International Current Affairs
April 4th Week 2015 Current Affairs
Category : International Current Affairs
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1) Crisis in Yemen

  • Yemen is in the grip of its most severe crisis in years, as competing forces fight for control of the country. Impoverished but strategically important, the tussle for power in Yemen has serious implications for the region and the security of the West 
  • In recent months Yemen has descended into conflicts between several different groups, pushing the country to the edge of civil war. The main fight is between forces loyal to the beleaguered President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and those allied to Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis, who forced Mr Hadi to flee the capital Sanaa in February 
  • Yemen`s security forces have split loyalties, with some units backing Mr Hadi, and others the Houthis and Mr Hadi`s predecessor Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has remained politically influential. Mr Hadi is also supported in the predominantly Sunni south of the country by militia known as Popular Resistance Committees and local tribesmen. 
  • Both President Hadi and the Houthis are opposed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which has staged numerous deadly attacks from its strongholds in the south and south-east. 
  • The picture is further complicated by the emergence in late 2014 of a Yemen affiliate of the jihadist group Islamic State, which seeks to eclipse AQAP and claims it carried out a series of suicide bombings in Sanaa in March 2015. 
  • After rebel forces closed in on the president`s southern stronghold of Aden in late March, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia responded to a request by Mr Hadi to intervene and launched air strikes on Houthi targets. The coalition comprises five Gulf Arab states and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Sudan. 
  • Western intelligence agencies consider AQAP the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda because of its technical expertise and global reach. The US has been carrying out operations, including drone strikes, against AQAP in Yemen with President Hadi`s co-operation, but the Houthis` advance has meant the US campaign has been scaled back. 
  • The conflict between the Houthis and the elected government is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which shares a long border with Yemen. 
  • Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of backing the Houthis financially and militarily, though Iran has denied this, and they are themselves backers of President Hadi. 
  • Yemen is strategically important because it sits on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world`s oil shipments pass. Egypt and Saudi Arabia fear a Houthi takeover would threaten free passage through the strait.
  1. The Houthis are members of a rebel group, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), who adhere to a branch of Shia Islam known as Zaidism. Zaidis make up one-third of the population and ruled North Yemen under a system known as the imamate for almost 1,000 years until 1962. 
  2. The Houthis take their name from Hussein Badr al-Din al-Houthi. He led the group`s first uprising in 2004 in an effort to win greater autonomy for their heartland of Saada province, and also to protect Zaidi religious and cultural traditions from perceived encroachment by Sunni Islamists
Other important points:
  1. The Gulf Cooperation Council, led by Saudi Arabia, launched air attacks against Houthi rebel positions in Yemen on March 26.
  2. The Saudis have deployed a large force with help from Arab countries such as Egypt and Jordan and others such as Pakistan and Sudan.
  3. This military action — without UN sanction — has also involved logistical help from the United States. The ostensible reason for the Saudi intervention is to temper the rising Iranian influence in its immediate neighborhood.
  4. The U.S. involvement — which seems to have bipartisan support in the U.S. polity — is more of a reflexive reaction to register support for its Saudi allies and for the besieged transitional government in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and its allies who have joined the effort allege that the Houthis are being funded and armed by Iran.
  5. The Houthis are a Zaidi Shia group that had participated in uprisings against former Yemeni President and long-time ruler Abdullah Saleh and who had felt left out from the transitional government that followed Saleh’s rule.
  6. It is the failure of the transitional government — which was set up with help from the Gulf Cooperation Council in 2012 — to accommodate the Houthis’ interests that fueled the insurgency. The Houthis have a large degree of control over many areas of northwestern Yemen, including over the capital, Sana`a.
  7. The Houthi-led insurgency is not the only military conflict raging in Yemen. The al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leads another insurgency in the southeast along with the Ansar al-Sharia; this one is a Sunni Islamist rebellion.
  8. The regional intervention against the Houthis is bound to strengthen the AQAP. The inability of the ineffectual transitional government to effectively govern a nation that has steadily been divided on sectarian lines, and the weakening of the economy, have helped the various insurgent forces strengthen themselves.
  • The Houthi forces’ consolidation in the south could have presented an opportunity for a new, more inclusive and legitimate government following a ceasefire, but that option is now ruled out as the conflict has been effectively regionalised with the Saudi intervention. Yemen increasingly appears to be heading towards Syria’s fate — a nation torn asunder into enclaves controlled by sectarian and fundamentalist groups and constantly at war among one another. What started as yet another promising chapter of the Arab Spring has now taken a turn that follows events elsewhere in the region — regression into a harsh Arab Winter.
Yemen worst country for women to live in:
  • Current Affirs The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently published a report according to which Yemen is the worst country in the world for women to live in. The WEF`s Global Gender Gap Report 2014 measured economic and social disparities between men and women around 142 countries to arrive at the conclusion. The economic and educational opportunities, as well as political representation and health outcomes are far worse for women than for women in these worst scoring countries.
Take a look at 10 worst countries in the world for women to live in:
  1.     Yemen
  2.     Pakistan
  3.     Chad
  4.     Syria
  5.     Mali
  6.     Iran
  7.     Ivory coast
  8.     Lebanon
  9.     Jordon
  10.     Morocco
2) China releases details of Silk Road plans
  • China has provided details about its proposed Silk Road initiatives, which would impact 4.4 billion people and, within a decade, could generate trade above 2.5 trillion dollars. 
  • A vision document jointly prepared by a composite team from the Ministries of Commerce, Foreign Affairs and the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) — a top organization that steers the Chinese economy — has with precision revealed the geographic parameters of China’s “One belt One Road” initiative. 
  • The “belt and road” have two components — the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) that would be established along the Eurasian land corridor from the Pacific coast to the Baltic Sea, and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road (MSR).
  • The “belt and road” run through the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa, connecting the vibrant East Asia economic circle at one end and developed European economic circle at the other, says the government report. 
  • The SREB focuses on bringing together China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe (the Baltic); linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean.

