Current Affairs July 2019 - International


1 - United States designated Baloch Liberation Army as terror group

Terror Group

The United States has designated the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). Balochistan Liberation Army is an armed separatist group which is fighting Pakistani rule in Balochistan province. It targets security forces and civilians, mainly in ethnic Baloch areas of Pakistan.

People or entities are designated as "Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT)s" under Executive Order 13224 by the United States Department of State or the US Department of the Treasury.

2 - Hungary passed controversial science sector reform bill

Hungarian Parliament

The Hungarian parliament passed a bill enabling the takeover of research institutes by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government. The bill gave Mr Orban's nationalist, anti-migration government control of a vast network of research institutes currently run by the two-century-old Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA).

Under the legislation, a new institution with board members appointed by Mr Orban will allocate funding for research. This body would also use the MTA's properties and part of its administration.

3 - India pledged to contribute USD 5 million in 2019 to UN Palestine refugee agency

Pledged to Contribute

India has pledged to contribute 5 million US Dollars in 2019 to the UN Palestine refugee agency. Government has increased its annual financial contribution fourfold to the UNRWA core budget, from 1.25 million dollars in 2016 to 5 million in 2018.

The Indian Government is assisting 150 Palestinian professionals every year under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme. Under an India-Palestine development partnership, agreements have been signed including in agriculture, healthcare and youth affairs in the last five years.

4 - US Senate passed legislative provision to give India NATO ally-like status

US Senate

The United States Senate has passed a legislative provision that brings India at par with America's NATO allies and countries like Israel and South Korea for increasing defence cooperation. The amendment provides increased US-India defence cooperation in the Indian Ocean in areas of humanitarian assistance, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy and maritime security. The bill would be signed into law after both chambers of the US Congress pass it.

The National Defense Authorisation Act or NDAA for the fiscal year 2020, was introduced by Senate India Caucus Co-Chair Senator John Cornyn.

5 - New Zealand banned single-use plastic shopping bags

Ban Bags

New Zealand banned single-use plastic shopping bags as a green initiative. Under the new rules, thin plastic single-use shopping bags can no longer be supplied, but reusable carriers are allowed. Companies that break the ban will face heavy penalties, including fines of up to 100,000 New Zealand dollars (USD 67,000).

More than 80 countries have already introduced similar bans, according to the UN Environment Programme. It will help in saving million birds and more than 100,000 marine mammals by becoming entangled in packaging or ingesting it through the food chain.

6 - ISALEX19 Exercise kicked-off in Abu Dhabi


The International Security Alliance’s First Joint Exercise (ISALEX19) started in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It was hosted by the UAE Ministry of Interior (MoI). 50 representatives from law enforcement agencies from the International Security Alliance (ISA) countries participated in the exercise.

ISLAEX19 is based on unexpected scenarios where the teams of the ISA countries will operate according to different security theories and strategies in order to test the readiness of the international teams in facing security threats.

7 - Saudi Arabia adopted Digital India, equality of women in Haj 2019


Indian Haj mission in Saudi Arabia has adopted digital technology to reach out to a large number of pilgrims as part of the Government of India’s initiative of Digital India. The App - Indian Haj Information System- developed by the consulate is to receive feedback, a grievance from Hajis.

Additionally, health status and medical history of pilgrims is being stored at online “e-MASIHA” (Medical Assistance System for Indian Hajis Abroad). E-MASIHA would retrieve pilgrims’ health information to apply appropriate treatment whenever he or she visits Indian medical facilities during Haj.

8 - French lawmakers approved 3% tax on online giants

French Lawmakers

In France, the lower house of parliament approved a small, pioneering tax on internet giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook. The bill foresees a 3% tax on the French revenues of digital companies with global revenue of more than 750 million Euros.

At present, the companies pay nearly no tax in countries where they have large sales like France. The bill adopted by the National Assembly will be sent to the Senate where it is expected to win final approval.

9 - US Dept of Homeland Security requests 1,000 soldiers to manage migrant crisis in Texas

Homeland Security

The US Department of Homeland Security, DHS has requested 1,000 additional soldiers to help manage the migrant crisis in Texas. The request comes amid growing outcry over conditions in migrant detention facilities.

