International Latest News

UNSC grants Antonio Guterres second term as UN Chief

United Nations: The United Nations Security Council voted to give Secretary-General Antonio Guterres a second term, with conflict resolution set to top his agenda at the world body’s helm.

The 72-year-old former prime minister of Portugal has held the office since 2017 and faced no competition for the next term in the job.

Around 10 other people also sought the position, but they were not formal candidates because none of the 193 UN member states endorsed them.

During a brief closed door session the Security Council voted unanimously to recommend that the General Assembly gives Guterres another term, said the council’s current president, Estonian ambassador Sven Jurgenson.

Approval from the General Assembly is seen as a formality and expected to take place soon.

During his first term, Guterres was forced to concentrate on limiting the potential damage from the unilateral, nationalist, and alliance-wary foreign policy of Donald Trump.

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North Korea accuses UN of double standard over missile firings

Seoul: North Korea accused the United Nations of a “double standard” over its reaction to the North’s recent missile launches, warning it of a serious consequence.

Last week, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea in a defiance of UN resolutions that ban such launches by North Korea. The UN Security Council subsequently adopted a resolution to renew the mandate of UN experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea.

 “It constitutes a denial of sovereignty and an apparent double standard that the UNSC takes issue, on the basis of the UN ‘resolutions’ — direct products of the US hostile policy toward (North Korea),” senior North Korean Foreign Ministry official Jo Chol Su said in a statement carried by state media.

Jo said it “doesn’t make any sense” for the UN council to take issue with only North Korea’s missile launches, while not doing anything on similar weapons tests by other countries. He said such a “double standard will invite more serious consequence” but didn’t elaborate.

Observers say North Korea could test-fire longer-range missiles in coming weeks.

At a recent meeting of the committee monitoring sanctions and North Korea, where all 15 Security Council members are represented, UN diplomats said a significant majority expressed concern at Pyongyang’s latest violations of council resolutions banning ballistic missile launches. They said the Security Council is likely to hold a closed discussion on the missile launches this week.

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‘Stop Vaccine Nationalism’: EAM Jaishankar to UNSC panel on Covid

United Nations: India, which has shipped “Made In India” Covid-19 vaccines to 25 countries, on Wednesday appealed the international community to stop “vaccine nationalism” and actively encourage “internationalism”, underlining that hoarding superfluous doses will defeat global efforts to attain collective health security and combat the deadly pandemic.

Addressing the UN Security Council, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar outlined key points for consideration of the international community to help the world put the COVID-19 pandemic decisively behind it and to emerge more resilient.

“Stop ‘vaccine nationalism”; indeed, actively encourage internationalism. Hoarding superfluous doses will defeat our efforts towards attaining collective health security,” he said, speaking at the open debate on the implementation of resolution 2532 (2020) on the cessation of hostilities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jaishankar voiced concern that lack of global coordination regarding vaccine distribution will hit conflict affected areas and poorer countries the hardest.

He called on the international community to persist with the vaccination drive, along with other public health measures, to slow down the virus’s ability to infect new people and mutate further.

He said nations must collaborate with each other on genomic surveillance to track virus mutations and variants and exchange information in this regard in a regular and timely fashion.

He underscored that there is also need to effectively address public resistance to vaccines.

“Vaccine-related information must be contextual, empathetic, and culturally sensitive, while providing scientific and accurate facts to allay the fears and concerns of the public,” he said.

Addressing the Council, Jaishankar voiced concern that routine immunization programs have been thrown into disarray due to the pandemic, with about 80 million children in at least 68 countries at risk of diphtheria, measles and polio.

He called for urgent resumption of immunization programs across the world before children’s lives are threatened by other diseases.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, addressing the meeting, noted with concern that the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines is generating hope, but just 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccines.

Jaishankar told the Council that India, the pharmacy of the world, has been very much at the forefront of the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. India earlier provided critical medicines, diagnostic kits, ventilators and PPEs to more than 150 countries, about 80 of them on a grant basis.

“Today, the pharmacy of the world is stepping forward to meet the global vaccines challenge,” he said adding that two vaccines, including one indigenously developed, have already been granted emergency authorization. 30 more candidates are under various stages of development.”

He also announced a gift of 2 lakh doses of Covid vaccine for UN peacekeepers.

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India slams China and Pakistan on terrorism at UNSC

New York: Calling out Pakistan for its support for terrorism and China for providing terrorists cover against sanctions, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has unveiled an eight-point plan against the global scourge.

In a speech to a UNSC session — convened to mark two decades since the 1373 anti-terror resolution was passed after the 9/11 attacks in the US — Jaishankar called for “zero tolerance to terrorism”.

