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Insights Daily Current Events, November 25, 2013


November 25, 2013


(Rule 49-O was mentioned in today’s newspaper, but nothing significant so we have put only details related to Rule 49-O )

Rule 49-O

  • Rule 49-O is a rule in The Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961 of India, which governs elections in the country. It describes the procedure to be followed when a valid voter decides not to cast his vote, and decides to record this fact.
  • The apparent purpose of this section is to prevent the election fraud or the misuse of votes.
  • Rule 49-O reads– Elector deciding not to vote – If an elector, after his electoral roll number has been duly entered in the register of voters in Form 17A and has put his signature or thumb impression thereon as required under sub-rule (1) of rule 49L, decides not to record his vote, a remark to this effect shall be made against the said entry in Form 17A by the presiding officer and the signature or thumb impression of the elector shall be obtained against such remark.

Implications of 49-O:

  • Since the ballot paper or electronic voting machine (EVM) shows only the list of candidates, a voter cannot record his vote under Section 49-O directly, but must inform the presiding officer at the election booth. This violates the secrecy of the ballot. However, with paper ballot one can “waste” one’s vote by stamping on multiple candidates; this was the standard method of giving null votes without violating secrecy before the advent of the EVM.
  • At present, in an election, a winner will be declared irrespective of the number of ‘non-votes’. However, a note of every ‘non-vote’ will be made with the Election Officer, and the total number of non-voters will, presumably, be available under the Right to Information Act.

Courtesy – Wikipedia and


Iran signs landmark nuclear deal with West

  • Iran has struck a historic agreement with the U.S. and five other world powers, accepting strict constraints on its nuclear programme for the first time in a decade in exchange for partial relief from sanctions.
  • This was the most significant agreement between U.S. and Iran since the 1979 Iranian revolution.
  • The move is intended as the first step in a six-month process aimed at a permanent resolution to the decade-old global impasse over Iran’s nuclear programme, and heading off the threat of a new war in West Asia.
  • The Geneva deal releases just over $4 billion in Iranian oil sales revenue from frozen accounts, and suspends restrictions on the country’s trade in gold, petrochemicals, and car and plane parts.

In return, Iran undertakes to restrict its nuclear activities. Over the next six months it has agreed to:

  • Stop enriching uranium above 5%, reactor-grade, and dilute its stock of 20 % enriched uranium or convert it to oxide, which makes it harder to enrich further. The medium-enriched uranium, in its hexafluoride gas form, is relatively easy to turn into weapons-grade material, so it is a major proliferation concern.
  • Not to increase its stockpile of low-enrichment uranium.
  • Freeze its enrichment capacity by not installing any more centrifuges, leaving more than half of its existing 16,000 centrifuges inoperable.
  • Not to fuel or to commission the heavy-water reactor it is building in Arak or build a reprocessing plant that could produce plutonium from the spent fuel.
  • Accept more intrusive nuclear inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, including daily visits to some facilities.
  • The bigger task was to go forward and negotiate a comprehensive deal.

However Israel and France are circumspect of this deal

  • France was the country that initially stalled the first round of talks on November 12th, 2013. French President Francois Hollande had insisted on four French “red lines” that included placing all Iranian nuclear installations under immediate international supervision, suspension of enrichment to 20%, reducing current Iranian uranium stocks and halting construction of the Arak heavy water plant.
  • Both Israel and Sunni Gulf States, especially Saudi Arabia, had come together and pressured the French to take a hard-line position on Iran. French policies towards Iran since the late 1970s have been those of suspicion, affected by France’s position on Lebanon, Syria and their recent restoration of harmony with Israel.
  • Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have recently offered huge economic contracts to France, pushing France into further infexibility towards Iran. The fact that France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe also plays a part in French calculations in the region.

Geneva: six-month window to negotiate permanent deal

  • The nuclear deal between Iran and P5+1 (the U.S, the U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany), was signed after a diplomatic marathon of three intensive rounds at Geneva.
  • Some of the complications involved in coming to a deal was due to some frictions among the six powers.
  • The six-month life of the Geneva deal is intended to be used to negotiate a comprehensive and permanent settlement that would allow Iran to pursue a peaceful programme, including enrichment, but under long-term limits and intrusive monitoring, that would reassure the world that any parallel secret programme would be spotted and stopped well before Iran could make a bomb.

Implications of the agreement:

  • The agreement would lead to the lifting of the main sanctions on oil and banking that have all but crippled the Iranian economy, and the eventual normalisation of relations between Iran and the U.S. for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
  • The difficulties facing the negotiators in the coming months would be ‘whether the deal represented recognition of Iran’s right to enrich uranium’. According to Iran, it did because it was based on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which guarantees the right to a peaceful nuclear programme. However, according to U.S. neither the NPT nor the latest deal specified a right to enrichment.
  • From Iran’s point of view, the deal reduced the threat of war and eased punishing sanctions.

