move forward. He stated that the same procedure for male SSC officers would be followed for women to give permanent commission.
- About 322 women officers had approached the top court and the issue of command postings came up in the discussion on subsequent avenues after the grant of PC.
|Permanent Commissioned officer can serve till he retires. Short Service Commission means that they are recruited for a period of 10 years. However, the tenure can be extended to 14 years. They also have a option to take permanent commission.|
2. Towards national security and peace in Hong Kong
It is in India’s interest to maintain stability in the Hong Kong SAR given their close economic and trade ties
- The promulgation and implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) marks a major turning point from unrest to peace and order, and a farewell to the history of “unguarded” national security in Hong Kong.
- The Law is enacted for the purpose of ensuring the resolute, full and faithful implementation of the policy of One Country, Two Systems under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy; safeguarding national security; preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment for the offences of secession, subversion, organisation and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security in relation to Hong Kong; maintaining prosperity and stability of Hong Kong; and protecting the lawful rights and interests of the residents of Hong Kong.
- Since the turbulence over the amendment bill last year, with support from foreign and external forces, the anti-China forces have openly instigated “Hong Kong independence” separatist acts and serious violent incidents, which highlighted big national security loopholes in the city. Hong Kong has been plunged into the gravest situation since their return. The city has lost the title of the world’s freest economy it had held for 25 years. Its GDP registered negative growth for the first time in a decade, and the unemployment rate hit a record high in nearly 10 years.
Significant effects of the law
- The national security legislation for HKSAR was enacted by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress in accordance with the Chinese Constitution and the Basic Law of the HKSAR. The legislation plugs the legal loopholes and provides strong institutional and legal safeguards for national security in Hong Kong, which has significant effect on the long-term development of the city.
- First, the legislation will guarantee the sustained implementation of One Country, Two Systems. One Country is the precondition and basis for Two Systems. Only when One Country is safe and secure can Two Systems be safeguarded. The legislation will neither change the principle of One Country, Two Systems, the capitalist system or the high degree of autonomy practiced in Hong Kong, nor the legal system in Hong Kong or Hong Kong’s independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
- Second, the legislation will protect the lawful rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents. The legislation clearly stipulates four types of criminal offences and principles of the rule of law such as respecting and protecting human rights. The legislation will not lead to generalised understanding or unlimited expansion of “national security”. It will not affect but better protect the lawful rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents. For a handful of people endangering national security, the law is a sword hanging above. Yet for the vast majority of Hong Kong residents, including foreigners in Hong Kong, the law is a guardian for their rights, freedoms and peaceful life.
- Third, the legislation will safeguard long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. Without national security, there will be neither lasting peace and stability for China nor long-term prosperity and stability for Hong Kong. The legislation will help to restore the order and maintain the stability in Hong Kong, consolidate and enhance Hong Kong’s international financial, trade and shipping center status, further strengthen the confidence of foreign investors, and create a better living and business environment for foreign nationals and enterprises in Hong Kong. International credit rating agency S&P has affirmed its AA+ issuer credit ratings on Hong Kong and maintained the outlook as stable, which shows international investors’ confidence in Hong Kong’s future.
- The legislation is firmly supported by the mainstream public opinion in Hong Kong and the forces of justice in the international community. Nearly three million people in Hong Kong have signed a petition in support of the enactment of the Law, and more than 1.28 million have signed an online petition opposing the interference by the U.S. and other external forces. More than 70 countries voiced their support for the legislation at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
An internal affair
- National security legislation belongs to the sovereignty of a country and the authority of the Central government. It is justified that China governs the country and Hong Kong in accordance with the law. It is spelt out in the constitutions of over 100 countries that the exercise of basic rights and freedoms shall not endanger national security. It’s common practice in the world to safeguard the national security through legislation. Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong. Hong Kong affairs are China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. Some western politicians use the national security legislation as an excuse to interfere in China’s internal affairs. What they care about is not the freedoms of Hong Kong people, but the “freedoms” of trampling on China’s national security. The Chinese government is firmly committed to safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, firmly committed to implementing One Country, Two Systems, and firmly committed to opposing interference in Hong Kong affairs by external forces.