The US Department of Homeland Security, DHS had been asked to authorize the Texas National Guard to lend support to Customs and Border Protection. Thousands of active duty and National Guard troops have already been deployed for months along the US-Mexico border to support immigration officials.

10 - US State Dept approved potential 2.2 billion arms sale to Taiwan

US State Dept

The US State Department has approved the potential sale of 2.2 billion US dollars worth of arms to Taiwan that includes Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles. The current President of Taipei is Tsai Ing-wen elected in 2016.

China has registered its opposition to the possible sale. Taiwan has been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but China maintains it is a part of its territory to be retaken, by force if necessary.

11 - India handed over over 250 pre-fabricated houses to Myanmar

Pre-fabricated Houses Myanmar

India handed over 250 pre-fabricated houses to Myanmar in Maung Daw for use of displaced returnees under India’s ‘Rakhine State Development Programme’ (RSDP) for $25 Million for a period of 5 years. The location of the pre-fabricated houses is: Shwe Zar - 148 units, Kyein Chaung Taung - 60 units and Nant Thar Taung - 42 units.

India and Myanmar had signed an MoU in 2017 to contribute to the socio-economic development of the area. Another 22 proposals which includes solar power related projects, construction-related projects, agriculture mechanization projects and capacity building projects are presently under consideration.

12 - Iran exceeds uranium enrichment cap set by nuclear deal


Iran has breached a uranium enrichment cap set by a troubled 2015 nuclear deal and warned Europe against taking retaliatory measures. It has surpassed the cap and reached 4.5% enrichment. The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed that Iran had enriched uranium above 3.67% U-235.

The IAEA also confirmed that Iran has exceeded a 300-kilogramme limit on enriched uranium reserves, another cap that was imposed by the deal.

13 - US imposed new duties on steel from China and Mexico

New Duties on Steel

The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has made a preliminary decision to impose new penalties on fabricated structural steel imports from China and Mexico. Exporters of fabricated structural steel in China benefited from subsidies ranging between about 30% and 177%, while those in Mexico received subsidies of up to 74%.

In 2018, the US imported $897.5 million worth of fabricated structured steel from China, and $622.4 million worth from Mexico. US President Donald Trump imposed tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imports from several countries in March 2018.

14 - Kyriakos Mitsotakis sworn in as new Prime Minister of Greece

Kyriakos Mitsotakis Sworn

Kyriakos Mitsotakis has been sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Greece after his centre-right New Democracy party won elections with 39.85% votes against 31.53% for Syriza, led by outgoing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

New Democracy secured an outright majority with 158 seats in the 300-member Greek parliament. The country's public debt last year stood at 335 billion euros ($376 billion), or 180 percent of GDP. Mitsotakis is the son of former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis.

15 - Sri Lanka inaugurated model village built with Indian assistance

Sri Lanka Village

Sri Lanka inaugurated its first model village built with Indian assistance at Ranidugama in Gampaha in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan ministry of housing and construction and cultural affairs had partnered with India to build 100 model villages consisting of a total of 2,400 houses all across Sri Lanka.

India has granted financial support of Rs 1,200 million (USD 17.5 million) for this development. The model villages are developed for war affected people in the east and north Sri Lanka and estate workers. The fully constructed houses were handed over to beneficiaries.

16 - Sharjah issues first golden card visa to Indian expat, Lalu Samuel


Sharjah has granted its first golden visa to Indian businessman Lalu Samuel, chairman of the Sharjah-based Kingston Group, one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of electrical products in the Middle East. He has lived in the UAE for past 37 years and Forbes Middle East named him one of the “top 100 most influential Indian business leaders in the Arab world” several times.

The Golden Card holders are entitled to a host of privileges and facilities including a residency visa without a sponsor to them and their families (spouse and children).

17 - France to impose green tax on plane tickets from 2020

Air France

French government has planned to implement green tax up to €18 on plane tickets from 2020. The eco tax collected by French government will be invested in eco-friendly transport infrastructure projects.