Deal consistent with our stand, says India

  • India has said that the two-stage deal Iran struck with the U.S. and five other world powers on its nuclear programme was consistent with the position it had taken with Russia, Brazil, China, South Africa and other like-minded countries.
  • The agreement was consistent with India’s stand that the issue should be resolved diplomatically, with the recognition of Iran’s right use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and in accordance with Iran’s international obligations as a non-nuclear weapon state.
  • The two-stage process of the deal: one was the agreement reached between Iran and P5+1 (the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany); and the other was between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities.
  • Anything that improves Iran’s economy would be useful. India-Iran ties were sluggish because of the sanctions. Now with the withdrawal of the sanctions, it will benefit the ties between the two sides.
  • The interim steps agreed upon in Geneva could build trust between Iran and the international community and lead to a long-term settlement of the issue. India hoped that the negotiators would display the same sense of accommodation as they did in the run-up to the agreement to clinch a final settlement over the next two months.

India-Iran talks create new atmosphere for Peace Pipeline via Pakistan

  • Relations with Iran have been held up due to the U.S. sanctions. The upcoming Foreign Office consultations between India and Iran have created a new atmosphere for the Peace Pipeline via Pakistan
  • The just-ended Geneva Round and better U.S.-Iran ties would leverage Iran to play a constructive role in Afghanistan which will be to India’s advantage. Both Iran and India are concerned over the U.S.-Pakistan initiative to hold peace talks with the Afghan Taliban without preconditions.

Impact on India:


  • Modernization and expansion of the Chah-bahar port will be vital for providing India and the international community access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. It will also ensure Indian presence just 80 km away from the Chinese built Gwadar port in Pakistan. India has allotted $100 million for the port’s development and is sorting out a trilateral arrangement with Iran and Afghanistan for a customs and transit agreement.
  • Iran’s contiguous ‘free trade zone’ is crucial for Afghanistan’s economic growth and further negotiations on the North South Corridor that would use the Bandar Abbas port for connectivity with Turkmenistan, the Caucasus and beyond. The port can be connected to Afghanistan and even beyond to Central Asia by linking it up to the

Iranian border town of Milak on the Afghan border. An Indian-built road from the corresponding Afghan border town of Zaranj will then lead to the Afghan garland highway.

Courtesy – (image)


  • In the first trilateral, India, Iran and Afghanistan agreed on preferential treatment and tariff reductions for Indian goods at Chah-bahar. There is now talk of a rail line from Bamyan in Afghanistan that will follow this road route down to Chah-bahar.

Oil Supplies:

  • Earlier, India was forced to reduce import of crude oil due to the effects of the U.S. sanctions on insurance and sending back payments. But after the recently concluded Geneva-round of talks, there was a call for stepping-up oil supplies from Iran. On this line, there was a plan to create a Rs. 2,000-crore fund to provide cover for imports of Iranian crude.
  • India will also be looking at resuming talks on a lucrative gasfield ‘Farzad-B gas’ on which just two rounds have been held over the past four years.

Tiananmen attack a ‘jihadi operation’: Islamist group

  • The Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a terrorist group known to have links to Pakistan-based outfits and blamed for recent violence in China’s far-western Xinjiang region, has released a video describing last month’s attack in Tiananmen Square as a “jihadi operation” and threatened to carry out further attacks on high-profile targets in the Chinese capital.
  • The video lends weight to the Chinese authorities’ claims that the Tiananmen incident was organised by the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) (also known as TIP).

(To know more about East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) -refer our ‘previous CURRENT EVENTS’


The two sides of Bitcoin

  • Bitcoin, often called a virtual currency, it’s not legal tender anywhere in the world. It’s not an income-generating asset class suitable for most investors. Its value, in dollars, fluctuates wildly from one minute to the next. And while it can be a cheap way of transferring money, there are too many glitches in its emerging network for bitcoin to be entirely reliable.
  • Analysts have said that, Bitcoins are still an experimental currency and it should be considered a high-risk environment for consumers and investors at the moment. Yet, bitcoin has been receiving plenty of attention, and not just because well-publicised speculators have been making money on it.
  • High-risk experiment though it may be, bitcoin represents an elegant and disruptive technology.It uses file-sharing, the peer-to-peer computer innovation that spawned early music services such as Napster, Kazaa and LimeWire.
  • Bitcoin gives file-sharing a brilliant twist. In essence, it has created “a decentralised virtual currency that uses a peer-to-peer consensus system to confirm and verify transactions.
  • Bitcoin’s advantages as a low-cost means of transferring money has attracted a number of corporate clients.
  • Speculators and money launderers have already found much to like about the relatively anonymous digital currency, and that has forced the government to play catch-up.

To illustrate: Bitcoin allowed the website Silk Road, which the government shut down in October 2013, to become “the largest illegal drug and contraband marketplace on the Internet”. While it was in business, customers were required to pay in bitcoins to enable both the operator of Silk Road and its sellers to evade detection and launder hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate had called it “a reliable e-cash.”

To illustrate: The e-cash that enabled one to “transfer funds from A to B, without A knowing B or B knowing A — the way in which one can take a $50 bill and hand it over to another and there’s no record of where it came from. At the end B may get its due, without knowing who A is.

(To know more about Bitcoins – refer our ‘previous CURRENT EVENTS’)