3) Myanmar govt, rebel groups sign draft cease-fire deal

  • Myanmar`s President Thein Sein has witnessed the signing of a draft ceasefire agreement between the government and 16 rebel groups. The agreement, which came after seven rounds of talks, is a significant step towards ending decades of conflict. Negotiators from the armed rebel groups still have to consult with their leaders before giving final approval. Rebels from the newest and most active conflict in Kokang did not attend the talks. The United Nations said the move was a historic and significant achievement and provided a basis for genuine and lasting peace in the country.
4) Make food safety a priority: WHO
  • The World Health Organisation(WHO) on 31st March urged each nation in the South-East Asia region to make food safety a priority. It stated that over 700,000 children die in the South-East Asia region every year due to diarrhoea and several other diseases caused by the impure food and water. 
  • Bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals, and other contaminants in our food can cause over 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancer. New and emerging threats such as climate change and its impact on food production; emerging biological and environmental contamination -- all Apose challenges to the safety of our food, according to Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia 
  • She said the countries must put in place comprehensive food safety policies and stringently implement it across the food chain. Food safety has been set as the theme for the upcoming World Health Day.
5) Iran, world powers reach n-accord
  • Iran and world powers reached a framework agreement on 2nd April on curbing Iran`s nuclear program for at least a decade, a step toward a final pact that could end 12 years of brinkmanship, threats and confrontation. 
  • The tentative agreement, after eight days of marathon talks in Switzerland, clears the way for negotiations on a settlement aimed at allaying Western fears that Iran was seeking to build an atomic bomb and in return lift economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic. 
  • The framework is contingent on reaching an agreement by June 30. All sanctions on Iran remain in place until a final deal.
  • Under the outline deal, Iran would shut more than two-thirds of its installed centrifuges capable of producing uranium that could be used to build a bomb, dismantle a reactor that could produce plutonium, and accept intrusive verification.
  • The negotiations between Iran and six powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - blew past a self-imposed March 31 deadline with no certainty that they would not end in failure. 
  • Iran agreed to significantly reduce the number of installed uranium enrichment centrifuges it has to 6,104 from 19,000 and will only operate 5,060 for 10 years under the future agreement with the six powers, according to a U.S. fact sheet. Iran will only use first generation centrifuges during that time, it said. One of the most sensitive issues during the negotiations, Iran`s research and development work, will also be limited. 
  • High enriched uranium can be used to make a weapon, which they aim to prevent, while low enriched uranium is used in power plants. Iran has insisted it wants it only for a peaceful nuclear energy program and denies it aimed to build an atomic bomb. 
  • Under agreement, Iran will gradually receive relief from U.S. and European Union nuclear sanctions if it complies with the terms of a final deal. Some U.N. Security Council sanctions would be gradually lifted, though others would remain in place, specifically those relating to proliferation.
Other important points:
  1. The joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear programme is a significant breakthrough that will have long-lasting implications globally.
  2. The 18-month-long negotiations between the various parties finally bore fruit had much to do with the fact that Iran’s current regime is headed by a pragmatist in President Hassan Rouhani who was elected in 2013 on the premise of bringing about an entente with the West, among others.
  3. Iran has always maintained that its nuclear programme was meant only for peaceful purposes and that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it was entitled to enrichment of uranium for energy generation.
  4. But the unrelenting pressure from the West in the past decade, including recurring talk of open hostility from the U.S. and Israel, had led to defiance from the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-led regime.
  5. Iran went on to expand its nuclear programme by furthering enrichment capabilities and building clandestine nuclear facilities.
  6. These actions had invited sanctions from not only the U.S. and the EU, but the UN as well, which had hurt Iran economically and also made it difficult for countries such as India to engage in trade with the country.
  7. India’s imports from Iran — particularly petroleum products — had been severely curtailed due to the sanctions.
  8. The nuclear agreement with Iran should also help ease the long-standing hostile ties between the U.S. and Iran eventually helping to change at least some equations in the conflict-ridden West Asian region.
6) 46 nations to join AIIB as founding members
  • The number of countries applying to be founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank rose to 46 by the April 1stdeadline. 
  • The AIIB is a multilateral development bank proposed by China to provide financing to infrastructure projects in the Asia region.
  • The growing infrastructure demand in cash-strapped Asian countries will necessitate the need for more than 700 billion dollars each year by 2020. More countries are urging Washington to approve IMF quota reforms to allow a better balance of power, but previous attempts to give greater weight to rising states have stalled out of national interests.Focused as it is on infrastructure development in Asia, the AIIB offers abundant trade and investment opportunities also for developed countries with advanced technology.