The eco tax will be imposed only on outgoing flights and not on those flights coming into France. Sweden was first country to impose such tax. The eco tax is expected to have collection of €180 million a year.

18 - WHO declares Sri Lanka measles-free

Sri Lanka Measles-free

The World Health Organization announced Sri Lanka has eliminated measles, interrupting transmission of the indigenous virus that causes the killer childhood disease. The country reported its last case of measles caused by an indigenous virus in May 2016.

With Sri Lanka’s recent achievement, five countries of the Region have now eliminated measles. In 2017-18 Bhutan, Maldives, DPR Korea and Timor-Leste eliminated measles. Last year Sri Lanka achieved rubella control, along with five other countries - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Timor-Leste.

19 - Vihaan Networks Ltd inked pact with Vietnam to develop digital villages

Vihaan Networks Ltd

In response to India’s announcement to develop Digital Villages in remote areas of CLMV countries, Vihaan Networks Ltd has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam, to provide solutions for advancing rural connectivity by creating Digital Villages in Vietnam’s underserved areas. Vietnam wants to digitize its villages through solar-based Cellular and Broadband solution – a similar model developed by VNL in its model digital village – Karenda.

MoU would help in skill development and local entrepreneurship in rural areas to create e-governance, e-health, e-education in rural communities of Vietnam.

20 - USD 5 billion US fine set for Facebook on privacy probe


United States regulators, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), have approved a five billion dollar penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network's privacy and data protection lapses. The deal would be the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC for privacy violations, still needs approval from the Justice Department before it is finalized.

The FTC reopened its investigation into a 2011 privacy settlement with Facebook after revelations that personal data on tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was working on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.

21 - US House of Representatives passed bill removing country cap on Green Card

Green Card

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at lifting the present 7% country-cap on issuing Green Cards. The move will benefit thousands of highly-skilled Indian IT professionals. A Green Card allows a person to live and work permanently in the US.

This bill increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% of the total number of such visas available that year to 15% and eliminates the 7% cap for employment-based immigrant visas.

22 - World's largest metal dome inaugurated by Ukraine

Metal Dome Inaugurated

Ukraine created history by inaugurating world’s largest metal dome encasing the destroyed reactor at the infamous Chernobyl plant. This gigantic metal dome of 108 mtr height is created at the cost of 1.5bn euro. It weighs 36000 tonnes. It is branded as the world’s largest movable metal structure.

The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is a closed nuclear power plant near the abandoned city of Pripyat in northern Ukraine. It witnessed the world's worst civilian nuclear accident on April 26, 1986.

23 - London hosted first Global Conference for Media Freedom

First Global Conference

Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Jeremy Hunt, the UK Foreign Secretary co-hosted world’s first Global Conference for Media Freedom in London, U.K. The conference was based on four themes, i.e., protection and prosecution of media journalists, building trust in media, national frameworks and legislation and media sustainability.

The conference was attended by media industry, journalists, civil society and Commonwealth Foreign Ministers. Indian delegation included Prasar Bharati Chairman A.Surya Prakash, Rajya Sabha MP and journalist Swapan Dasgupta, and journalist and political analyst Kanchan Gupta.

24 - 19th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting held in London

Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting

London hosted 19th Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers meeting. The 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth was celebrated when Foreign Ministers representing the governments of its member countries met in London and reaffirmed their commitment to the “core values and principles” of the Commonwealth Charter.

The Commonwealth comprises 53 countries, across all continents. The chief institutions of the organisation are the Commonwealth Secretariat, which focuses on intergovernmental aspects, and the Commonwealth Foundation, which focuses on non-governmental relations between member states.

25 - China's economic growth slowed to 6.2% in Q2

China's Economic Growth

China's economic growth slowed to a record low of 6.2% in the second quarter of 2019. This is the weakest growth rate in nearly three decades for the world's second-largest economy, in the midst of a trade war with the United States and weakening global demand.

China's GDP expanded 6.3 per cent year-on-year in the first half of 2019 to about 6.56 trillion US Dollars. The growth, however, was in line with the government's annual target range of 6.0-6.5 per cent for the whole year.