The international community must collectively expose and hold accountable those countries that are “clearly guilty of aiding and supporting terrorism, and willfully provide financial assistance and safe havens” for terrorists, he said speaking through a videolink.

Jaishankar did not name Pakistan or China, but he made the references to the countries contextually clear.

“We, in India, have seen the crime syndicate responsible for the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts not just given state protection but enjoying 5-star hospitality,” he said in one such reference that pointed to Pakistan hosting Dawood Ibrahim, the crime boss behind the attack that killed 257 people.

In his eight-point plan, he criticized the double standards advocated by Pakistan and some others and said: “Terrorists are terrorists; there are no good and bad ones. Those who propagate this distinction have an agenda. And those who cover up for them are just as culpable.”

As for China, he referred to “the practice of placing blocks and holds on listing requests without any rhyme or reasons which, he said, “must end because this only erodes our collective credibility.”

Beijing blocked for a decade the listing of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist by a Council sanctions committee. He was behind several terrorist attacks on India.

Jaishankar suggested that the UN increase cooperation with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which should continue to identify and fix weaknesses in anti-money laundering and counter-terror financing mechanisms, he said.

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Top 10 events that made headlines in India

Intro: Apart from Covid-19 that dominated the news, in India, the foundation stone was laid for the Ayodhya Ram Temple, key state elections were conducted and several mass protests were held amid deadly Delhi riots.

Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh became the epicentre in the CAA protests. (File photo)

CAA protests shook the nation

Protests continued in 2020 over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which grants citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis, Buddhists and Christians fleeing religious persecution from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh if they entered India on or before December 31, 2014. People protested against the CAA in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area for over a month that ended on March 24 as pandemic lockdowns began in India.

Riots broke out at many places in north-east Delhi in February, in protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. The violence erupted on February 22 but the riots continued for 4 days, claiming 53 lives and around 600 people were injured. Several dead bodies were retrieved from a nullah, where mutilated bodies were dumped.

The Delhi riots were triggered through social media, and this medium was used as a weapon to execute the conspiracy as per the chargesheet filed by Delhi Police.

The agitating farmers have announced to take out a tractor rally towards Delhi on Republic Day. (File photo)

Farmers’ protest refuses to die

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh have been protesting at the borders of the national capital demanding the repeal of the three key farm laws, among other issues.

The Singhu border, ground zero of the snowballing protests, saw thousands of farmers blocking highways from Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan leading to Delhi. The farmers agitation continued after the ministerial level talks between the farmers leaders and the Central government failed to reach a consensus.

The agitating farmers have announced they will take out a tractor rally towards Delhi on Republic Day, besides a series of programmes in a bid to intensify their protest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performing the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’. (File photo)

Work begins on Ram Temple in Ayodhya

Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ and laid the foundation stone for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya on August 5. Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra trust had announced in September that Ram Temple will have 1,200 pillars which will go 200 feet deep. It is expected that the Ram Mandir would be 161 feet tall.

In a related development, nearly 28 years after the Babri Masjid was demolished, the Special CBI court on September 30, 2020, acquitted all 32 accused in the case, including former deputy prime minister LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti.

Arvind Kejriwal back as Delhi CM

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal took oath as the chief minister of Delhi on February 16, for the third time at the Ramlila Maidan Ground. 

The Aam Aadmi Party swept the Delhi Assembly election 2020, bagging 62 out 70 seats and decimating its rivals BJP and Congress. The BJP bagged eight seats, while the Congress failed to open its account and the party’s 62 candidates lost their deposit.

Kejriwal’s oath-taking ceremony at the Ramlila Maidan also assumed significance as it was from this ground that he along with noted anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare led a massive anti-corruption agitation.

Nitish Kumar back as Bihar CM too

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) registered a victory in the Bihar assembly election and JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar once again sat on the chair of the Chief Minister. This was the seventh time Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister of the state. After the ruling alliance’s victory, Nitish Kumar took to Twitter to thank the people of the state and he also expressed his gratitude to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his co-operation.

The JD(U) chief got the full backing of all constituents of the NDA, including the BJP, which has outperformed his party in the assembly elections. The BJP secured 74 seats while the JD (U) managed only 143.

Covid-19 spreads in India

The first case of the coronavirus in India was found in Kerala on January 30 through a medical student who had returned from Wuhan. This was followed by the second and third cases in February.

Mass gatherings such as the Tablighi Jamaat event at Delhi’s Nizamuddin, held between March 1-21, became super spreaders. As cases increased, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns on March 24, halting most economic and social activities, closing borders and allowing only essential services to continue.

