Current Affairs April 2017 - International


News 1 - El Salvador becomes the first country in the world to ban metals mining


El Salvador has become the first country in the world to ban metals mining nationwide. The bill was passed by 69 votes as against the only 43 required.

The law provides for an immediate, definitive, and permanent ban on all metals mining, including exploration activities. The ruling comes after a long-dragged dispute over a proposed gold mine by Pac Rim Cayman, a unit of Canadian-Australian Company OceanaGold Corp.

News 2 - NDB invested $1.5 billion in seven projects during its 2 years of operation


The BRICS-backed New Development Bank (NDB) has invested a total of $1.5 billion in seven projects during its two years of its operation. The bank had begun its operations in July 2015. Six of the projects financed by the bank are in the renewable energy sector and one in transport financing.

NDB had signed its first loan agreement for a project in China in December 2016. The New Development Bank (NDB) is a multilateral development bank established by the BRICS states (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

News 3 - India, UK to set up National infrastructure & investment fund for green energy

Green Energy

India and the United Kingdom have decided to set up a 240 million pound fund to finance clean energy projects in India, which will involve contribution of 120 million pounds in the Green Growth Equity Fund, which will focus initial investments in India's rapidly growing energy and renewables market.

The Fund will be a sub-fund of National Infrastructure and Investment Fund , which was set up by India in 2015 to finance greenfield as well as brownfield projects.

News 4 - US withdraws funding for United Nations Population Fund


The United States is withdrawing funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that promotes family planning in more than 150 countries. According to US, agency participates in a program of coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization in China whereas agency states that its work does not break any US laws.

In total, 32.5 million dollars’ worth funds will be withdrawn for the 2017 financial year. This is the first of the promised cuts to US financial contributions to the UN by the Trump administration.

News 5 - SASEC countries pledged to improve intra-regional connectivity


South Asian countries of South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation pledged to upgrade intra-regional connectivity and promote trade and tourism, held at a meeting in New Delhi of Finance ministers of South-Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Myanmar. Pledge is a part of SASEC Vision for 2025 and adopted operational plan of 2016-25.

SASEC aims to achieve USD 70 Billion incremental GDP and 20 million jobs by 2025. The seven nations (SASEC) sought trade of oil and gas along with improving road connectivity.

News 6 - Meeting of EPG on India-Nepal ties held in Kathmandu


The third meeting of Eminent Persons Group on India-Nepal Relations held at Kathmandu. During the two day meeting, members discussed various bilateral issues including revision of 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty. First meeting of the group was held at Kathmandu in July and second at New Delhi in October 2016.

The Eminent Persons Group is a joint mechanism consisting experts and intellectuals from India and Nepal. It was set up to provide suggestions for updating all existing bilateral treaties and agreements between both the countries.

News 7 - Norway unveiled plans to build world's first sea tunnel


Norway unveiled plans to build the world's first sea tunnel to pass through a mountain, avoiding dangerous waters that intimidated even the Vikings. Built to bypass the Stad peninsula, a storm-swept area in western Norway, the Stad ship tunnel will be 1.7 kilometers long and 36 meters wide, making journeys safer.

Tunnels for boats exist in other parts of the world such as the Canal du Midi in France, but the Stad tunnel will be the first to accommodate ships up to 16,000 tonnes for freight transport and passengers.

News 8 - Lenin Moreno selected as the Ecuador President


Around 64 years old Socialist candidate Lenin Moreno was elected as Ecuador's president, defeating former banker Guillermo Lasso. Presidential elections gave boost of power to leftist movement in South America after right-leaning governments recently came to power in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.

Moreno, a former special envoy on disability and accessibility, has promised to reach out to opponents and business sectors, create job opportunities, oppose corruption and restrain country from April's earthquake.

News 9 - WTO formed committee to resolve India-Japan steel dispute


World Trade Organization has set up committee to solve import duty issue of iron and steel products between Japan and India. Japan has raised objection over violation of WTO trade norms on steel imports by India. The bilateral trade earnings between the two countries stood at $14.51 billion in 2015-16. Trade is highly in support of Japan.

India was not in favor of panel formation, instead India thought of resolving issue in consultations but repeated requests of Japan in forming panel has given a step ahead to WTO in solving the said issue.

News 10 - Japan accepts ‘Bitcoin’ as its currency from April 2017


With the new law’s implementation, Japan has officially recognized bitcoin as its mainstream currency. This new law classifies Bitcoin as a legal payment option within the country. This law will come into effect from April 1 2017.

Following the new norms, Bitcoin exchanges will also come under additional regulatory scrutiny. Other requirements of new norms include stated capital and cyber security requirements. The recognition means complying AML and KYC norms, regulations governing banks and financial institutions, digital currencies exchange platforms etc.