26 - France celebrated 14th July as its "National day"

France National Day

France celebrated its national day on the 14th July, Bastille Day. The French National Day is the anniversary of Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789. This is the 230th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison.

Celebrations are held throughout France. The oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, along with other French officials and foreign guests.

27 - China 'gifts' warship to Sri Lanka


China has gifted a warship, frigate — 'P625', to Sri Lanka. The frigate was commissioned into the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy as Tongling in 1994 and decommissioned in 2015. The warship was refit before gifting to Colombo. The 'P625' frigate will be mainly used for offshore patrol, environment monitoring and anti-piracy combats.

India in 2018 had gifted a coast guard off shore patrol vessel (OPV) to the Lankan navy in addition to providing two OPVs in 2006 and 2008.

28 - UN signed agreement with Yemen rebels to resume food aid

Yemen Food Aid

The World Food Programme (WFP) reached an agreement with Yemen's Houthi rebels to resume food aid to areas under their control. The new agreement with the rebels will allow food to be quickly delivered to the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Malnutrition is widespread in Yemen after four years of civil war. The civil war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people. United Nations previously had suspended deliveries of food aid to rebel-held areas last month following accusations of diversion of food.

29 - G7 Finance Ministers agreed plan for taxing digital companies

Taxing Digital Companies

G7 Finance Ministers, in a meeting held in France, agreed for a plan to tax digital companies such as Facebook and Google that will set a minimum level of taxation for them. The ministers fully supported a two-pillar solution to be adopted by 2020 and discussed that new rules should be developed to address new business models allowing companies to do business in a territory without any physical presence.

Ministers agreed that a minimum level of effective taxation would contribute to ensuring that companies pay their fair share of tax.

30 - Ebola outbreak declared global health emergency in DR Congo

Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The virus was confirmed in Goma, a major regional crossroads in northeastern Congo on the Rwandan border. Ebola virus disease is a viral hemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by ebolaviruses.

This is fifth such declaration in the history. Previous emergencies were declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.

31 - Palau became 76th country to join International Solar Alliance

International Solar Alliance

Palau became the 76th signatory country to join the International Solar Alliance. President of the Republic of Palau H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr. signed the Framework Agreement of the ISA. The agreement was opened for signature during the COP22 at Marrakech on November 15, 2016. Palau is an archipelago of over 500 islands in Oceania.

The International Solar Alliance is a group of 121 solar resource-rich countries with headquarters in Gurugram, India. The organisation aims to deploy over 1,000 gigawatts of solar energy and mobilise more than USD 1,000 billion into solar power by 2030.

32 - China allowed more foreign investment in financial sector

Financial Investment

China has lifted some restrictions on foreign investment in the financial sector. China removed shareholding limits on foreign ownership of securities, insurance and fund management firms in 2020, a year earlier than originally planned. The foreign investors will also be encouraged to set up wealth management firms, currency brokerages and pension management companies.

The foreign-owned credit rating agencies will also be allowed to evaluate a greater number of bond and debt types. Additional measures include scrapping entry barriers for foreign insurance companies like a requirement of 30 years of business operations and cancelling a 25% equity cap on foreign ownership of insurance asset management firms.

33 - US to increase surveillance in Middle East waterways

Middle East Waterways

The United States announced that the US Central Command (CENTCOM) is developing a multinational maritime effort to increase surveillance of and security in key waterways in the Middle East. The The effort has been named as Operation Sentinel.

The goal of Operation Sentinel is to promote maritime stability, ensure safe passage and de-escalate tensions in international waters throughout the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait (BAM) and the Gulf of Oman.

34 - Joint working group formed to probe fund disbursal for Chinese projects in Bangladesh

Joint Working Group

Bangladesh and China have formed a joint working group to probe the extremely low level of fund disbursal for ongoing Chinese projects in Bangladesh. China has so far disbursed less than 5 per cent of the promised 20 billion US Dollars for 27 projects for which agreements were signed during President Xi Jinping's Dhaka visit in 2016.

The working committee will review the projects and assess whether the projects for which loan agreements are yet to be signed still need Chinese funding. Projects like Padma Bridge rail link, Karnaphuli river tunnel are in the implementation stage.

