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Insights Daily Current Events November 13, 2013

Insights Free Magazine


November 13, 2013


India accounts for highest pneumonia, diarrhoea deaths: Report

  • According to the Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report (PDPR) 2013, India loses four lakh children to pneumonia, diarrhoea before they turn five. Many Indian children do not have access to life-saving treatment and prevention measures.

  • In the Pneumonia Progress Report 2012, India topped the list of countries with the most child deaths. In this regard efforts have been made through the upcoming national scale-up of pentavalent vaccine and the assurance of an indigenous rotavirus vaccine, yet the coverage remains below targeted levels.

  • Pneumonia and Diarrhoea continue to be the leading killers of children under 5 worldwide. According to the latest estimates by the United Nations Children’s Fund, pneumonia and diarrhoea together claimed the lives of more than 1.7 million children below five years in 2012 alone.

  • In 2013, WHO and UNICEF have developed the Integrated Global Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD), outlining key universal interventions, with the goal of ending mortality in children by 2025.

  • Accordingly, GAPPD set forth coverage targets of 90% for vaccinations, and for access to pneumonia and diarrhoea treatment, and 50% for exclusive breastfeeding of children during their first six months.

  • The PDPR 2013 report evaluates 15 countries with the highest absolute number of child deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea. India and Nigeria, with the largest disease burdens, continue to have low coverage levels for prevention and treatment interventions.

  • Simple, low-cost solutions such as washing hands with soap, controlling indoor air pollution, encouraging exclusive breast feeding, oral rehydration solution and zinc supplementation; administering vaccines and increasing access to treatment can go a long way in saving children’s lives.

Gadgil report not mandatory for projects in Western Ghats: NGT

  • The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said that it was no longer mandatory for the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) to refer to Gadgil panel’s report while deciding applications for clearance for projects in permissible areas of the Western Ghats.

  • The MoEF could now consider either K. Kasturirangan panel report or Gadgil report, while deciding the applications for clearance.

  • However the Kerala government has argued that the plea to put into effect the Gadgil committee’s report was inappropriate.

  • While Kerala contended that the present petition was inappropriate, it is argued that the findings of the report had been accepted only in-principle and thus the reliefs sought in the plea still existed.

Some of Kasturirangan panel (also known as the High Level Working Group’s (HLWG)) recommendations which have been accepted in-principle by MoEF are-

  • Definition of the extent of the Western Ghats demarcated by the panel, the ecologically sensitive area (ESA) identified and delineated by it, complete ban on mining, quarrying, sand-mining, thermal power plants and red category industries in ESA.

  • According to the panel approximately 37% (about 60,000 square kilometres) of the Western Ghats are ecologically sensitive.

  • The hydro and wind energy projects are allowed in the Western Ghats subject to stringent and applicable conditions and that projects already under consideration of the respective State Environment Impact Assessment Authorities and MoEF on the date of issue of draft notification will be considered under the then existing regulations.

(The Gadgil Committee (or the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP)), had designated the entire Western Ghats as an ‘ecologically sensitive’ area.)

(For more Information on the Gadgil Committee & Kasturirangan panels report, refer our ‘October Insights Current Event Analysis magazine -2013’)

India declares itself bird flu-free

  • India has declared itself free from H5N1 Avian Influenza (bird flu) as there has been no occurrence of the disease in the last three months.

  • As is the global norm, India has notified its bird flu-free status to the World Organisation for Animal Health headquartered in Paris.

  • To control spread of the disease, the following measures were taken:

  • the entire poultry population and its eggs, feed, litter and other infected material were stamped out within a radius of one km. Restrictions on the movement of poultry was imposed, the affected area was cleaned up and disinfected. Consequently, a post-operation surveillance plan was adopted as per international norms.

  • Even though India is free from bird flu, regular surveillance will be maintained, especially in vulnerable areas bordering infected countries and in areas visited by migratory birds.


India-U.S.-Japan trilateral relationship

  • The 5th India-U.S.-Japan trilateral would be held in Tokyo (Japan) on 14th & 15th November, 2013. India would specially focus on civil nuclear energy, and projects that will enhance its access to Myanmar and Afghanistan.

  • All three countries are deploying their disarmament and nuclear energy experts in an attempt to push forward the stalled civil nuclear energy agreement with the U.S. Japan is a vital because one of its companies will supply a crucial component for the American nuclear reactors. This requires an India-Japan civil nuclear agreement and Japan’s nod on the terms of liability in case of an accident.