Over 10 months later, India has crossed 1 crore cases, while the death toll touched over 1.5 lakh.

Several migrants died of hunger, heatstroke and exhaustion. (Photo: Courtesy, PTI)

Migrant exodus got international attention

As the coronavirus spread, India saw a humanitarian crisis, with the lockdown impacting nearly 40 million migrants. What started as groups of migrants walking from Mumbai and neighbouring districts to their hometowns in Gujarat and Rajasthan slowly grew into the largest mass exodus since the Partition, in March.

Many traveled thousands of miles on foot to reach their villages in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while others traveled by the special Shramik trains that were launched by the government. Not all reached their destinations, though.

According to data compiled by road safety NGO, 198 migrants lost their lives in road accidents during this lockdown period, while many more have died of hunger, heatstroke and exhaustion.

India-China clashes at border

On May 5, a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese forces, who had encroached into the Indian border at the Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh. Soldiers from both sides engaged in stone-pelting and fistfights and around 11 soldiers were injured.

On June 14, Indian army soldiers were attacked with iron rods and barbed wires, unprovoked. In the resultant hand to hand combat, during the interluding night between June 15 and 16, 20 Indian army personnel and nearly 43 Chinese soldiers were killed.

The Indian government reacted by banning over 200 mobile apps developed in China, along with several infrastructural projects for which Chinese companies had won contracts.

GDP shrinks a record 23.9 percent

India recorded a GDP drop of 23.9 per cent, in the period April-June 2020. This was the worst contraction since India started reporting GDP data in 1996. The stringent lockdown measures, which put a huge dent on the economy, caused all sectors, apart from agriculture to suffer huge losses. The gross value added growth (GVA) in the manufacturing sector shrank by 39.3 per cent, while industries such as construction, trade, travel and hospitality, were all badly affected.

The country began its term on January 1, 2021. (File photo)

India finally elected to UNSC 

India was formally elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for a period of two years on June 18, 2020, after winning with an overwhelming majority. This is the 8th term for the country, the previous one being in 2011-12.

India was the sole candidate from the Asia-Pacific region for the 2021-22 term. Since long, India has been pushing to get a permanent seat at UNSC. The country began its term on January 1, 2021, joining 15 other members – five permanent and 10 non-permanent at the Council.

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Modi takes dig at Pakistan during virtual SCO meet

New Delhi/Islamabad: Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a swipe at Pakistan at the virtual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), saying it is unfortunate that repeated attempts were being made to violate the grouping’s charter by raising bilateral issues.

Modi also said connectivity initiatives should be built around respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries, and reiterated that India stood ready to help all nations fight the Covid-19 crisis with its vaccine production and distribution capabilities.

The SCO heads of state summit, chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin, was held virtually owing to the pandemic. It was the first time that Modi and President Xi Jinping shared the same platform since the India-China standoff along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) emerged in the open in May.

Modi, who spoke in Hindi, said India believes in peace, security and prosperity, and has always opposed terrorism, illegal arms smuggling, drug trafficking and money laundering, he added. Without naming Pakistan, he said: “It is unfortunate that repeated attempts are being made to unnecessarily bring bilateral issues to the SCO agenda, which violate the SCO Charter and Shanghai Spirit. Such efforts are contrary to the spirit of consensus and cooperation that defines SCO.”

India has reacted sharply to Pakistan’s repeated efforts, often with support from its traditional ally China, to raise the Kashmir issue at multilateral bodies such as SCO and the UN Security Council since the special status of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped in August last year.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who spoke after Modi, criticized India without naming the country. Khan praised China, including for its assistance for tackling the pandemic and its support for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is opposed by India as it passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Noting that SCO was established to ensure security across Eurasia, Khan said, in an apparent reference to Kashmir: “SCO stands for strict observance of this principle and the principles of the UN charter such as equality and sovereignty of states, respect for territorial integrity, sanctity of borders, non-aggression, non-use of threat of force and people’s right for self-determination.”

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No ‘snapback’ sanctions on Iran’: UNSC president

United Nations: The president of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has said it was “not in position to take further action” on a bid by the United States to trigger “snapback” sanctions against Iran.

Indonesia’s UN ambassador Dian Triansyah Djani, whose country holds the Security Council presidency for the month of August, said he “is not in the position” to take further action as there is no consensus among council members over the issue, Xinhua news agency reported.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo submitted Washington’s demand for the return of all pre-2015 UN sanctions against Iran. But the overwhelming majority of Security Council members hold that the US move does not constitute a “notification” as envisaged in Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal.