News 11 - India–UAE cultural celebrations festival launched at Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi

The India - UAE cultural celebrations festival was launched at Abu Dhabi with a tribute video featuring both Mahatma Gandhi and late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan - two iconic figures. The video took the audience through a journey of shared values, pluralism and multiculturalism between the two nations.

The initiative proposed to bring some of the diversity of India to the UAE by bringing artists from both the countries on the same platform to work and collaborate. It was a cultural partnership for a positive future between India and the United Arab Emirates.

News 12 - South Korea successfully test-fired home developed ballistic missile


South Korea test-fired a home-developed ballistic missile with a range long enough to hit any part of North Korea. The missile with a range of 800 kilometers could serve as a strong deterrent to Pyongyang.

This test comes a day after the North Korea fired its own ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.

The new missile could cover all of North Korea even when fired from a southern region of the country.

News 13 - G 20 Digital Ministers’ Meet on Digital Economy held in Germany


The G20 Digital Ministerial Meeting was held in Dusseldorf, Germany. The G20 Ministers expressed their warm appreciation for the accomplishments of the Digital India program. They noted how Digital India is provisioning a unique digital identity – cheaply, securely, and with privacy – to 1.1 billion citizens via Aadhaar.

India’s interests were conveyed to the G20 forum, and suitably reflected in the Ministerial Declaration and Roadmap. This included unleashing the potential of Digital Economy to drive digital inclusion and reducing digital divide.

News 14 - Nepal Government withdraws the second Constitution Amendment Bill

Amendment Bill

Nepal government has withdrawn the second Constitution Amendment Bill. Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ajaya Shankar Nayak submitted the proposal in the parliament today to withdraw the bill and house endorsed it. The members of Madhesi parties protested the new amendment proposal and walked out of the parliament.

The Medhesi leaders said that they will not accept any proposal which will dilute provincial boundaries issue.The second amendment bill was submitted in November last year to address various demands of agitating Madhesi parties including revision of provincial boundaries.

News 15 - First rail freight service from UK to China departed

First Rail Freight

The first rail freight service from the UK to China has departed on its 17-day, 7,500-mile journey. The DP World locomotive left its terminal in Stanford-le-Hope, Essex, for Zhejiang province, eastern China.

The train will pass through seven other countries - France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan during the journey. The first rail freight service in the opposite direction, from China to the UK, arrived three months ago.

News 16 - Centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram celebrated in London


The centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram was celebrated in London with the screening of a documentary to re-tell Gandhi's story. The documentary 'Sabarmati Ashram – The Home of Gandhi's Experiments with Truth was screened at the Nehru Centre.

The film showed how Gandhi set up the ashram in 1917 on a wasteland on the banks of Sabarmati River and some pro-British newspapers ridiculed his idea of Salt March. Screening of the documentary reflected the values such as non-violence, peace, love and harmony that Gandhi ji preached.

News 17 - India, China signed a MoU for extending Hindi language course


India and China signed an agreement to extend the term of Hindi language course functioning at a leading Chinese University. The MoU was signed by Consul General of Shanghai Consulate Prakash Gupta, on behalf of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Shanghai International Studies University (SISU) President Cao Deming in Shanghai.

Under the terms of the agreement, the MoU envisaged appointing a Hindi language professor by ICCR in consultation with SISU to teach the language to Chinese and international students at the University.

News 18 - Nepal and China hold first-ever joint Military exercises


Nepal and China held their first-ever joint military exercise with a special focus on combating terror.

This 10-day-long military drill "Sagarmatha Friendship 2017" was organised by the two countries as part of their preparedness against terrorism that has posed as a serious security threat globally.

The joint training with China marks Nepal Army's extension of military diplomacy. The Nepal Army has long been conducting joint military drills with Indian and American Army.

News 19 - Turban Day celebrated at Times Square in US

Turban Day

Non-profit group 'The Sikhs of New York' organised the 'Turban Day' at Times square in the United States.

The iconic Times Square was seeped in the colours and tradition of the Sikh culture as members of the community tied turbans to thousands of New Yorkers and tourists.

The Turban Day was started in 2013 at Baruch College to promote and educate people about the Sikh religion and identity.

News 20 - PM Modi to be the Chief Guest for UN Vesak Day celebrations in Sri Lanka

Vesak Day

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the chief guest for the UN Vesak Day celebrations to be held in Sri Lanka from 12th to 14th May. Mr. Modi is scheduled to participate in couple of other public functions during his two-day visit apart from bilateral meetings with Sri Lankan leadership. The UN Vesak Day celebrations are being hosted for the first time in Sri Lanka.

The theme for this year's celebrations will be ‘Buddhist teachings for social justice and sustainable peace’. The day is celebrated since 2001 after UN passed a resolution to this effect.

