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Current Affairs : 02 - 03 September 2018

NATION

U.S., India may not sign security pact at 2+2 meet

  • At the 2+2 dialogue between India and the U.S. here on September 6, an announcement could be made about an in-principle agreement between the two sides on the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), but its signing is doubtful, say officials on both sides.
  • The COMCASA will facilitate exchange of secure communications between the two militaries and allow the sale of encrypted communication systems to India.
  • For a long time there have been concerns that this would allow the U.S. to listen into Indian secure communication channels. But these have been gradually overcome and India agreed to move forward with the agreement.
  • However, signing the security pact “will override objections by the Indian military which fears that it will enable seamless penetration horizontally and vertically of the official Indian communications grid, including the most sensitive strategic communications network” writes strategic analyst Bharat Karnad in his latest book Staggering Forward.
  • Another major announcement likely to be made is for cross- posting of officials at the U.S. Defence Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) and India’s recently created Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) to work on joint development projects.
Green Tribunal steps in to conserve Ghats
  • The six Western Ghats States, including Kerala, have been restrained by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from giving environmental clearance to activities that may adversely impact the eco-sensitive areas of the mountain ranges.
  • The panel directed that the extent of Eco-Sensitive Zones of Western Ghats should not be reduced in view of the recent floods in Kerala.
  • The Madhav Gadgil-led Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report had created a political furore in the State with most of the political parties and a section of the church opposing it.
  • The Tribunal Bench, in its order, noted that any alteration in the draft notification of zones may seriously affect the environment, especially in view of recent incidents in Kerala. It was on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation that the Bench issued the order. 
  • The Principal Bench of the panel, which permitted the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF and CC) to re-publish the draft notification on Eco-Sensitive Zones, which expired on August 26, ordered that the matter may be finalised within six months. It also ordered that the draft of the republished notification be placed on the record of the tribunal.
  • The WGEEP had earlier proposed “much larger areas for being included in the eco-sensitive zone” though the Kasturirangan-led High Level Working Group, also appointed by the MoEF and CC to look into the WGEEP report, had reduced it. 
  • The Ministry had accepted the Kasthurirangan report and issued the draft notifications on ecologically sensitive zones.
In search of a second home for brow-antlered deer
  • From near extinction in 1951, the population of the brow-antlered deer, aka dancing deer — found only Manipur’s Bishnupur district — is just 260, according to a joint census conducted by the Forest Department and wildlife enthusiasts in March 2016. Though encouraging, it is nothing to write home about.
  • Foreign and domestic tourists come to Manipur to see, among others, this deer and pony which are not found anywhere in the world.
  • In a bid to save and help them multiply, there is a demand for a second home for the deer. However, villagers in Thoubal district have been launching sit-in protests and taking out torch light processions almost every night, saying that they should not be deprived of their livelihood by opening a second home for this deer at Phumlenpat Lake in the district.
  • It is very likely that the State government may drop the project. The reason? In Manipur, no government can do anything against the wishes of the womenfolk.
  • Women of villages surrounding the Phumlenpat say that for generations they have been depending on fish, other water living beings and edible water plants in this lake. 
  • To understand the context, the State government enforced the Manipur Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and later declared Keibul Lamjao as the National Park. Officials said that 14 deer were sighted in 1975. Despite slaughtering by poachers who enter the lake by masquerading as local fishermen, its population had increased. Wildlife enthusiasts, however, say that 260 deer of this species is too small a number to be comfortable.
  • The campaign against the proposed home of the deer is gathering momentum with the government doing precious little so far.
  • Some activists suggested shifting some deer to the vast sanctuaries in Assam since it is not safe in Manipur. However, it was vetoed saying a day will come when Assam will claim the deer as their own.
President sets off on Europe tour
  • President Ram Nath Kovind arrived in Cyprus on the first leg of his three-nation tour to continue India’s high-level engagements with European countries.
  • The President and his wife were received by Cyprus’ Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Georgios Lakkotrypis at the Larnaca International Airport.
  • The President will also visit Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.
  • This is his first overseas state visit in the second year of his presidency.

WORLD


    U.S. to cancel $300 mn aid to Pak.
    • The Defense Department has sought to cut aid by $300 million “due to a lack of Pakistani decisive actions in support of the South Asia Strategy”, Lieutenant Colonel Kone Faulkner said.
    • The U.S. has been pushing Pakistan to crack down on militant safe havens in the country, and announced a freeze on aid at the beginning of the year that an official said could be worth almost $2 billion.
    • “We continue to press Pakistan to indiscriminately target all terrorist groups,” Mr. Faulkner said, adding that the latest aid cut request was pending Congressional approval.
    • Pakistan has fought fierce campaigns against home-grown militant groups, and says it has lost thousands of lives and spent billions of dollars in its long war on extremism.
    • But U.S. officials accuse Islamabad of ignoring or even collaborating with groups which attack Afghanistan from safe havens along the border between the two countries.
    • The White House believes that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and other military bodies have long helped fund and arm the Taliban for ideological reasons, but also to counter rising Indian influence in Afghanistan. It also believes that a Pakistani crackdown could be pivotal in deciding the outcome of the long-running war in Afghanistan.
    ECONOMY

    Mauritius tops India’s FDI charts again
    • Mauritius remained the top source of foreign direct investment (FDI) into India in 2017-18 followed by Singapore, whereas total FDI stood at $37.36 billion in the financial year, a marginal rise over the $36.31 billion recorded in the previous fiscal, according to RBI data.
    • While FDI from Mauritius totalled $13.41 billion as against $13.38 billion in the previous year.
    • Provisional data for the fiscal ended March revealed that FDI into the manufacturing sector witnessed a substantial decline to $7.06 billion, as against $11.97 billion a year earlier.
    • However, FDI into communication services rose to $8.8 billion in FY18 from $5.8 billion. 
    • The inflows into retail and wholesale trade also shot up to $4.47 billion as against $2.77 billion, while financial services too saw a rise to $4.07 billion from $3.73 billion in the previous year. 
    Investor plaints to SEBI at six-year high
    • Investor complaints against listed firms and market intermediaries have touched a six-year high even as the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has raised its pace of disposing such complaints to bring down the overall pendency.
    • According to SEBI’s latest annual report, it received 43,131 investor complaints against market intermediaries in 2017-18. This was the highest since 2011-12, when more than 46,500 complaints were received.
    • While over 30 lakh complaints have been cumulatively registered with SEBI so far, it has managed to consistently reduce pendency with only 3,771 complaints pending as on March 31.
    • Of total pending grievances, only 647 were pending for more than six months compared with 984 grievances that were more than six months old and pending as on March 31, 2017.

    SPORTS

    ASIAN GAMES
    • India maintained their recent domination over arch-rivals Pakistan in Hockey, with a fighting 2-1 win to bag a consolation bronze medal after a below-par semi-final performance at the 18th Asian Games .
    • Amit Panghal has won the fight of his life, beating Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov in the final of the 49kg weight class. 
    • Varsha Gautham and Sweta Shervegar claimed silver in 49er FX event while two men combined to overcome disqualification in their previous race to grab a bronze.
    • The Indian women's hockey team, however, failed to break its 36-year-old gold jinx. The loss will hurt the Indians badly as a gold here would have guaranteed a direct qualification in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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