India tops Economic and Social Council elections

India has won an election to a vital non-governmental organisation committee in the United Nations, after gathering the highest number of votes beside getting elected by acclamation of subsidiary bodies in five separate polls.

The UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected India and Kuwait (Asia-Pacific States) by acclamation to the Commission for Social Development, filling outstanding seats for a four-year term beginning on the date of election.

India was among the 17 members elected by acclamation to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

The elected members are going to serve a three-year term beginning on January 1, 2019 and expiring on December 31, 2021.

Those elected members include Algeria, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Swaziland, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Thailand, Belarus, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico Austria, France, Turkey and the United States. 

India got the highest number of votes at 46, followed by Pakistan (43), Bahrain (40) and China 39. While Iran lost the elections by having gotten only 27 votes.

Source: www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Putin plots out post-election plans

Re-elected Russian President, Vladimir Putin has revealed his primary objective for his presidential term.
According to Russia Today, Putin will pay close attention to the following, saying:

1. “The main thing that we will be working on is of course the internal agenda. First of all we must ensure the growth rate for the economy and make it an innovative one. We must develop healthcare, education, industrial production, infrastructure and other branches that are crucial for moving our country forward and increasing the living standards of our citizens.
2. There are also issues connected with the national defence and security, we cannot do without them, but still the internal agenda is of primary importance today.
3. As for the defence expenditures, we have slated their decrease for this year and for the next year. This will not cause any problems for our defence capability, because the main investments into the development of the newest weapons systems have been made over the previous years.
4. We just need to bring some things to their logical conclusion, to continue the research and development that I have not spoken about yet.
5. There will be no increase in spending, no arms race. We have everything, we have secure reserves in this field.”

Putin believes that workforce productivity is a key issue that is the joint-responsibility of the nation.

Source: Russia Today

Remember the Sharpeville massacre.  

Today South Africans celebrates Human Rights Day to commemorate the Sharpeville massacre that took place in 1960.

The Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) proposed an anti-Pass campaign to begin on March 21, 1960.

Black men were to gather at Sharpeville without their reference books and present themselves for arrest.

The order was given to disperse, after which the Police opened fire with sharp-point ammunition on the crowd of men, women and children –  69 people died and 180 were wounded.

It was more than a protest the Pass Laws of the apartheid regime, but it was an affirmation by common people rising in harmony to proclaim their rights.

When Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, he included this day in the list of national holidays.

South Africans are asked to reflect on their rights and how to protect themselves against violations.

Source : SA History

Russian Presidential Elections: Putin continues to lead

Russian leader, Vladimir Putin has once again secured a victory to lead the country for a second consecutive term, with all votes counted.

He started serving as President of the country in 2008, with another six years (to end in 2024) now being added to his term.

Putin currently leads with 76,6% of the votes, putting him well above the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off.

First-time Communist Party candidate, Pavel Grudinin is running second with 11.9%, followed by nationalist politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky who is also in the top three with 5.66%.

Putin picked up a higher following this year, compared to his 64% win in 2012. The Central Elections Commission (CEC) has 10 days to finalise the votes.

Source : Russia Today

Wits University to host the first ever Public Diplomacy Conference in Africa

Wits University’s new African Centre for the Study of the United States is collaborating with the Center on Public Diplomacy based at the University of Southern California for the first ever public diplomacy conference in Africa.

The conference aims to serve as a launch of the first Public Diplomacy Project in Africa and develop a vision and mission for the project. Stakeholders include Brand South Africa, University of Southern California, USA, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the Washington DC-based Public Diplomacy Council, The United States Embassy in South Africa, Global Ties Network (US and South Africa).

Confirmed speakers include: Prof Jay Wang, Director, Center on Public Diplomacy, University of Southern California; Prof Nicholas Cull, Director, Public Diplomacy Program, University of Southern California; Dr Carlton McLellan, Founding Director, Global Ties South Africa and Senior Advisor, Global Ties US; Prof Adam Clayton Powell III, President, Public Diplomacy Council of the United States; Prof Gilbert Khadiagala, Director, ACSUS; Mr Clayson Monyela, Head of Public Diplomacy, DIRCO.

Date: 10 March 2018 
Time: 8.00am – 4.30pm 
Venue: Wits Club, Wits University West Campus

BRICS Sherpas meet in Cape Town

The BRICS Sherpas and Sous Sherpas meeting gets underway in Cape Town this morning.
This will be the first official meeting on the BRICS calendar under the auspices of South Africa’s chairship which it assumed in January.

The Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Nomaindiya Mfeketo, will deliver opening remarks at the meeting.

“The meeting will discuss the working arrangements for BRICS in 2018. South Africa, as the host country for the BRICS 2018 Summit, will present its chairship priorities to its partners,” DIRCO said.

South Africa is scheduled to host the 10th BRICS summit from 25 – 27 July at the Sandton Convention Centre, which will see South Africa building on the BRICS programme of development and prosperity for partner countries.
The five BRICS countries account for 26 percent of the world’s landmass and are home to 43 percent of the world’s population. The bloc is composed of emerging markets and the developing world.

There has been substantive progress achieved since South Africa joined BRICS in 2011, as seen for example in the launch of the Africa Regional Centre of the New Development Bank (NDB) in South Africa.

The formation has strengthened its cooperative mechanism for institutional development, most notably witnessed in the creation of the New Development Bank and the recently launched Africa Regional Centre in Johannesburg.
In 2015, total intra-BRICS trade amounted to R3.06 trillion.

South Africa’s exports to BRICS countries marginally increased from R123 billion in 2011 to R138.2 billion in 2016, while in the same period, imports from BRICS countries also increased from R115 billion to R230 billion.
Total Intra-BRICS FDI was R554 trillion at the end of February 2016.

– SAnews.gov.za

Robert Mugabe’s Resignation Letter

President Robert Mugabe yesterday announced that he was stepping down as the president of Zimbabwe. His official resignation letter was read out by Zimbabwe parliamentary Speaker Jacob Mudenda in Harare where a discussion of an impeachment motion was set to be held.

State House

Harare

Zimbabwe

21 November 2017

The Honourable Jacob Mudenda

Notice of resignation as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe

In terms of the provisions of section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe, amendment number 20, 2013. Following my verbal communication with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda at 13:53 hours, 21st November, 2017 intimating my intention to resign as President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.

My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and stability.

Kindly give public notice of my resignation as soon as possible as required by section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Gabriel Mugabe President of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Image: CNN

US Elections: Are Indian foreign policy pundits missing the bigger picture?

India has reached a stage where there exists a bipartisan agreement in the US for a strong bilateral strategic partnership with India. Nevertheless, foreign policy dynamics are much more complex and it will be naïve for India to take comfort in these statements alone.

By Dr Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan 

The US elections are less than two months away and the campaign is reaching its pinnacle. Going by some polls, Republican candidate Donald Trump may enjoy a small lead over the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in some of the swing states. With the numbers running neck to neck within the possible margin of error, the only thing that can be predicted is that it will be a tight race.

Even as we are close to the election, little is known about the foreign policy positions of the two candidates. Hillary Clinton, having been the Secretary of State during the first term of the Obama administration, is a relatively known entity on foreign policy. Trump’s views are a lot less known and therefore it is important to analyse what his foreign policy might look like.

Recently, Newsweek magazine did a story on how Trump’s business dealings in foreign countries could upset US national security. The story is clearly to take a dig at Trump who has made a big issue of the Clinton Foundation. It was alleged that those who made donations to the Clinton Foundation benefited from special influence when Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State. It is difficult to prove this one way or the other.

The Newsweek story spoke about the Trump Organisation’s investments in Maharashtra and elsewhere and reported that the organisation has engaged in shady deals in Mumbai, Pune and Gurgaon. The article suggests that a Trump presidency, in order to advance his financial interests, could try to please the Indian government by taking decisions that may hurt US national interests. It raised a pointed question, “If Trump takes a hard line with Pakistan, will it be for America’s strategic interests or to appease Indian government officials who might jeopardise his profits from Trump Towers Pune?”

The merit of this argument is hard to accept, to say the least. But generally, many foreign policy pundits in India seem happy that Trump has kept a positive tone on India. For instance, the Republican Platform talked of India as a ‘geopolitical ally and a strategic trade partner’ whereas the reference to Pakistan was in terms of securing its nuclear arsenal and in the context of the war on terror. In the larger strategic context, the Grand Old Party (GOP) looks to India to play a larger role in Asian and global affairs. The 58-page Republican platform went on to say that ‘the dynamism of its (Indian) people and the endurance of their democratic institutions are earning their country a position of leadership not only in Asia but throughout the world.’