News 21 - Australia abolished the 457 Visa Programme

Visa Programme

Australia has scrapped a popular work visa used by over 95,000 foreign workers to tackle the growing unemployment in the country. Majority of these foreign workers include Indians. This program will be replaced by another visa program, which will have new restrictions.

The program known as 457 Visa allows businesses to employ foreign workers for a period of up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers. The new visa will include mandatory criminal checks and tighter English language requirements.

News 22 - The G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting held in Washington D.C

Finance Ministers

Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley participated in G-20 Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting was held in Washington D.C. The discussion sessions focused on the Compact with Africa, Financial Sector Development and Regulations, International Financial Architecture and Global Financial Governance.

The Finance Minister Shri Jaitley discussed in the meeting that many more multi-faceted reforms are expected to ensure that India can withstand the volatility of the global economy as well as ensure an upward growth trajectory. Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley attended the ‘Development Committee Restricted Lunch Session’ on the theme of “Inequality”.

News 23 - The 1st ‘India Indonesia Energy Forum’ held in Jakarta


The 1st ‘India Indonesia Energy Forum’, was held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The Energy Forum was preceded by the 2nd Joint Working Group on Oil and Gas, 4th Joint Working Group on Coal and the 1st Joint Working Group on New and Renewable Energy.

A MoU between the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Indonesia. The MOU seeks to establish a cooperative institutional framework to facilitate and to enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of oil and gas sectors based on equality and mutual benefit.

News 24 - Mongolia launched its first satellite


Mongolia launched its first satellite, a 1,227-megahertz satellite, called Mongol Sat-1 that will help the nation expand its television, telecoms and broadband services.

The satellite was launched in partnership with Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS), a telecoms and broadcast provider in the region. Mongolia got into an economic and financial crisis last year after a collapse in commodity prices eroded growth. The International Monetary Fund has asked Mongolia to diversify its economy as part of a $5.5 billion bailout.

News 25 - IMF predicts World economy to grow at 3.5% in 2017

World Economy

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted the world economy to grow by 3.5% this year, up from 3.1% in 2016. The IMF’s latest outlook for 2017 is a slight upgrade from the 3.4% global growth it had forecast in January. The IMF also predicted a growth of 3.8% in 2018.

The IMF's new improved projections are based primarily on a resilient China, rising commodity prices and sturdy financial markets including a changing policy mix under a new administration in the United States.

News 26 - China to host BRICS Film Festival in June 2017


The second BRICS Film Festival will be held in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province from June 23 to 27, 2017. Chinese director Xie Fei will be the president of the festival jury. The first BRICS Film Festival was held in New Delhi in September 2016.

There are going to be 30 film screenings from the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) during this festival. An anthology by five directors from the BRICS nations, “Where has the time gone”, will also be screened.

News 27 - Cuba and Morocco re-establish diplomatic ties after 37 years


Cuba and Morocco has signed an agreement to re-establish diplomatic ties after a gap of 37 years. Morocco cut ties with Havana in 1980 after Cuba recognised Western Sahara as the independent Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Morocco claims the territory as its own. Cuba's support for the Polisario Front also added to the relations become worse.

King Mohamed VI of Morocco has ordered the opening of an embassy in Havana.

News 28 - India notified compliance of UN sanctions against North Korea

UN sanctions

India notified the compliance of the UN resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea, which include prevention of direct or indirect supply, sale, transfer or export of all weaponry through its territories or by its nationals to that country.

The sale of luxury goods including jewelry, gems and automobiles, except food or medicine, that could directly contribute to the development of North Korea's operational capabilities of its armed forces is also prohibited.

It also mentions immediate freezing of the funds that are on its territories, which are owned entities engaged in the North Korea's nuclear-related weapons.

News 29 - Belgium became the first country to open honorary consulate in GIFT City


Belgium has become the first country to open an honorary consulate office in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City). Hari Sankaran was nominated as Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Belgium to the state of Gujarat.

The opening of the consulate general is significant for many traders from Gujarat who are engaged in diamond trade in Antwerp in Belgium. GIFT is a central business district (CBD) located between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar in the state of Gujarat. The likely cost of the GIFT City project is Rs. 70,000 crores.

News 30 - Indian short film to be screened by UNESCO as part of World Press Freedom Day celebrations


An Indian short film "Azaad" will be screened by UNESCO as part of a World Press Freedom Day event on May 3 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The film is directed by Rahul V. Chittella and stars Atul Kulkarni and Sakshi Tanwar. The film tells the story of the dysfunctional relationship between a father and his son.

World Press Freedom Day is celebrated by UNESCO to celebrate the principle of freedom of the press. The event is taking place in Jakarta from May 1-4.