International Current Affairs
March 1st week 2015 current affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) Pakistan told to pay £150k to India

  • A UK court has directed it to pay £150,000 to India as legal fees in the 67-year-old Hyderabad Funds case involving the Nizam`s money while terming Pakistan`s behaviour as "unreasonable". Holding that Pakistan has no "sovereign immunity" in the case, the Judge ordered the Pakistan High Commissioner to pay legal costs incurred by the other respondents in the case relating to the `Hyderabad Funds` which is currently valued at £35 million.
  • It is understood that the legal costs of the respondents - Govt of India, the National Westminster Bank & the Nizam`s heirs Mukkaram Jah & Muffakham Jah - are approx £400,000. Of this India has been paid £150,000, the National Westminster Bank £132,000 and the Nizam`s heirs about £60,000 each respectively. The immunity waiver under the verdict, which has opened the doors for India to recover the frozen funds through legal process, is irrevocable. 
  • It is also reliably understood that the Indian government and the heirs of Nizam were holding consultations on the subject. This case, known as the `Hyderabad Funds Case`, relates to transfer of £1,007,940 and 9 Shillings to a London bank account in the name of the High Commissioner in the UK for the then newly formed state of Pakistan, Habib Ibrahim Rahimtoola, at the Westminster Bank (now Natwest) in 1948. 
  • The money was transferred by an agent who appeared to be acting on behalf of the the seventh Nizam of Hyderabad. Following the partition in 1947, the numerous princely states were permitted by the UK to elect to join either of the two new states, or to remain independent.
  • The Nizam chose to remain independent. However, on September 18, 1948, Hyderabad was annexed to India. On September 20, 1948 the money was transferred to Rahimtoola by the agent. On September 27, 1948 the Nizam sought to reverse the transfer of money claiming that it had been made without his authority. The Bank was unwilling to comply with the Nizam`s request without the agreement of the account holder. Such consent was not forthcoming.
  • As the successor state to the Nizam`s State of Hyderabad, India has all along sought its claim over the money maintaining that it was State monies. However, stuck in a legal battle, the Indian Cabinet had approved efforts to pursue an out-of-court settlement with Pakistan and Nizam`s heirs to recover funds. With no State immunity for Pakistan, India has once again got the chance to get the money.
2) Threat to Elephants: Botswana Summit
  • African elephants could be extinct in the wild within a few decades, experts warned on 23rd March at a major conservation summit in Botswana. The alarming decline in numbers due to poaching was highlighted. The African Elephant Summit, held at a tourist resort in Kasane, gathered delegates from about 20 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia, including China which is accused of fuelling the illegal poaching trade. 
  • The conference heard latest figures from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which reported that the African elephant population had dropped from 5,50,000 in 2006 to 4,70,000 in 2013. East Africa has seen the worst decline, from 1,50,000 to about 1,00,000.

3) US announces easing of process to obtain L-1B visas

  • US President Barack Obama has announced an easing of the process to obtain L-1B work visas for corporate executives. This move could end the large scale harassment of IT professionals from India and make it easier for Indian companies to bring employees to the States.
  • In an address to Select USA summit Obama argued that such a move would attract larger foreign direct investment to the US. Large scale decline of L-1 visas was a major hindrance in Indian companies investing in the US. The American President said this move will prove more attractive to businesses. He said this will also help bring about a comprehensive immigration reform package.
4) Utah becomes first U.S. State to reinstate execution by firing squad
  • Utah became the first U.S. State to reinstate execution by firing squad. According to Republican Governor Gary Herbert, who signed the law approving the use of the firing squad on 23rd March, the death penalty would be administered in this manner when no lethal injection drugs was available and the latter would remain the primary method of executing inmates. Under the law in Utah, inmates would be killed by a firing squad only if the State cannot acquire lethal injection drugs 30 days prior to the scheduled execution date.
  • Since 2010, U.S. correctional facilities have struggled to procure a key drug in the three-drug lethal cocktail administered to death row inmates, sedative sodium thiopental, after its sole U.S. producer, Hospira, took its production plants offline in the face of anti-death penalty campaigns and other obstacles.

5) India vote at U.N. not anti-gay, explains government

  • Under criticism for voting against the U.N. Secretary-General’s decision to extend marriage benefits to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) couples or same-sex couples, India sought to explain that the vote was more about principle rather than its “anti-gay rights” content. 
  • The reason for India’s vote was that the decision to extend the benefit was taken by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of his own accord and without consultations with member States.
  • India was among 43 countries, along with China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, which voted for the Russian resolution to withdraw benefits to same-sex couples. The resolution was defeated by the UNGA vote on 24th March.
  • Significantly, India had abstained from voting on a previous resolution against LGBT discrimination that was passed by the UNGA in September 2014. However, officials claimed that the current resolution was related to “sovereignty issues” over the U.N.’s administrative and financial functions.
  • The resolution at the UNGA was proposed by Russia, a country that decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 but enforced a ban on gay propaganda. India and Pakistan were the only two South Asian countries to vote for the Russian resolution. While Sri Lanka voted against the resolution, along with the U.S. in a bloc of 80 countries, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives abstained and Afghanistan did not vote.
6) India contributes $260,000 for memorial at United Nations
  • India has contributed $260,000 for a permanent memorial unveiled at the UN headquarters, New York to honour the victims of slavery and transatlantic slave trade.
  • The `Ark of Return` was unveiled by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa. The memorial was unveiled on the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade commemorated on March 25, with the theme this year being `Women and Slavery
  • Designed by American architect of Haitian descent Rodney Leon, the memorial aims to underscore the tragic legacy of the slave trade, which for over four centuries abused and robbed 15 million Africans of their human rights and dignity. With $260,000 India is the lead contributor to the trust fund among over 85 contributing countries and individuals.