IASCLUB Daily Current Affairs : 17 May 2019

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New points-based green card system

Topic: GS –II: International relations

U.S. President Donald Trump announced a proposal that will include significant changes to the way green cards are allocated

More in news:

  • It reduces the number of family-based green cards and moving towards a points-based (“merit-based”) system that will reward, among other factors, education, skills and English language proficiency.
  • However, the overall number of green cards, just over 1.1 million in 2017, will remain the same.
  • The plan sought to boost border security and tighten asylum procedures.
  • Currently about 12% of those receiving green cards entered the U.S. based on skill-based visas (such as the H1B), while some 66% are family-based green cards.
  • The new proposal will increase skills-based green cards to 57%.
  • Points will be awarded to applicants based on their education, work experience, age (more points for younger workers), and English language ability. New immigrants will have to show that they can financially support themselves and will need to pass a civics exam.
  • Trump also announced that there would be a new “Build America” visa – details of which were not provided.
  • People given green cards on humanitarian and diversity grounds will now only constitute 10% of all green card recipients. Currently, the diversity lottery offers 50,000 green cards to under-represented groups each year.
  • The proposals, if they eventually turn into law, are likely to have a significant impact on Indians who interact with the U.S. immigration system.
  • A large majority (over 70%) of H1B visas, for skilled workers, went to Indians in fiscal year 2018. Many of these are eventually converted to green cards. Indian residents getting green cards have been in the range of 57,000-62,000 in the 2015-2017 period.
  • However, it is far from clear that a shift towards a points-based system will make the prospects of Indian skilled migrants wanting to settle in the U.S. easier, as bringing family members over, especially elderly parents, may get more complicated.

Pact will aid information exchange to fight terrorism, says U.S. Admiral

Topic: GS –II: International relations

India and the U.S. are cooperating to prevent all forms of terrorism both from land and sea, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John M. Richardson said.

Foundational agreement

  • Richardson said the foundational agreement, Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), which India signed last year would enable exchange of information on such threats.
  • He was addressing a teleconference from Singapore on the sidelines of the three-day Asia-Pacific naval and maritime event, International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX).
  • With COMCASA, India has signed three of the four foundational agreements with the U.S., and discussions are under way on the final one, Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA).
  • COMCASA allows India to procure specialised equipment for encrypted communications from the U.S. origin military platforms.

Indian warships

  • Two warships, INS Kolkata and INS Shakti, are also participating in IMDEX as also several Indian engineering and ship-building firms, including the Larsen & Toubro and the BrahMos aerospace corporation.
  • After IMDEX, the Indian ships along with a Navy P-8I long range maritime surveillance aircraft will participate in the 26th edition of the Singapore India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) scheduled from May 16 to 22.
  • SIMBEX is the longest uninterrupted naval exercise that India has with any other country.
Foundational agreements

They are meant to build basic ground work and promote interoperability between militaries by creating common standards and systems. They also guide sale and transfer of high-end technologies. US signs these agreements with countries with which it has close military ties.

These four Foundational agreements are:

1)      Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA)

·         Signed in 2018

·         It was earlier called Communication and Information on Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA).COMCASA allows India to procure specialised equipment for encrypted communications from the U.S. origin military platforms

2)      General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)

·         Signed in 2002

·         It allows sharing of classified information from US Government and American companies with Indian government and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) but not with Indian private companies.

3)      Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)

·         Signed in 2016.

·         It gives access to both countries and to designated military facilities on either side for the purpose of refueling and replenishment.

4)      Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-spatial Cooperation (BECA)

·         It is the remaining agreement not yet signed by India and negotiations are yet to begin.

·         It facilitates exchange of geospatial information between India and US for both military and civilian use.

Iran, India discuss visa extension

Topic: GS –II: International relations

Two days after the visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, India held the 11th Consular Committee Meeting with Iran on Thursday which dealt with smoothing visa and legal matters essential for bilateral ties.

More in news:

  • Both sides went ahead with the talks, even as Saudi Arabia blamed Tehran for a drone attack on Saudi oil installations on May 14.However, indicating a balancing act, India issued a statement on Thursday, “strongly” condemning the attack.
  • Both sides discussed issues of mutual interest, including early conclusion of Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance on civil and commercial matters, extending longer duration of e-Visa for each other’s’ nationals on reciprocity and visa facilitation for greater people-to-people contact.
  • Iran at present provides visa-on-arrival to Indian travellers which is given as a paper visa. Iranian visas are also given to Indians online and through missions.

Travel concerns

  • Iran has been conducting talks with various countries for bilateral visa arrangements to help facilitate smooth travel as the country is facing U.S. government-backed international sanctions that can potentially affect the free movement of business travellers.
  • India offers e-visa facilities to Iranian travellers. It is understood that Iran wants longer duration e-visas from India.

Proposal to halt waste dumping defeated

Topic: GS-III: Environment

A proposal by India to prevent developed countries from dumping their electronic and plastic waste onto developing countries, was defeated at the recently concluded meeting of the Basel Convention in Geneva.

More in news:

  • The 14th meeting of the Basel Convention, which lays down guidelines on the movement of hazardous waste, concluded in Geneva on the 10th of May after two weeks of negotiations involving 187 countries.

Key outcome:

  • The outcome of the meeting was an amendment to the Convention that includes plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which would, according to a statement by the United Nations, “… make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment.”

Plastic waste a Global problem

  • Pollution from plastic waste, acknowledged as a major environmental problem of global concern, has reached epidemic proportions with an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic now found in the oceans, 80%-90% of which comes from land-based sources.
  • India, too, grapples with the problem of having piles of electronic and plastic waste that aren’t recycled or treated.

India’s concern:

  • However Indian officials say the text of the agreement, in the current form, still allows countries to export various categories of plastic waste.
  • India and Nigeria were the only countries that had strongly opposed the guidelines, pushed by the European Union, to dilute safeguards against the trans-boundary movement of e-waste.

India’s laws regarding electronic and plastic waste:

  • India’s laws currently don’t allow electronic and plastic waste to be imported into the country. Plastic and electronic waste recyclers in Special Economic Zones were permitted to import waste for recycling. However, they will not be allowed to do so after August 31 this year.
  • Despite these restrictions, countries continued to ship different kinds of plastics and e-waste to Indian ports.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal:

·         It usually known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).

·         It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.

·         The Convention is also intended to minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.

·         The Convention was opened for signature on 22 March 1989, and entered into force on 5 May 1992.

·         As of October 2018, 186 states and the European Union are parties to the Convention. Haiti and the United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it.

News in Brief:

   Copters to Afghanistan

India handed over two Mi-24 attack helicopters to Afghanistan.

  • These helicopters are a replacement for the four attack helicopters gifted by India to Afghanistan in 2015.
  • The Mi-24 helicopters shall boost the capability of the Afghan Air Force (AAF) and enhance the effectiveness of the Afghan National Defence and Security Force in combating the scourge of terrorism.

Coalition government

  • A coalition government is one in which multiple political parties come together and often reduce the dominance of the party that has won the highest number of seats.
  • Coalition governments are formed when a political party win the necessary number of seats to form the government on its own.
  • In India, the first coalition government to complete its full-term was the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance from 1999 to 2004.
  • While some say that coalition governments generate more inclusive policies, others believe that coalitions impose constraints on policymaking.

Editorial Section :

 Why an industrial policy is crucial – The Hindu

Is the future of Indian democracy secure?  – The Hindu

Slippery slope  – The Hindu

Encourage citizen science  – The Hindu

The polluted water bodies of Kanniyakumari  – The Hindu




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