35 - Bulgarian lawmakers ratified US 1.3-bn deal to buy eight F-16 fighter jets from US

Bulgarian Lawmakers

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev approved a deal to buy eight new Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets from USA for a hefty 1.256-billion US Dollar. It is the country’s biggest military purchase since the fall of Communism three decades ago.

The F-16s will replace Bulgaria's ageing Soviet-made MiG-29s and improve compliance with NATO standards. Defence Minister Krasimir Karakachanov informed that six single-seat and two two-seat F-16s would be delivered by 2023. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the European Union three years later. Its Prime Minister is Boyko Borissov.

36 - Bangladesh Scientists develop method to convert Jute fibre int bio-degradable cellulose sheets

Sonali Jute Fibre

Scientists in Bangladesh have developed a method to convert Jute fibre into low-cost bio-degradable cellulose sheets named 'Sonali' which can be used as wrapping material and carrying bag. The physical qualities of the invented jute fibre and plastic are quite similar. The Eco-friendly jute poly bags made up of Sonali can be used in garments and food packaging work and they are not harmful for human health.

The new technology has been developed by the team of scientists working for state-run Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC). The commercial production of these bags is likely to start by the end of 2019.

37 - Indian origin Priti Patel appointed as Britain's Home Secretary

Priti Patel

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appointed Indian origin Priti Patel as the country’s Home Secretary. She replaced Sajid Javid who moved to the Treasury department as the first ethnic minority Chancellor of the Exchequer. Priti Patel was first elected as a Conservative MP in 2010 and gained prominence in the then David Cameron led Tory government as his Indian Diaspora Champion.

Rishi Sunak and Alok Sharma are the other two Indian-origin ministers inducted into the UK government.

38 - Boris Johnson selected as British Prime Minister

Boris Johnson

Conservative leader Boris Johnson took over the charge as British Prime Minister after Theresa May handed in her resignation to the Queen. Boris Johnson won by 66% of the votes – 92,153, victory over Jeremy Hunt’s 46,656 votes.

Boris Johnson is expected to use the opportunity to increase the number of women in full cabinet positions and boost the representation of ethnic minorities. Johnson also served as Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and as Foreign Secretary from 2016 to 2018.

39 - Universities UK International launched UKEIRI Mobility Programme

UKEIRI Mobility

Universities UK International (UUKI) and British Council India launched UKEIRI Mobility Programme: Study in India. Around 200 opportunities will be provided to under graduate students of United Kingdom universities to come and study in India by March 2021. The programme will be funded by the UK and Indian governments as part of Phase 3 of the UK-India Education Research Initiative (UKEIRI).

The Study in India programme will support national and institutional-level objectives to increase the levels of outward student mobility from the UK to 13% by 2020, as set out in UUKi's “Go International: Stand Out” campaign.

40 - Non Aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting held in Venezuela


The Non Aligned Movement (NAM) Ministerial meeting was held in Caracas, Venezuela. 120 member nations, 7 observer countries, 10 multilateral international organizations and 14 specially invited nations participated in the meeting.

Participant countries signed declaration that condemned US-led sanctions and supported NAM members to initiate cases of “economic aggression” to the UN’s International Court of Justice. The meeting encouraged to create a peaceful world which is without dominant empires.

Other themes discussed in meeting were climate change, create peace, end war and control of chemical weapons.

41 - India to honor scholarships to heirs of Muktijodhas of Bangladesh

Muktijodhas Bangladesh

India to honor scholarships to beneficiaries of liberation war fighters of Bangladesh termed as ‘Muktijodhas’. The scholarships will be provided for the next 5 years under ‘Nutan India-Bangladesh Maitree Muktijodha Sontan Scholarship Scheme’ of one-time amount Taka 50,000 to Undergraduate students and Taka 20,000 to Higher Secondary students.

This Muktijodha scheme was announced in 2017-18 under partnership of High commission of India in Dhaka and Ministry of Liberation War Affairs, Government of Bangladesh to select eligible students from all districts of Bangladesh.