  • The meeting will take up the issue of a route starting from India and going through upper Myanmar to eventually touch Vietnam. The project has also been discussed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the previous two summits with Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh and Jakarta. Also proposal for reconstruction of Afghanistan would be considered.

Japanese assistance to India:

  • Bilateral issues, including the Dedicated Freight Corridor and the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor — the two multi-billion-dollar projects that are taking shape with Japanese assistance.

  • The two sides also signed a Japanese Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) whose two main components are a $130-million loan to Tamil Nadu for quick implementation of infrastructure projects such as roads, power, water supply and sewerage, and $177.3 million for improving the education and research environment at the Indian Institute of Technology, Hyderabad. Also Japan has pledged $150 million for Uttarakhand, which was badly hit by landslips triggered by heavy rains in June, 2013.

  • India plans to export 6,000 tonnes of rare earth chloride to Toyota Tsusho; marking its entry into the sector after a seven-year-gap (China has dominated this market).

More about ASEAN

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration) by the Founding Fathers of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. (At present there are 10 members namely, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam)


  • Cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields.

  • Promotion of regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter.

  • The declaration has stipulated that the Association would be open for participation by all States in the Southeast Asian region subscribing to its aims, principles and purposes.

  • ASEAN represents ‘the collective will of the nations of Southeast Asia to bind themselves together in friendship and cooperation and, through joint efforts and sacrifices, secure for their peoples and for posterity the blessings of peace, freedom and prosperity’.

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  • The motto of ASEAN is “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.

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LMDC (Like-Minded Developing Countries) against voluntary emission cuts

  • India, China and other countries in the Like-Minded Developing Countries (LMDC) group are of the view that, the new climate agreement must not force developing countries to review their voluntary emission reduction targets.

  • Setting itself up in direct confrontation with developed countries, the LMDC made it clear that it was not in favour of doing away with the existing ‘differentiation’ between developing and developed countries when it came to taking responsibility for climate action.

What is the issue?

  • The new agreement is to be signed by 2015 and the on-going talks in Warsaw are expected to draw out elements of this agreement. A general consensus has emerged that the new agreement would permit each country to volunteer its emission reduction target.

  • The European Union (EU), backed by other allied groups, has demanded that there should be a process of reviewing targets of all countries and seeing if they collectively add up to the level that keeps global temperature rise below 2 degree Celsius. Any gap, the EU suggests, should then be distributed among all countries, rich or poor, based on several parameters which are sometimes called the Equity Reference Framework.

  • The U.S. wants similar consultations but only ‘peer pressure,’ and not compulsion, to convince countries to do more in case the global target is not met.

  • Both methods break the differentiation between the developed and developing countries and set up an agreement where it is best for developed countries to offer lower targets initially and then get the responsibility of filling the ‘emission gap’ distributed evenly among all nations.

  • Also the existing Finance-technology link between the developed and the developing would be weakened.

  • The LMDC has officially countered these two proposals (Finance-technology link & the reduction in the target from the developed countries )

  • Flawed equity- redistributes the burden of fighting climate change more on the shoulders of the developing countries. In future, any framework which seeks more contribution from developing countries would go against the principle of ‘equity and common but differentiated responsibilities’ based on historical responsibility.

  • It also rejected the EU and the U.S. proposal – that the emission cut obligations should be based on existing capabilities of the respective countries.

  • The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) under which the new agreement is to be signed requires the developed countries, and not developing countries, to take the lead in fighting climate change.

Bitter Morocco-Algeria row

  • A bitter spat between Algeria and Morocco over the disputed region of Western Sahara has started afresh, as Morocco recalled its ambassador (this is a major escalation, an attempt to gain U.S. backing for its claim to Western Sahara), angry protesters tore down an Algerian flag, and a Moroccan magazine called for land grabs.

  • During the Morocco King’s (Mohammed VI) visit to the U.S., the monarch would be looking for greater U.S. support as Morocco feuds with regional rival Algeria. The neighbours are competing for position in a dispute that leaves little space for the cooperation against the al-Qaeda in North Africa that U.S. and its allies want.

  • Morocco, has been calling for international recognition for its 1975 annexation of the former Spanish territory on Africa’s Atlantic coast. With Algeria backing the movement seeking independence, the two countries have been at loggerheads for decades.

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U.S. stake:

  • The U.S. priority in the region, however, has increasingly focused on fighting terrorism, with the al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch morphing into a Sahara-spanning organisation with an elusive presence from the borders of Morocco to Libya.

  • But with the two most powerful militaries (Morocco & Algeria) in the region engulfed in frequent fights over the disputed region, building any kind of regional cooperation especially to support weaker states like Niger, Mauritania and Chad has been impossible.