- India and Hong Kong have close economic and trade relations. It serves India’s interest to maintain the prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. The national security legislation will better protect the safety of foreign investment and legitimate rights and interests of foreign nationals in Hong Kong, including that of India. We hope Indian friends can uphold fairness and justice, respect and support China’s efforts to safeguard national security in Hong Kong in accordance with law.
3. Restrictions on bidders from nations sharing land borders
Centre imposes curbs for reasons of national security
- The Union government on Thursday amended the General Financial Rules, 2017 to enable imposition of restrictions on bidders from countries which share a land border with India. The restrictions on public procurement from such countries can be imposed for reasons of national security and other factors directly or indirectly related to the country’s defence.
- A statement released by the Union Finance Ministry said the Department of Expenditure had, under the said rules, issued a detailed order on public procurement to strengthen the defence of India and national security.
- “As per the order, any bidder from such countries sharing a land border with India will be eligible to bid in any procurement whether of goods, services (including consultancy services and non-consultancy services) or works (including turnkey projects) only if the bidder is registered with the Competent Authority,” the statement said.
- The competent authority for registration will be the registration committee constituted by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
- Political and security clearance from the External and Home Ministries, respectively, will be mandatory.
Banks too in list
- The order takes within its ambit public sector banks and financial institutions, autonomous bodies, Central public sector enterprises (CPSEs) and public private partnership projects receiving financial support from the government or its undertakings.
- “The State Governments too play a vital role in national security and defence of India. The Government of India has written to the Chief Secretaries of the State Governments invoking the provisions of Article 257(1) of the Constitution of India for the implementation of this Order in procurement by State Governments and state undertakings etc,” the order said.
- For State government procurement, the competent authority will be constituted by the States, but political and security clearance will remain necessary.
- Relaxation has been provided in certain limited cases, including for procurement of medical supplies for containment of COVID-19 till December 31.
- “By a separate Order, countries to which Government of India extends lines of credit or provides development assistance have been exempted from the requirement of prior registration. The new provisions will apply to all new tenders,” the statement said.
- In respect of tenders already invited, if the first stage of evaluation of qualifications has not been completed, bidders who are not registered under the new order will be treated as not qualified.
- If this stage has been crossed, ordinarily the tenders will be cancelled and the process will be started de novo.
- The order will also apply to other forms of public procurement. It does not apply to procurement by the private sector.
4. China launches ambitious Mars mission
Beijing wants to join the U.S. in successfully landing a spacecraft on the red planet
- China launched its most ambitious Mars mission yet on Thursday in a bold attempt to join the U.S. in successfully landing a spacecraft on the red planet.
- A Long March-5 carrier rocket took off under clear skies around 12-40 p.m. from Hainan Island, south of China’s mainland. Hundreds of space enthusiasts cried out excitedly on a beach across the bay from the launch site.
- “This is a kind of hope, a kind of strength,” said Li Dapeng, co-founder of the China branch of the Mars Society, an international enthusiast group.
- China’s space agency said that the rocket carried the probe for 36 minutes before successfully placing it on the looping path that will take it beyond Earth’s orbit and eventually into Mars’ more distant orbit around the sun.
- China’s tandem spacecraft — with both an orbiter and a rover — will take seven months to reach Mars, like the others. If all goes well, Tianwen-1, or “quest for heavenly truth,” will look for underground water, if it’s present, as well as evidence of possible ancient life.
- It marked the second flight to Mars this week, after a UAE orbiter blasted off on a rocket from Japan on Monday. And the U.S. is aiming to launch Perseverance, its most sophisticated Mars rover ever, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, next week.
- This isn’t China’s first attempt at Mars. In 2011, a Chinese orbiter accompanying a Russian mission was lost when the spacecraft failed to get out of Earth’s orbit after launching from Kazakhstan, eventually burning up in the atmosphere.
- This time, China is going at it alone. It also is fast-tracking, launching an orbiter and rover on the same mission instead of stringing them out.
