Latest Current Affairs 14 June 2021


A) India a natural ally of G7, Modi tells grouping.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said India is a natural ally for the G7 countries in defending the shared values from a host of threats stemming from authoritarianism, terrorism and violent extremism, disinformation and economic coercion. In a virtual address at a session on ‘open societies and open economies’ at the G7 summit, the Prime Minister highlighted India’s civilisational commitment to democracy, freedom of thought and liberty, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The leaders of the world’s advanced economies held a summit in Cornwall in the U.K. from June 11-13. It is for the first time the leaders of the grouping met in person since the coronavirus pandemic began. PM Modi also highlighted the revolutionary impact of digital technologies on social inclusion and empowerment in India through application such as Aadhaar, Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) and JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar- Mobile) trinity. In his remarks, the Prime Minister underscored the vulnerabilities inherent in open societies and called on tech companies and social media platforms to ensure a safe cyber environment for their users, additional secretary (economic relations) in the MEA P Harish said at a press conference. The Prime Minister’s views were appreciated by other leaders in the gathering, he said. Harish said the G7 leaders underlined their commitment to a free, open and a rules-based Indo-Pacific and resolved to collaborate with partners in the region. India’s participation at the G7 sessions reflected understanding within the bloc that resolution to the biggest global crisis of our time is not possible without India’s involvement and support, he said, in a reference to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the G-7 nations have pledged over 1 billion coronavirus vaccine doses for poorer nations. Speaking at the end of the summit, Johnson said the doses would come both directly and through the international COVAX program. The commitment falls far short of the 11 billion doses the head of the World Health Organization said is needed to vaccinate at least 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022 and truly end the pandemic. The Group of Seven (G7) comprises the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. As chair of G7, the U.K. invited India, Australia, South Korea, South Africa to the summit as guest countries.


B) Left parties seek rollback of fuel prices, announce 15-day protest.

The Left parties have announced a 15-day protest from June 16 to 30, demanding a rollback of fuel price hike and controlling the prices of essential commodities. A joint statement signed by general secretaries of the five Left parties Sitaram Yechury of the CPI (M), D. Raja of the CPI, Debabrata Biswas of the All India Forward Bloc, Manoj Bhattacharya of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, and Dipankar Bhattacharya of the CPI (ML) pointed out that the prices of petroleum products had gone up 21 times since the results of the recent Assembly elections were announced on May 2. This is leading to a cascading inflationary spiral with the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) rising to a 11-year high. The prices of food articles have risen by nearly 5% in April. Primary commodities saw a rise of 10.16% and manufactured products have risen by 9.01%. By the time these commodities reach the retail markets, the consumers are charged much more, the parties said. Earlier, the Congress too had held a day-long protest at petrol pumps across the nation against the fuel hike. The Left parties said that the economy was going into deep recession. Clearly, unscrupulous black-marketing and hoarding is taking place under state patronage. Modi government must strictly crackdown on such black-marketing, especially of essential drugs, vital for people’s survival, they said. The announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent address to the nation of extending till Deepavali the PM Garib Kalayan Anna Yojana of 5 kgs of food grains was completely inadequate, the parties said. Instead, 10 kg food grains per month to all individuals, including a food kit with pulses, edible oil, sugar, spices, tea etc., must be distributed free. Modi government must immediately give direct cash transfers of ₹7,500 per month for six months to all families not in the income tax paying bracket, the joint statement said.


C) India’s investment in research unsatisfactory: UNESCO report.

While India has made ‘solid progress’ towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets concerning industry, infrastructure and innovation, the country’s investment in research remains unsatisfactory, the UNESCO Science Report has observed. The gross domestic expenditure on research (GERD) has been stagnant at 0.7% of the GDP for years although, in absolute terms, research expenditure has increased, the chapter on India authored by Sunil Mani, director, Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, noted. India has one of the lowest GERD/GDP ratios among the BRICS nations, according to the report which is published every five years. India’s research intensity has been declining since 2014. The Science and Technology Policy of 2003 fixed the threshold of devoting 2% of GDP to research and development (R&D) by 2007. This target date was set back to 2018 in the new Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (2013) then again to 2022 by the Economic Advisory Council of the Prime Minister. In 2020, the task force drafting the country’s new Science and Technology Policy recommended pushing back the target date to a more realistic 2030, it noted. Dr. Mani said that in 1990, the density of scientists/engineers engaged in R&D in the country per 10,000 of the labour force stood at ten. It rose to just 11 in 2018, when it stood at 50 in China, 130 in Japan and 180 in South Korea, he said. R&D in the government sector has been in steady decline since 2015, whereas the share of private business enterprises in it has shot up to 42%. While in theory this is a positive trend, the R&D is focused primarily in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, automotive, and information technology. Even in these industries, it is concentrated in a small number of firms, the report said. It further noted that investment in R&D by foreign multinationals is on the rise, accounting for as much as 16% of private-sector investment in R&D in 2019. On the bright side is the encouraging increase in scientific publications by Indian researchers on cutting-edge technologies. Total publications have risen from 80,458 in 2011 to 1.61 lakh in 2019. Indian researchers are publishing between 1.5 and 1.8 times the global average on smart-grid technologies, photovoltaics, biofuels and biomass and wind turbine technologies, complementing the government’s push to expand green energy sources, the report noted. But then again, patenting by domestic corporations, research institutes, universities and individuals remains low in India. The report noted that the majority of the software-related patents were being bagged by MNCs operating from Indian soil, while pharma patents were obtained mostly by domestic firms. The UNESCO Science Report underscores the need for ‘policy bridges’ for fostering a more effective interaction between foreign and local research firms.