It is almost certain that China is not excited about what Trump had to say about Beijing. The GOP platform, for instance, talked about the complacency of the Obama administration and how that has emboldened China to engage in a series of provocative actions such as issuing “threats of intimidation through the South China Sea” and “parading their new missile ‘the Guam Killer’.”
In addition, the platform drew attention to the continuing cultural genocide in Tibet and Xinjiang as well as how the promised autonomy of Hong Kong is stripped off. China as a currency manipulator and its offences against intellectual property rights were also highlighted. And the list goes on.

Taiwan also figured prominently, with the platform talking about the shared ‘values of democracy, human rights, a free market economy and the rule of law.’ The platform went on to say that the bilateral relations with Taipei will continue to be guided by the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act, while noting opposition to either side trying to change the status quo. It further added that if China were to use means other than dialogue to force upon a situation on Taiwan, ‘the United States, in accord with the Taiwan Relations Act, will help Taiwan defend itself.’ The manifesto also mentioned the need to pursue ‘timely sale of defensive arms including technology to build diesel submarines.’ This categorical statement must be reassuring to Taipei in the wake of a strong and mighty China that has unilaterally tried to change the status quo in South China Sea and elsewhere.

Indian foreign policy pundits are excited that the mention of India, though limited, is in a positive light and that New Delhi is seen as an actor that should play a greater role in the Asian strategic framework, something former President George W Bush also talked about in his campaign. The fact that China and Pakistan do not stand to benefit a special relationship with the US if Trump were to be elected must be particularly soothing to Indian ears.

[Paraphrased and sourced from New Delhi-based Diplomatist Magazine, www.diplomatist.com

 

BRICS: Built on a solid foundation with KV Kamath at the helm

It’s a $100 billion encore for Kundapur, Vaman Kamath, who is the first head of the five nation (Brazil, India, Russia, China and South Africa) bank, officially known as the New Development Bank. Kamath has been credited with transforming the banking industry in India. ICICI Bank, India’s largest private sector bank was founded under Kamath’s leadership in 1994, now commands an asset base of over $100 billion. China made the biggest contribution of $41 billion to the fund while Russia, Brazil and India contributed $§8 billion each. South Africa’s investment was $5 billion.

The New Development Bank is headquartered in Shanghai where Kamath spent a good amount of time during his tenure at Asian Development Bank between 1988 and 1996. The 68-year old banker is affectionately known as ‘KV’ by his friends, began his career in 1971 at ICICI, the erstwhile financial institution that was incidentally set up at the initiative of the World Bank. ICIC Bank was later set up as subsidiary of ICICI Ltd in 1994, while the parent later merged it in 2002. As Chief Executive Officer, he led the group’s transformation into a diversified, technology-driven financial service group that has leadership positions across banking insurance and asset management in India and abroad.

Back in 2008 when ICICI Bank was hit by widespread rumours of ‘run-on-the-bank’, Kamath lead from the front and brought everything back into order, even as hundreds of bank customers were queuing at branches and ATM’s to withdraw funds. Kamath said the rumours were ‘baseless and malicious’.

He retired as Managing Director and CEO in 2009 and became its non-executive chairman. Kamath has a mechanical engineering qualification and an MBA from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. He’s also served on the board of several other companies, including that of IT giant Infosys where he also serves as a non-executive chairman.

A Padma Bushan awardee, Kamath has always been a believer in the India growth story, including during the years of slower growth. Recently too, when some industry leaders including eminent banker, Deepak Parekh, expressed dismay over delay in reforms, Kamath remained confident about deliverables of the new government. He went to the extent of chiding the industry leaders to first set their own houses in order by improving their balance sheets.

Friends, colleagues and other industry leaders have known Kamath as a man of ‘big ideas and numbers’. When the entire world was heading towards a deep meltdown in 2008 – 2009, Kamath continued to exude confidence in the long-term growth potential of the Indian economy, the Indian banking sector and the Indian markets. In an interview with PTI, Kamath had said that he wanted a few Indian banks, including ICICI Bank, to be part of what he called ‘Ivy League of global banks’. He had also forecast that a few banks from China would be part of that league.

Some Chinese banks have indeed made it to the top of the charts globally, although the Indian banks had to cut down their global presence in the recent years due to a slowdown in the world economy.

-Economic Times