Morocco’s & Algeria’s position:

  • Morocco has proposed wide-ranging autonomy for Western Sahara, but the Polisario Front, the pro-independence nationalist movement, insists that local people have the right to a referendum on the territory’s future as set out in a 1991 U.N.-brokered ceasefire agreement that ended 15 years of fighting.

  • Whereas, Algeria has backed the Polisario’s claims (principle of self-determination) and also provides refuge to this group.

  • Moreover, Algeria and the Polisario Front have the force of international law on their side. Hence Morocco has to deal with the fact that the Security Council is increasingly considering the issue of human rights. In April, 2013 the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Susan Rice, attempted to add human rights monitoring to the U.N. mission, provoking protests from Morocco. The proposal was dropped but bruised relations between the two countries.

Peace deal fails in DR Congo

  • A much anticipated peace deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the M23 rebel militia has fallen through after the government demanded changes to the agreement in the final stages of talks in Kampala, Uganda. (But the talks are yet to be officially called off)

  • Earlier, M23 had called off its 20-month rebellion in the DRC’s conflict-prone eastern provinces after a decisive military campaign by security forces.

  • According to the African Union and the European Union, ‘both the parties had expressed no differences on substantive points within the draft document; but M 23’s denial of violence could have led the DRC government to push for further concessions believing it had the upper hand in negotiations’.

  • With regard to M23, it is said that, ‘any solution must allow the pursuit of accountability for those who have committed war crimes, crimes of genocide, and crimes against humanity.


  • The M23 militia draws its name from a March 23, 2009 peace deal that promised to integrate soldiers from a prior rebellion in eastern Congo that stemmed from an ethnic conflict sparked by the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

  • In April, 2012 former rebels restarted their rebellion, accusing the government in Kinshasa of disregarding the March 23 agreement.

  • Since then, U.N. reports have accused Rwanda of using M23 to stir up unrest in DRC by training, arming, and commanding M23 rebels and also providing refuge to the fighters. Uganda was accused of providing M23 with political support.

  • Both countries have denied the allegations, but the United States, the European Union and Britain responded by cutting aid to Rwanda to force it to fight  the rebels.

(For more on Congo & M23 issue refer our ‘October Insights Current Event Analysis magazine -2013’)

Mauritius Prime Minister to skip CHOGM

  • Mauritius PM Navin Chandra Ramgoolam would skip the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). Reason behind the decision – absence of progress in Sri Lanka in respect of human rights.

  • Mauritius will be the host for CHOGM in 2015.


A crucial milestone on the issue of Global Warming

  • The 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP 19) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has started-off in Poland on November 11th, 2013. This marks a crucial milestone towards negotiating an effective global warming treaty that would be signed in Paris in 2015.But there has been hardly any ‘common agreement’ drawn between the developed and the developing nations.

  • The developed countries want a significant cut in global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), while developing nations are prepared to reduce their carbon footprint only with financial and technical assistance from the West.

  • The 2015 deadline would be difficult to meet since most countries agree that it would be unrealistic to have the treaty prescribe the quantum of emission cuts.

  • However, there seems to be broad support for the “bottom-up” approach, which would involve countries submitting voluntary commitments assessed and monitored for compliance by the treaty’s guardians.

  • But the EU wants legally binding commitments to halve GHG emissions by 2050 in comparison to 1990 levels and the U.S. wants a mix of ‘legally and non-legally binding commitments’. Moreover, the U.S would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol which imposes a binding emissions cut on developed countries.

  • Whereas the BASIC group, wants negotiation to be interms of ‘prinicple of equity’ and to retain the Kyoto Protocol’s preferential treatment of developing countries. The developing countries including India, seeks assistance from the developed world in the form of ‘finance, technology transfer and capacity building measures’.

  • But recently there has been a slight friction among the BASIC group – South Africa has suggested the new treaty must include binding carbon cuts for all parties. With several natural disasters this year, and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide having crossed 400 parts per million is calling for more urgency to negotiations.

  • The challenge for India at CoP 19 would be to secure these demands without it being considered as a hurdle to the treaty. India has already been criticized, rather unfairly, for its objection to bringing hydro fluorocarbons (HFC’s) under the Montreal Protocol, as opposed to the UNFCCC.

  • On one hand, India’s climate diplomacy must be aimed at dispelling the notion that it is reluctant to tackle global warming and on the other it must ensure Indian industry affordable access to western technology to meet the commitments effectively.