D) U.S.-bound Indian students need Covid-19 negative report taken 72 hours prior to departure: American diplomat.

The U.S. mission in India is actively working to accommodate as many student visa applicants as possible in July and August, and facilitating their legitimate travel remained a top priority for it, a senior American diplomat said on June 13. Don Heflin, the Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs at the U.S. embassy, also said that the U.S.-bound students will not require any proof of Covid-19 vaccination to enter the country. They will need a negative report of their Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to their departure. There has been growing anxiety among a sizeable number of Indian students aspiring to fly to the U.S. for higher studies in view of certain restrictions in getting visa appointments due to the coronavirus pandemic. The embassy will start giving visa interview slots for Indian students from June 14. We recognise the stress and anxiety this has caused to students and their families, and we are actively working to accommodate as many student visa applicants as possible in July and August. Facilitating legitimate student travel to the United States remains a top priority for the U.S. Mission to India, Heflin told PTI in an interview. The official was asked about the rising uncertainty among the Indian students wanting to travel to the U.S., which had imposed fresh travel restrictions in May. Students returning to academic programmes that resume on or after August 1 may travel to the United States up to 30 days before the programme resumes. There is no National Interest Exception required in this situation, he said. We recommend continuing students discuss their specific resumption plans with their respective universities to develop a travel timeline, Heflin said. The National Interest Exceptions (NIE) allow travel to the U.S. for persons whose entry is considered of national interest. We intend to start an intensive two months of interviewing student visa applicants on July 1. We will plan to open as many appointments as we can safely accommodate, based on local pandemic conditions across India, Heflin said. Student visa applicants do not need an expedited appointment to schedule their visa interview. On June 14, we will open July and August appointments for students, he added.



A) ‘Can extradite cyber criminals to U.S. only on reciprocal basis’

President Vladimir Putin has said Russia would be ready to hand over cyber criminals to the United States if Washington did the same for Moscow and the two powers reached an agreement to that effect. Mr. Putin made the comments in an interview aired in excerpts on state television on Sunday ahead of a June 16 summit with U.S. President Joe Biden in Geneva. Ties between the powers are badly strained over an array of issues. The Russian leader said he expected the Geneva meeting to help establish bilateral dialogue and revive personal contacts, adding that important issues for the two men included strategic stability, Libya and Syria, and the environment. Mr. Putin also praised Mr. Biden for having shown professionalism when the United States and Russia agreed this year to extend the New START nuclear arms control treaty. The White House has said Mr. Biden will bring up ransomware attacks emanating from Russia at the meeting. That issue is in the spotlight after a cyber attack disrupted the North American and Australian operations of meatpacker JBS USA. A Russia-linked hacking group was behind that tack, a U.S. source familiar with the matter said last week. Asked if Russia would be prepared to find and prosecute cyber criminals, Mr. Putin said Russia’s behaviour here would depend on formal agreements being reached by Moscow and Washington. Both sides would have to commit to the same obligations, he said. If we agree to extradite criminals, then of course Russia will do that, we will do that, but only if the other side, in this case the United States, agrees to the same and will extradite the criminals in question to the Russian Federation, he said. The question of cyber security is one of the most important at the moment because turning all kinds of systems off can lead to really difficult consequences, he said.


B) Israel coalition set to end Netanyahu era.

Israel is set to swear in a new government on Sunday that will send Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the opposition after a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that sparked four elections in two years. Naftali Bennett, the head of a small ultranationalist party, will take over as Prime Minister. But if he wants to keep the job, he will have to maintain an unwieldy coalition of parties from the political right, left and centre. The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Mr. Netanyahu and new elections but agree on little else. They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the U.S. without launching any major initiatives. Mr. Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in Parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power. The country’s deep divisions were on vivid display as Mr. Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote. He was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Mr. Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber. Mr. Bennett’s speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons, Mr. Bennett said, vowing to maintain Mr. Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action. Mr. Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for its decades of support for Israel.

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