They argued that the United States has no right to invoke the “snapback” mechanism as it is no longer a participant since it withdrew from the deal in May 2018.

Under Resolution 2231, any participant state to the Iran nuclear deal can notify the Security Council about an issue that it considers a significant violation of the agreement. The UN sanctions in place before the adoption of Resolution 2231 in July 2015 would then resume 30 days after the notification, unless the Security Council adopts a resolution to decide otherwise.

Under the resolution, if no member of the Security Council has submitted a draft resolution to prevent a snapback within 10 days of a notification by a participant state, the president of the Security Council shall submit such a draft resolution and put it to a vote within 30 days of the notification.

The E3 — Britain, France and Germany — reiterated their common position that the United States is not eligible to invoke the “snapback” mechanism as it has withdrawn from the deal.

Under Resolution 2231, the arms embargo against Iran expires on October 18, 2020.

The US move to invoke the “snapback” mechanism seeks to automatically bring back all pre-2015 sanctions, including the arms embargo.

Once a “snapback” is initiated, the United States could use its veto power in the Security Council to shoot down any draft resolution that seeks to prevent the restoration of the sanctions against Iran.

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Rebuffing Pak, UNSC again says Kashmir bilateral issue

United Nations: The UN Security Council on Wednesday rebuffed another attempt by Pakistan to raise Kashmir at the august body, and made it abundantly clear this is an issue for India and Pakistan to resolve bilaterally, as has been India’s position. Four of the five permanent members — the US, UK, France and Russia — sided firmly with India, as has become a practice, reported Hindustan Times.

“In today’s meeting of UNSC, which was closed, informal, not recorded and without any outcome, almost all countries underlined that J&K was bilateral issue & did not deserve time and attention of Council,” said TS Tirumurti, India’s permanent representative to the UN, in a tweet.

Pakistan had sought a discussion on Kashmir — for the third time since last August — in a letter to the council which, as some diplomats said, “was match-fixed” to coincide with the first anniversary of the revocation of the Article 370. And China, batting for its “all-weather friend”, made it happen as it had before, calling for a discussion under Any Other Business practice, which allows any member to raise an issue for discussion.

But they couldn’t fix the outcome. “They chose the date carefully but it proved to be a short-sighted move as everyone else came to India’s support,” said a UN diplomat who had monitored the meeting closely. “Most members felt this needs to be resolved bilaterally and it does not deserve to come to the security council, and there was a sense that this was a waste of the body’s time.”

This time Pakistan and China had the support also of Indonesia, which holds UNSC’s rotational chair for August. In the end, however, Indonesia came through for India, according to one of the diplomats cited above, as it agreed with others that the dispute needed to be resolved bilaterally.

Pakistan has sought open and formal meetings of the council to grandstand its Kashmir case, but has had to settle for this closed-door version; now for the third time starting August 2019, shortly after the change in status of Kashmir.

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Backed by US, India warns China against Kashmir interference

Washington/New Delhi: The government on Thursday warned China against attempts to interfere in India’s internal affairs after Beijing unsuccessfully initiated a discussion in the UN Security Council on Jammu and Kashmir.

In a statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs, the government said that this was not the first time that China has sought to raise a subject that is solely an internal matter of India.

“As on previous such occasions, this attempt too met with little support from the international community. We firmly reject China’s interference in our internal affairs and urge it to draw proper conclusions from such unfructuous attempts,” the government said.

The government on Wednesday received a letter of support from the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs which held China responsible for the aggression along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh.

Chairman and Ranking Democrat Member Eliot Engel and Ranking Republican Member Michael McCaul, wrote jointly on behalf of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, saying that they wanted to demonstrate the strong bipartisan support for the US-India relationship.

“Members of both parties recognize the impact that a strong US-India partnership will have on the trajectory of the 21st century. As Prime Minister Modi said in February of this year, our ties ‘are no longer just another partnership. It is a far greater and closer relationship.’

This closer relationship is all the more important as India faces aggression from China along your shared border, which is part of the Chinese government’s consistent pattern of unlawful and belligerent territorial aggression across the Indo-Pacific.

“The United States will remain steadfast in support of India’s efforts to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the letter addressed to Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar said.

The US House Committee in its letter also acknowledged the “ongoing serious security and counterterrorism concerns” in Jammu & Kashmir and said that it looks forward to “working with” Indian government to “address these concerns while upholding our shared commitments to the democratic values and freedoms on which our countries’ bond was built”.

However, the letter said that it is because of its support for the India-US bilateral relationship that “we note with concern that conditions in Jammu & Kashmir have not normalized one year after India’s repeal of Article 370 and the establishment of Jammu & Kashmir as a Union Territory”.

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