- Landing on Mars is notoriously difficult. Only the U.S. has successfully landed a spacecraft on Martian soil, doing it eight times since 1976.
|The US mission |
NASA’s newest rover Perseverance — other rovers have landed on Mars earlier — will look for signs of habitable conditions on Mars and microbial life in its ancient past. Over its mission duration of one Martian year (687 Earth days), it will collect Martian rock and sediment samples for analysis on Earth. The rover is equipped with specialised equipment to collect data, analyse weather conditions that can help plan for future human missions, and produce oxygen from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere. Perseverance is expected to touch down on Mars on February 18, 2021. NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring Mars since 2012. It remains active although its targeted mission life is over. China, China mars mission, Tianwen-1, Tianwen-1 mission to mars, china space sector, indian express Tianwen-1 will reach the Red Planet’s orbit in February 2021. The rover will land on Mars in May. (Reuters Photo: Carlos Garcia Rawlins)
The space race
Space exploration has been dominated by the US and Russia for more than 50 years. “China joining (the Mars race) will change the situation dominated by the US for half a century,” the news agency AFP quoted Chen Lan, an independent analyst at GoTaikonauts, which specialises in China’s space programme, as saying. China sent a human into space in 2003. It has also started plans to set up a space station by 2022. China has also sent two rovers to the Moon, with the second landing on the far side. Mars is a bigger challenge, however. As McDowell told AFP, the much greater distance means “a bigger light travel time, so you have to do things more slowly as the radio signal round trip time is large”. It also means “you need a more sensitive ground station on Earth because the signals will be much fainter”. China, in partnership with Russia, had attempted a mission to Mars in 2011 too, but the launch failed. Chinese mission’s spokesman, Liu Tongjie, has been quoted as saying: “We carry out this first Mars exploration mission to peacefully use the universe and to explore its mysteries. It’s for this purpose. It’s not to launch a competition with any other country.”
5. Protect financial sector health: Rajan
Govt. should weigh the cost that sector can bear, ensure it’s adequately capitalised, says ex-RBI chief
- With the corporate sector poised to suffer massive write-offs and bankruptcies due to the adverse economic effects of COVID-19 and prolonged lockdowns, the government ought to carefully consider the cost that the financial sector could bear as a result and still remain sound, said former Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan.
- In a scenario where companies would operate at 50-75% of their capacity for the next six to eight months, they would end up accumulating a lot of debt with significantly over-leveraged firms likely facing the bankruptcy process, noted Dr. Rajan, addressing the DBS Asian Insights Conference on ‘The Economies of a Pandemic’ on Thursday.
- “That is a given and coming in a big way even in countries that have managed to support their economies [through high levels of stimulus],” he said.
- “But in emerging countries like Brazil and India, where there has been very, very modest support to people and companies, when the economy opens up more fully, there will be a lot of damage which will be uncovered and has to be dealt with,” Dr. Rajan added.
- “Remember, we are just talking about the corporate sector. If the corporate sector has to write down debts and goes through bankruptcy processes, hopefully cheap processes that will allow renegotiations [with lenders] at low costs, that will imply that the cost will be transferred over to the financial sector. The transfer of cost will come over to the financial sector and that is the last shoe, which hopefully will not drop,” he said.
- He added that governments should sensibly think about the cost that the financial sector could bear to ensure that they were adequately capitalised, And if not, try to make sure that they had the capacity to infuse capital into the sector.
‘Last thing we want’
- “The last thing we want over and above the corporate crisis is a financial sector crisis,” said Dr. Rajan.
- In the future, many companies would close down permanently. “There are losses to come. In a sense, we are putting the economy into temporary coma, but when it is awaken[ed], it’s overly optimistic to assume that everybody will come back to full life,” he said.
- While East Asia had managed the virus well, Europe had contained the spread. But countries like the U.S., India, Brazil had not been able to control the virus.
- “The longer it lasts, more will be the damage and helping an economy which is locked down to survive is extremely costly,” he said.
- “When you lose one-twelfth of the GDP every month, when you go for complete lockdown, when a lot of people could not work, there will be substantial deterioration done to the economy,” Dr. Rajan said.
- The difference in economic revival would finally depend on how much each country was able to spend, he added.